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e-2552 (Correctional system)

E-petition
Initiated by Calvin Neufeld from Perth, Ontario

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

Whereas:
  • The COVID-19 pandemic requires special measures to ensure food security for Canadians;
  • The two prison farms at Joyceville and Collins Bay in the Kingston, Ontario, area include 1,500 acres of federally owned farmland, most of it currently not in use;
  • Starting with this growing season, that land could be dedicated to growing a large variety of highly nutritious produce to supply food banks and communities in need;
  • The federal government's $4.3 million allocation for restoring the two prison farms is currently being directed towards establishing an industrial dairy goat operation to sell milk to Feihe International to manufacture infant formula for commercial sale and export to China;
  • The plan to use the prison farms to supply Feihe's infant formula exports is contradictory to international and domestic laws and regulations under the World Trade Organization's General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the World Health Organization's International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, the International Labour Organization’s standards for the use of prison labour, and Canada’s own strict laws against importing goods produced wholly or in part by prison labour; and
  • Using the prison farmland to grow food for direct human consumption would help meet food security needs during and after the COVID-19 crisis, while providing healthy, productive work for prisoners and serving the program's rehabilitation and training purposes.
We, the undersigned, citizens of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to instruct the Correctional Service of Canada to immediately convert Kingston’s prison farms into a federally funded food production project serving food banks and food-insecure communities.

Response by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Joël Lightbound, M.P

The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) is committed to protecting the safety of staff, inmates, and the public in all of its operations. CSC remains in close contact with public health authorities and is well positioned to make any further clinical or operational decisions necessary. During this time, CSC continues to perform critical work to uphold public safety. While being a full participant on the Canada-wide public health effort to fight COVID-19, CSC continues to fulfill its obligations with respect to the care and custody of inmates to prepare them for safe release into the community.

Activities related to the care of livestock and cropping continue and, as a mitigation measure, a reduced number of offenders are currently involved. Operational decisions around schedules and activities are assessed on a regular basis. Sites are working with local public health departments for consultation and advice, and will adjust as necessary.

 

CSC is focused on providing a correctional environment conducive to inmate rehabilitation, which is also in the interest of public safety. With this objective in mind, on June 21, 2018, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness announced that the Government of Canada would be reopening the penitentiary farms in Kingston, Ontario. The new model for penitentiary farm operations at Joyceville and Collins Bay Institutions was determined following a broad range of public consultations and review program, and includes dairy cow and dairy goat operations in addition to land management, horticulture, and crop production. The penitentiary farm operations are being implemented in accordance with all relevant legislation and policy. Procedures are being integrated within the penitentiary farm operations that respect both provincial and federal government legislation and practices, and in accordance with industry standards, as it relates to farm animal welfare. Offenders are involved in building and renovating necessary infrastructure, as well as working to repair and rebuild farmland, in addition to crop production. The reopening of the farms represents a renewal of the penitentiary farms model that includes additional technical skills, certifications, and community partnerships. The farms provide on-the-job training, vocational certification, and employability skills that support offenders in their reintegration.

 

The land size at Collins Bay and Joyceville Institutions include land that buildings are located on, woodlots, sugar bush, orchard, greenspace and other uses. Thus of the total size between the two sites is approximately 860 acres of workable land. CSC is further developing training programs with the production of organic crops at Collins Bay. CSC has registered a field at Collins Bay Institution for organic farming to provide offenders with the opportunity to learn about this type of crop production. In 2019-2020, land repair and crop production, and development of green zone continued at Collins Bay Institution. Crop production was commenced at Joyceville Institution. This work will continue on an annual basis, continually improving the land utilization and in consideration of environmental aspects.  There were four crops grown and harvested between the two sites including corn, barley, soybeans and hay. In addition, in 2019, CSC began work to  revitalize an orchard at Joyceville Institution, which contains several varieties of apple trees.  CSC is also working with various partners and will incorporate flowers, plants and trees plans as part of developing environmentally friendly aspects into the farmland and to contribute to natural species in the area, as well as items for use in cultural ceremonies.

In 2018, two honeybee hives were set up at Collins Bay Institution, incorporating research by an Ontario university student and vocational training through a college and expanding each year to now include 20 hives at each site for 2020.  Commencing in May 2019, young dairy and beef cattle have been acquired to begin building the dairy cattle herd, while also having stocker (beef) cattle for pasturing.  At present, there are 24 dairy cattle and six beef cattle housed at Collins Bay Institution. It is anticipated that the dairy cow herd size will be approximately 60. The arrival of the dairy goat herd, is expected to commence in 2020.

 

CSC does not currently have agreements with third parties for the sale of goat milk produced at the penitentiary farms. These arrangements will be made at the appropriate time during the implementation of the program.

 

To provide a variety of land based activities, CSC’s offender employment program includes crop production at both sites as well as offenders at both institutions are involved in growing vegetables for their own consumption, as well as for donation to local food banks. This model incorporates land based activities that result in items for internal use, donation, as well as opportunities to generate revenues that will be reinvested into the offender employment and employability program.

 

Products generated through the farm program, including produce, crops, cow and goat milk, and other potential by-products of these operations will be determined by internal use requirements, agreements and contracts signed as implementation occurs and products are available. The diversified penitentiary farm program activities, including both livestock and land based elements, contribute to offender learning and provide the opportunity to represent various parts of the broad spectrum of agriculture activities in Canada. CSC will continually be re-evaluating its operations as the plan is executed and will be taking into account elements such as sustainability and market availability, noting that dairy cow milk will be managed in accordance with Canada’s system of supply management for this product. All revenues generated will be reinvested into the offender employment and employability program.

Open for signature
April 24, 2020, at 4:23 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
May 24, 2020, at 4:23 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Scott Reid (Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston)
June 18, 2020 (Petition No. 431-00289)
Government response tabled
September 24, 2020
Photo - Scott Reid
Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston
Conservative Caucus
Ontario
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