OTTAWA, Sept. 28 /CNW Telbec/ - Hundreds of people marched in downtown Ottawa today to send a message to Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan: save the prison farm program.
In February, the Harper government announced that it would be closing six farms located on the grounds of minimum security prisons in New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
The farms provide an effective rehabilitation and social integration program to inmates, helping to teach them job skills that prove to be invaluable after their release. They also produce enough meat, dairy and produce to feed the prisoners and contribute to local food banks.
"The Conservative government's decision to close the prison farms is utterly ridiculous," said John Edmunds, President of the Union of Solicitor General Employees, a component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). "Financially and socially, there is absolutely no reason to close them down," he said.
The demonstration in downtown Ottawa was part of the 'Save Our Farms' campaign launched last summer by members of the USGE-PSAC who oversee, instruct and work with inmates in federal prison farm programs.
As part of the farm programs, inmates receive training in several labour categories, including forklift and chain saw operations, welding, use of power and hand tools, heavy equipment maintenance, crop and feed management, administrative, clerical and computer skills and production line work. In some cases they receive official certification in theses areas - all valuable employable skills.
"Rather than eliminating prison farm programs," Edmunds said, "the government should be moving Correctional Service Canada in the other direction, increasing the availability of such programs and widening their scope."
During the event, PSAC/USGE members gave to the public free hamburgers, milk and apple juice produced by the prison farms around Kingston, Ontario.
For PSAC National President JohnGordon, the prison farms are a vibrant example of a public service that contributes to the social re-insertion of inmates while providing economic advantages to penitentiary institutions.
"Everybody benefits from this program," Gordon said. "The Conservative government is blinded by its ideology of program-slashing and privatization."
For further information: For further information: Dominique Vidmar, Union of Solicitor General Employees, (613) 232-4821, (613) 668-0267; Alain Cossette, PSAC Communications, (613) 293-9210