Federal correctional officers protest outside PM's office
Published Saturday, September 15, 2012 10:19AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, September 15, 2012 9:56PM EDT
Nearly 500 correctional officers rallied outside the prime minister’s Calgary constituency office Saturday to protest what they say are dangerous work conditions.
The protest was part of a larger campaign protesting conditions in Canadian prisons.
Federal correctional officers from across the country walked through the city’s streets, blowing horns and whistles in an attempt to draw attention to their cause.
The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers argues that the nation’s prisons are deteriorating due to budget cuts and overcrowding.
“The three major topics that people are talking about to me are overcrowding, it’s double-bunking, and it’s the population management,” Pierre Mallette, national president of UCCO-SACC-CSN, told reporters.
In a statement, Mallette decried the Conservative government’s crime agenda.
"The reality is that our prisons are breeding a different type of criminal, one that belongs to a gang, is more prone to violence and will get less treatment before they are released into the community," Mallette said.
This year, the union launched a tour of the country’s 52 federal penitentiaries to investigate and discuss concerns such as overcrowding, double bunking in cells and the security and safety of correctional officers, inmates and the general population.
The protesting officers had said they would knock on doors on Saturday to speak with Calgary residents about their concerns.
"We will continue to target Conservative MPs and make sure their constituents understand what is happening," Mallette said.
"Canadians need to know what is happening and that their safety may be affected. We are launching this campaign after visiting more than forty correctional facilities during the past three weeks and receiving first-hand accounts from our members," said Mallette.
According to the Correctional Service of Canada, the percentage of prisoners who are double-bunked has grown in five years from 9.6 per cent to 17.4 per cent.
John Turner, a corrections officer at the Collins Bay Institution in Ontario, said a female co-worker was punched numerous times in the face by an inmate.
“It wasn’t provoked, it was just out of the blue, and she’s got to explain to her little kid that mom got beat up at work,” Turner told reporters.
The union accused the federal government of ignoring its requests to meet about the issues. However, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews denied that in a statement released to CTV News.
“The big union bosses seem to prefer political stunts over practical dialogue,” Toews said. “Since the day that the closures of the Kingston and Le Clerc they have yet to request to meet.”
Meanwhile, Public Service Alliance of Canada also staged protests on Saturday against government public-service cuts.
In Toronto, demonstrators held "People's Court," where they tried an effigy of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
"You will hear evidence that will tell us how jobs have been destroyed in this country, how free trade agreements have been entered into by these four individuals and their corporate-sector friends -- free trade agreements that have shipped jobs offshore, eliminated jobs and driven down wages," Ontario Federation of Labour President Sid Ryan, acting as a prosecutor, told the Toronto protest. About 100 people attended the event.
Effigies of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, Ontario Tory leader Tim Hudak and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford were also tried.
There were also protests scheduled outside two of Defence Minister Peter MacKay's Nova Scotia constituency offices, while a "Defending Quality Public Services" mural in Whitehorse, Yukon, was unveiled.
With files from The Canadian Press and a report from CTV Calgary’s Bridget Brown