Premier Christy Clark has confirmed the B.C. government will build a new Okanagan jail on land owned by the Osoyoos Indian Band near Oliver, B.C.
The 360-cell remand centre will be built in the Senkulmen Enterprise Park, an industrial park on Osoyoos First Nations land, 28 kilometers south of Penticton and 7 kilometers north of Oliver.
It's the first time a jail has been built on native land in B.C., and Osoyoos Chief Clarence Louie says he intends to make the most of it.
"Of course, we hope to make an impact on the aboriginal offender, in reducing the aboriginal incarceration rates, and doing something different in this prison as opposed to the other ones across the country," said Louie.
Leaders in several communities have been waiting since last spring for the announcement, and Summerland, Lumby, the Penticton Indian Band and the Osoyoos Indian Band were considered to be possible choices for the new facility.
Summerland Mayor Janice Perrino says she was called Sunday by Brent Marchant, assistant deputy minister of the B.C. Corrections Service.
"Our site was a good location but unfortunately the infrastructure costs would have been huge. And I was told by Brent Merchant that really all of the sites, other than this Oliver site, had major infrastructure issues. So for them, in the end, that is the reason why they picked it," said Perrino.
"The site that they picked is flat, it's serviced, it's big, it's beside the highway. You know, once you saw that, it certainly made sense as to why they picked it," she said.
Remand centre to provide 240 full-time jobs
Perrino said while she is disappointed her community was not picked, she says it will provide jobs for residents throughout the south Okanagan.
Chief Louie agrees, saying the provincial jail will mean more stable, permanent jobs for band members, who now depend heavily on tourism for their income.
The province says the project will create up to 500 direct and 500 indirect jobs. Once finished, it says the remand centre will provide 240 new, full-time positions.
The proposed jail would also help relieve overcrowding at the Kamloops Regional Corrections Centre, said Minister of Public Safety, Shirley Bond.
"The Okanagan correctional centre will add new cells and more corrections officers and will go a long way toward addressing capacity needs in the system," said Bond.
The B.C. government says the remand centre will cost $200 million, and has said it wants to have the facility built by 2015.
Correctional Centres in British Columbia
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With files from the CBC's Jackie Sharkey.