Last halfway house meeting was 2 years ago, mayor says

Hamilton’s mayor says it’s been two years since he met with the federal government to talk about moving a downtown halfway house, and even then, didn’t get the impression that it would be moved out of the city.

Hamilton’s mayor says it’s been two years since he met with the federal government to talk about moving a downtown halfway house.

Corrections Services of Canada told CBC Hamilton this week that it is "actively engaged in dialogue" with the city, police and "criminal justice partners" about moving the Hamilton Community Correctional Centre at 94 York Blvd.

But the department was not able to provide any details of recent meetings Thursday, and a city police spokesperson said the service could not find anyone who had been involved in any recent dialogue about moving the facility.

Mayor Bob Bratina said he last met with federal corrections staff in 2011, when they discussed the need to find a new location because of an expiring lease.

There still didn’t seem to be much interest in moving it right out of Hamilton, which is what council has wanted since 2004, Bratina said.

“They were looking around,” Bratina said. “I reaffirmed council’s position that we do not want to host the halfway house.”

The centre for high-risk offenders came to the forefront in 2004 when one of its residents walked out of the facility and stabbed a nearby shopkeeper, who nearly died.

The city called on the government to move the halfway house right out of Hamilton. Its current location is inappropriate, Bratina said. It’s across from the city library often frequented by children, and close to a high school and elementary school.

But no one else wants it in their ward either, he said.

“Relocating it within the city would be divisive, confrontational and perhaps an explosive kind of episode, because which ward would be the willing host should they find another place to move it?”

In 2005, the deputy commissioner said in a letter to then-mayor Larry Di Ianni that the centre would be moved to somewhere else in Hamilton in 2006. But nearly a decade later, it still hasn’t been.

In an email Thursday, Corrections Services Canada staff said the lease at the Salvation Army property expires on Dec. 31. 

They repeated the assertion from Wednesday that Corrections Services staff had been “actively engaged in dialogue,” with “all parties being committed to finding the best possible solution for the community.”

When asked for details on when the meetings had last occurred and what was discussed, communications staff at first did not answer, and later in the day a spokesperson said he would have to research those details.

Hamilton Police Service spokesperson Catherine Martin was unaware Thursday afternoon of recent meetings regarding relocating the halfway house. Coun. Brian McHattie of Ward 1 wasn't aware of any either.

"That would be news at this point," he said.

The status of the halfway house came to the fore this week when it was revealed that the federal government is removing three corrections officers who work there in April 2014 and replacing them with staff that do not have the same level of training. City councillors voted this week to ask the government for answers.


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