British Columbia

Riot at Burnaby youth detention centre causes fire, extensive damage

Windows were broken, equipment was smashed and fires were started during a riot that erupted at the Burnaby youth detention centre, according to prison staff.

Prison staff say it took up to six hours and an emergency response team to get the situation under control

Police and fire crews were called to the riot that staff say began around 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday (GP Mendoza)

Windows were broken, equipment was smashed and fires were started during a riot that erupted at the Burnaby youth detention centre.

According to the B.C. Government Employers Union (BCGEU)  — the union that represents the facility's employees — it began around 8:30 p.m. PT on Tuesday.

"Several youth inmates in a living unit at the centre started a riot —  smashing microwaves, tables, windows, sprinkler heads and more," said Dean Purdy, chair of the corrections and sheriff services component with the BCGEU.

"They then broke into the staff station, smashing the windows and destroying computers, desks, walls and more sprinkler heads."

Purdy says the riot then poured into an adjacent living unit where youth lit several fires.

Police, fire crews called in for back up

Burnaby RCMP confirmed it was called to the centre last night. A police emergency response team was also deployed.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development says no one was injured and all youth are accounted for. (GP Mendoza)

Purdy said it wasn't until 2:30 a.m. PT —  six hours later —  that staff and police were able to get the situation under control.

Tensions high and a history of violence

Purdy said the union has received reports of violence against staff at centre.

"Tensions have been very high inside the jail. There's been several assaults on staff and more and more inmates with mental illnesses, " said Purdy.

He adds the closure of the Victoria youth custody centre has led to an increase in prisoners at the Burnaby facility, which has proved challenging for staff to manage.

"There needs to be more consequences: our officers do a great job, but they can only do so much when they're hamstrung on what they can do to enforce the rules and regulations in that jail."

Purdy said the union will be following up with WorkSafeBC as well as the facility's management.

In a statement, The Ministry of Children and Family Development said the safety of staff and residents at the facility are a top priority.

It confirms there were no injuries during the incident but says there is extensive damage to the facility.

With files from GP Mendoza