Manitoba

1 of 2 Manitoba youth jails could be scaled back or moved: Orlikow

One of Manitoba's two youth jails may be scaled back or relocated — a possibility that has raised concerns with the union representing jail guards.

Decision 'far away' says Manitoba Justice Minister

Winnipeg city councillor John Orlikow says the Manitoba government is now willing to consider closing all or part of the Manitoba Youth Centre. (Submitted/Google Maps)

One of Manitoba's two youth jails may be scaled back or relocated — a possibility that has raised concerns with the union representing jail guards.

River Heights-Fort Garry Coun. John Orlikow says the Manitoba government is now willing to consider closing all or part of the Manitoba Youth Centre so that the city can use the land to expand Kenaston Boulevard, a thoroughfare that links the airport with a large shopping area and neighbourhoods to the south and east.

The previous NDP government was not open to the idea, Orlikow said. But he said the Progressive Conservative government, elected in 2016, were "very open to the idea" in a recent meeting with Justice Minister Cliff Cullen and Families Minister Heather Stefanson, who represents the area in the legislature.

"They didn't commit to ... it, but they said 'Yes, we understand the reasons'," Orlikow said Thursday.

Stefanson and Cullen also said the province was already reviewing the youth jail site for possible changes, Orlikow added.

The 150-bed centre is the only youth jail in Winnipeg and the only one that houses both boys and girls. The province's other youth jail is male-only and in Portage La Prairie.

The union that represents jail guards said it was surprised to hear the youth jail might be scaled back. It's the only youth jail close to the Winnipeg courthouse and in the city that is home to almost half the province's population.

"There are huge implications — families trying to visit their family members that are there," Michelle Gawronsky, president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees Union said.

"What does happen to these Manitobans and their families and the people that work there?"

Cullen declined an interview request and instead issued a brief statement that said any decision on the issue is far away.

"At this point, it would be premature to comment as there would need to be many steps taken before the province could enter into any agreement on that property," the statement read.

Allowing the city to expand the road on the jail site would mean fewer houses on the opposite side of the road — in Orlikow's ward — would have to be expropriated.

Orlikow said the province seems very willing to discuss the matter further.

"We're not saying the detention centre may be fully gone or maybe just part of it gone, but they are definitely open to discussions about that idea now."