Hundreds march in Dauphin to protest looming jail closure
Dauphin 'still trying to quantify what losing 80 jobs would look like,' says city manager
Hundreds of people marched in the streets of Dauphin on Tuesday to rally against the impending closing of the correctional centre.
Manitoba Justice Minister Cliff Cullen announced last month that the jail, which employs 80 people from Dauphin, would close at the end of May.
Michelle Gawronsky, president Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU), told CBC News that more than 350 protesters — municipal and provincial political leaders and a number of First Nations grand chiefs among them — took part in the march, braving the cold.
"It's bittersweet to know that this community and all of the folks in the surrounding area are supporting these officers …trying to keep the jail open and keep their economy going," Gawronsky said.
There is a lack of clarity on what's going to happen over the coming months, including how and when the employees at the jail will be laid off, and how the 60 inmates will be transferred to other facilities, Dauphin city manager Sharla Griffiths said Tuesday.
"They don't know what their life is going to look like for the next four or five months," she said, adding the impact goes beyond the laid off employees.
Many people either know a person who works at the correctional centre, or they know someone who knows someone.
The community is "still trying to quantify what losing 80 jobs would look like in Dauphin and the Parkland [region]," Griffiths said.
Gawronsky said the MGEU is in the dark as well and wished members of the Conservative party were at Tuesday's march and rally.
Dauphin MLA Brad Michaleski did speak to citizens about the closure at a town hall on Monday, where he was booed by many of the roughly 600 people in attendance, some calling for his resignation.
"There was a lot of emotion in the room and a lot of questions still need to be answered," Griffiths said.
Cullen told CBC News that closing the jail was a difficult decision but one that rested on several factors, including the fact it is more than a century old and no longer meets current correction standards, and that it has a relatively low number of inmates.
The province is working closely with the City of Dauphin and with the union for the individuals who will be laid off, informing them of possible future employment opportunities, including at other corrections positions, Cullen said.
"Every individual and every family situation will be unique," he said. "Obviously this will take some time to resolve but the important thing is to make sure that we have the information in front of the individuals so that they can make informed decisions."
Meanwhile, a group of Parkland municipalities is drafting a resolution that will address the concerns of wider community members, a news release stated on Tuesday.
"It was clear last night at the town hall meeting that everyone is concerned by the lack of information that has been presented by the province, and we feel that they have a duty to respond," the release stated.
The resolution will be sent to the province and other municipality associations.
Griffiths said it's possible that there will not be employment opportunities for those who lose their jobs, which means those families will have to move away.
"To take up to 80 families out of the area, put up to 80 homes for sale on the housing market, and take 80 spouses out of jobs in the community, and take children out of school and out of daycare — there will be huge impacts for years to come," she said.
In addition, Gawronsky said she has heard concerns from inmates and their families because a transfer to other jails could mean they don't see each other.
The city hopes a new correctional rehabilitation facility replaces the jail in the future but that could be years away, Griffiths said.