Riot at Waterville youth corrections facility under investigation
Union questions security procedures at Nova Scotia Youth Facility
An investigation is underway into a violent incident at the youth correctional facility in Waterville, N.S.
Four youth workers were injured and sent to hospital after violence broke out Sunday night, said Nova Scotia RCMP, which was called in to handle the situation at the Nova Scotia Youth Facility.
'First time in over 30 years'
An 18-year-old man faces two counts of assault while carrying a weapon and one charge of taking part in a riot. A 19-year-old man is charged with taking part in a riot and damaging property. Two 17-year-old males were also arrested but not charged.
"This is the first time in over 30 years that there's been an incident like that at Waterville," Nova Scotia Justice Minister Diana Whalen said at the legislature Thursday.
The head of the union that represents the youth workers questions some of the security procedures at the facility.
The workers sustained "very serious injuries," said Jason MacLean, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union.
The attack occurred during shift change after an offender asked to go to the washroom, MacLean said. When the person left the cell, the others hit a button in their cells known as "gang open," he said.
"All the doors opened up and they attacked staff and staff called for help," MacLean said.
MacLean, who was a corrections officer himself before taking the job as union president, said he doesn't know the purpose of the "gang open" buttons. Those buttons were removed in New Brunswick 17 years ago, he said.
"I actually was very surprised to see the gang opening was happening here," he said.
Union leaders are also concerned about adequate training and staffing levels and are arranging meetings to address those concerns.
"I don't believe that facility is treated as a correctional facility," MacLean said.
'Good level of staff'
Training will be dealt with by the investigation, Whalen said, but she was not sure the number of workers at Waterville is an issue.
The Justice Department employs 12 to 14 youth workers per 12 hour shift. In the last fiscal year, the facility had on average 29 youth in custody per day.
"[The facility] has many fewer offenders there today than when it opened 30 years ago," Whelan said.
"We have to maintain a good level of staff, even though the numbers are down."
Investigation to take six weeks
As of Thursday, 23 youth were in custody in the facility, which can accommodate 48 males and 12 females, according to numbers provided by the justice department.
In 2015, 237 youth were admitted.
The investigation is expected to take six weeks to complete.
With files from CBC's Jean Laroche and Rachel Ward, and Michael Tutton of the Canadian Press