Nova Scotia

Waterville corrections staff followed policy in youth riot, report says

NSGEU president Jason MacLean says he hopes the Justice Department fixes any safety problems identified, which were not mentioned in the released report.

NSGEU president Jason MacLean says he hopes safety 'deficiencies' will be fixed for workers

The use of a mass door unlock system 'for non-emergency purposes' has been suspended temporarily following an incident that left five staff injured. NSGEU president Jason MacLean says the system is a security from 'a different time.' (CBC)

The Nova Scotia Justice Department says corrections staff followed policy during an incident that left five staff injured and four teen inmates charged with rioting.

A newly released summary of the investigation alleges in a period of six minutes, four teens escaped their cells and assaulted staff at the Nova Scotia Youth Facility in Waterville, N.S., on Sept. 4. 

Within 12 minutes, RCMP officers had arrested the teens.

The two-page summary report contains few details. For example, it said staff disciplined the teen inmates "to hold youth accountable for their actions," but how that was done wasn't explained.

The report also noted staff complied with use of force guidelines, "utilizing as much force as necessary to bring the disturbance under control." 

Potential injuries redacted

CBC News, under Nova Scotia's freedom of information legislation, received reports detailing how officers used force that day. 

The reports were filled out by the officer who used force, and show that in two cases inmates weren't injured. 

But injury information for inmates on two other forms is redacted outright. The Justice Department withheld the information citing legislation around medical privacy and ongoing investigations.

Another form has blacked out the injury section for the officer involved. A fourth form said an inmate was treated and released at the scene.

Four youth were charged after police allege they escaped their cells and attacked staff.

The reports show male staff primarily used "hard control" tactics of "strikes" and put offenders in hand cuffs or leg irons. One man used "soft control" of locking joints.

Another worker used "a chair for defensive purposes," and any injuries as a result were redacted.

Fix 'deficiencies'

Jason MacLean, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, said he couldn't comment on the use of force reports as he hadn't seen them.

But he said the department's investigation clearly shows corrections staff followed policy correctly in the face of a "coordinated effort" by inmates.

"Because [Justice] had this investigation, I do believe that they know what deficiencies may be there," said MacLean, a corrections officer himself.

"Hopefully we can get them fixed and have a much safer workplace for our members."

Security from 'a different time'

One of the issues MacLean has questioned is "a security measure that was implemented in a different time."

The mass door unlock system, which dates to the facility's opening in 1988, can open all the cell doors at once if an inmate requests to leave their cell.

"It's something that's been abandoned by other provinces so hopefully we're looking towards that way as well," MacLean said.

Mass cell unlock suspended

In this case, the Justice Department found three youth left their cells at once. A fourth was let out by that group, the report said.

The use of system, known as gang release, has been suspended except for emergencies until the department finishes a hazard risk assessment, the report said.

Union staff will be meeting with the Justice Department on Nov. 3 to discuss the findings, MacLean said.

It is unclear if the full investigation will be released to the public. No one from the department was available to answer questions.

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With files from Jean Laroche

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