Kemptville residents take legal action in bid to stop jail

Residents of Kemptville, Ont., have filed an application for a judicial review of the province's decision to build a new jail in their community.

Opponents demand judicial review of province's decision to locate jail in their community

Residents of Kemptville have filed an application for a judicial review of the province's decision to build a new jail in their community, which they say will occupy more than 70 hectares of valuable farmland. (CBC)

Residents of Kemptville, Ont., have filed an application for a judicial review of the province's decision to build a new jail in their community.

In 2020, the provincial government quietly approved plans to replace the Brockville jail with a new 235-bed correctional facility in Kemptville for both men and women at all security levels, although the majority will be minimum- or medium-security inmates. 

The new facility is scheduled to be completed in 2027, and is meant to take some pressure off the overcrowding experienced at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre.

But many in the community have made it known they are not in favour of the location, a short distance from Kemptville's town centre. 

Victor Lachance and Kirk Albert say the Ontario government has not meaningfully consulted or provided adequate information about the jail's construction. 

The site of the new facility is close to several schools and a hospital. (Ministry of the Solicitor General)

Their opposition to the jail is now going before the courts. Lawyers arguing on behalf of Albert and Lachance say the province didn't follow proper procedure prior to announcing the jail's construction, and are now asking for a judicial review of the matter.

They say residents weren't properly consulted, and they argue the project violates community plans and would destroy more than 70 hectares of farmland. 

"At a time when we need forward-thinking government and strong leadership more than ever, it's critical that the province reconsider its priorities and where best to spend valuable tax dollars," Albert said during a news conference held Monday in front of the Ottawa Courthouse, where the notice of application was filed.

Kemptville residents file legal action against proposed new jail

2 months ago
Duration 1:19
Kirk Albert, who lives in Kemptville, Ont., says residents have filed an application for a judicial review of the proposal to build a new jail in the community, saying the site doesn’t fit the necessary criteria for the project.

"Not addressing recurring issues in the criminal justice and correctional systems and not prioritizing the preservation of valuable farmland lacks the foresight that many expect in this province."

That position was echoed by Justin Piché, an associate professor of criminology at the University of Ottawa, who said the province should be building communities, not cages. 

"Why are we spending, you know, roughly half a billion dollars on this new prison when we could be spending that money to provide permanent supportive housing for folks?" Piché asked.

Opponents gathered in Kemptville on Nov. 7, 2020, to protest the jail's location. (Submitted by Marty Pemberton)

Lachance said the province didn't meet its own requirements, and should admit as much. 

"The simplest thing for them would be to agree that they didn't really carry this out properly. There's an off-ramp. Take it," he said.

"They know from this day forward that they have to take into account this legal action and govern themselves accordingly."

CBC requested a comment from the province about this matter on Monday, and is awaiting a response.

Municipality to receive surplus land

In an emailed statement to CBC, North Grenville Mayor Nancy Peckford confirmed that from a zoning perspective, the jail is permitted on the proposed site, which is provincially owned.

Peckford also noted that the municipality expects to receive some 40 hectares of surplus land from the province as part of the project.

"The Municipality is strongly committed to an open and respectful dialogue so that there is as much information sharing and public engagement as possible," Peckford wrote.

"We fully expect the Government of Ontario to honour the commitments they have made to North Grenville regarding the transfer of surplus lands for community led agriculture initiatives — and to ensuring that all infrastructure and related costs for the provincial facility are borne 100 per cent by the province."

Though the municipality and province have been in discussions about how costs will be shared, no formal agreement is in place as of yet, a spokesperson said.