NDP calls for minister's resignation over COVID-19 outbreaks in jails

The NDP is calling on the minister of corrections and policing to resign over the Saskatchewan government's handling of COVID-19 outbreaks in provincial correctional facilities.

Outbreaks in Regina, Saskatoon show 'lack of leadership': justice critic

The NDP's Nicole Sarauer says Minister of Corrections and Policing Christine Tell should resign over how the province handled COVID-19 outbreaks in provincial correctional centres. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

As COVID-19 cases climb at the Regina Correctional Centre, the provincial NDP is calling on the minister responsible to resign and for the government to do more to ensure inmates and staff are safe.

On Thursday, the Saskatchewan NDP's corrections and policing critic, Nicole Sarauer, called for Christine Tell to resign as the province reported at least 57 cases of COVID-19 had been found at the Regina Correctional Centre.

SGEU, the union that represents employees inside the centre and across the province, says just a third of the inmates had received their test results, and 60 people had tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. 

"It's extremely upsetting, considering this isn't the first major outbreak we've seen in our jails in the province," Sarauer said. "The fact that we clearly haven't learned anything from the Saskatoon outbreak is awful."

She said at this point in the pandemic there should be clear policies and procedures in place dealing with what happens when an inmate or staff member tests positive inside a jail, which should be followed very closely. 

Sarauer called on minister Christine Tell to resign, based on how the COVID-19 outbreaks at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre and the Regina Correctional Centre were handled.

She says voluntary testing inside correctional facilities was something the NDP and others had called for after the outbreak in Saskatoon happened, and said the fact it was just being implemented in Regina showed a "lack of leadership" at the ministerial level. 

"Minister Tell should have been hearing these calls and pushing the health authority, if that's where the block was, to make this happen so we wouldn't be seeing what we're seeing now at the Regina jail," Sarauer said. 

A ministry spokesperson previously told CBC News decisions regarding testing were made under the guidance and direction from public health authorities. 

A spokesperson also previously told CBC News new admissions to provincial correctional facilities are quarantined for at least 14 days as a precautionary measure before entering the facilities' population. Those inmates are provided with access to programming and are able to communicate with friends and family and exercise.

The ministry also said new cleaning and sanitization measures were introduced in facilities to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and hand sanitizer and soap was provided to inmates free of charge.

With files from Mickey Djuric, Dan Zakreski