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Statement from OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas in response to Solicitor General Sylvia Jones’ visit to the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC) this week

Toronto – I have learned that Minister Sylvia Jones and Ontario’s Deputy Solicitor General visited Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre today, met with EMDC management and spoke with two members of OPSEU/SEFPO.

I am glad Minister Jones made the decision to visit, as it is imperative for the Minister to get a firsthand look at the developing situation and the safety implications for staff at EMDC. I am disappointed, however, that the Minister did not accept OPSEU/SEFPO’s offer to accompany her on a tour of the facility. In my point of view, that was a missed opportunity to meet with front-line Corrections workers and to better understand their experiences during the last few months.

Going forward, it is essential for the Ontario government to address the ongoing Crisis in Corrections. Our union has warned successive governments that years of underfunding and under-investment has seriously affected the sector and could lead to worsening outcomes. Improvements to infrastructure are needed and living conditions for inmates must be improved. This government must take steps to make EMDC safer for inmates, safer for the community, and safer for the front-line staff.

We invite Minister Jones to consult with OPSEU/SEFPO as she moves to solve the current situation at EMDC. Our front-line members understand the challenges of the situation and are willing to work together to find solutions and ensure a positive outcome. We respect the families of those who have passed away at EMDC and their right to grieve. We welcome discussions on how to support grieving families while protecting the mental health and safety of our members.

I encourage Minister Jones to visit EMDC one more time, to take the opportunity to meet with the leadership of OPSEU/SEFPO, and to hear directly from Corrections staff. Our front-line members work in these facilities every day: they understand the problems on the ground and they want to work together to find solutions.

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President of OPSEU/SEFPO

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931; OPSEUCommunications@opseu.org

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