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Despite the efforts of many who depend on Dauphin Correctional Centre for their livelihood, the province remains committed to closing the jail.
After being presented with close to 6,000 signatures on a petition and with many of the 80 employees about to lose their jobs at the Dauphin jail watching from the public gallery, the Progressive Conservative government told the legislative assembly Thursday it's not going to budge on its plan to shut the old and decrepit facility.
"I don't make empty promises and fail to keep them," Premier Brian Pallister told the house, referring to the previous NDP government that didn't build a new jail even though four independent reviews concluded Dauphin Correctional Centre was no longer safe or viable.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew asked the premier why the province didn't consult with the people of Dauphin before making the decision to close the jail sooner.
"Let's talk about the recent election — everyone in (the constituency of) Parkland's told me they would've voted differently if this government would've told them they were going to close the Dauphin jail before the election," Kinew said during question period.
The petition signed by Dauphin-area residents condemns the Pallister government's decision to close the Dauphin jail without a plan to improve the justice system. People in the Parkland area, it says, are worried about the effect the jail's closure will have on the local economy and overcrowded jails in Manitoba.
"They never mention that there's $6 million in salaries leaving Dauphin," jail employee David Adams said after question period. He drove Wednesday from Dauphin to be at the Manitoba legislature for the presentation of the petition.
"They're talking about 80 jobs but you add on spouses that have jobs, there's those salaries as well," said Adams. "Just with corrections officers, over five years, that's $30 million in salaries not in the Dauphin economy anymore," said Adams. "Dauphin itself is going to lose hugely."
NDP justice critic Nahanni Fontaine asked Justice Minister Cliff Cullen during question period to commit to building a healing lodge and restorative justice centre with local First Nation and Métis leaders so that families can visit with loved ones and support them. Cullen didn't commit to that but to working with those affected by the jail closure on track for the end of May.
"We’re committed to this decision," he told reporters after question period. "We’re already reducing the number of inmates in the facility," Cullen said. He met with the group from Dauphin in Winnipeg Thursday, he said.
"I appreciate their opinion," Cullen said. "They have concerns about their community and changes to their community," he said. "Change is difficult and a lot of families and individuals will be impacted," he said.
The provincial government set up a transition committee to help affected workers, said Cullen. They'll help employees transition into other public service sector jobs, get retraining and, if they want to work at a jail elsewhere, there's opportunities to do so.
"We have over 100 vacancies in corrections," said Cullen. "Anyone who wants to stay and work in corrections will be able to do so."
Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.
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