Ontario Construction News staff writer
The Ontario government is investing in infrastructure expansion projects at the Thunder Bay Correctional Centre and Kenora Jail. The projects are part of $500 million commitment over five years to transform correctional services and improve health and safety through new hiring and infrastructure improvements.
The province is also preparing a request for proposal for the construction of the new Thunder Bay Correctional Complex, which is expected to be released in 2021.
“Our government is taking action to improve the safety of corrections staff and inmates while providing culturally appropriate programming and services for Indigenous individuals,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “These measures will strengthen Ontario’s corrections system and support public safety in the Thunder Bay and Kenora regions.”
Tendering and construction of the new expansion projects in Thunder Bay and Kenora is expected to be completed by spring 2022.
Construction of new structures at both correctional facilities will allow for increased access to literacy, skills development and technology programs that support safe community reintegration. This investment will also help address overcrowding in Kenora and Thunder Bay during construction of the new Thunder Bay Correctional Complex.
Indigenous leadership and organizations will have input into the design of the new spaces and other culturally appropriate aspects of the facilities.
These planned projects build on other public safety initiatives designed to create a culturally relevant and responsive justice system in Ontario including:
- An Indigenous Bail and Remand Program to decrease the use of pre-trial custody for Indigenous persons.
- Indigenous Restorative Justice programming to strengthen cultural identity and reduce the likelihood of future involvement with the justice system.
- Establishing the Kenora Justice Centre to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the local justice system.
- Providing $675,000 to Kenora’s Mobile Crisis and Outreach Team, $979,911 to Thunder Bay’s Joint Mobile Crisis Response Project and $979,911 to Thunder Bay’s Project River Safety and Health Initiative over three years (2019 to 2022) through the Community Safety and Policing Grants program.
- Investing $800,000 to support a one-year pilot project with the Kenora Chiefs Advisory Street Patrol to help ensure the needs of at-risk Indigenous community members are being met in a respectful and culturally appropriate manner.
“These projects support our goal of ensuring the province’s justice system is responsive to the needs of Indigenous people and communities,” said Greg Rickford, minister of indigenous affairs.
“By expanding these existing facilities, we are providing Indigenous individuals in custody with greater opportunities for skills development, education and literacy.”
In preparation for this project, Infrastructure Ontario, through its contractors, is starting environmental, geotechnical, survey, archaeological and site servicing work within the secure perimeter at both facilities.