Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon MP Brad Vis. File Photo.

Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon MP Brad Vis. File Photo.

Federal handling of COVID-19 outbreak at Mission Institution criticized by MPs, advocates

MPs joint statement takes aim at Correctional Service Canada, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair

Sharp words have been directed at the federal government over Mission Institution’s COVID-19 outbreak by local MPs, Indigenous leaders and civil rights groups.

An inmate died at Abbotsford Regional Hospital from complications from COVID-19 on Wednesday, April 15. Since the first case was announced less than two weeks ago, eight correctional officers have been infected along with other 54 inmates. It’s the worst outbreak at any prison in Canada.

The MPs of Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon and Abbotsford released a joint statement criticizing Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

“Proactive communication to our community from CSC has been and continues to be absent,” reads the statement from Mission’s Brad Vis and Abbotsford’s Ed Fast. “The public is understandably concerned about measures being taken to arrest the spread of the virus within the prison population, amongst frontline correctional officers, and in the wider community.”

The MPs took aim at Bill Blair, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and his “wholly insufficient” comments about the situation on Thursday, April 16.

“It is incumbent upon our federal institutions to keep the public informed,” the statement says. “The public is currently unaware of what measures have been taken to protect inmates, correctional officers and the general public. This is largely due to the failure of his Ministry to communicate those measures and to assure the community that every necessary step is being taken to uphold public safety.”

Their statement offers condolences to the victim and the family of the inmate.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, the president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, said the government’s reaction to the infection of their prison population has been far to slow, which is concerning considering almost one-third of federal inmates are Indigenous.

“The passivity of the Government of Canada as COVID-19 spreads through federal prison populations has been an alarming display of inhumanity, and one with lethal consequences,” Phillip said. “We demand an immediate and proactive response from Canada to stem the spread of COVID-19 in the federal prison system.”

Joint Effort, a community group which works with women prisoners in the Lower Mainland, has been lobbying government officials to release non-violent offenders and people awaiting trial. The group says the health protocols currently being used are inhumane.

“We warned them that their inaction would led to an exponential growth in COVID-19 infections endangering the most vulnerable, especially prisoners who are over fifty years old, pregnant, immunocompromised, sick or have pre-existing conditions that make them high risk for dying from COVID-19,” a statement from the group.

“With physical visitations being cancelled, family members and volunteer groups must be able to maintain contact through phones and online platforms.”

Mission’s Mayor, Pam Alexis, has also stated her worry over the situation at the medium security prison.

“The news of cases of COVID-19 at Mission Medium Institution is deeply concerning,” she said. “This is not only a serious public health issue for the inmates on lockdown and the staff working there, but is a great concern for the staff who are residents of Mission and have families at home and go about their lives within the community.”

A corrections officer working at the prison, who spoke with Black Press Media on April 4 before the outbreak’s confirmation, said that a total of 15 officers had to self-isolate due the outbreak, and that much of prison-life was carrying on as normal before then.

RELATED: Two inmates found positive for COVID-19 at Mission Institution; two other tests pending

In all, 70 Mission inmates have been tested. Ten tests came back negative and six tests are still pending. A lockdown is currently in place as a precautionary measure.

The 54 positive tests are more than a third of the 145 total cases in federal prisons across Canada. Quebec’s Joliette Institution has 48 positive cases.

– with files from Kevin Mills

abbotsfordCoronavirusMission

Just Posted

Surrey council chambers. (File photo)
Surrey council endorses ‘public engagement’ strategy

Council approves ‘Public Engagement Strategy and Toolkit,’ and a ‘Big Vision, Bold Moves’ transportation public engagement plan

Surrey City Hall. (File photo)
Surrey council approves $7.3 million contract for street paving projects

City council awarded Lafarge Canada Inc. $7,326,667.95 for 15 road projects in North Surrey and one in South Surrey

Surrey city Councillor Brenda Locke. (File photo)
Locke seeks breakdown on what Surreyites get for taxes paid to Metro Vancouver

Surrey councillor presented motion to council Monday asking city staff to do a cost/benefit analysis

TEASER PHOTO ONLY
SURREY NOW & THEN: Little Theatre’s 59-year history ends with big plans for move to Langley

A former church, the theatre building/property has sold for close to $900,000

Old trucks are seen in the yard at the B.C. Vintage Truck Museum in Cloverdale June 14, 2021. The Museum is reopening June 19 after a seven-month COVID closure. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Cloverdale’s truck museum to reopen

B.C. Vintage Truck Museum set to open its doors June 19

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Robert Nelson, 35, died after being stabbed at a homeless camp in Abbotsford on April 7 of this year.
Mom pleads for information about son’s killing at Abbotsford homeless camp

Robert Nelson, 35, described as ‘man who stood for justice, honour, respect’

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Police arrest the suspect in an attempted armed bank robbery on June 2 at the Scotiabank at Gladwin Road and South Fraser Way in Abbotsford. (Photo by Garry Amyot)
Abbotsford bank robbery suspect who was stopped by customers faces more charges

Neil Simpson now faces total of eight charges, up from the initial two

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

Most Read