Public support sought for young offender’s facility

In a bid to get a provincially-proposed young offender’s facility built here, public meetings are being held to gauge public support.
And the Rainy River Tribal Area First Nations, a corporation of seven district First Nations, has proposed that Couchiching Reserve be the site of the facility–a proposal that needs strong public support to be successful.
“What we’re doing is accelerating the community consulting process [because] one of the key elements in securing a bid is public support,” noted Couchiching Chief Chuck McPherson.
The proposal, and public meetings, are in response to a provincial announcement that the Ministry of Correctional Services plans to build a young offender’s facility in northwestern Ontario and a request for communities to submit proposals for that facility.
The facility is expected to be an economic boon for the successful bidder.
“Certainly we’re looking at the employment factor with the anticipated range of 50 to 90 beds,” noted Chief McPherson.
“There’s a possibility of 70 to 120 jobs depending on the size of the facility,” he added.
The facility is expected to employ approximately one person per one-and-a-half youth and would be a safe, secure operation with culturally- relevant programming designed to meet the needs of young offenders, the majority of whom are likely to be native, according to a press release from the Rainy River Future Development Corp.
The facility would be operated by the Rainy River Tribal Area First Nations in conjunction with a private or public sector partner.
Although other communities in northwestern Ontario are bidding to be the site of the facility, the First Nations’ local proposal has already garnered very strong support from several nearby communities and area organizations.
“I understand Kenora and Atikokan are also in the mix but it’s a unique situation here, we’ve got support from our neighbours,” said Chief McPherson.
Fort Frances and Emo municipal council’s have endorsed the proposal because of the direct employment at the facility, as well as the construction and related supply and service contracts which will stimulate the local economy.
“As a municipality, in Fort Frances we see it as a win-win situation,” noted Mayor Glenn Witherspoon.
“We have as good a chance as anybody with the infrastructure that’s in place and the criteria that would be involved,” he added.
“I think the benefit to Emo is the possibility, certainly, of jobs there,” said Emo Reeve Russ Fortier. “There’s also the services end of it for entrepreneurs as somebody’s got to provide laundry, somebody has to provide meals and that sort of thing.
“It’s also the chance for some of our young people to straighten out their lives near home,” added Reeve Fortier.
The RRFDC and Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce have also endorsed the proposal.
The facility would include a combination of work, discipline and education for youth and, as part of the proposal, is required to be near a courthouse and a fair-sized community that can offer some employment possibilities.
Fort Frances town council has invited the public to discuss the issue at the Civic Centre on Sept. 5 from 7 to 9 p.m. and public input will also be sought during a meeting at the Couchiching Bingo Parlour on Tuesday, Sept. 4, from 7 to 9 p.m.