UPDATED: Province confirms it will close Bluewater Youth Centre

HEATHER BOA Bullet News GODERICH - The provincial government has confirmed it is closing the Bluewater Youth Centre in Goderich, a secure custody facility for youth.

The province says BYC is operating at 26 per cent capacity and it can no longer afford to operate the facility, according to a press release issued at 4:40 p.m. today.

“Fewer youth are coming into custody because of improvements we’ve made to our youth justice system. As part of our plan to eliminate the deficit and protect the services families rely on, we can’t afford to operate facilities with so many empty beds,” said Eric Hoskins, who is the Minister of Children and Youth Services.

“We’ve had to make some hard choices, and I know this will be difficult for the staff and their families, but the government will work with them throughout this challenging process,” he said.

The province will also be reducing the number of beds at Brookside Youth Centre in Cobourg and and Cecil Facer Youth Centre in Sudbury.  Both facilities are currently operating under 50 per cent capacity.

All 17 young people at Bluewater will be relocated to other secure custody facilities as close to their families as possible.

Since 2003, the number of youth in secure custody has dropped from 1,017 to 370. The government credits a range of community-based and custodial programs for reducing the number of youth in conflict with the law.

Huron-Bruce MPP received notice from the minister this afternoon, although he did not provide a timeline for closure.

“Yet again, this is proving how McGuinty’s Liberals do not have a business plan or a vision as to how to facilitate the type of correctional services we need in rural Ontario. Bluewater is a good facility. I’m afraid that they’re doing this to justify some of their newer locations,” she said.

Thompson said she first heard about the impending closure when someone called her constituency office in Blyth in the middle of last week. Then she read it on Twitter on Friday.

“They’re taking so much away from rural Ontario. It’s our home and we’re proud of it and we need jobs,” she said, noting she will ask the government how it intends to sustain jobs in rural Ontario. “The only thing they’re pointing towards is welfare cheques or employment cheques and that’s not good enough for Huron-Bruce.”

“They’ve skinned rural Ontario pretty good,” she said.

Jim Ginn, who is the mayor of Central Huron, expects the closure will be a topic of discussion at tonight’s council meeting.

“I’m obviously disappointed and worried about what the loss of those good jobs is going to do to the community,” he said.

The Ontario government’s decision to close the Bluewater Youth Centre in Goderich will have a devastating impact on the town, the workers and families in the area that have young people involved in the system, warns OPSEU, which represents unionized workers at Bluewater Youth Centre.

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said in a press release this announcement will shatter the economy of Goderich, a town that has already dealt with a natural disaster less than a year ago.

“Goderich was nearly destroyed by a tornado last summer, now they’re about to endure an economic tornado that will impact every segment of this community,” Thomas said. “Nearly 200 good-paying jobs are about to be ripped out of the area, leaving nothing in their wake.”

OPSEU is also denouncing the Ministry of Children and Youth Services for leaking the closure to the media prior to telling the staff at the facility that the centre would be shut down.

“Over the weekend, staff at the facility found out through the media and Twitter that a closure announcement was coming,” Thomas said. “This is was completely disrespectful to our members and their families, whose lives are going to be changed forever.”

Glenna Caldwell, elected provincial representative for OPSEU members working in the youth justice system, said that there are alternatives to the complete closure of the Bluewater facility.

“There are many small open-custody and transfer payment facilities that could have their operations transferred to Bluewater,” Caldwell said. “We have trained, expert staff that can deal with youth issues, and the province would save money by amalgamating these smaller agencies.”

BYC has about 190 unionized full-time and fixed term employees.

Jack Hopkins, who has worked at the centre for 26 years and is no president of Local 122, said he has very few details but, “it’s a lot of good-paying jobs being eradicated in this area and it’s devastating. It’s devastating to the people who work there and it’s going to have a profound negative effect on the economy of Goderich and the surrounding area. It’s just another example of good jobs being ripped out of this area.”

He said the fact that the centre operates at 26 per cent capacity is the result of the employer’s decisions.

“They could have had as many people in there as they wanted to but they’ve chosen to do it this way,” he said.

However, he is optimistic about the future of employees.

“We’re a pretty strong, resilient group. We have a collective agreement and there are certain things that have to be followed through. I think a good number of people are going to land on their feet,” he said.

Written by on March 5, 2012 in Goderich - 18 Comments

18 Comments on "UPDATED: Province confirms it will close Bluewater Youth Centre"

  1. Amber March 5, 2012 at 4:00 pm · Reply

    It is sad that Goderich is losing another employer. However, the youth at Bluewater are not from Huron County, so the argument that youth will be adversely affected by being moved away from their families is simply not true. In most cases, the youth will be moved closer to home once they leave Bluewater.

    • Carrie. March 5, 2012 at 6:49 pm · Reply

      In reply to Amber. Not from Huron County? Where do you think they are all from. There MOST certainly ARE youth from HC. Not all of the youth of course, but you definitely are not correct in saying that. It is sad, no devastating that Goderich is losing another employer, no ‘howevers’ about it!

    • Lisa March 5, 2012 at 7:36 pm · Reply

      You must work for the government with a comment like that. Congratulations on justifying 200 job cuts. My guess is this closure won’t be affecting you at all. Show some sensitivity towards the employees and get your facts straight before you make statements that you know nothing about.

      • Jay March 6, 2012 at 12:16 am · Reply

        200 employees with 17 kids currently there…HOW DO YOU THINK THEY CAN STAY OPEN?

        “You must work for the government with a comment like that. Congratulations on justifying 200 job cuts” GIVE YOUR HEAD A SHAKE! They are likely not union members and think with there heads and common sense instead of their greed and wallets.

        Sensitivity towards the employees? It does suck they are going to lose their jobs, but lets be serious here, they have been overpaid Unionized workers for way too long and when the money pot starts to empty, the ones that make the most money are the ones that get the axe first.

        Why are the workers not offering to take deep wage rollbacks in order to keep their jobs and off of EI? When there is no money left….THERE IS NO MONEY LEFT! For years the unions demanded huge wage increases and got them, now it is time to pay the piper, it sucks, but that is today’s reality!

        And before you try to jump down my throat, I am from a Union family and have been in a Union myself. It is the sad reality of today’s economic situation is that there need to be cuts, and with 17 kids and 200 employees it seems that in order to keep our Health Care system free, in order to prevent us from entering a depression as opposed to a recession, in order to prevent losing many of the government funded programs that are very necessary for the needy, then so be it.

        Sad but true.

        • Carrie. March 7, 2012 at 4:18 pm · Reply

          Not jumping down your throat, however…overpaid!? Are you kidding me, these employees are in an environment with criminals, murderers, rapists, diddlers, etc. You couldn’t pay most people enough to do that! It would have been nice too if the staff were offered any kind of pay cut option, they weren’t even TOLD about the closure. They got to hear it from the media and when they went in to work to find out answers, they were told the doors were closing immediately. No kind of notice or heads up! Maybe if people knew how the ministry chose to baby these criminals, opinions would change. The cuts should have been to programs and how things were done on the inside, not to the hard working people who were trained to do this extremely straining job. The count was low yes, but that was the way the government and justice system chose to make it. Let’s see how it goes when these criminals are placed in private care.! I tell you, having a job that entails being spit on, hit, threatened with shanks, insulted..etc. Most people would not put themselves in that position, the bluewater staff were like family, cared about their job, had each other’s trust because they never knew what would happen one day to the next…. and MOST definitely earned every dime they were paid! There, you have your opinion, that is mine.

  2. Chris March 5, 2012 at 7:17 pm · Reply

    That was an uninformed comment. The youth are from Huron County and surrounding area. The next closest facilities are in Simcoe, Cobourg, and Brampton. A youth from Windsor or Sarnia would be hours from home. Please get your facts right before you leave a comment on a subject that is life changing for its employees.

    • Jonathan March 7, 2012 at 8:34 am · Reply

      A lot of the facts are not accurate. Many people must be completely unaware of how many privatized/transfer payment facilities are operating in the province.

      Yes there were 1000 youth in custody in 2003 and yes there are about 300 youth in the publicly run (OPS) jails like (Sprucedale, The Roy, Brookside) but there is also another 300 youth locked up in privatized transfer payment jails.

      What is really happening is the governement is deciding to make the move towards less PUBLICLY run youth jails.

      There were no options for wages roll back for these Ontario employees with great pensions, benefits, wages and health and safety standards because there work, the youth, are moved to the transfer payment agencies with employees that are often making 1/2 the wage, no benefits, no pension and no WSIB (thats right, non-profit agencies don’t have to have WSIB, there are lots of horror stories with that one but thats another story)

      The qualifications are relatively equal but the experience is much lower as the turnover is much higher in the small privatized facilities because of the poor wages etc. Alot of people won’t work for $14 to get verbally abused, urinated on, teeth knocked out, assaulted etc.

      There was 200 employees but many of them relief and casuals who just weren’t getting shifts but they remain available for shifts. There weren’t 200 employees working 40 hours a week.

  3. Rick March 5, 2012 at 8:34 pm · Reply

    Correct me if I misread this but was there only 17 youths at the detention centre? If that’s correct, 200 employees for 17 youth seems to be an out of whack ratio. Regardless, this is bad news for the area.

    • D March 5, 2012 at 8:58 pm · Reply

      The reason behind that number is due to poor upper management turning youth away when there are available beds. Instead they funnel these dangerous youth into privately run secure and open custody facilitates where the staff have less training and aren’t equipped to deal with them.

    • Marie March 5, 2012 at 11:22 pm · Reply

      Tell that to the 200 staff who are now out of jobs. I’m sure they will appreciate a response as insensitive as that.

  4. Sheila March 5, 2012 at 8:56 pm · Reply

    There are only 17 youth because of the new ‘super jail’ the government spent a fortune on building near Toronto. Now the youth are transported there to justify the money spent and the smaller facilities are being phased out to make it appear that the government is saving money. Bluewater could quite easily handle more youth if they were allowed to and make it more accessible for the parents to stay in contact more frequently. Now they will be forced to make the choice of a much longer commute to visit their children or visit less often.. or not at all. My heart goes out to the employees and families at BYC – from BSYC

  5. Doug March 5, 2012 at 11:03 pm · Reply

    In response to Rick’s comment he is right but you must realize that all 190 employees are not entitled to full time hours as the government terms them casual and depending on holidays sick days and other leaves of absence from the full time work force a casual will gain hours so I have heard that the adverse casual is getting 12-24 hours a week and present time so do be under the impression there over staffed and their paying them for no reason .. Staffing is determined on inmate numbers. The cost is in running a large building with not enough beds full..

  6. Karen Sturdy,J.P. (retired) March 5, 2012 at 11:33 pm · Reply

    Having worked at the facility when it was an Ontario Hospital and attending on occasion when it was a youth detention centre to release prisoners, I cannot believe that the Ministry is prepared to close this facility. If it cannot be a youth detention centre, why can it not be an adult one. As I understand it, the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre in London is overcrowded. Goderich sends its prisoners there now instead of Walkerton which I understand the government closed because of its age. Bluewater is much newer and its use would make the transportation of prisoners to and from court much easier and cheaper. A great deal of money has already been spent on this facility so why not use it.

  7. P March 6, 2012 at 12:09 am · Reply

    Bluewater was closed because it did not buy into all of the programs that the Ministry wanted. They are now putting these inmates in small private facilities in residential areas in cities. The staff there do not have proper training and there is no screening process. Staff at Bluewater had to take a six week training course, pass a written test and screening process. The private facilities place 12 year olds in with kids up to 20 years old. In the past two years Genest Detention centre had two inmates break out of a van during a transfer. Hope Manor had a kid break out and stole one of their transport vans and most recentlty a 16 year old broke out of a private faciltiy in Sudbury and ended up getting hit by a car and was killed. Kids also need the most rehabilitation at a young age. Bluewater has social workers and phycologists on site as they get none of these services in a private facility. There will eventually be lots of law suits when these private places get full and they riot and break out and steal cars or rob people and innocent people get killed. This will cost more in the long run for the government but for now it is a short term fix.

  8. Chris March 6, 2012 at 12:31 am · Reply

    A great point Karen. Bluewater could easily be turned into a medium security adult facility. EMDC has to squeeze three to a cell right now because there is no room. I hope that someone with enough influence can put a proposal together to utilize this building as an adult facility and keep the jobs in Goderich.

  9. C March 6, 2012 at 8:23 am · Reply

    It’s been said that the government wants to close BYC and send them to smaller, private facilities that are closer to home, in an attempt to save $27 million over 3 years. But I’m curious on how much the government pays to so many private facilities. Currently, there are 48 open custody and 14 secure custody and detention facilities, many with as few as 1 or 2 youth in the building. The government could easily close many of these private facilities and move them into the 7 secure custody facilities that they currently operate. How can it be cheaper to operate over 60 small centres, than just 7 large ones?
    As well, one of the reasons for closing is so they may move the “misguided youth” to centres closer to home. But if any of the staff at BYC are offered positions elsewhere in the province, their own families and children will have to move farther away from their own grandparents, cousins, friends, teachers, etc.
    I guess it’s okay to displace hard working, good citizens and their families in an already traumatized town, but cater to the incarcerated youth who seem to have more rights than town’s own people.

  10. Cathy Cove March 6, 2012 at 10:23 am · Reply

    I think that this move is more about politics and pandering to the larger urban centres that Sheila suggests. We’ve been seeing this happen for years re: the glut of small town school closures in favour of those “bigger is better” big-box schools.

    It’s also a quick fix for the government to pay for their unsustainable promises and pay off our debt.

    The Minister is quoted as saying that the government has made “improvements to our youth justice system”. Such as? I’d like to see the list.

    What really worries me is that the government will be in charge of selling that property. What if they have a manufacturer of wind turbines in mind? (totally speculation on my part) Will municipalities once again be left out of things?

  11. Bill Lee March 6, 2012 at 6:39 pm · Reply

    The day after the tornado, Carol Mitchell MPP was in Goderich with Premier McGuinty and five million dollars.
    In the provincial election, two months later, she was thrown out.
    Typical of your genius thinking, Goderich and Huron riding.
    She was a Cabinet minister. She could have some influence on the decision to close BYC and get some alternatives. Don’t expect anything from McGuinty now, fools.
    But you wanted to cut costs or something.
    Now you’re going to pay for your stupidity.

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