Nunatsiaq News
LETTERS: Nunavut March 14, 2014 - 12:07 pm

Baffin Correctional Centre: a quagmire for Nunavut bureaucrats

“Inmates will continue to be housed in a substandard and potentially dangerous place”


The Baffin Correctional Centre continues to be a quagmire for the Government of Nunavut and the territorial justice department. 

The term “quagmire” is defined as a bad situation that is hard to get out of, or a situation that is full of problems.  There is no doubt that this perfectly sums up the Baffin Correctional Centre, and what it signifies for the government. 

The Baffin Correctional Centre, also known as BCC, is over 30 years old.  It has reached the end of its life span. Concerns have been raised periodically with the safety of building, and its compliance with modern building codes. 

I am sure that the government would very much like to decommission the facility.

However, it knows that it will never be able to do so, given that the GN’s institutional corrections plan is premised on the idea of BCC being a fully functioning jail for the foreseeable future. 

This means that inmates will continue to be housed in a substandard and potentially dangerous place for many years to come.

And, in turn, this creates the quagmire for senior bureaucrats in the GN.  When faced with a quagmire, bureaucrats become despondent and sometimes desperate. 

They do things they ordinarily would never consider doing, like refusing to disclose a recent report on the facility for reasons that are completely spurious.

It is important to understand that most quagmires do not appear overnight.  Like a cancer, they develop over years.  Slowly, over time, they result from a series of decisions by politicians that were either poor or not fully thought out.

In 1999, the GN did actually understand that it needed a carefully considered institutional corrections plan for the new territory. 

The deputy minister of justice of the day, Nora Sanders, established a corrections planning committee that was given the important task of developing a comprehensive report proposing options for Nunavut’s future in the area of corrections for the next 20 years and beyond. 

Unfortunately, Ms. Sanders was later terminated from her position by the Minister of Justice, Paul Okalik, for reasons that I never really understood.

The corrections planning committee generated a report in October 1999, but I do not know whether such a report was ever considered by Paul Okalik, then the premier. 

What I do know is that, at some point around the year 2005, Okalik, then the minister of justice, precipitously announced that the GN would build a low security, 40-bed, correctional facility in Rankin Inlet, and that would be the government’s plan for institutional corrections. 

Of course, the problem with that “plan” is that it was based on the idea that BCC would continue to be a fully functioning facility, when it was known even then that its life span was ending.

And so a future quagmire was born.  I suppose that it is poetic justice that the one who spawned it through irresponsible decision-making is now the minister responsible for dealing with it. I wish him luck.

(Name withheld by request)

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