40 Iqaluit inmates to be sent out of Nunavut, following riot
“It’ll be a while before they come back”
Updated June 22, 3:45 p.m.
It could be some time before 40 inmates return to Iqaluit’s Baffin Correctional Centre, after an overnight riot on Wednesday, June 20, that left a low-security cellblock in the 60-person jail badly damaged by 26 inmates.
Today, 18 inmates from the BCC are being housed at the Nunavut court house and 16 are at the sheriff’s office.
One inmate was taken to the Qikiqtani General Hospital. This was as a precaution. Police said no one was injured in the riot.
Five police vehicles were damaged, however, “as inmates hurled metal and other projectiles through an open window on the south side of the facility,” according to an RCMP release.
Twenty-two RCMP members positioned themselves outside of the jail to prevent escape attempts during the riot, which started about 11 p.m. on Wednesday, June 20, and ended about 4:30 a.m. the following morning.
Members of the RCMP worked with staff from the sheriff’s office and corrections officers to contain the riot. Once the inmates were subdued, police removed the inmates “one by one,” the release said.
“This was a coordinated effort that involved an all-hands on deck response,” RCMP Inspector Mark Crowther said in the release. “The extraction went extremely well and the most important fact was that nobody was hurt. This could have ended much differently.”
Soon, those inmates involved will fly south, because there isn’t anywhere in the territory to keep them, Justice Minister Jeannie Ehaloak told Nunatsiaq News in an interview on Thursday, June 21.
“Our only choice is to do a complete renovation so that we can again house our inmates and ensure it is a safe and healthy place for the inmates to be,” Ehaloak said.
“I can’t tell you how long the renovations will take, but with the amount of damage we saw, it’ll be awhile before they come back.”
During the riot, surrounding streets were closed off for safety reasons, but no inmates ever got out of the building.
“There is no threat to public safety,” Ehaloak said.
The fire department was on site but wasn’t needed.
Another riot happened at the jail in September, but that was in a separate area with only four beds.
Ehaloak said the amount of damage done to the block is “huge.”
“There are broken windows, broken doors, they poked a hole in the ceiling, got into the ceiling and got into some offices.”
There are also holes in the interior walls, along with busted furniture and electronics.
Around 30 corrections staff members were at the centre while the riot was ongoing, including off-duty staff called in as back-up.
Long-time staff knew that eventually inmates would run out of adrenaline and get tired, Ehaloak said.
“Our staff had to wait until everything calmed down. We couldn’t put our staff and the inmates in danger.”
There is no dollar estimate yet for how much repairs will cost, but it will be “a huge cost,” Ehaloak said, that will likely eat up the Department of Justice contingency fund for this year.
“We don’t have any idea yet as to what triggered it,” she said.
Ehaloak did say that the BCC hasn’t been able to offer much programming or planned activities for the inmates for the past few months.
That’s because the jail’s gym was taken down to do ground work for a new jail, the Qikiqtani Correctional Healing Centre, which should open in 2021—that’s after construction start dates were delayed until next year.
“There was really no programs and services for the inmates,” she said.
Ehaloak thanked corrections staff and the RCMP for their work and said she is grateful the riot lasted for only a handful of hours.
“This could have lasted days,” she said.