Fredericton city council has passed a motion that paves the way for the municipality to sell a 25-acre plot of land to the provincial government, where it plans to build a $32-million jail.
But it isn’t a done deal, and the plan has generated controversy, with several city councillors voting against the move during a council meeting on Monday, Nov. 28.
The parcel of land is located to the south of Blizzard and Dorcas Streets in the Vanier Industrial Park and would be sold to the Province’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for $1,075,000 plus tax. The sale is subject to terms and conditions including land use approvals from the Planning Advisory Committee (PAC) and Fredericton City Council.
Councillor Margo Sheppard stated her opinion on the use of land.
“This isn’t a terribly good use to have in our city and until I can be persuaded a correctional facility actually does correct someone or actually rehabilitates them so they can become contributing members of society, I don’t think I will be supporting this.”
Sheppard also stated it’s important that the people of the city have a say in whether they want a jail facility to go onto this property and the planning process will afford those people an opportunity to have their say.
The province estimated the proposed new jail would cost $32 million and include 100 new beds and nine segregation and admissions cells. They expect to begin construction in 2023 or 2024.
Jail won’t fix social issues plaguing Fredericton, province: experts
Plans for a new jail have faced criticism from experts in criminology and health who say the city needs more substance use treatment centres, mental health supports and housing to make communities feel safer, rather than jails.
Martha Paynter, author of the new book, Abortion to Abolition: Reproductive Health and Justice in Canada, spoke out against a new jail in Fredericton on Wednesday, Nov. 30. Paynter, originally from Fredericton, has recently returned to the capital and is an Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing at the University of New Brunswick.
Reading from her book, she said: “The prison system violates reproductive justice in every possible way. Bodily autonomy is under constant threat. What you do, how you move, who you touch, and when you eat, urinate and sleep are all observed and policed. People in prison are systematically withheld health care.”
In an interview with NB Media Coop, criminologist Justin Piché stated: “We know imprisonment is the most costly, least effective, most unjust and most inhumane way” to resolve the social issues in Fredericton and the province.
Concerned citizens can make their voices heard
Councillors Cassandra LeBlanc, Kevin Darrah, Margo Sheppard and Ruth Breen opposed the motion to authorize the land sale.
Citizens can have their opinions heard by the Planning Advisory Committee (PAC) on Dec. 14, 2022 at 7 p.m. by submitting comments, signing up to participate virtually or in person (email@example.com) or attending the meeting at 397 Queen Street. Solidarité Fredericton has prepared this form letter that residents can use to express their opposition to the jail to their councilors. Residents can find the email of their city councillor here.
City Council will receive a report from the PAC, then will have a first and second reading of the proposal where the public can voice their objections or support. City Council will subsequently have a third reading, to reflect on what they’ve heard and make their final decision.
Valerya Edelman is a Fredericton-based social worker and community organizer.