With gunfire erupting all over Metro Vancouver as a result of open gang warfare, a number of mayors are calling for tougher sentences, and a severe crack down on crime. They want action, and they want it now in order to ensure their citizens are safe.
In Burnaby however, Mayor Corrigan and some of his councillors are taking a slightly different approach to supporting measures that would help support the criminal justice system. Corrigan, ironically a former parole officer himself, is actively opposing the construction of a desperately needed pretrial centre on a piece of property which formerly housed the Burnaby Youth Detention Centre.
According to the Solicitor General's office, two other pretrial centres for adults in the Lower Mainland are already operating above 200 per cent of capacity. North Fraser Pretrial Centre in Port Coquitlam, built in 2001, has 234 full time equivalent staff, 300 cells and approximately 630 inmates. The Surrey Pretrial Services Centre has 149 cells and 300 inmates.
Based on that data, at least two Mayors in Metro Vancouver are prepared to shoulder a part of the criminal justice burden, while Burnaby's Mayor suffers from another case of NIMBYism.
So is Corrigan opposed because the Province is trying to stuff an ugly jail in the middle of his city? It would appear not based on a consultation document we found on the Solicitor General's website which states:
"Like the North Fraser Pretrial Centre, the LMPC will more closely resemble an office building, similar to those in the area, than what is traditionally considered as a correctional facility. As with all new provincially owned or leased facilities, it will be built, at minimum, to a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold or equivalent standard. This will ensure the building will be among the most efficient and sustainable in the world."
Ok, so perhaps he is opposed to this facility because there is evidence that it will attract a bad element who will move into the neighbourhood? Or perhaps, it's been proven to be unsafe for other neighbourhoods located near similar facilities. Here's what the SG's officials had to say about that:
"There are many examples in B.C. of correctional centres being located close to residential areas. Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre in Victoria, the North Fraser Pretrial Centre in Port Coquitlam and the Surrey Pretrial Services Centre are three examples. While there may be a perception of risk when such a facility is located near residents, in actuality, neighbourhood safety is not compromised by correctional facilities. Discharge procedures ensure offenders have a means to return to their own neighbourhoods, and given the short stay of inmates at pretrial centres, it’s very unlikely the families of these offenders would move to Burnaby."
So perhaps the issue of crime reduction has never been a high priority for Corrigan? Well, not according to his inaugural address he delivered in December 2007:
"Council supports an approved Burnaby detachment crime reduction program, which is strategic and intelligence-led, focusing on prolific offenders and chronic crime areas, which are keys to the reduction of crime and victimization, resulting in a safe and secure community. Over the last year, the Burnaby Detachment has continued to evolve and build on partnerships to improve the responsiveness of the organization...our Community Policing Stations and Neighborhood Liaison Constables have been working hard to address chronic crime and social issues in every quadrant of the City. The Burnaby Detachment will continue with the important strategic priorities of prevention, education, intelligence, investigation, enforcement and protection as the cornerstones of the City’s policing program."
The new pretrial centre is planned to house only 180 cells. Burnaby has a population exceeding 200,000 people, so it's fair to argue that a number of the folks eventually moving into the facility will come from the city itself.
Then consider the fact it wasn't long ago that Burnaby was actually home to the Oakalla Prison Farm and the Willingdon Youth Detention Centre, both which are now closed. In the case of Oakalla, it was home to thousands of inmates over its 77 year history. Clearly Burnaby has a long history of housing some of Metro Vancouver's most notorious criminals.
So then, why is Corrigan so adamantly opposed to this new facility moving into his backyard? Well, when it comes to things he doesn't support, he appears to have no qualms about pushing "the problem" beyond the city's boundaries.
Take for example the issue of ending homelessness in Burnaby. Corrigan appears more than willing to let Vancouver shoulder most of the tax burden for the construction of new social housing units. That's because despite increased homelessness in his own city, Corrigan says Burnaby is under no obligation to build new social housing:
"...municipalities have no responsibility for housing affordability, for social housing, for mental health, for addictions treatment,"
"We can't get involved with building housing for the mentally ill"
So now it would appear that despite a history of housing the Oakalla prison, Corrigan believes Burnaby is no longer under any moral obligation to house even a small portion of Metro Vancouver's criminal element. His actions clearly demonstrate that he believes neighbouring cities like Port Coquitlam or Surrey are much better suited for this type of activity.
While Corrigan's stand against the construction of a new pretrial centre makes for good politics, it demonstrates a real shortsightedness on his part regarding Metro Vancouver's overall battle against crime.