Animals are returning to Ontario prison farms, and it’s not just goats.
The Trudeau government was elected on a promise to return farm operations to prisons, after they were closed under the Harper government in favour of what was called more useful skills.
That resulted in an outcry especially in the Kingston area where there are multiple institutions to house criminals.
The original proposal from the government was to milk goats, but Mark Holland, parliamentary secretary to Ralph Goodale, minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, announced at the Joyceville prison that the program would include dairy cattle along with goats. The original prison farms involved milking cows and some of the high-classification herd was purchased by area farmers who have maintained the genetics of the original prison farm that was closed in 2010.
“I am very pleased to learn that the government has approved the combination of dairy cows and dairy goats at our Kingston area prison farms,” said Dianne Dowling, a local community member and co-chair of the farm advisory panel. “This announcement comes after years of dedication by hundreds of citizens to the cause of restoring the prison farms with a diverse program of crops and livestock.”
An advisory panel made up of seven volunteers has provided non-binding advice to Correctional Services Canada to help it better understand the farm industry, explore new business ideas and promote partnerships to provide employment opportunities for released offenders.
The return of the prison farms will be phased as the government has committed $4.3 million over the next five years to reopen farm operations.
The Kingston area will be the model, with prison farms at Joyceville and Collins Bay institutions.
“Consultations with community members, businesses and stakeholders have demonstrated strong support for the return of CSC farms in Kingston, and the return of dairy cows is an integral part of the project,” said Holland. “The prison farms are a valuable program that promotes rehabilitation, empathy and skills training, which reduces reoffending and helps make our communities safer.”
Workers at the institutions will be involved in building the facilities needed for the animals as well as rehabilitating farmland for crops.