The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples is calling on the federal government to intervene on behalf of inmates at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre, where a massive COVID-19 outbreak is ongoing.
The Sask. New Democrats estimate that approximately 140 staff and inmates have the virus and that COVID-19 is in nearly every jail.
“Well, they’ve absolutely dropped the ball. In March, when we went through this process, that gave them an excellent opportunity to understand the impact of this virus. And it’s clearly obvious that when it comes to jails in Saskatchewan, they don’t know what they’re doing,” said Congress of Aboriginal Peoples National Vice Chief Kim Beaudin. “Our people are now facing a death sentence in Saskatoon Correctional Center due to COVID-19.”
Corrections and Policing Minister Christine Tell told the Legislature that the Ministry is concerned about the outbreaks in provincial correctional facilities and is attempting to manage the outbreaks.
“Our main focus is managing the spread and keeping our staff and offenders as safe as is possible. However, we know that COVID-19 spreads by not following proper public health protocols. And sometimes, quite frankly, we really don’t know how the virus moves and how it moves into spaces,” explained Tell.
After telling reporters last week that she was not going to investigate the source of the outbreak, Tell said she is now concerned with how the virus entered the facility.
Beaudin said the lack of compassion from Tell, makes her unfit to serve as Minister.
“She clearly doesn’t understand her role when it comes to the jails in Saskatchewan. One thing that’s really missing to me is her compassion for prisoners in the system,” explained Beaudin. “Particularly in terms of Indigenous People as well. I mean, there’s just nothing there. And I think even the government needs to take a step, Premier Moe needs to take a step and remove her from that position.”
Beaudin is calling for immediate testing of all staff and inmates and the releasing non-violent inmates.
Complicating matters at the Saskatoon Correctional Facility is that the City itself is dealing with 1400 active cases.
“This doesn’t just put inmates and staff at risk. It puts our entire health care system at risk if dozens of new patients get COVID-19 in our jails,” Douglas Park MLA Nicole Sarauer said. “How did the minister allow things to go so badly, and how does she have no interest at all in getting this problem under control?”
Tell stated that measures in place to help slow the spread include masking, proper hand hygiene and quarantining new arrivals.