Thunder Bay – Mayor Mauro Seeks Information and Assurance from Ontario Solicitor General Jones

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Thunder Bay – NEWS – Thunder Bay Mayor Mauro is seeking information, and assurances from the Solicitor General of Ontario over the status of Individuals released from the Thunder Bay District Jail, and the Thunder Bay Correctional Centre.

The Mayor explains the situation in an interview on NetNewsLedger.

Letter from Mayor Maura to Solicitor General

March 5, 2021

Honourable Sylvia Jones Solicitor General George Drew Building 18th Floor
25 Grosvenor Street,
Toronto ON M7A 1Y6

Re: Request for COVID-19 Policy Changes to Correctional Facility Discharges

Dear Solicitor General Jones:

As you are aware, the Thunder Bay District Health Unit declared outbreaks of the COVID-19 virus on January 6th, 2021 at both the Thunder Bay District Jail and the Thunder Bay Correctional Centre. Subsequent to those declarations, I was able to share my concerns with you during our virtual meeting that took place at ROMA on January 25th.

Soon after our discussion at ROMA, we experienced a surge in COVID-19 cases at both correctional facilities. On January 28th, we reached out to your Office to request a phone call to discuss my concerns related to the seriousness of the situation. On January 29th, I was able to discuss my concerns with your Senior Policy Advisor for Corrections, Peter Copeland.

On February 2nd, the situation in Thunder Bay was becoming dire and it was very clear the City and partner agencies, who early in the pandemic had come together to deal with the impact on our vulnerable community members, were having tremendous difficulty isolating homeless and precariously housed people who either had the virus or been exposed to the virus. As a result of the strain on our isolation shelters, and a rapidly rising new, and active, case count, I declared a second state of emergency in the hopes it would facilitate rapid assistance from both the Provincial and Federal Governments. A Section 22 Order was put in place by the Medical Officer of Health from the Thunder Bay District Health Unit, directing everyone from the Jail and Correctional Centre to the isolation shelters upon discharge. This placed additional strain on the isolation shelters and resulted in staffing shortages. On February 10th, the area’s Medical Officer of Health declared an outbreak in the City’s homeless and precariously housed population.

The issues experienced are primarily the result of a lack of front line staff to assist people to get to, and help them to stay at, the isolation shelters. There are also financial shortfalls being experienced by partner agencies involved.

The declaration of a second state of emergency on February 2nd was immediately followed up by an application to the Province for assistance. While it did take some time, we have received some assistance from the Province through the provision of some extra staff. We have had some external organizations come to the City to assist with the shortage of staff but we have ongoing concerns related to both staffing and funding of isolation shelters.

In addition to the resources from the Province to assist us with our challenges related to our vulnerable community members, I am looking for assurances that your Ministry has made policy decisions related to the discharge of people from your facilities that will ensure that they are properly cared for, and not at risk to spread the virus to others before being discharged from your correctional facilities. Can you please advise me if there are any recent policy changes that will assist your Ministry in achieving these results.

Thank you for your ongoing consideration of Thunder Bay’s request relative to the difficult situation we continue to be confronted with.

Yours sincerely,

Bill Mauro, Mayor City of Thunder Bay

cc Honourable Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario
Honourable Christine Elliott, Minister of Health
Honourable Greg Rickford, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines Dr. Janet DeMille, Medical Officer of Health and Chief Executive Officer of TBDHU Council