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e-2797 (Correctional system)

Initiated by Calvin Neufeld from Perth, Ontario

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

  • Correctional Service Canada (CSC) is establishing for-profit prison farms involving beef, dairy, and intensive animal agriculture selling to the private sector and possible export markets;
  • Prisoners will be paid under a dollar per hour;
  • Associating underpaid prison labour with the private sector is a human rights violation under International Labour Organization standards;
  • CSC recognizes the potential for abuse of animals in prisons and confirms that 14 bull calves have died in the first six months of this year at Collins Bay Institution under unknown circumstances;
  • CSC will initially acquire up to 800 goat kids in 2020;
  • In 2021, CSC will construct a multi-million-dollar facility at Joyceville Institution to mechanically milk thousands of goats producing 2,250 litres of milk per hour;
  • This federally subsidized agribusiness will be the largest goat farm in Canada, using prison labour to compete with farmers in the open market;
  • Beef, dairy, and intensive animal agriculture are leading contributors to the climate crisis, agricultural pollution, and zoonotic disease; and
  • Canadians are unwilling to bear the financial, ethical, and environmental burdens of these prison farms.
We, the undersigned, citizens of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to:
1. Cancel this prison agribusiness;
2. Prevent for-profit use of prison labour for the private sector; and
3. Transition federally funded prison farms to a plant-based, non-profit model feeding food banks and food-insecure communities, as proposed by Evolve Our Prison Farms.

Response by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Joël Lightbound, M.P

The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) is focused on providing a correctional environment conducive to inmate rehabilitation, which is also in the interest of public safety. With this objective in mind, on June 21, 2018, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness announced that the Government of Canada would be reopening the penitentiary farms in Kingston, Ontario. The new model for penitentiary farm operations at Joyceville and Collins Bay Institutions was determined following a broad range of public consultations and review program, and includes dairy cow and dairy goat operations in addition to land management, horticulture, and crop production. The penitentiary farm operations are being implemented in accordance with all relevant legislation and policy. Procedures are being integrated within the penitentiary farm operations that respect both provincial and federal government legislation and practices, and in accordance with industry standards, as it relates to farm animal welfare. Offenders are involved in building and renovating necessary infrastructure, as well as working to repair and rebuild farmland, in addition to crop production. The reopening of the farms represents a renewal of the penitentiary farms model that includes additional technical skills, certifications, and community partnerships. The farms provide on-the-job training, vocational certification, and employability skills that support offenders in their reintegration.

The land size at Collins Bay and Joyceville Institutions includes land that buildings are located on, woodlots, sugar bush, orchard, greenspace and other uses. Thus, of the total size between the two sites is approximately 860 acres of workable land. CSC is further developing training programs with the production of organic crops at Collins Bay. CSC has registered a field at Collins Bay Institution for organic farming to provide offenders with the opportunity to learn about this type of crop production. In 2019-2020, land repair and crop production, and development of green zone continued at Collins Bay Institution. Crop production was commenced at Joyceville Institution. This work is continuing in 2020-21 and will do so on an annual basis, continually improving the land utilization and in consideration of environmental aspects.  There were four crops grown and harvested between the two sites including corn, barley, soybeans and hay. In addition, in 2019, CSC began work to revitalize an orchard at Joyceville Institution, which contains several varieties of apple trees.  CSC is also working with various partners and will incorporate plans for flowers, plants and trees as part of developing environmentally friendly aspects into the farmland and to contribute to natural species in the area, as well as items for use in cultural ceremonies.

In 2018, two honeybee hives were set up at Collins Bay Institution, incorporating research by an Ontario university student and vocational training through a college and expanding each year to now include 20 hives at each site for 2020.  Commencing in May 2019, young dairy and beef cattle have been acquired to begin building the dairy cattle herd, while also having stocker (beef) cattle for pasturing.  At present, there are 49 cows, including 34 dairy heifers and 15 beef cattle at the penitentiary farms. There are four at Joyceville Institution and 45 at Collins Bay Institution. Cattle will be housed at Collins Bay Institution for the winter and placed on pasture (at both institutions) next summer. New calves are introduced as part of the cycle of farming including consumption of milk. There is no other type of livestock currently at the farms. 

To provide a variety of land based activities, CSC’s offender employment program includes crop production at both sites as well as offenders at both institutions are involved in growing vegetables for their own consumption, as well as for donation to local food banks. This model incorporates land based activities that result in items for internal use, donation, as well as opportunities to generate revenues that will be reinvested into the offender employment and employability program.

The sale of products generated through the farm program, including produce, crops, cow and goat milk, and other potential by-products of these operations will be determined by internal use requirements, agreements and contracts signed as implementation occurs and products are available. The diversified penitentiary farm program activities, including both livestock and land based elements, contribute to offender learning and provide the opportunity to represent various parts of the broad spectrum of agriculture activities in Canada. CSC will continually be re-evaluating its operations as the plan is executed and will be taking into account elements such as sustainability and market availability, noting that dairy cow milk will be managed in accordance with Canada’s system of supply management for this product. All revenues generated will be reinvested into the offender employment and employability program.

Open for signature
August 14, 2020, at 10:48 a.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
October 13, 2020, at 10:48 a.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Paul Manly (Nanaimo—Ladysmith)
October 30, 2020 (Petition No. 432-00187)
Government response tabled
January 25, 2021
Photo - Paul Manly
Green Party Caucus
British Columbia