B.C. hiring five staff at ‘closed’ Victoria youth jail

The B.C. government is hiring up to five temporary on-call staff members at a Victoria youth jail that was supposed to close more than a year ago, documents show.

An online job posting seeks “auxiliary on-call” youth supervisors to work primarily evenings and overnight, including weekends, as well as a variety of shifts as needed throughout the week.

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“Drawing from your skills and know-how, you will strive to effect positive change for youth housed in a short-term temporary holding unit while being transferred between court and custody,” states the posting on the government’s human resources website, MyHR.

The deadline for applications is Nov. 12.

Prospective employees will have to do a site visit, physical fitness test, interview, medical evaluation, online training course and a mandatory two-week training program from Dec. 7-18.

The NDP point to the posting as further proof that the government erred last year when it announced plans to close the Victoria Youth Custody Centre on Talcott Road in View Royal.

“The government, I think, is rolling over on this,” said MLA Maurine Karagianis, who represents the riding of Esquimalt-Royal Roads where the jail is located.

Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux was travelling and unavailable for comment Tuesday. Her office said in a statement that the jail “is already closed,” but that “a small area of the facility remains operational” as a temporary holding unit for youth awaiting transfer to and from court or to the Burnaby Youth Custody Centre. The Victoria unit has been used about 14 per cent of the time since April 1.

“The ministry will continue to operate a small unit at the site of the former Victoria Youth Custody Centre until the Ministry of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services find a viable option for the site or alternative temporary holding is secured.”

Cadieux announced the closing in April 2014, saying the province could no longer afford to keep the jail open to house an average of 15 youth a night in a facility that was built for 60, but staffed for a maximum of 24. The closure was expected to offset a loss of $4.5 million in federal money.

Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond opposed the plan, as did capital region police chiefs, who said their cells were no place to hold youth before transferring them to the Burnaby Youth Custody Centre. The standoff forced the ministry to put the closure on hold and use part of the jail as a temporary holding unit.

“They’ve kept it open the entire time with real skeleton staff on hand,” Karagianis said. “But I certainly think, at this point, if they’re going to start hiring staff and training staff for that facility, then they should re-open it.

“They should admit defeat on this and say, ‘Yes, we were wrong. The police were right. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond was right. The Opposition was right. This facility needs to stay open. It’s a vital facility here on the Island.’

“They’ve gone halfway at this point.”

Dean Purdy, a spokesman for the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, said he wasn’t surprised by the posting.

“We’ve said all along that they’d need to keep it open in some capacity, because other law- enforcement agencies are refusing to house kids in their cells or their facilities,” he said.

Purdy said six correctional officers who moved from the youth jail to the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre on Wilkinson Road “feel they’ve been duped” by the government.

“A lot of them wanted to remain at that centre and they had to go through the process of being placed at an alternative work site,” he said.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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