Fraser Valley prison guards take political stance

Union urging voters to not support Conservatives in federal election

Guards from federal prisons including Mission Institution are taking a political stand ahead of this fall's election.

Guards from federal prisons including Mission Institution are taking a political stand ahead of this fall's election.

The union representing more than 1,000 federal corrections officers in the Fraser Valley is urging voters in the new riding of Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon not to support the Conservatives in the upcoming federal election.

Gord Robertson, the president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, said he expected between 90 and 100 members would be going door-to-door Tuesday afternoon in Mission and Agassiz, speeding the union’s message.

Although the number of guards has remained steady in recent years, Robertson said budget cuts to the Correctional Service of Canada have made officers’ jobs more dangerous by reducing programs, stiffening sentences, and increasing the number of prisoners in federal institutions.

Robertson said Conservatives policies that have increased Canada’s prison population give offenders less hope of returning to society and increase the likelihood they’ll misbehave while incarcerated.

The Fraser Valley is home to seven federal institutions that house around 2,000 prisoners and employ about 1,200 guards. They include  Kent and Mountain Institutions in Agassiz; Matsqui Institution, Fraser Valley Institution for Women, and Pacific Institution and Regional Treatment Centre in Abbotsford; Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village on Chehalis First Nation Land near Harrison Mills; and Mission Institution.

While members are asking voters not to support the Conservatives, Robertson said they “aren’t telling people how to vote.

“We’re educating our members and the public, too,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what government’s in power, we’ll continue to do our job. It’s just that we are concerned that some of the changes are making it more dangerous for us to do our job.”

The Conservative candidate in the new riding, Liv Grewal, did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

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