Mission Institution. Kevin Mills / Mission City Record.

Mission Institution. Kevin Mills / Mission City Record.

New cases linked to site of B.C.’s largest prison COVID-19 outbreak

New outbreak could be ‘recipe for disaster’ at Mission Institution, mother of inmate warns

A new COVID-19 case has been connected to Mission Institution, the site of B.C.’s largest prison outbreak in the spring.

Families are terrified that new cases could signal another large outbreak but have been told little, Joanne Fry, the mother of one inmate said Saturday morning. She said she has confirmed at least one new case. Meanwhile, corrections officers have been told two staff members have tested positive, The News has learned.

Last spring an outbreak infected a dozen guards and more than 100 inmates – nearly half of the prisoner population. One prisoner died during that outbreak.

The first case was diagnosed on Tuesday, Nov. 11, according to Joanne Fry, whose son is a prisoner at the site and organized the Mission Prison Family Association after the outbreak. Fry said the facility went into a lockdown on Wednesday to restrict inmate movement. But she says she has been able to learn little else. With Fraser Health having yet to issue a public notice about the facility and a lack of communication from the Correctional Service of Canada, Fry says family members have been left in the dark.

“As usual, CSC and Mission Institution avoid any slight type of communication or liaison,” she said. “We have no way of getting updates, we don’t know how many have tested positive. We don’t know if they learned a thing from the last experience.”

Fry she hopes the media coverage of the last outbreak – and the lawsuit her group has filed – will prompt a better response this time at Mission.

Two staff cases were also diagnosed in September, but the virus didn’t charge through the facility as it had several months before.

But Fry says there hasn’t been any sign of better communication with families, and that the lack of information has inflicted “trauma” on people worried about their loved ones.

“We’re talking about 300 human beings here … and if you don’t give a damn about inmates, think about what all the families are going through.”

RELATED: Staff shortages plague Mission Institution following recovery from COVID-19 outbreak

RELATED: Mission prison COVID-19 outbreak declared over

RELATED: Two employees test positive for COVID-19 at Mission Institution

The News has tried to contact the prison and the union that represents corrections officers, but hasn’t yet received a response. The News has also asked Fraser Health for more information on the situation at the prison.

Fry said she has been in touch with the union, and that they have also expressed concern about how the facility handled the last outbreak – and how it might handle the next one.

At the start of October, the prison was operating with just 60 per cent of its force of guards, with 21 employees self-isolating after the September COVID cases.

Derek Chin, the president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers for the Pacific Region, said at the time that guards were feeling the strain.

“Things aren’t always great at that site when it comes to labour relations,” Chin said. “There have been a lot of officers that have been worked pretty hard, lots of hours, they feel under-appreciated.”

At that time, the CSC said staff had “shown flexibility and some have worked extended hours,” to keep the prison running.

“Mission Institution anticipates being able to return to regular activities as soon as the staff have been cleared from self isolation,” CSC said.

Now Fry worries another outbreak would be a recipe for disaster.

“You’ve got two groups of people who are both in real bad places. That is a crisis waiting to happen.”

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
tolsen@abbynews.com


@ty_olsen
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The annual Make a Difference Sale in Abbotsford is moving online for 2021. (File photo)
Make a Difference Sale in Abbotsford goes virtual for 2021

Annual auction raises money for world hunger through Canadian Foodgrains Bank

The Bug Girl, written by seven-year-old Sophia Spencer, is being given to 500 B.C. classrooms as part of Canadian Agriculture Literacy Month. (Submitted photos)
Reading challenges part of Canadian Agriculture Literacy Month

Abbotsford-based BC Agriculture in the Classroom participates in 10th annual event

Two teens were sent to hospital after being stabbed Saturday evening. (Shane MacKichan photo)
Two teens stabbed in Abbotsford

20-year-old man has been detained

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Inez Louis, who is strategic operations planner with the health department in the Sto:lo Service Agency, talks about infection control in the latest YouTube video about COVID-19 created in partnership with the Chilliwack Division of Family Practice and the Chilliwack Economic Recovery Network. (YouTube)
VIDEO: Nurse Inez Louis explains how infection control is not social control

The difference is important for Indigenous people to hear in the context of Canada’s colonial past

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Approximate location of the vehicle incident. (Google Maps)
Vehicle incident blocking Coquihalla traffic in both directions

Both directions of traffic stopped due to vehicle incident

Most Read