Child advocate says closing Victoria detention centre a mistake
The Burnaby Youth Custody Centre will be home to 15 more young offenders from the facility in Victoria, which is shutting down. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
The province’s child advocate hammered a plan by the government Monday to relocate underage offenders from a youth custody centre in Victoria to Burnaby.
About 15 youths at Victoria Youth Custody Services will be added to the 39 already at Burnaby Youth Custody Services, which is built for 84 residents, according to the government.
The move will save $4.5 million a year by not running the underused Victoria facility as youth-in-custody rates decline.
Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said she appreciates the smaller numbers of youth in custody, but is against the proposal.
“This means that they’re going to be taken off the island to the mainland, it’s going to be a lot of travel back and forth and possibly nights in police cells,” Turpel-Lafond said. “The impact on people’s lives and the connections to their families is a negative impact.”
Youth could also be transported with adult offenders, she said.
She said the impacts will not help the recovery or rehabilitation of young offenders as they are away from their communities.
But Children and Families Minister Stephanie Cadieux said that because there are few centres for such youth, many minors from across B.C. are already being incarcerated outside of their communities.
“The reality is we are currently operating three centres,” Cadieux said. “They are already transported to one of the centres a fair distance from their home and we are able to have the same outcomes in reintegration for them as we are with the youth nearer to home.”
Meanwhile, the minister defended the ministry’s decision to not take action on a report from Turpel-Lafond regarding support for youth in foster care after they turn 19.
Turpel-Lafond argued sending youth on their way once they are adults is not good practice, pointing out most youth aren’t simply punted out the door at age 19 and continue to get help from their parents.
“I’m disappointed today she hasn’t accepted it,” she said. “I don’t intend to stop my campaign to push her in that regard.”