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The closure of the prison farms in Canada in 2010 by the Conservative government of the time was quite controversial. There were six farms operational at the time in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and New Brunswick.
Opponents had argued that the decision was made even though the essential skills developed through the farm were not considered. There was criticism about not consulting the local community before making this decision too.
Now, Trudeau’s Liberal government is looking at the possibility of opening the farms once again starting with the ones in Kingston. They are asking Canadians to talk on this issue through a survey online.
They have also planned a town hall in Kingston at a future date where local residents and stakeholders can share their thoughts.
In the 2009-10 fiscal year, seven hundred and sixteen inmates had been employed through this prison farm program. The decision to shutter farms drew protests, especially in Kingston, where a farm with dairy herds, thousands of hens, and an abattoir was closed.
There was a group of farmers who protested the closures together and bought the prison farm cattle which were being auctioned by the government. The calves and the cows are now being hosted at farms around the area.
Apart from having inmates develop excellent work ethic; the farms also produce food which is used for feeding the population of the prison as well as supplying local food banks. They even helped the economy as it required fertilizer, other supplies, and equipment.
It was a great economic engine for the farming community. There are a number of reasons why it was an excellent idea.
The land which used to host the Kingston prison farms is now being used by local farmers who rent it from the government. The reopened farms can be monetized, and green energy will play an important role here. It can even be used for producing artisan cheese.
But before anything happens, the results of the online survey will need to be judged. Unfortunately, most people whose opinion matters don’t have access to computers.