In yet another example of government stupidity and shortsightedness the federal government announced the closure of the six farm programs operated by Correctional Services Canada, a decision that they reached without consulting anyone, least of all us, the little people that they are supposed to be answerable to. Canada’s inmate farm program has been operational since the 1800’s, costs less than four million to run (according to the numbers I’ve been able to find), and produces about six million dollars worth of food.
None of these numbers take into account peripheral benefits such as donating produce to local non-profits, composting facilities that reduce landfill use, acquisition of great work and life skills, and protection of valuable farm land. Which is really the crux of the issue. Because there is no good reason to terminate this program other than the sale of pricey farm land that can never be recouped or brought back. The government is citing safety concerns with the examples of several escape attempts, and without considering alternative solutions of which I’m sure there are dozens, they just closed the door on the whole enterprise.
To quote Tim Allen of CBC ‘the idea of a prison farm is an elegant one. Inmates get to produce the food they eat, easing the burden on the public purse and, in the process, gaining experience that they can use when they get out and need to find a job.’ But according to our government the skills they gain surely can’t be important in our modern world and unnamed ‘contemporary’ occupations would be better. Never mind the fact that farming is daily work and hard work. Never mind the transferable skills it helps develop such as teamwork and consistency. Never mind the unquantifiable benefits of working with the unmovable force of nature which can’t be rushed and can undo your careful work in a heartbeat. Never mind the fact that food simply doesn’t grow on trees, it’s paid for by our tax dollars and the value of inmates growing their own is surely a benefit to us.
Never mind all that. You see the farm near Kingston Ontario enjoys 455 hectares of some of the country’s best farmland. It happens to feed the prison population and share with the food bank as well. And there’s likely a tidy profit to be made in selling off this prime land for development of more suburbia, because the government doesn’t care about farming as a valuable skill set. But it also doesn’t care about what we, as a community think either. Because the public opinion is rather firmly in favor of keeping the farms, seeing as it makes all sorts of economic and logical sense. If you read the comments attached to this CBC article it’s pretty clear that the citizens to whom the government is supposed to be accountable to really don’t see any reason to shut down these farms. And it’s also just as clear that the govt don’t care.
But see, I just can’t reiterate this enough, the govt is supposed to be representative. And accountable to the people that elected it. I know it often sounds like a joke when you look at most government decisions, and JUST ONCE I’d like to see them do something that we collectively want to see happen. And before we get really angry and sick of the system, and perhaps move to overhaul it from the ground up, I’d like to give the government a fair chance (again), to perhaps, I dunno, follow our wishes. So I encourage you to write a quick letter to the public safety minister Vic Toews and your MP and share with him your opinion of the farm closures, whatever it may be. Here’s also a petition you can sign. That way we’ll be participating in our funny version of democracy, we’ll sleep better at night knowing we did something other than complain that no one cares, and if we don’t see the changes we want – hey at least we gave the government every chance to listen.
Here are some news links for more info.