Prison breaks ground

Traditions from the past and a preview of what's next were part of a groundbreaking ceremony in the South Okanagan on Friday.

Dignitaries, Osoyoos Indian Band members and RCMP officers were all on hand for the event at the site of the new Okanagan Correctional Centre.

"This is a very exciting day for this entire region," said Boundary-Similkameen MLA Linda Larson. "We are just thrilled about this project."

The groundbreaking at the OIB site north of Oliver kicked off with band members on horseback and drummers leading dignitaries up to the podium.

Those gathered were treated to a smudging ceremony, held to remove any negative energy that might be present.

Speakers then touched on the effort it took to make the correctional facility a reality and what it will bring to the South Okanagan.

"The Okanagan Correctional Centre reflects our government's commitment to enhance public safety," said Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton. "This state of the art correctional centre will create 1,000 direct and indirect jobs during construction and 240 full-time, family supporting correctional jobs once operational. These jobs will have positive spinoffs throughout the economy, such as local coffee shops, businesses and service providers, which will also reap the benefits."

OIB Chief Clarence Louie thanked the local mayors, MLAs and others in attendance.

He commented on the fact the contract to build the OCC on OIB land is the first such partnership between the province and a First Nation in BC.

And he stressed that he wanted to do something special for the aboriginal offenders, inviting those who have worked in the legal system and restorative justice to address the crowd.

"After many years of negotiations and planning it is good to witness the groundbreaking of this very important project for our region," he said. "This project will bring many jobs during and after construction."

Workers have been on the 36 acre site since early spring to protect the local habitat and prepare the site for major construction activities, expected to commence this August.

With 11 living units and 378 cells, the OCC is expected to more than double corrections capacity in the region.

It will offer programming based on individual risk and needs assessments.

Programs that are centred on reducing reoffending, such as violent prevention and relationship skills, substance abuse management and educational and vocational programs will be provided.

The project is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2016.





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