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Union calls for extra safety measures at Mission Institution as COVID-19 outbreak continues

Last Updated Apr 13, 2020 at 5:52 pm PDT

FILE - Patches are seen on the arm and shoulder of a corrections officer in the segregation unit at the Fraser Valley Institution for Women during a media tour, in Abbotsford, B.C., on Thursday October 26, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Six correctional officers, 41 inmates test positive for COVID-19 at Mission Institution

Union speaking for correctional officers calls for more safety measures

Mission Institution has more inmates with COVID-19 than any other federal institution

MISSION (NEWS 1130) — More needs to be done to protect those at Mission Institution, according to the union speaking for correctional officers, as six correctional officers and 41 inmates have now tested positive for COVID-19.

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCO) says more safety measures, like masks and restricting movement, need to be in place as possible to ensure the safety of 155 correctional officers and the inmate population at Mission Institution, which has a capacity for 216 inmates.

Derek Chin, regional president of the Pacific Region, says Mission didn’t do enough to stop the situation from the beginning. He points to Port-Cartier Institution in Quebec, where “measures were undertaken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

The union says all inmates should have surgical masks as soon as possible. It acknowledges Corrections Canada has said correctional officers will be getting masks and inmates will too soon.

“Mission Institution, of all 49 institutions in the country, should not wait on the distribution of masks to inmates and ensure that staff have an adequate supply for their daily work,” Chin says.

He also calls for “an immediate stop” to moving staff between institutions and reduce movement within the institution as much as possible.

RELATED: Five guards at Mission prison positive for COVID-19

Chin adds the institution needs to step up cleaning procedures to ensure it is done on a regular basis. He notes a professional cleaning company did disinfect the institution recently, but a proper follow-up is still needed.

“We are being told by senior Correctional Service of Canada management that our health and safety come first. We don’t understand why management at Mission Institution are putting money before us,” says Jeff Wilkins, National President of UCCO-SACC-CSN. “It is completely unacceptable that our members who were exposed to the coronavirus are being pressured to return to work prior to receiving their test results or finishing their 14 days isolation.”

The number of inmates with COVID-19 is more than any other federal institution.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, noted the transmission at Mission Institution started before the outbreak was noticed.

With files from Mike Hall and Monika Gul