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Mission Institution employee tests positive for COVID-19

Last Updated Apr 17, 2020 at 7:39 pm PDT

FILE - Specimens to be tested for COVID-19 are seen in Surrey, B.C., on March 26, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

An employee at Mission Institution, who is not a correctional officer, tests positive for COVID-19

Several correctional officers and dozens of inmates have tested positive for the virus

The union representing correctional officers calls for improved safety measures

MISSION (NEWS 1130) — As the COVID-19 outbreak continues at the Mission Institution, an employee of the prison has now tested positive for COVID-19.

A spokesperson from the Union of Safety & Justice Employees (USJE) confirmed through email it was one of their members and not a correctional officer, though the exact position was not specified. The USJE represents rehabilitative, maintenance, food services, and facilities staff in federal prisons.

During Friday’s COVID-19 update, the province reported 63 cases of COVID-19 associated with the federal prison in Mission, with six people in hospital.

“Fraser Health officials continue to work with Correction Services Canada to manage this outbreak,” says a release from Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, and Health Minister Adrian Dix.

An inmate from the prison died from what seems to be COVID-19 related complications this week.

Union renews call for safety

Several correctional officers and dozens of inmates have tested positive at the prison so far, prompting the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers to call for improved safety measures. Restricting movement of correctional officers between posts and other institutions, more cleaning measures, and masks for inmates – which have since been provided – were some of the union’s initial demands to ensure safety for everyone in the prison.

The union has since renewed this call to the Correctional Service of Canada, adding it wants to see contingency planning at all sites.

“Neither the local union nor the local health and safety committee were consulted in the process at Mission Institution,” says Jeff Wilkins, National President, UCCO-SACC-CSN. “If there was better dialogue with the correctional officers who work the front line, on solutions and planning, the situation might look different today.”

Better communication is key for the union which says management should be consulting with staff to prevent another wave of the virus once the current spread is controlled.

Right now, the union says there are so many positive cases it’s difficult to find safe isolation spaces for everyone there.

It says an ideal solution would be to have dedicated space to isolate, but it isn’t possible at the institution.

The union also says the prison’s management has continued to push some employees to return to work before their quarantine is over.

“This could cause more of our members or inmates to become sick,” says Derek Chin, Pacific Regional President.

Mission Institution currently has more cases of the virus than any other federal prison in Canada.

– With files from Monika Gul