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B.C. women's prison reports first COVID-19 case

Last Updated Apr 19, 2020 at 12:58 pm PDT


One employee at the Fraser Valley Institution has tested positive for the virus as of Friday

No cases have been reported among inmates although three have been tested

An advocate says outbreaks at federal prisons demand 'immediate and swift action'

ABBOTSFORD (NEWS 1130) — B.C.’s federal prison for women has its first confirmed case of COVID-19.

According to the Correctional Service of Canada, one employee at the Fraser Valley Institution has tested positive for the virus as of Friday.

“The employee is self-isolating at home. If employees get tested, they do so in their communities. CSC reports on confirmed employee cases of COVID-19 that are disclosed to us,” says a spokesperson in an email.

There are no confirmed cases among prisoners, although three have been tested. 

Confirmation of this case comes amid an outbreak at the nearby Mission Institution, where one prisoner has died.

On Saturday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced there are now 70 confirmed cases linked to that prison. Sixty of those are among inmates.

The Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, which advocates for incarcerated women, says this case is alarming–especially in light of outbreaks at other federal facilities like that at Quebec’s Joliette Institution where over 60 per cent of the prisoner population has tested positive.

“The example that Joliette is so sadly demonstrating is that by the very nature of prisons (lack of hygienic environment, impossible to physically distance), once COVID-19 enters into a prison, it is extremely difficult – if not impossible – to stop its rapid spread,” says Executive Director Emilie Coyle.

“The Fraser Valley Institution case being a staff does not lessen our concern for the women inside who are so vulnerable and at heightened risk.”

RELATED: ‘Potentially very deadly’: Advocates call for release of vulnerable women from Canada’s prisons amid COVID-19

The association is advocating for increased testing, access to adequate medical care, and the release of vulnerable prisoners.

“CAEFS, along with many others – including doctors, lawyers, other advocacy organizations, and prisoners themselves – have been saying that prisons are dangerous, especially during a pandemic. We have been speaking out about the danger of COVID-19 and demanding immediate and swift action in the federal prison system for weeks,” Coyle says.