There is plenty of damage at the Burnaby Youth Detention centre following an overnight riot.
Members of the Emergency Response Team eventually got it under control, around 2:30 in the morning.
Dean Purdy with the BCGEU says the young inmates smashed microwaves and started fires.
“Several youth inmates in a living unit started smashing microwaves, tables, sprinkler heads, started fires, causing floods.”
He chalks it up to a mix of mental illness, gang members in the mix, and building tension with the guards.
“Anytime you have that type of mixture, it’s a recipe for disaster, and like I said, tensions have been running quite high there.”
Tensions had been running high
“Tensions have been very high inside for the past few months, there have been several assaults on officers and more inmates and inmates with mental health issues as well as inmates with gang ties in the population there.”
Purdy says the closure of a similar centre in Victoria is putting more pressure on Burnaby, something the union had predicted, and warned of.
“We said that violence would increase at that time, and we have seen that over the last year and a half, with an increase in assaults on officers and overall violence trending upwards.”
Safety a priority
But B.C.’s Ministry of Children and Family Development is disputing the union’s characterization of the incident.
In a statement, it says there was some fire damage to the facility, but that all youth were accounted for at all times during the incident.
“It’s important to note that the Burnaby centre holds monthly occupational health and safety meetings with staff, and there have been no grievances about safety in the workplace, nor has the union brought these concerns directly to the ministry.”
The province is also disputing that gang ties had anything to do with the violence, which it says appears to have been sparked by someone having their privileges revoked after a room search.
It says the Burnaby centre is fully staffed, and currently at just 51% capacity.
But while the province is playing down gang ties and violent tensions, B.C.’s Children’s watchdog Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond says differently.
“Riskier young people should be moved to another facility, but we are pretty much centralizing all kids into one location, so there are some escalating tensions. It means you essentially create this ‘super-jail-concept where all the kids are going to be in one spot.”
Turpel-Lafond says she will be speaking with staff to see if any inmates involved need to be moved to another location, but has yet to determine if a comprehensive review is needed.