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Baffin Correctional Centre to be repaired and repurposed

Baffin Correctional Centre 4
The Government of Nunavut is planning to make repairs to Baffin Correctional Centre following a March 18 fire. Although a new correctional centre in Iqaluit is expected to be open by early fall, the Department of Justice wants to keep BCC functioning for other purposes. Trevor Wright/NNSL photo

Although the new correctional centre in Iqaluit is expected to open by early fall, the Department of Justice plans to invest in repairs to the fire-damaged Baffin Correctional Centre (BCC), which will be used for a variety of other purposes.

The cost of fixing BCC was still being tallied as of April 13, according to Mark Witzaney,

acting director of policy and planning with the Department of Justice.

The building sustained damage on March 18 when a fire started in one of the inmate units.

The blaze was contained to a single room, but smoke and soot affected the rest of the facility, Witzaney stated.

“We will have to make necessary repairs to the Baffin Correctional Centre to ensure safety and allow us to continue to use the building until the Aaqqigiarvik Correctional Healing Facility (ACHF) is open,” he said. “Once ACHF opens, a full renovation to Baffin Correctional Centre is planned in order to use the building for a teaching kitchen, staff space, program space, office space, dry goods storage and an Elders area.”

The early fall opening of the ACHF is “is subject to a number of factors that could change,” Witzaney added.

In the meantime, 60 Nunavut inmates have been transferred to facilities in the NWT, Yukon and Ontario.

The RCMP is still investigating the cause of the BCC fire.

“Due to the ongoing investigation we cannot comment further,” said Witzaney.

In late March, former NWT fire marshal Tony Noakes told Nunavut News that “the Government of Nunavut should be ashamed of its record on the safety issues at BCC.”

Noakes was dismissed from his job after raising concerns about deficiencies at the jail that he deemed to be hazards at the time: lighting fixtures hanging by wires, out-of-date boilers, obstructed exits, improper storage of combustibles, corroded sprinklers and heavy use of temporary plywood walls.

He said that the territorial government should publicly release all BCC safety inspection reports from the past decade to document which safety issues have been rectified.

Witzaney said the deficiencies noted by the former fire marshal “were all addressed shortly after he raised them over 10 years ago.”

He added that the Office of the Fire Marshal continues to inspect Nunavut correctional facilities and the Department of Justice and the Department of Community and Government Services “work to address any concerns and deficiencies as they are raised.”

Nunavut News requested a copy of the latest fire marshal's report specific to BCC.

Witzaney said the territorial government cannot provide it without “vetting it first” for release under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

About the Author: Derek Neary

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