By Jennifer Irving
Despite the decision by Corrections Canada not to move a parole office away from Elgin Street Public School, concerned residents are not giving up their fight.
Centretown citizens collected approximately 350 signatures at a recent rally in Minto Park on Elgin Street in protest of the parole office located across the street from the school.
Protestors held signs with messages aimed at Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, as Corrections Canada falls under her jurisdiction as minister of Public Safety.
Wendy Turner, who has a child enrolled at the school, says this issue will not go away.
“People forget that this is a community and there are children across the street to a federal parole office,” she says. “We’re still here and we won’t budge.”
The rally took place after the Women’s Event Network held a gathering in the park to celebrate International Women’s Day.
Speeches were given in front of the monument on the subject of women’s accomplishments and obstacles to come.
The Women’s Event Network is one of many organizations that have sent letters to McLellan asking that the location of the office be reconsidered.
Tracy Demarco contacted the women’s group. She says there is a direct tie with the monument and the protest to the parole office. The location is inappropriate because it is beside a monument honouring female victims of violence, she says.
“The monument ties in directly with the location of the parole office and with International Women’s Day,” she says. “There was no public consultation with the mothers and women in the community.”
Many letters were sent to McLellan requesting a new area for the office and many politicians, including Ed Broadbent, MP for Ottawa-Centre, Richard Patten, MPP for Ottawa-Centre, Coun. Diane Holmes and Mayor Bob Chiarelli.
All of these politicians were invited to the rally but none attended.
“We invited a whole list of politicians, but none of them showed up,” says Albert Galpin a member of the Centretown Citizens Community Association.
Residents remain concerned about the safety of their children in close proximity with the office.
Ana Paquette, district director of the parole office, says citizens can be assured of their safety.
“If we think an offender is becoming a risk we’ll take action before they commit a crime,” she says. “The majority of offenders are visited in the community (by parole officers), not at the office.”
Some residents say this is not the case and security is definitely an issue. Turner says the parole office has more high tech security, including high-impact glass and security cameras, but the public school does not.
“They say there are no safety issues, yet they have all this security. If they have all that protection, tell me, what does the school have?” says Turner.
Calinda Brown, co-chair of the Centretown Citizens Community Association, says there are safety concerns.
“There are four to five arrests at this location a year so this is an issue of risk and safety,” she says.
Paquette says some arrests are made at the office and that police are involved in every case. She also says there have been no incidents at either of the locations she’s worked at.
“Since I’ve been in the position of district director, and as far as I can remember, there have never been any incidents,” she says.
Offenders are taken through the back doors, on MacLaren Street, as it is the police access area. Paquette says there is a low risk of parolees re-offending.
“94 per cent will complete their sentence without re-offending,” she says.
Still, concerned residents have refused to go unheard and want the office out of their community.
“At this point there is no intention to move. I have no authority to move the office,” says Paquette.
Residents are frustrated by the lack of attention this issue has received by McLellan.
“She needs to know that we are here, we haven’t gone away, we won’t go away, and this issue is just going to keep coming back,” says Brown.