Residents of West Centretown demanded answers Monday night, asking about numbers and types of parolees who would attend the office and voiced their concerns about sharing their neighbourhood with sex-offenders and murderers should Correctional Services Canada relocate their parole office to 1010 Somerset St.
Over 140 people attended the town hall at the Bronson Centre where CSC sought feedback from locals about their concerns regarding the new location. Many residents were angered by the lack of information provided about the new facility and the hasty consultation process.
Organizers of the meeting were forced to re-structure their presentation and discussion agenda for the night following pressure from the audience to allow for a constant flow of questions and comments. The audience heavily applauded strong opposition to the new location several times.
Residents said they were worried about the office being close to both Devonshire Public School and the Plant Recreation Centre where young children frequent. Many wanted to know the facts about the number of parolees visiting the office, the nature of the crimes committed by the about how likely they are to re-offend in the community.
“You have a choice,” reasoned Doug Gabelmann, president of the Plant Pool Recreation Association, who encourages free and unregulated play in the park near the centre.
He spoke his concern for the safety of young children should the parole office find a home on Somerset: “We can’t move the park. We can’t move the Plant. We don’t have other parks and we cant move.”
Somerset Coun. Diane Holmes, whose jurisdiction covers both the current and proposed Somerset location of the parole office, attended the meeting and urged the CSC to consider a new location in the business district.
“I’ve made it clear to the parole office that I want to see the parole office return to the central business district north of Gloucester in the high rise commercial area and leave the residential area,” she said.
Supporters of the Somerset location suggested that while many local residents where supportive of parolee reintegration into society, none are willing to accept them into their own.
Chairpersons of the meeting did not rule out another public consultation on the proposed site and encouraged community members to continue to contribute to the debate on the CSC website.
CSC is also considering 831 Industrial Ave. as new site for the office and will hold a public consultation for the proposed location on Tuesday night.