Kemptville jail opposition scores legal victory as case can proceed

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Opponents of the province’s plan to build a new jail on Kempville farmland will have their day in court after a judge ruled their case can proceed with a judicial review.

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Justice Robert Smith said in his ruling this week that the opposition group’s legal effort to overturn the province’s decision should be heard by a full judicial panel of the Divisional Court.

The judge noted in his decision that the province “failed to follow several provisions of its provincial policy statement when deciding to build a correctional facility in the town of Kemptville.”

The ruling clears yet another hurdle in the ongoing efforts by grassroots opposition groups — the crowdfunded legal challenge is headed by residents Kirk Albert and Victor Lachance — to reverse the province’s decision to build the proposed 235-bed Eastern Ontario Correctional Center in their community.

The opposition groups were represented in court by their lawyer Stéphane Émard-Chabot.

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Smith, in his April 28 written ruling, dismissed an application from the ministry’s lawyers seeking to toss the case out of court.

Government lawyers had argued the case should be thrown out, in part, because the applicants took too long to file their complaint and that “due diligence” efforts had already invested money into the project after it was announced via press release in August 2020.

“The reasons for the (province’s) decision to locate the correctional facility in the town of Kemptville were never provided at any one time,” Smith said as he sided with the opposition groups.

“Rather, some brief bullet points were provided in the press release, some further information was provided at a town hall meeting, additional information was obtained after substantial delays from requests made under the Freedom of Information Act and finally, the (province) never responded to many questions that were asked.”

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Smith also found merit to the longstanding opposition argument that the government failed to comply with its own policies when selecting the Kemptville location, which rests on 178 acres of prime farmland at the site of the former Kemptville Agricultural College (at one time a University of Guelph satellite campus).

“While the proposed correctional facility complies with the local municipal bylaw, it does not conform with the Official Plan,” Smith wrote in his decision. “Here, the (North Grenville municipal) council was unaware that a correctional facility was going to be built in their town before the press release was published. As a result, there was no consulting as required by the respondent’s provincial policy statement.

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