The union representing correctional officers at Joyceville Institution near Kingston, Ont., says four guards may have been exposed to fentanyl last week during a search of the prison.
The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCO) says it’s angry because it took prison management two days to lock down the facility for a search after the incident occurred.
“It is ridiculous that we had to fight like that to get the entire institution locked down for a section 53 search,” Rob Finucan, regional president of the union, said.
A section 53 search is also known as an “exceptional search” where guards comb every inch of the institution before reinstating visits and work duties for inmates.
Fentanyl, a deadly opioid pain reliever, has been detected in several prisons across the country recently. This is the first report that correctional officers may have come into direct contact with the drug at the institution.
“I think everybody has seen the number of people that are dying from it so it is a huge concern for our members right now,” Finucan said.
Correctional Services Canada (CSC) declined an interview request, but the assistant warden at Joyceville issued a statement by email.
“We are not aware of any cases where an employee has tested positive for fentanyl,” wrote Lorrie Oddie.
The guards were sent home and didn’t seek medical attention. A sample of the substance has been sent to Health Canada for testing.
The union has been pushing CSC to improve drug detection and safety measures for correctional officers. CSC says frontline staff have the necessary personal protective equipment and Narcan on site in case of overdoses.
But the union says gloves, masks and safety goggles aren’t enough.