Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan defends $2M nearly empty military prison
Harjit Sajjan, minister of National Defence, is defending the upkeep and use of an Edmonton-based detention barracks for soldiers that sit mostly unused for half the time.
Global News found that the prison, sometimes called Club Ed, costs $2 million per year to run and for around half the time since January 2017, has had no prisoners.
Sajjan defended the continued use and staffing of the prison (30 people) – saying the Canadian Armed Forces needed to be prepared for the needs of today and tomorrow.
“There are certain things that we need to maintain, and it may not makes sense sometimes for the general population,” Sajjan explained to reporters on Wednesday. “But there are certain things the Canadian Armed Forces needs to make sure that we can, not just operate on today’s environment, but we also have to look to the future as well.”
Club Ed is the last of the detention centres — it is only able to hold 25 inmates. During the Second World War, there was space for up to 2,000 soldiers in detention, but as times change, detention for soldiers is becoming a thing of the past.
In the past few years, CAF members were detained for various crimes including drug possession and embezzlement.
“As you know, the Canadian Armed Forces is an entity all on its own, we have our own criminal justice system, making sure we can meet the uniqueness that the Canadian Armed Forces require,” Sajjan said.
Soldiers have also been sent to Club Ed for more minor offences, including striking a superior officer, disobedience of a lawful command, being AWOL and a catch-all offence which includes “any act, conduct, disorder or neglect to the prejudice of good order and discipline.”
Maj. Paul King, the detention barracks’ commanding officer said part of the idea of detention is to protect the investment made in a soldier’s training, which would be lost if he was kicked out of the military.
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“We build them back up and send them out into the organization so that they can be successful,” King says. “We give them a chance to refocus, give them new direction, and put them back into units.”
Experts said it’s cheaper to detain a soldier than to take a civilian off the streets and train them.
Sajjan said his department is always trying to have the “right efficiencies.”
“As we are growing, the CAF [are] putting the right resources into it. We want to make sure that we are optimizing our tax dollars for the right efficiencies,” he said.
“All the facilities that we have are there making sure that we have a Canadian Armed Forces that can operate not only here in Canada but abroad as well.”
*with files from Patrick Cain
© 2018 The Canadian Press