Penticton woman draws blanks on jail FOI request

Response includes 339 fully redacted pages that may - or may not - explain expected social and economic impacts of new prison in Oliver

Okanagan Regional Correctional Centre FOI request by Joe Fries



A long-time opponent of the planned jail in Oliver has 339 pages of nothing to show for her latest effort to obtain information about the project.

Loraine Stephanson in March received the blanks in response to a freedom of information request she filed with the B.C. government to obtain details about the expected social and economic impacts of the prison.

The response package included one blank page that stated it and 338 others were fully redacted because the information on them is considered a matter of cabinet confidence or could be harmful to law enforcement.

“I was surprised that the whole thing was blacked out and there was not even one study or report or anything even cited,” she said.

Stephanson is a local artist who operates the Penticton Post, a blog that features local news round-ups and comments on issues of the day.

She filed the FOI request in January due to what she felt was a discrepancy in government policy around what projects it supports.

“I began to wonder why the B.C. government and politicians in this region needed endless details to support a national park, but the very simple sales pitch provided by B.C. Corrections was enough for them to support a prison,” Stephanson explained.

“I felt the B.C. government should be giving us… more specific analysis of benefits and impacts, rather than a simple sales pitch.”

Justice Minister Shirley Bond, who was in the South Okanagan last month to sign a lease agreement with the Osoyoos Indian Band for the prison site, said she was unfamiliar with Stephanson’s request, but noted that whatever was redacted would have been done so in accordance with legislation.

“I think there’s been a very thorough vetting process and all of the FOI requests that are done in government follow a particular process,” Bond said.

“Senior government officials, who are experienced in freedom of information, make those redactions. It’s certainly not something a minister’s office does.”

Bond went on to mention the hundreds of jobs the prison is expected to create.

Stephanson’s response package did contain a couple of pages featuring graphics that provide details on those jobs, but no explanation of how the numbers were estimated.

One graphic notes construction is expected to create 500 jobs “based on B.C. statistics for projects of this size.” Another graphic explains the jail should create 245 jobs for correctional workers and 65 positions for contracted service providers like nurses, cooks and maintenance people.

Stephanson also asked for records that outline expected impacts of the prison on the area’s health and social service providers, but was rebuffed there too.

The response letter noted those impact studies “would be best done directly by those health and social agencies.”

The Western News requested from Interior Health any planning documents its staff produced related to the jail and was provided only a rough calculation that estimated the prison would drive a 600-person population increase in the Oliver area.

Stephanson said she’ll ask the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for B.C. to review the response to her FOI request.

“If this (jail) is really so good for this region, this should not be all secret,” she said, “and we should be allowed to know the good and the bad.”

The B.C. government in March also shortlisted three consortiums that will bid to finance, construct and maintain the 378-cell prison, the cost of which was originally estimated at $273.5 million.

Last year, the Western News filed an FOI request seeking documents that explained how the Oliver site was chosen over others in the Okanagan, and received a similarly redacated response.

Just Posted

Penticton Overdose Prevention Society co-founders Desiree Franz, Shane Surowski and Stephanie Lines have created the city’s first unsanctioned public overdose prevention site using an old wine-tour bus. The site began operations in June 2021. (Desiree Franz/Facebook)
Volunteers launch Penticton’s first public supervised injection site

2021 is on pace to be the deadliest year for overdoses in Penticton on record

Four golfers from Fairview Mountain Golf Club in Oliver will golf from sunrise to sunset to raise funds for ALS on June 29. (Submitted)
Golfing from sunrise to sunset in Oliver for ALS

Four golfers from Fairview Mountain Golf Club have taken up the challenge June 29

Jann Arden will embark on Canada-wide tour Spring 2022 with a stop in Penticton at the South Okanagan Events Centre on June 13. (Contributed)
Jann Arden coming to Penticton in 2022

The Jann Arden Live! tour has been rescheduled for 2022

A storm watch has been issued for the Okanagan, Kootenays and Columbia regions of B.C. (Calvin Dickson photo)
Another severe thunderstorm watch issued for the Okanagan

Conditions are favourable for thunderstorms that may produce strong wind gusts, hail and heavy rain

The South Okanagan Tim Hortons raised over $4,000 through the three day orange doughnut promotion with 100 per cent of proceeds going to to the Residential School Survivors Society. The owner of these locations matched the amount. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
South Okanagan Tim Hortons raises over $8K for residential school survivors

More than $4,000 worth of doughnuts were purchased over three days

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden is pictured with a draft horse. (Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Jann Arden backs petition to stop live horse export

June 14 is the International Day to End Live Export of Animals

(Dave Ogilvie photo)
One injured after being pinned by fallen forklift near Peachland

West Kelowna emergency crews responded to reports of a person stuck under a forklift

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

B.C. ambulance station in Revelstoke is expected to get a new system called the Scheduled On-Call (SOC) this fall. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
B.C. ambulance changes could put Revelstoke residents at risk, warn local paramedics

Paramedics said to expect a substantial increase in ambulance response time starting this fall

This goose family went for a leisurely stroll down Vernon’s Main Street Saturday, April 25. (Dave Deshane photo)
Controversial Vernon goose cull won’t fly this year

Necessary permit procedures held up at a federal level

Mounties cover a burgundy truck with a tent at Buckerfields in West Kelowna on Monday, June 14. The RCMP is investigating after a woman’s body was found inside the truck. (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News)
West Kelowna RCMP investigating suspicious death after body found in truck

Police responded to a truck parked out front of a Main Street business where the body was found

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

Most Read