Alberta Premier Jason Kenney never misses an opportunity to criticize the federal government but this week, he applauded one decision.
In a Facebook live Q and A video Tuesday, the premier said it was the humane thing to do, to vaccinate close to 600 federal inmates across the country. Kenney explained that the way he understands it, the decision was made to give the vaccine to a small population of older prisoners.
“If they were in fact taking vaccines away from frontline workers or the frail population, I would be all over them about that,” Kenney said.
“What I understand is they have set aside 600 doses to deal with very elderly, frail prisoners. There’s not a lot of them but there are some prisoners in their 70s and 80s. That seems to me, humane and ethical.”
Federal conservative leader Erin O’Toole tweeted on Jan. 5 that “not one criminal should be vaccinated ahead of any vulnerable Canadian or front line health worker.”
Canada’s Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness said on Jan. 6 that the government was following a recommendation by the National Advisory Committee to vaccinate a small percentage of the prison population.
“We are following National Advisory Committee on Immunization advice to vaccinate elderly persons and those with underlying health conditions living in a congregate setting, as a first priority. Less than 5 per cent of federal inmates meet this criteria,” he said.
Correctional Services of Canada won’t say if any prisoners at either the Bowden Institution or the Drumheller Institution have received the vaccine. The agency had indicated that one institution on the prairies would receive doses of the vaccines. The program was set to start Jan. 8.
Rights advocates have said that from March to the end of November, there were 1,864 reported COVID-19 cases among prisoners and jail staff in Canada, more than half of which were in October and November.
Since Dec. 1, there have been over 1,962 cases.
Prisoners have accounted for about 80 per cent of reported COVID-19 cases linked to prisons and jails during the pandemic, according to the data.
According to the latest Correctional Service of Canada figures, 1,211 federal inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, but of these only 73 cases were still active.
Four federal inmates with a COVID-19 diagnosis have died since the beginning of the pandemic.
-With files from the Canadian Press