Sc’ianew First Nation chief says it’s time to close William Head prison and return the land

Sc’ianew First Nation chief says it's time to close William Head prison and return the land
WatchAfter two escaped inmates from the minimum-security facility were charged with the first-degree murder of a local resident, the chief councillor of the Sc’ianew First Nation says it's time to close the facility and return the land to them.

Sc’ianew First Nation (Beecher Bay) Chief Councillor Russ Chipps said the William Head Institution should be closed and the land returned to First Nations following the escape of two inmates.

Those two inmates, Zachary Armitage and James Lee Busch, are now charged with first-degree murder in the death of Metchosin resident Martin Payne.

Chipps said he remembers driving around a couple of times with his father over the years looking for escapes.

“I want to acknowledge the family of Mr. Payne, and put our condolences out there. And I’m sorry this had to happen to him, and one is too many,” Chipps said.

Chipps said the property could be used for housing instead, as an example.

“We need housing. There’s lots of houses over there and immediately occupy those houses would end a really large impact on the lack of housing over at Beecher Bay,” Chipps said.

“It’s the prison itself. It’s the use of it, the use of our land that we didn’t commit to in the first place. And now it’s time to change it into a positive.”

Metchosin’s mayor sympathizes with the First Nations but says the prison contributes to 110 jobs and tax revenue to the local economy.

“I would certainly support it if it happened. But I don’t see William Head moving. The problem is with any institution, like that, where are you going to move to?” John Ranns said.

But Chipps said closing the prison would be the start of a new beginning for the community.

RELATED STORY: MP calls for more changes to prison system after 2 escaped inmates charged with Metchosin murder

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