Andrew Cronkhite, director of programs for the Burnaby Youth Secure Custody Centre, released this statement in response to the incident that occurred last night at the centre:
“There was a serious incident at the Burnaby Youth Secure Custody Centre involving seven male youths, aged 15-17, who caused extensive damage to furniture and electronic equipment, and started a small fire by putting paper into a toaster – a fire they later put out themselves. Staff followed safety protocols, and called the RCMP and fire officials as soon as the youths began to cause the damage.
“The safety of staff and residents at the centre is our top priority. Fortunately, there were no injuries to residents, staff or police. All of the youths are safe and accounted for, and the youths involved in the incident were contained within the centre at all times.
“While a union spokesperson has linked this incident to rising tensions at the site, it’s important to note that the Burnaby centre holds monthly occupational health and safety meetings with staff, and there have been no grievances about safety in the workplace, nor has the union brought these concerns directly to the ministry.
“Further suggestion that the closure of the Victoria Youth Custody Centre is somehow linked to this incident is misleading, given the fact that the youths who were involved in this incident are from the Lower Mainland and the Interior and would not have been housed on Vancouver Island.
“The Burnaby centre is fully staffed and is currently at only 51% capacity, with a total of 43 residents.
“The primary motivating factor behind the incident appears to have been a room search earlier in the day, which resulted in a loss of privileges. Based on interviews with those involved, there is no indication that rival gang tensions were a root cause of the dissention, as some have suggested publicly.
“WorkSafe BC, RCMP and the ministry are all conducting investigations, including reviewing surveillance video and interviewing staff and residents. This process will take time. In the meantime, it’s business as usual at the centre. The seven youths involved in the incident are being housed separately and the remaining youths at the centre are attending school and other programs. Counselling is available for staff and youths as well.
“The RCMP will determine whether to lay charges once their investigation is complete. The only other previous serious incident of this nature in Burnaby was in 2010.”