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History for the Future

This story was submitted by

Connie Shaw, Retired Chaplain from Guelph Correctional Centre.

Yes, there are many places at the Reformatory property that should be designated heritage site. This land represents 100 years of Guelph’s history. Hundreds of Guelphites provided services to the Guelph Correctional Centre and the people within.

There were many firsts and unique happenings on this land. There are many articles and books on the history of this property. It is important that we act responsibly designate, maintain and record for future generations.

A “Museum of Corrections” on site is in perfect harmony with the proposals of the Yorkland Green Hub. Before too much time passes, we need to collect and store personal items, artifacts and stories of the Ontario Reformatory / Guelph Correctional Centre. There is a very interesting one hundred year history on the site which is also Guelph’s history. A museum is a tourist destination which always enhances a city and draws attention for people to visit.

Here is just one of many stories of significance. Guelph Correctional was the first provincial institution to have a Chapel outside the prison walls, but within the fenced compound. It was built in 1965-66 by inmate and staff labour. It is a spacious building with two floors of large and small gathering rooms. A variety of individuals and churches donated to the Chapel then and throughout the years. One church donated their large bell for the Chapel yard.

One of the programs to come out of Chaplaincy Services was the “Native Sons”. This was a self-help group managed by indigenous inmates for their own growth and enhancement. This was aided by the Chaplain and a “Native Liaison Worker” from Toronto. Volunteers from the community came and added to the strength of the program. This was a first in the prison system to have such a well developed program of various activities.

“Pow Wows” were held four times a year in the Chapel yard with indigenous foods and drummers, and family and friends were invited. Again, this was an innovation in provincial corrections.

A “Sweat Lodge” is an indigenous ceremony of cleansing and healing. Through the advocacy of the Chaplain and the Native Liaison and an Elder, a Sweat Lodge site was designated. Again, this was the first provincial institution to have a permanently recognized site by Ontario Corrections. This was used regularly for ceremonies.

The “Native Sons” program of Guelph Correctional Centre became a model for the whole provincial system.

This is just a few of the many stories from the site. Please designate and facilitate the proper historical and environmental development of this property.

From Connie Shaw, Retired Chaplain from Guelph Correctional Centre.

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