10/22/2013 07:18 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Prairie Prison Inmates To Make Remembrance Day Poppies


Some federal prison inmates in the Prairie provinces will soon be making poppy pins for Remembrance Day next year, but the plan doesn't sit well with the union representing prison guards.

CBC News has learned that Correctional Service Canada, through its CORCAN job-training program, is teaming up with a private printing company to produce and assemble poppies for the Royal Canadian Legion in time for Remembrance Day in 2014.

Small, supervised groups of inmates in nine prisons and healing centres in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba will help assemble the poppies, a task that involves putting the red "flower" and black centre together with a bent steel pin.

The poppy components will be delivered to the participating facilities as early as December.

"I've got no problem with it," said Andy Fialski, a retired master corporal living in Winnipeg. "It's putting them to work doing something good for a change."

Sally Orchard, whose father served in the navy during the Second World War, said she hopes the inmates assembling the poppies will "maybe think about the guys that gave their lives for our country."

"Maybe it'll change their attitude," she added.

Safety concerns

But James Bloomfield, the Prairies region president with the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, said he's concerned about inmates gaining access to the metal pins used to hold the poppies together.

"If it's going into the mediums and maximums [prisons], there has to be security measures put in place," he said.

The CORCAN program provides federal prison inmates with employment skills training in manufacturing, textiles, construction and business services such as laundry operations and printing, according to the correctional service's website.

A spokesperson for the Royal Canadian Legion told CBC News it is agreeable to CORCAN's involvement in making its poppy pins.

"As Canada's largest veterans and community support organization, the legion recognizes that rehabilitation programs help assist yet another part of our communities," Scott Ferris, the legion's director of marketing and membership, said in an email.

"The legion cannot turn its back on these individuals. Helping Canadians in all communities is at the heart of the legion's mission."

The legion referred questions about security issues related to the poppy-making project to the correctional service.

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