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'Canada's Alcatraz' to close Sept. 30

The flooded downtown of Calgary, Alberta, is seen from a aerial view on June 22. Floods devastated much of southern Alberta.

Associated Press

The flooded downtown of Calgary, Alberta, is seen from a aerial view on June 22. Floods devastated much of southern Alberta.

The country's most infamous prison, sometimes called "Canada's Alcatraz," will close Monday after 178 years of serving up hard time.

Kingston Penitentiary in Ontario is moving out the last of its most-hardened criminals this weekend as the "big house" closes for good.

The federal government said the penitentiary — one of the oldest continuously used prisons in the world — is outdated and too expensive to maintain.

Located on the shore of Lake Ontario, it has tiny, windowless cells and thick stone walls that former inmate Lee Chapelle called an old rundown dirty "dungeon."

Improvements to conditions were made over the years, often after riots and disturbances.

The Mounties helped put down a riot in 1954 involving 900 prisoners, while federal troops were needed in 1971 during a four-day uprising when two inmates were killed, six guards taken hostage and substantial damage done.

The fate of the national historic site is unknown but by closing it and the Leclerc Institution in Quebec, the government said it will save $120 million a year.

Already it is becoming a tourist attraction as 9,000 tickets costing $20 each sold out for 90-minute tours in October as a fund-raiser for the United Way.

Canada's population tops 35 million

Canada's growth is keeping steady as the country's population reached 35,158,300 on July 1.

Statistics Canada said that is an increase of 404,000 people or 1.2 percent from the previous year and is similar to the average annual gains over the last 30 years.

Ontario is home to 38.5 percent of the population followed by Quebec with 23.2 percent, British Columbia at 13 percent and Alberta with 11.4 percent.

Most of Canada's population growth continues to come from immigration, the agency said.

News in brief

• Provincial leaders continue to push for tougher regulations to disclose the types of hazardous materials trains are carrying. Quebec Transportation Minister Sylvain Gaudreault said the government must act quickly after the derailment in July in Lac-Megantic that killed 47 people and devastated the downtown. On Wednesday, a freight train carrying "highly explosive" oil and chemicals derailed near Landis, Saskatchewan.

• Attempts are being made to recover the wreckage of a sunken Canadian Coast Guard helicopter that crashed Sept. 9 in the Arctic Ocean, killing three men. A remote-control vehicle located the chopper but ice and weather conditions are posing a significant challenge. Killed were Marc Thibault, commanding officer of the Coast Guard icebreaker Amundsen, pilot Daniel Dube and scientist Klaus Hochheim of the University of Manitoba.

Facts and figures

The Canadian dollar is lower at 97.08 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.0300 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is steady at 1 percent while the prime-lending rate is 3 percent.

Stock markets are lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 12,848 points and the TSX Venture index 949 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Sept. 25) 5, 19, 22, 29, 31 and 32; bonus 7. (Sept. 21) 7, 19, 21, 29, 31 and 36; bonus 42. Lotto Max: (Sept. 20) 2, 14, 15, 24, 40, 43 and 44; bonus 45.

Regional briefs

• The Alberta government wants federal financial help for flood-prevention projects and to cover the costs of the devastation caused by floods in June. Severe flooding caused extensive damage in Calgary and other communities and devastated the Town of High River. Damage was estimated at $5 billion, with the federal government expected to cover about half and insurers liable for about $1.7 billion.

• The backlash mounts over Quebec government's proposed "charter of values" that would ban the wearing of prominent religious symbols by public employees. Representatives of the Muslim community plan to meet with government officials, saying the ban would restrict freedom of beliefs and limit employment opportunities.

• Ontario is not to the point of allowing sales of beer, wine and liquor in corner stores but might loosen laws to help the province's wine industry. Premier Kathleen Wynne said it is time to look at what are Canada's most restrictive laws surrounding alcohol sales. She said allowing small wineries to sell their products at farmers' markets was a first step being considered.

Jim Fox can be reached at

'Canada's Alcatraz' to close Sept. 30 09/27/13 [Last modified: Saturday, September 28, 2013 5:48pm]
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