Bluewater Youth Detention Centre
The abandoned Bluewater Youth Detention Centre is a 300 acre property located along the Lake Huron Shoreline in Goderich. Bluewater Detention Centre was built in 1961 by the province of Ontario to serve as a mental health facility known as the Ontario Hospital (Goderich Psychiatric Hospital) with 204 beds.
In 1976, it became the Bluewater Centre for the Developmentally Handicapped. The Bluewater Centre was closed around 1985. The facility received a $10 million upgrade and re-opened as a youth-only secure custody and detention centre.
There are 90 beds which include isolation cells.
At the time of my first visit in 2016 the power was working and it was fully intact. There was no vandalism. We were able to open the main gate by turning on the power in the guard booth.
It’s a long walk down the road to get to the Bluewater guard entrance.
Master Control Room
This is the master control room where access to the building was managed. Visitors would sign in here and be escorted to their destination. A separate security booth outside controlled access to the sliding entrance gate. The height of the fence ensures it couldn’t be climbed by any youth looking to escape.
In 1996 OPSEU workers began a strike against the Harris Government. On February 29, 1996 it’s alleged that unionized guards at Bluewater incited the youths to riot as a way of supporting the strike action.
It was alleged that guards may have “planted” matches and barbecue lighter fluid.(1)
The inmates caused $175,000 in damage. Some of the youths were transferred to the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre in London, Ont. Managers at the EMDC took the place of striking guards during the strike.
The youths alleged they were humiliated, kicked and tossed naked into their cells.The youths later won a lawsuit filed against the Ontario government for injuries as a result of their treatment by managers.
(1) Applied Social Psychology – Jamie A. Gruman, Frank W. Schneider, Larry M. Coutts
Decline in Custodial Youth
Changes to Ontario’s youth justice system focused on more community-based programs seeking to reduce the number of youths put into jail. As a result there was a decrease in the number of youths in Bluewater Youth Centre.
By March of 2012 there were only 17 youths at Bluewater. Children and Youth Services Ontario released a statement that same month indicating, “we can’t afford to operate facilities with so many empty beds”.
The facility closed on March 6, 2012 putting almost 200 workers out of a job.
Employees held a rally in an effort to persuade the province to reopen the facility. It was not successful.
The property sat idle for several years. In October of 2017 and September of 2018 the Canadian Armed Forces used the property for military training. Local residents were cautioned that they might hear the sound of explosives being detonated.
Many cell doors have been blown apart and walls have been breached with explosive charges.
The property is currently owned by Infrastructure Ontario (IO).
The television room with plastic chairs that if thrown, are less likely to cause injury.
On our first visit here we were able to enter the guard’s shack. There we found a circuit breaker which when turned on, allowed us to open the main gate. With the turn of a key, it was like a scene out of a movie… the loud “Brrrr” tone and the gate slowly opening.
Post-Military Training Photos (2018)
These photos are from 2018 after decay had begun and the military had set off explosives.