Kinghaven # 1 - Canada Day 1967

by Peter Fodey

It stood on the shore of the great lake, its aging limestone walls reminiscent of a fortress from centuries past. The biggest difference, of course, was the presence of the modern guard towers which dominated each of its four corners, overlooking a society that had remained hidden from the vast majority of people who passed it every day. The icy waters that spanned the horizon before it were often turbulent, a perfect parallel to the world inside.

It was Kinghaven Penitentiary.

The big wall along the shoreline faced to the south, toward the American side, while on the northern side was the entrance to the prison. It was a stone's throw away from MacDonald Avenue, once a dirt path, now graduated to one of the busiest streets in the city of Kinghaven, population 45,000. The legendary North Gate had become an icon of Corrections Canada, an iron-barred behemoth which had swung open and closed many thousand times before. For thieves, rapists and killers, it was game over.

A red-and-white coated marching band moved along MacDonald Avenue, the hot sun of the first day in July slowly baking them. They reached a crescendo, passed the North Gate, then came to a crunching halt. The large gathering of more than three-hundred spectators applauded, children sitting on their father's shoulders and hippies sneaking a toke in the rear. A proliferation of small plastic Canadian flags waved throughout the crowd as attention now focused on the podium in front of the prison. The right honourable Doug Maxwell, longtime Member of Parliament for the Kinghaven people, stepped up to the microphone, recoiling slightly from a quick burst of feedback. He then smiled and did his thing.

"Happy Canada Day!" said the M.P., inciting more applause. He waved and flashed his best politician's smile. He then appeared reflective.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the city of Kinghaven and, of course, its surrounding area. As your representative in our House of Commons and a resident of this wonderful part of our country, just let me say that I am honoured to be here."

A smattering of hand claps and whistles greeted the mostly well-liked Maxwell. He politely silenced his audience.

"Not only is today the centennial of this free and spectacular land of ours, it is also the one-hundredth anniversary of this great structure behind me. Way back in 1863, as civil war raged south of our border, the first limestone block was laid on this very site. Then in 1867, the year of Confederation, the greatest example of our new country's total commitment to law and order was born. Kinghaven Penitentiary."

More cheering as the M.P. outstretched his hand before the great North Gate.

"To my left, ladies and gentlemen, sits the esteemed warden of this institution, Mr. Jack Hastings."

Hastings waved without smiling, his pug-face seemingly incapable. Unlike the right honourable Mr. Maxwell, Hastings was not so well-liked. At 58 and counting the days to retirement, the men inside his walls regarded their warden's bark far worse than his bite.

"You suck, Hastings!" came a male cry from deep within the crowd. A few laughed while most remained focused, albeit disgusted. The M.P. cleared his throat then continued.

"It's hard to believe, let alone imagine, that before the turn of the last century this penitentiary actually housed women and children, along with the usual hardened male convicts of the day. There were even allegations of torture. But that was then and this is 1967. While spending time behind bars is never a pleasant experience, nor should it be, conditions in K.P. and other Canadian prisons have never been better. We are moving forward in leaps and bounds with rehabilitation and our long standing Kinghaven Penitentiary will continue to be our shining example. Perhaps even for another hundred years."

Warden Hastings nodded and joined in on the hand clapping, knowing all too well that the M.P.'s glowing words were strongly laced with bullshit.

"There are approximately six-hundred men housed in this large complex behind me," said the M.P. He glanced over at Hastings. "While I'm sure most of them would speak highly of this man seated to my left, I'm also quite certain that all of them will be more than happy to bid him farewell as they exit this North Gate."

Laughter from the crowd was suddenly interrupted by another taunt from somewhere unseen. "Hey Hastings! Fuck you!!" The M.P. glared angrily this time, then carried on.

"Let's be serious here, folks. Crime in Canada is rising at an alarming rate. Real action must be taken. We've all been reading about the horrible killings in the Pemberton area and the fiend that the newspapers have dubbed 'The Butcher'. This monster will be caught, I assure you, and can then look forward to a long visit here with us in Kinghaven. K.P.! The end of the line for crime."

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