Inmates suing Ottawa over prison chaplains
VANCOUVER - A group of prisoners is suing the federal government over its decision to cancel contracts for part-time chaplains, affecting Buddhist, Sikh, Muslim, Jewish, and Wiccan ministries.
The B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit says prisoners of minority faiths are devastated by the loss of spiritual guidance, and they argue the government is violating the Charter of Rights.
As of the beginning of March, the lawsuit says only full-time Christian chaplains are available to prisoners in federal institutions.
Seven prisoners from B.C. and one from the Atlantic Institution in Renous, New Brunswick — along with the West Coast Prison Justice Society — have filed the suit against Attorney General Rob Nicholson and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.
The government has said the cost-cutting measure announced last fall affected 31 Christian and 18 non-Christian chaplains who had part-time contracts.
Officials with Public Safety have said that full-time chaplains provide services to inmates of all faiths.