TORONTO: Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist and other inmates in British Columbia jails have filed a lawsuit against the Canadian government for not renewing the contract of part-time priests and imams for them, reports the Canadian Press.
The suit comes the wake of the government’s decision to eliminate part-time priests of minority faiths in federal institutions. The lawsuit says the decision violated the the Charter of Rights and they want the contract of minority priests for jail inmates to be renewed.
In their lawsuit filed in the British Columbia Supreme Court in Vancouver last week, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist and Wiccan faith prisoners say the government’s decision is discriminatory as it has now left only two non-Christian chaplains in all of Canada, according to the Canadian Press.
“Prisoners do not lose their right to freely express their religious and spiritual beliefs by virtue of their incarceration …,” the prisoners allege in their lawsuit filed against Canadian Attorney General Rob Nicholson and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.
On the other hand, they allege, “Christian prisoners continue to have access to multiple Christian masses, bible study sessions and other faith-based activities every week.”
In the lawsuit, 38-year-old Jamie Cliff, 38, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of his ex-girlfriend in Vancouver in 2008, has been quoting as saying that he turned to Islam to help him “steer away from that path.”But since the contract of his imam has not been renewed, he “feels persecuted and anxious. He cannot understand why something that was such a positive force in his life was taken away from him,” says the lawsuit. All that Muslim prisoners get is a volunteer who acts as their imam at Friday prayers.
But the Canadian government says it didn’t renew the contract of 31 Christian priests as well. It says that the contract of only 18 non-Christian chaplains has not been renewed, according to the Canadian Press.