Canada cuts non-Christian prison clerics

Oct. 9, 2012 at 4:36 PM

OTTAWA, Oct. 9 (UPI) -- Canada's Conservative government has announced it is only going to pay Christian chaplains for federal penitentiary visits beginning next April.

Last month, Public Safety Minster Vic Toews ordered a review of the use of paid chaplains. He concluded from it penitentiaries should use the same model as the Canadian military does in which Christian chaplains accommodate members of all faiths, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

After April 1, there will be 80 full-time chaplains serving penitentiaries. Between now and then, 49 contracts for all part-time chaplains will be canceled, composed of 31 Christians and 18 non-Christians, the government said.

Conservative Member of Parliament Candice Bergen told the House of Commons it was a logical decision and wasn't a snub to other faiths.

"The Canadian [military] have used this type of chaplaincy program for years," she said. "If it is good enough for our armed forces, then it is good enough for inmates in our federal penitentiaries."

However, Imam Zia Khan, the director of the Centre for Islamic Development in Halifax, Nova Scotia, told the CBC the government cuts amount to a "fatwa" or holy war that also trampled human rights.

"It's an egregious violation of the Charter [of Rights and Freedoms] and I think people need to stand up and really say something because I think the country is starting towards a wrong end," Khan said.

Of 15,000 federal inmates, 57 percent are Christian, while 4.5 percent are Muslim, the report said.

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