2 Muslim inmates file rights complaints against Alberta prison

Will be interesting to see how the Commission rules.

Underlines the mistake the Government made in cutting back non-Christian chaplains::

Two Muslim inmates have filed complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission over their treatment at Grande Cache Institution, a federal prison in northwestern Alberta.

Nicolas Hovanesian, 30, and Mohammed Karim, 35, say they have been called terrorists, subjected to racist jokes and refused adequate time for prayers and ceremonies in the prison chapel.

The alleged incidents took place over the past two years.

Hovanesian told CBC News that Mark McGee, a Catholic priest and chaplain for the past nine years at Grande Cache, would cut short their Friday prayers and limit their access to the chapel. “Like Eid,” Hovanesian said. “We were in the middle of our celebrations and he kicked us out of the chapel because there was a Catholic band practice … our religion was trumped because of band practice.

The men said they were both suspended from the chapel and faced institutional discipline because they refused to call the priest “Father.” While other inmates were allowed to use the washroom in the chapel, Karim said, they were refused access to it to wash before prayers, which is a requirement for Muslims.

In several cases, they said, the priest made disparaging remarks to themselves and others, especially to converts. “Like say, there was a white Muslim, like a convert, he would make comments like, say, ‘You’re white, why are you Muslim, you should be Catholic,'” Hovanesian said.

Dirty blankets as prayer mats

Karim said Muslim inmates were given dirty blankets to use as prayer mats. Then, when several prayer mats and other religious items were donated to the institution by a mosque in Edmonton, the chaplain charged the inmates $20 each to use them. “Some guys here only make $20 every two weeks in pay,” said Hovanesian.

Amira Elghawaby, communications director with the National Council of Canadian Muslims, told CBC News she is aware of the complaints and has heard of similar cases across the country. “There should be a standard of spiritual care that is provided across the board and there should not be any discrimination or any kind,” she said.

“If the government is really serious in ensuring that Canada’s prison system is preparing inmates to eventually be released into society … it’s critical that there is an effort made to ensure that religious and spiritual services are done in a very professional and open manner.”

Source: 2 Muslim inmates file rights complaints against Alberta prison – Canada – CBC News

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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