Reconsider chaplaincy cuts, Primate urges
Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has asked Public Safety Minister Vic Toews to reconsider his decision to cancel the contracts of all 49 part-time federal chaplains. The early October decision not only reduces the overall number of chaplains but also minimizes the presence of non-Christian chaplains, he said.
Only one full-time, non-Christian chaplain, an imam, remains, compared to 18 part-time non-Christian chaplains before the cuts. The remaining 71 chaplains are expected to provide spiritual support for inmates of all faiths.
"The decision to cut all part-time chaplains will have a detrimental effect on the functioning of the prison chaplaincy program and risks having a de facto discriminatory effect," wrote the Primate in his letter to Mr. Toews.
"Value for taxpayer dollars needs to take into account the importance of providing adequate chaplaincy services to meet the needs of a changing and diversified Canadian population, something that contributes to the overall good and safety of the Canadian public."
In a Oct. 8 statement, Mr. Toews said that "full-time advisors" can be of any faith. "In addition to serving members of their own faith, the advisors will make themselves available to provide spiritual advice to the general offender population." He noted that 2,500 volunteers also provide spiritual services within Correction Services Canada.
On Oct. 18, 17 of the 71 remaining full-time prison chaplains expressed their concern in a letter to Mr. Toews. They objected to being labeled advisors and argued that in reducing access to spiritual support, the government is infringing on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Currently two Anglican clergy serve full-time as federal prison chaplains, with more in a part-time or volunteer capacity. Other Anglican ministers work as chaplains at a provincial level and hundreds of lay Anglicans are involved with prison ministry through organizations such as Prison Fellowship Canada.
The Anglican Church of Canada is linked to other chaplaincy work through the Church Council on Justice and Corrections, a national faith-based coalition that promotes restorative approaches to justice and corrections.
Every year churches are inviting to participate in the council's annual Restorative Justice Week, Nov. 18 to 25. This year the theme is "Diverse needs; unique responses." The council offers resources for the week—including prayers and theological reflections—and will host events across the country.
- Read the full text of the Primate's letter to the Hon. Vic Toews
- Learn more about the Church Council on Justice and Corrections
- Learn about Restorative Justice Week