July 6, 2022
EDMONTON – B’nai Brith Canada is delighted with the Alberta Government’s response to our appeal to provide a Kosher food option throughout the province’s prisons.
More than a year ago, B’nai Brith was approached by Rabbi Ari Dreilich of Edmonton’s Chabad Lubavitch Synagogue – one of two chaplains who visits Alberta inmates regularly – to ask for help in securing Kosher food for the province’s inmates.
Rabbi Drelich was desperate for assistance after having spent the past five years unsuccessfully lobbying the province on the issue. His appeals were ultimately rejected by Doug Schweitzer – then Minister of Justice – on the basis of a Human Rights Commission ruling that deemed the provision of vegetarian meals (despite being prepared in a non-Kosher kitchen) as being adequate for Kosher diets.
After being approached by Rabbi Drelich, representatives of B’nai Brith met with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney to press the case for Kosher food in the correctional system. B’nai Brith explained that vegetarian meals prepared in a non-Kosher kitchen did not meet Kosher criteria. The Premier was very supportive of our proposal.
At the Premier’s suggestion, B’nai Brith representatives, along with Rabbi Drelich, met with former Minister of Justice Kaycee Madu and present Minister of Justice Tyler Shandro to press our case. While Minister Shandro expressed some misgivings about securing funding for the program at the time the province was running a deficit, he was nonetheless highly supportive of the proposal.
Following our meeting with Minister Shandro, B’nai Brith was elated to receive a same-day response promising the provision of Kosher meals throughout Alberta’s correctional system, by the middle of July, 2022.
“Although there are not many Jewish inmates in the province’s correctional system, even one Jewish inmate denied access to Kosher food is a violation of basic human rights,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer for B’nai Brith Canada. “We at B’nai Brith are very proud that we were able to accomplish this big win for the Jewish community of Alberta.”
“I want to thank the Premier personally and on behalf of B’nai Brith for his efforts in ensuring that this fundamental right is available in the Alberta Correctional system,” said Abe Silverman, Manager, Public Affairs, Alberta, for B’nai Brith Canada. “Jews who adhere to Kosher rules are now able to access a Kosher meal thanks to efforts of the Premier, Ministers Madu and Shandro as well as Assistant Minister of Correctional Services Fiona Levoy.”
There are nearly 19 alternative meal options available to Alberta’s prison population – ranging from gluten-free to lactose-free – but Kosher food had been excluded until this point. Hospitals, airlines, the federal correctional system, and most Canadian provinces, already provide Kosher options.