Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Carollers show compassion for inmates

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A festive group joined together on the steps of the Manitoba Law Courts Saturday afternoon to sing carols to lift the spirits of inmates spending the holidays in the Winnipeg Remand Centre.

This is the second year of Caroling with Conviction, which was organized as way to show compassion for those incarcerated over the holidays, said Robert McGregor, one of the organizers of the event.

"It was just thinking of something to do, knowing that being incarcerated during the holidays, away from your family and loved ones, is incredibly difficult, and to make them feel that someone is acknowledging their existence," McGregor said.

"It's just the idea that everyone deserves to be treated with that kind of humanity."

Almost 100 Winnipeggers showed up to sing carols.

They were joined by protesters from an Idle No More demonstration at Portage Place, who joined together to perform a traditional round dance on Kennedy Street.

Al Rae, who organizes the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, said he felt it was important to show compassion for inmates in addition to showing support for the victims of crime.

"I don't agree with the notion that you can't show compassion and treat people inside with human dignity and not treat the victims with the same compassion, that somehow you need to make a choice between the two. The reality is that people who show compassion for the people in there have even greater compassion," he said.

"They strip your dignity, so the fact that you could maybe hear some Christmas carols outside and warm you up, why would anyone object to that?"

Glenn Morison, director of Open Circle, a Mennonite Central Committee program that matches prisoners in Manitoba jails with visitors from the outside, said he felt the event was an important gesture to show inmates there are people who haven't judged them guilty before their trial.

"While they're cut off from society, there are still people who care."

Community radio station CKUW will be broadcasting recordings of carols from the event on Christmas Day, along with recorded messages and song requests for inmates.

"The interesting aspect of it is because people are inside the Remand Centre, they have difficulty getting information from outside. Radio is one of the few ways they can connect with the outside world," said Michael Welch, news director for CKUW.

CKUW will broadcast the Caroling with Conviction special on Christmas Day from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and then again from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

sarah.petz@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 23, 2012 A4

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