Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Toews puts hex on plan to hire Wiccan prison chaplain

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VANCOUVER -- Public Safety Minister Vic Toews appears less concerned about the quality of spells cast from behind bars than he is about a backlash from taxpayers, cancelling a Corrections Canada tender for a priest to nurture the spiritual needs of witches in prison.

Earlier this week, the federal prison agency put out a request for a proposal for a Wiccan chaplain in British Columbia who would provide about 17 hours of service a month, about an hour less service than the department says it needs for the Jewish faith.

About an hour after The Canadian Press reported on the contract, a statement from Toews's office said it will not proceed until after a review.

"Religious freedom is a paramount value in Canadian society," Julie Carmichael, director of communications for the minister, said in an email.

"However, the government is not convinced all services offered through the chaplaincy program reflect an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars."

Guidance with casting spells, invocation of the gods and goddesses and rituals involving the four elements were among the services that could have been offered to inmates.

The position would have paid $25,000 to $50,000.

Pat Stawski, a Wiccan priestess in Campbell River, B.C., said the prisoners have a right to spiritual guidance.

"People have ancient views of Wiccan or paganism, people have a very negative image and it's taken a long time to get people to understand we're not devil worshipers, we're not bad people -- we're just simple tree-huggers."

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 6, 2012 A6

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