Kosher food (illustration)
Kosher food (illustration)ISTOCK

Jewish inmates in Alberta, Canada will now have the option to be provided with kosher food, thanks to an appeal by B’nai Brith Canada.

In 2021, Rabbi Ari Dreilich of Edmonton’s Chabad Lubavitch Synagogue asked B’nai Brith to help convince the Alberta government to supply kosher food throughout the province’s prisons. Rabbi Dreilich is one of two chaplains who visits Alberta inmates.

Rabbi Drelich had spent five years unsuccessfully lobbying the government to provide kosher food in prisons. But his please were rejected by then Minister of Justice Doug Schweitzer on the ground that a Human Rights Commission had ruled the provision of vegetarian meals were adequate for kosher diets, though they were not prepared in a kosher kitchen.

According to B’nai Brith, the advocacy organization’s representatives met with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney to press the case for Kosher food in the correctional system, explaining the issue with non-kosher vegetarian meals.

“The Premier was very supportive of our proposal,” B’nai Brith said.

They met with former Minister of Justice Kaycee Madu and present Minister of Justice Tyler Shandro to stress the need for the situation to be remedied.

“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,” B’nai Brith said.

They added that following the meeting, they received a same-day response promising the provision of Kosher meals throughout Alberta’s correctional system by the middle of July 2022.

There are 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,” B’nai Brith noted, adding that hospitals, airlines, the federal correctional system, and most Canadian provinces already provide kosher options.

“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 B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn. “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, B’nai Brith Alberta public affairs manager. “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.”