Remember back in October of last year, when I reported that Canada's Public Safety Minister let part-time non-Christian chaplains go? In a stunning display of inclusivity, the federal government cancelled the contracts of non-Christian chaplains at federal prisons across the country because Public Safety Minister Vic Toews isn't convinced part-time chaplains from other religions are an appropriate use of taxpayer money. As a solution to letting the part-time non-Christian chaplains go, the remaining full-time chaplains in prisons would now provide interfaith services and counselling to all inmates. Needless to say, that sounded like a bad plan to me.

By April, the situation was restored to much of its previous state in the face of a lawsuit reported on by The Wild Hunt. In a press statement, the government expressed that they were still looking to change the system:

"The federal government is restoring religious counselling services to some non-Christian federal prisoners in British Columbia, but officials deny they are reversing cuts made last year. [...] Instead, media relations adviser Sara Parkes said, the government is taking interim measures to meet the needs of inmates until they can roll out a revised plan for spiritual services."

Plans were then revealed that the entire chaplain service program would be out-sourced to a single provider, a decicion now decided upon. reports that the system is getting a significant overhaul:

"The federal government has awarded a private company a $2-million contract to deliver religious counseling to prisoners, including minority faith services, as part of a system overhaul quietly rolled out over the last six months.

[...] Kairos Pneuma Chaplaincy Inc., a company started by a handful of current and former federal prison chaplains in direct response to the request for proposals issued in May, won the bid. Since October, about 30 full and part-time chaplains of all denominations, including Wicca and including many who worked in the federal prison system perviously, have been serving prisoners across the country, according to company president John Tonks.

There are still about 81 chaplains working in the federal prison system and those employed by Kairos only account for about 22 per cent of the total. Most, he said, are still operating under multiple individual contracts signed between various faith communities and the government. But as those contracts expire, he explained, their positions will be replaced under the single contractor. Kairos, which was among at least three bidders, has the contract for a year and will have to bid again as the changes roll out over three years."

On the backlash from the decisions made by Public Safety minister Vic Toews, Tonks said:

"[I]t became clear that the government “had to recant” on its plan to slash all part-time chaplains. It wasn’t just about Wiccans, he said, adding the move created a “crisis” within the prison system. There was “restlessness” among offenders over access to the faith leaders of their choice, he said, including among Quebec’s Protestant minority that was also serviced by part-time chaplains."

The new system affords more equity among chaplains across the country in terms of pay, benefits and pension, and according ot the article, there’s also more flexibility to balance the workforce in terms of the ratio of men to women and the various religious denominations.

Last year, the prison chaplain program was said to cost about $6.4 million, $1.3 million of which covered part-time chaplains. The new contract is $2-million worth, making this new decision a strong one in the name of savings, but perhaps a questionable one in terms of uniformity. We will have to see how this scenario plays out, and I will--of course--keep you updated.