Prisoner awarded $5,000 for religious discrimination

Inmate who spent time at Surrey Pretrial claimed access to First Nations spiritual services was denied.

A man who claimed he was refused religious services while in prison has been awarded $5,000 by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

Travis Kelly said that while doing time at Surrey Pretrial, Fraser Regional Corrections and North Fraser Pretrial between 2007 and 2008, he was denied his requests to access a First Nations liaison and spiritual literature.

Lawyers representing the prison facilities argued the services weren’t allowed because Kelly was in segregation and allowing visitors would have posed a safety risk. Kelly argued that a prison chaplain and Christian reading materials were readily available.

Tribunal member Enid Marion ruled in her July 12 decision that the denial of First Nations spiritual services amounted to “discrimination based on (Kelly’s) ancestry and religion.”

Kelly argued that his long stretches in segregation led to personal crises and suicidal thoughts, which religious counselling could have helped.

In his human rights complaint, Kelly requested $15,000 in damages for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect. Marion concluded that a $5,000 award was appropriate.

She declined Kelly’s request to order a special program be implemented to ensure access to First Nations services, ruling there was insufficient evidence of a systemic problem.

– with files from CTV

Surrey North Delta Leader

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