Minister Toews, I am reminded of this passage from the Gospels: “In truth I tell you, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury”

A story today from the CBC sheds some light on a recent story in the Kingston Whig Standard about inmates at Collins Bay Institution who, with their warden’s permission, donated their own money to the local food bank in a unique fund-raising drive involving the purchase of doughnuts from Tim Horton’s. Any further drives involving the purchase of fast food have been banned by Minister Vic Toews pending a review. I hope that Minister Toews will see fit to allow purchases continue for the purpose of letting prisoners contribute to charity. The link to the Whig article is currently not working so here are the first few lines:

Inmates give back with food bank donation

Kingston Whig Standard, December 17, 2012

That’s what inmates at Collins Bay Institution did in an effort to raise $ 600 for the Partners In Mission Food Bank.

The medium-security prison’s inmate-run Christian fellowship group recently spearheaded a unique fundraising drive in which inmates were allowed to buy Tim Hortons doughnuts and other treats — items unheard of on the prison menu — using only the money they earned working in the prison. The money raised was donated to the food bank’s Sandy Singers.

Inmate Philip Bradley, treasurer of the fellowship group, explained those inmates who work — and not everyone inside the prison can get a job — earn a maximum of $5.80 a day, before deductions.

“All told, we quite often would bring no more than $2.50 to $3 a day in,” he said. Many make less. “For inmates, then, to offer up $5 or $10, it is substantial. We are talking two weeks’ salary for a lot of people. But that is part of what being a Christian is.”

The line which caught my attention in this Whig Standard article was the following:

Whether or not the inmates get to do another drive is up in the air.

“It is extremely difficult to get permission to do things like food drives and raffles. It is not a common occurrence,” said [inmate Philip] Bradley.

Even though their work was acknowledged by Collins Bay’s warden, an edict has come down from Corrections Canada banning any further drives, said Bradley.

What my office has been told by Correctional Services Canada is:

“…on September 20, 2012, Public Safety Minister, Vic Toews, requested in a letter to Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) Commissioner, Don Head, to begin a review of such practises with a view to eliminate the ability of inmates to order food from outside restaurants.  CSC is currently completing a national review of its practices related to the ordering of take-out food.  Until this review is completed, all institutions have been instructed to discontinue the practice of ordering take-out food from restaurants.  Should you wish to request any additional information … write to or contact Minister Toews…”

Here is an excerpt from the CBC article:

With a warden’s approval, inmate groups over the years have received permission to use their own money to order outside food such as pizza and fried chicken. These food drive nights also doubled as fundraisers for local charities and relief efforts such as Doctors Without Borders and victims of hurricanes and earthquakes.

But in September, Toews issued a directive to end such food drives.

“Canadians were concerned that dangerous and violent prisoners had across the board access to pizza parties and BBQ socials,” wrote a spokesperson for Toews in a statement to CBC News.

 

Minister Toews, I think it’s great that inmates are organizing fund-raising drives for charity and donating their own funds. Given what your spokesperson said, how about if we meet halfway? Allow these types of fund-raising drives to continue in medium and low security institutions. By the way, Merry Christmas and though I think most of what you are doing is wrong, thank you for your service as a Minister of the Crown.

 

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