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A Canadian Inmate Was Denied Kosher Food Because Her Background Looks Christian

Hayden Patterson, an inmate at the Surrey Pretrial centre, has filed a complaint about being denied the kosher food she requested, claiming she has identified as Jewish since she was fifteen. Lawyers for the centre argue that her background looks Christian.

“She could not point to a single connection to the Jewish community prior to her incarceration,” Surrey Pretrial lawyers wrote in the application to dismiss Patterson’s complaint, as reported by News1130.

Tribunal member Devyn Cousineau disagrees with Surrey Pretrial’s lawyers, believing it to be a gatekeeping decision, and worthy of a hearing. A member of the BC Human Rights Tribunal will hear her out.

Patterson arrived at the Centre in 2014, requesting a gluten-free, wheat-free diet, calling it “a life or death matter,” as per the filing. In August 2016, Patterson filed a request for kosher food. Prison believe the fact that Patterson waited two years to request kosher food makes her request illegitimate. Patterson’s birth mother is not Jewish, her adoptive parents are Christian, and she has a history of rejecting vegetarian meals.

The kosher approval process in Canadian prisons relies on a chaplain’s interviewing the inmate about their faith. If the chaplain can verify via a rabbi or a synagogue that the inmate was a practicing Jew, the request is approved.

Shira Feder is a writer. She’s at [email protected] and @shirafeder

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