A former Penticton man has had his discrimination complaint for being refused kosher meals in prison thrown out by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.
Morgan Griffith filed the complaint against the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General (BC Corrections) in October 2017 while he was incarcerated at OCC after being sentenced for assault.
Griffith had asked for kosher meals and for a Hebrew dictionary and was denied both requests by BC Corrections, leading him to file a discrimination complaint with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal.
However, Griffith’s complaint was dismissed by the tribunal on the basis that Griffith could not sufficiently prove his connection to Judaism.
For an incarcerated person to receive kosher meals they must be able to prove to corrections that they were practicing Judaism and eating kosher meals prior to being incarcerated in consultation with a Rabbi, according to the ruling from the BC Human Rights Tribunal.
If the inmate cannot prove a prior connection to the Jewish faith their request for kosher meals will be denied but they will be provided information on converting to Judaism and corrections may revisit its denial of the request for kosher meals in the future.
In the case of Griffith, the tribunal found that he was not practicing Judaism but had Jewish heritage and wished to be served kosher meals on that basis.
Following this process, Griffith met with the Chaplain at OCC after his request. The Chaplain said Griffith told him that he was not Jewish but rather had Jewish heritage and qualified for a kosher meal because of this.
A transcript of a phone conversation between the chaplain, a Rabbi and Griffith shows Mr. Griffith explaining that he was not Jewish but had Jewish ancestry, and that his mother was not Jewish but has a “Jewish last name.” It also suggests Mr. Griffith was unsure about the diet he followed at home.
After being transferred from OCC to the North Surrey Pretrial Centre, Griffith made continued requests for kosher meals but was denied on the basis that he could not prove his connection to the Jewish community. Griffith gave corrections the name of a Rabbi and synagogue he claimed to be connected with, but when corrections reached out to the synagogue they claimed to have never heard of the Rabbi or Griffith.
In response to his requests for a kosher diet, Griffith was approved for a vegetarian diet.
Griffith was released from custody in Jan. 2019. The decision to dismiss Giffith’s complaint was made by British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal in Dec. 2020.
“Mr. Griffith says that the denial of a kosher diet made him feel Corrections was against him practicing his religion. However, in his submissions and further submissions, he has not said anything about what his subjective religious belief or connection to Judaism is or why he sought a kosher diet,” Human Rights Tribunal member Emily Ohler said in her ruling. “He does not address the transcript… where he appears to have little understanding of what a kosher diet entails, or whether he has followed one in the past.
“Mr. Griffith has put forward so little evidence about his connection to Judaism, the role a kosher diet plays in that for him, and why the denial of a kosher diet affected him adversely, that I am persuaded the Tribunal could not find that Corrections’ denial of a kosher diet in all of the circumstances constituted an adverse impact related to his religion.”