The Trudeau Liberals have backtracked on a policy that would have barred military chaplains from leading prayer during Remembrance Day ceremonies, as well as other official public functions.
Minister of National Defense Bill Blair confirmed that prayer was still allowed after Conservative Member of Parliament Blake Richards grilled the government over the plan.
"Let's be clear," Blair said. "Canadian Forces chaplains are not – and will not be – banned from prayer on Remembrance Day, nor at any other time."
"The Chaplain General's directive seeks to ensure that public addresses reflect the spiritual and religious diversity of Canadians."
Richards' criticism was prompted by a story in The Epoch Times, based on an October 11 directive from the Canadian Armed Forces to the military chaplaincy.
"While the dimension of prayer may occupy a significant place for some of our members," it states, "we do not all pray in the same way; for some, prayer does not play a role in their lives."
The document, signed by the Chaplain General Brigadier-General Guy Belisle, suggests that as such, "it is essential for chaplains to adopt a sensitive and inclusive approach when publicly addressing military members."
The decision is based on the Trudeau government's vision for the CAF which seeks to place diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as foundational to Canada's military.
The directive urges chaplains to "carefully choose words that are inclusive" when speaking at public events, and to always be "mindful of the Gender Based Analysis (GBA+)."
Perhaps most strikingly, it suggested they were not allowed to talk about a "Heavenly Father.”
Chaplains were also told to remove the scarves they wear to denote their particular faith, such as a cross for a Christian, a star of David for Judaism, and a crescent for Muslims.
"Chaplains must consider the potential that some items or symbols may cause discomfort or traumatic feelings when choosing the dress they wear during public occasions," the directive advises."
"Each year on November 11, Canadians remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation," Richards began, "but now under this Liberal government, our military chaplains are being told they can't even pray for the fallen!"
Richards noted that chaplains had accompanied Canadian troops during the D-Day landing at Juno Beach, "providing last rites to dying soldiers in the fields."
"Now the prime minister is telling Canadians that on Remembrance Day, they can't even pray for those who fought for our country?" Richards asked. "What is going on?"
While Veterans Affairs Minister Ginette Pettipas-Tayor wasn't in the House of Commons to respond, her parliamentary secretary, Marie-France Lalonde, answered on her behalf, but failed to address the question.
Lalonde responded to Richards' concern by offering a "shout out" to veterans, and a "thank you to the men and women, who particularly at this point in time, are defending what we do."
"On November 11," she continued, "we will remember and we will never forget everything our veterans have done for us."
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