Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government ordered the nation’s military chaplains not to invoke the word “god” in prayer.
A backlash ensued following the reports where Minister of National Defence Bill Blair was forced to respond, arguing that the order had been misinterpreted.
Despite Blair’s claims, a Department of National Defence spokesperson confirmed the media reports when asked for comment by The Epoch Times.
“The Chaplain General’s directive on chaplains’ spiritual reflection in public settings clarifies that on occasions where CAF chaplains are asked to address public ceremonies and functions in which CAF members are required to attend, they will offer words of reflection that respect the diversity of belief of those gathered, including those who do not hold religious or spiritual beliefs,” spokesperson Derek Abma told The Epoch Times.
Abma contrasted that with the idea that “[i]n a chapel, chaplains may always offer prayer consistent with their own spiritual and faith traditions,” which seems to confirm that chaplains were no longer permitted to pray outside of chapel or “in the context of pastoral care.”
Writing on X, Blair said:
“Let’s be clear.”
“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.”
Let’s be very clear: @CanadianForces chaplains are not – and will not be – banned from prayer on Remembrance Day, nor at any other time.— Bill Blair (@BillBlair) October 19, 2023
The Chaplain General’s directive seeks to ensure that public addresses reflect the spiritual and religious diversity of Canadians. https://t.co/12gj9kmOl6
But that is not how chaplains understood the directive, according to “an active military chaplain who requested anonymity to avoid reprisals” who spoke to The Epoch Times.
Military chaplains said the directive amounted to a ban on publicly quoting Scripture or even mentioning the word God in prayer.
An active duty chaplain told The Epoch Times that to avoid what the directive refers to as “Gender Based Analysis,” references to God as our “Heavenly Father” were also to be avoided.
“[I]t is essential for chaplains to adopt a sensitive and inclusive approach when publicly addressing military members,” the directive, signed by the chaplain general, Brigadier-General Guy Belisle, reads, according to The Epoch Times.
The directive requires chaplains to “carefully choose words that are inclusive.”
Chaplains are now prohibited from wearing the traditional scarves bearing symbols identifying their religion, which includes the Christian cross, Jewish star of David and Muslim crescent.
“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 explains.
The new directive was based on recommendations from a January, 2022, report from the Minister of National Defence Advisory Panel on Systemic Racism and Discrimination.
“It is necessary as well to recognize that, for some Canadians, religion can be a source of suffering and generational trauma,” the report says.