The final report of the Minister of National Defence’s Advisory Panel on Systemic Racism and Discrimination has been issued. A laudable goal that is completely undone by the clear systematic discrimination against Catholics and other members of the “Abrahamic Religions”. The replacement of the founding faiths of Canada with a new approved “secular spirituality” by the elites who occupy leadership is utterly clear. As I was once told by a Liberal MP, “This government wants the Church out of everything”. Banning the Catholic Church from Chaplaincy is an egregious attack on Charter Rites. I have attached a link to the response of the CARDUS INSTITUTE (the brilliant group dedicated to Religious Rights). I have also copied the pertinent section of the Report.
Let us both contact our MP and the Minister of Defence about this. Please also pray for and send a note of support to Bishop Scott McCaig CC and the chaplains of the Military. Let us also pray for the four young cadets who died in Kingston. May they Rest in Peace and may their families know consolation.
The Recommendations of the Advisory Board”:
6. Re-Defining Chaplaincy
For many members of the Defence Team, religion can be a source of solace, optimism and compassion. Whether members of the CAF are at their home base or deployed, they can reach out to their unit’s chaplain. According to the CAF website, chaplains are “responsible for fostering the spiritual, religious, and pastoral care of Canadian Armed Forces members and their families, regardless of religious affiliation, practice, and/or belief. They have an open attitude and promote diversity within the Canadian Armed Forces by providing an environment that is caring and compassionate.”Footnote117 The Defence Team also recognizes the importance of an individual’s potential need for effective support in ethical guidance or spirituality through the new Total Health and Wellness Strategic Framework.Footnote118
It is necessary as well to recognize that, for some Canadians, religion can be a source of suffering and generational trauma. This is especially true for many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirited members of Canadian society. And Indigenous Peoples have suffered unimaginable generational trauma and genocide at the hands of Christian religious leaders through initiatives such as Residential School and Indian Day School programs.
Another important point is that, at present, some chaplains represent or are affiliated with organized religions whose beliefs are not synonymous with those of a diverse and inclusive workplace. Some of the affiliated religions of these chaplains do not subscribe to an open attitude and the promotion of diversity.
For example, some churches’ exclusion of women from their priesthoods violates principles of equality and social justice, as do sexist notions embedded in their religious dogmas. In addition, certain faiths have strict tenets requiring conversion of those they deem to be “pagan,” or who belong to polytheistic religions. These faiths’ dogmas and practices conflict with the commitment of the Defence Team to value equality and inclusivity at every level of the workplace.
If the Defence Team rejects gender discrimination, anti-Indigenous discrimination, and racialized discrimination in every other area and is working hard to remove systemic barriers to the employment of marginalized people, it cannot justify hiring representatives of organizations who marginalize certain people or categorically refuse them a position of leadership.
The Advisory Panel has observed that there are varying degrees of misogyny, sexism and discrimination woven into the philosophies and beliefs of some mainstream religions currently represented in the cadre of chaplains in the CAF. This Advisory Panel does not seek to evaluate or categorize these religions in this report. Rather it is pointing out that the Defence Team cannot consider itself supportive of inclusivity when it employs as chaplains members of organizations whose values are not consistent with National Defence’s ethics and values—even if those members express non-adherence to the policies of their chosen religion. For example, it can be assumed that if a religion openly forbade a Black person to serve within its ranks, its members would be banned from the Chaplaincy in the CAF. The same scrutiny should be applied to those religions that forbid women to serve within their ranks or are against equal rights for same-sex couples.
- 6.1 Do not consider for employment as spiritual guides or multi-faith representatives Chaplaincy applicants affiliated with religious groups whose values are not aligned with those of the Defence Team. The Defence Team’s message, otherwise, is inconsistent.
- 6.2 Select chaplains representative of many faiths including forms of spirituality beyond the Abrahamic faiths.
- 6.3 Review the selection process for chaplains to ensure that, in addition to listening skills, empathy and emotional intelligence, there is an intrinsic appreciation for diversity and a willingness to challenge one’s beliefs.
- 6.4 Find ways to grant educational equivalencies, for example to knowledge keepers, rather than strictly adhering to the prerequisite that all chaplains must have a master’s degree.
RECOMMENDATION OF CARDUS INSTITUTE:
During the April 25, 2022 press conference, Minister Anand noted that “exclusionary practices are degrading, demeaning, and violate the dignity that everyone deserves, regardless of where they work.” We wholeheartedly agree. As such, we recommend that the Minister firmly and publicly reject the discriminatory sections of the report’s Recommendation 6 – “Re-Defining Chaplaincy.” Further, the Minister should affirm that all Canadians, including those with religious beliefs, will be supported through the pastoral services of CAF chaplains as they serve our country.
The working group formed to implement these recommendations should ensure they engage broadly with faith communities both within and outside DND and the CAF to ensure that meaningful inclusion is not undermined as a consequence of Recommendation 6. Rather the spirit of sub-recommendation 6.2 to “select chaplains representative of many faiths including forms of spirituality beyond the Abrahamic faiths” should be embraced and expanded. This should be done in a manner that is not punitive towards Abrahamic faiths whose freedom to profess their faith is equally protected in our free and democratic society.