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Inclusive Spiritual Reflections during Canadian Armed Forces Public Functions

On 30 Oct 2023, the Chaplain General indicated he remains committed to the spirit of the directive. In light of questions that have arisen, CAF chaplains may proceed as in previous years for this year’s Remembrance Day. A committee will be formed to review the directive to clarify it further. Humanist Canada reiterates its support for the directive and is prepared to provide counsel on ensuring inclusivity for all.

On 11 Oct 2023, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Chaplain General Guy Belisle signed the new directive: Chaplain Spiritual Reflection in Public Settings.
From now on, CAF chaplains will offer inclusive reflections for all during CAF public functions. Humanist Canada commends the Royal Canadian Chaplain Service (RCChS) for this significant step towards inclusivity for CAF members who identify under the spectrum of humanists, atheists and agnostics.

Historically, chaplains had been offering prayers to all in attendance during public ceremonies that CAF members are required to attend, such as Remembrance Day, the Battle of the Atlantic, the Battle of Britain and other local events. Following the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in the Mouvement laïque québécois v. Saguenay case, and prompted by a Humanist Canada CAF member, Nic Bruzzone, the RCChS began an in-depth analysis of their practices and policies.

The directive Chaplain Spiritual Reflection in Public Settings now ensures that during public functions, defined as a setting in which CAF members are required to attend in the execution of their duties, CAF chaplains will provide a reflection that is inclusive in nature and respectful of the diversity of Canada. Chaplains are to endeavour that all feel included and able to participate in the reflection with a clear conscience, no matter their beliefs (religious, spiritual, agnostic, atheist). As per the directive, the Chaplain’s reflections are to foster unity, commonality and honour the human experience.

Importantly, this directive does not prevent chaplains from offering prayers to CAF members of their respective spiritual or religious traditions. However, such prayers must be offered in settings where attendance is optional.

In 2022, Chaplain General Guy Belisle already applied the concept of this directive in the reflection he gave on Remembrance Day. It was a beautiful address, and various humanists shared their joy in feeling they could fully participate for the first time in the Remembrance Day Ceremony. As per the 2021 Review of the Royal Canadian Chaplain Service, 39% of CAF members have no religious affiliation. Many non-religious CAF members now feel a sense of relief to know they will be able to participate in 2023 Remembrance Day ceremonies with a clear conscience.

“We believe that this directive plays a crucial role in safeguarding the well-being of individuals from all walks of life and reflects the changing demographic of Canadian Society”, shared Martin Frith, President of Humanist Canada.

It should also be noted that the RCChS welcomed the first humanist CAF chaplain in 2022, and are currently in the process of recruiting more, in an effort to represent the diversity of the Canadian population. Humanist Canada is overjoyed that during 2023 Remembrance Day ceremonies, all in attendance will be able to participate in an inclusive reflection when offered by a CAF chaplain.

We applaud the Chaplain General’s directive Chaplain Spiritual Reflection in Public Settings. We urge everyone to take a moment to read the directive to appreciate the purpose and scope it entails. By doing so, we can collectively dispel any misinformation and ensure a more informed and supportive discourse surrounding this important matter.

24 Oct 2023
Humanist Canada



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