Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Military Plans to Remove Crosses

Tue, November 16, 2004
A cross to bear
MILITARY PLAN TO REMOVE CHAPLAIN SYMBOL RIPPED
By BILL RODGERS, OTTAWA BUREAU CHIEF

THE MILITARY plans to remove the Maltese Cross from the caps of its chaplains. The Defence Department, which hired its first Muslim chaplain a year ago, says it's time the military reflected Canada's multi-faith society.

"We are looking at seeing what developments there could be in that field because, to have a Muslim or to have someone of another faith under that same cap badge -- I think it wouldn't be of service to them," Chaplain Jean Bourgeois said yesterday.

MAJORITY ARE CHRISTIAN

Bourgeois admits, however, the majority of men and women in the services today identify themselves as Christians, but added the cadet corps in the Toronto-area are already seeing "a lot more Muslims ... and a lot more Buddhists."

Talks to replace the Maltese Cross, a Christian symbol that dates back to the Crusades, have been going on inside the military for about two years.

"We've asked the chaplains of our branch and we've asked other people to help us in this field. We haven't come up with anything (to replace the cross)," Bourgeois said.

Plans to replace the cross with both a branch and denominational insignia brought a harsh response from an Alberta Tory MP Jason Kenney.

"I think that's ridiculous. It's typical political correctness," he said.

"Pluralism doesn't mean you eliminate symbols for every different community. It means you respect all the different symbols, whether it's the Star of David for a Jewish chaplain or a (crescent) for a Muslim chaplain."

ISN'T BUYING IT

The chairman of the Commons defence committee, Pat O'Brien, said he's going to want to hear some justification for the planned change and isn't buying the multi-faith nature of society as a good reason.

"I think we can carry that a little bit too far. Why shouldn't you be able to embrace your own religious symbols?" said O'Brien.

The London MP said he'll keep an open mind on the issue and expects it will be discussed at his Commons committee before a final decision is made by the military.