Supporting Indigenous spiritual practices

An Indigenous Smudging Ceremony ***Cérémonie de bavures autochtones

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Military service is inherently challenging, which is why the Canadian Armed Forces works to ensure the entire Defence Team has the care, services, and support it requires to accomplish its mission.

Part of the equation is developing spiritual resilience. The Royal Canadian Chaplain Service safeguards the respectful expression of religious and spiritual diversity for all Canadian Armed Forces members, including supporting the spiritual needs of Indigenous members and their families. The Chaplaincy’s leadership recently took additional steps towards enabling spiritual support with new direction and guidance on Indigenous spiritual practices.

“All Canadian Armed Forces members must have the ability to draw upon moral, spiritual, psychological, and physical strength required in adjusting to adversity or traumatic events. It also means having the inner spiritual fortitude to overcome, recuperate, or thrive through difficult experiences,” explained Major-General Guy Chapdelaine, Chaplain General for the Canadian Armed Forces.

Indigenous military members have the right to practice their cultural and spiritual ancestral practices while serving in the Canadian Armed Forces. The new direction and guidance will inform military chaplains and Canadian Armed Forces leadership on the best ways to support Indigenous members and their families wishing to practice and enhance their ancestral cultures, of which spirituality is an essential dimension.

The direction and guidance includes a brief overview of the legal framework; the establishment and maintenance of a national network of Indigenous cultural resources; the spiritual support and logistical assistance to facilitate traditional Indigenous spiritual practices and ceremonies; and an educational commitment, focused on the continuing professional development of military chaplains.

Indigenous Peoples of Canada have long contributed to the Canadian Armed Forces. This support is not only historical as it still continues today.

“Spiritual wellbeing must always be considered when we take care of our own. The direction and guidance is now enabling military chaplains across the country and overseas to provide sound advice based on accurate and relevant references,” Major-General Chapdelaine said. “Our chaplains offer the full spectrum of spiritual care to the Defense Team while respecting the freedom of conscience and religion of all. This is why we are giving ourselves the tools we need to support a wide variety of faith groups.”

Indigenous people believe and follow a diverse range of traditional spiritualties, based on their regional origins or personal preferences.

Because Canadian Armed Forces chaplains are required to fully assist and support all forms of Indigenous spirituality, they must acquire a minimum understanding and awareness of Indigenous history and culture. Chaplains are encouraged to augment their appreciation and knowledge of Indigenous culture, spirituality, and customs by attending local traditional ceremonies or events.

Personnel from diverse backgrounds, cultural experiences, and language skills can provide invaluable contributions to a wide array of operations at home and around the globe. Having a broad range of perspectives within our ranks offers Canadian Armed Forces members greater cultural sensitivity. In turn, these attributes help us better understand our complex world and apply that understanding to how we respond to its challenges.

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