Not enough ev­i­dence to expel cadet af­ter Qur’an des­e­cra­tion: Mil­i­tary

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - NATIONAL NEWS - LEE BERTHI­AUME

OT­TAWA — An of­fi­cer cadet fac­ing ex­pul­sion from the Cana­dian Forces for des­e­crat­ing a Qur’an is be­ing al­lowed to con­tinue his stud­ies at the Royal Mil­i­tary Col­lege in Saint-Jean, Que., but an­other stu­dent is still fight­ing to re­main in uni­form.

The two of­fi­cer cadets are among three first-year stu­dents who were or­dered ex­pelled af­ter de­fil­ing the Mus­lim holy book with ba­con and what sources have said was se­men dur­ing a cot­tage party last spring.

One left the col­lege and mil­i­tary but the other two ap­pealed the de­ci­sion.

Chief of mil­i­tary per­son­nel Lt.Gen. Charles La­marre says af­ter of­fi­cials took a sec­ond look they de­ter­mined there wasn’t enough ev­i­dence to up­hold the de­ci­sion to expel one of them.

He and five oth­ers who were at the cot­tage when the Qur’an was des­e­crated can stay at the mil­i­tary col­lege but have been is­sued writ­ten warn­ings, or­dered to take coun­selling and put on pro­ba­tion.

“They ’re un­der­go­ing some pretty close scru­tiny to en­sure that the de­sired change to their be­hav­iour has oc­curred and con­tin­ues to oc­cur,” La­marre said.

The stu­dent still ap­peal­ing his re­lease isn’t cur­rently at the col­lege but La­marre says mil­i­tary of­fi­cials are re­view­ing the case and will make a de­ci­sion on whether or not to expel him soon.

“Does it mean that per­haps he could be re­in­stated in the Cana­dian Armed Forces?” La­marre said in an in­ter­view. “Po­ten­tially. But we are pretty sure about the in­ves­ti­ga­tions we’ve done on this.”

The Qur’an des­e­cra­tion oc­curred when eight stu­dents from the Saint-Jean col­lege headed out of town to a cot­tage dur­ing the Easter week­end. At one point, four went to sleep while the oth­ers stayed up and recorded the in­ci­dent.

Mil­i­tary com­man­ders be­came aware of what hap­pened af­ter videos of the in­ci­dent were shown to other stu­dents who sub­se­quently told col­lege staff, at which point an in­ves­ti­ga­tion was or­dered.

Sources tell The Cana­dian Press the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was ham­pered be­cause the of­fend­ing video was de­stroyed.

La­marre has pre­vi­ously said it was for­tu­nate that the footage was never posted to so­cial me­dia.

Des­e­crat­ing a Qur’an is con­sid­ered blas­phe­mous by Mus­lims and has sparked vi­o­lent protests in re­cent years and the in­ci­dent co­in­cided with ef­forts by se­nior com­man­ders to make the Forces more di­verse and in­clu­sive.

The Cana­dian mil­i­tary is cur­rently con­duct­ing oper­a­tions in sev­eral Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­tries, no­tably Mali and Iraq.

Thou­sands of an­gry Afghans tried to storm the U.S. mil­i­tary base at Ba­gram in Fe­bru­ary 2012 when Amer­i­can forces burned hun­dreds of old Qur’ans that had been used by Tal­iban pris­on­ers.

At least 41 peo­ple were killed, in­clud­ing sev­eral U.S. sol­diers who were shot by Afghan Na­tional Army coun­ter­parts.

JUSTIN TANG/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Lt.-Gen. Charles La­marre speaks dur­ing an in­ter­view in Ot­tawa in May. An of­fi­cer cadet fac­ing ex­pul­sion from the Cana­dian Forces for des­e­crat­ing a Qur’an has been al­lowed to con­tinue his stud­ies at the Royal Mil­i­tary Col­lege in Sain­tJean, Que., while an­other stu­dent is fight­ing his own re­lease.

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