OTTAWA, September 27, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Canada's Department of National Defence (DND) has appointed an openly homosexual Anglican priest as Chaplain General of the Canadian Armed Forces in a ceremony earlier this month in Ottawa.

According to a DND news release, Brigadier-General John Fletcher was appointed Chaplain General of the Canadian Armed Forces in a ceremony at the Beechwood Memorial Centre in Ottawa.

The event was presided over by the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Tom Lawson, with Fletcher taking over responsibility for the religious needs of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members and their families from the outgoing Chaplain General, Brigadier-General Karl McLean, who is also an Anglican priest.

General Lawson said the appointment of a homosexual will "further our inclusive, welcoming culture."

“It is my distinct pleasure to welcome Padre Brigadier-General Fletcher to the role of Chaplain General. Padre Fletcher now assumes an important role contributing to the spiritual care of CAF leadership and its members alike."

Minister of National Defence Rob Nicholson welcomed Fletcher’s appointment to the role.

"We, as a Defence Team, are delighted to have Padre John Fletcher take on the mantle of the Chaplain General," Nicholson said. "Chaplains have a very important role to play in embodying spiritual values, and must be capable of inspiring, maintaining, and restoring the resilience of Canadian Armed Forces members."

As the head of the military Chaplain Branch, Fletcher, who has been openly homosexual for more than two decades of his 33 years in the military, will direct the work of more than 200 Regular Force and 100 Reserve Force chaplains.

"Our Canadian Forces Chaplaincy has a unique spiritual mandate that provides services for families as well as for our military personnel," Fletcher said in an official statement.

Fletcher said he recognized that some may find his appointment scandalous, but found it to be evidence of the "progress of the Canadian Armed Forces," which lifted its ban on homosexual service members in 1992.

“I equally understand that some people will be excited and encouraged by the openness of my own church, to allow me to exercise this ministry and certainly encouraged that I’m free to work within a Canadian military that simply doesn’t discriminate on...these things,” Fletcher said according to the Toronto Star.

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The Star reported that Canada's new Chaplain General said that while 50 years ago there were no homosexual role models, he sees his appointment as a trend in the normalization of homosexuality that should be welcomed.

Ontario now has its first openly lesbian premier, Kathleen Wynne, Fletcher said. “I see [my situation] as just another example of that same sort of trend that we as Canadians should celebrate and embrace,” he said.

Chief of military personnel public affairs, Capt. Matt Zalotto said that the Canadian Armed Forces do not have a specific policy regarding homosexual personnel.

“Furthermore, the CAF does not keep track of or inquire about the sexual orientation of our members, so I really couldn’t say if Padre Fletcher is the highest-ranking, openly-gay CAF member, Chaplain General or otherwise,” Capt. Zalot said.

However, the Canadian Armed Forces does follow the sexual orientation of its members closely enough to provide soldiers with government-funded sex-change operations, along with hormonal and psychiatric treatment, at a current cost to Canadian taxpayers of between $30,000 and $60,000 per procedure.

Colonel Scott Cameron, director of medical services for the military in 1998, told the media at the time that the decision was a moral and medical obligation as most provincial health care plans pay for sex-change surgery. However, he called the desire to undergo “gender reassignment” an “illness.”

In 2010, the Canadian Forces military administration manual was amended to say that gender-confused service members have the right to dress according to their perception of whether they are male or female, but must conform to the dress code and standards of deportment of their “target” gender.

At the time, Scott Taylor, publisher of Esprit de Corps military magazine, told the National Post that most Canadian service members resent the “politically correct” policies of an “out of touch headquarters staff."

“You couldn’t get much worse timing on that internally,” he said, commenting on the release of the transsexual dress code document on the heels of the military ombudsman’s report that criticized the DND for curtailing support for veterans and the families of fallen soldiers. “It’s so removed from what the guys are facing over in Afghanistan...That doesn’t really relate to dress codes of the transgendered.”

The Chaplain General is appointed by the Minister of National Defence based upon the recommendation of the Chief of the Defence Staff in consultation with the Interfaith Committee on Canadian Military Chaplaincy.