Transcription – English – Harold Ristau

25. Harold Ristau.mp4: Video automatically transcribed by Sonix

25. Harold Ristau.mp4: this mp4 video file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Harold Ristau:
My name is Dr. Harold Ristau. I'm a seminary professor at an affiliated seminary at Brock University and a chaplain for Veterans for Freedom. I was the veteran at the Ottawa War Memorial when the fences came down and suing Ottawa through the Justice Center based in Calgary. And I recently resigned from a civilian position with the military for many reasons, but one involving being required to be vaccinated. So in this presentation, I would like to touch on why preventing military members from opting against taking the jab hinders their operational effectiveness, which is crucial to national security, which ties into my personal testimony, which involves government, systematic discrimination against and punishing those who sought to receive a religious exemption. Making a gain in the CAF less operationally effective. Now, even if the COVID vaccines worked and weren't controversial, controversial or were even just saline and everybody knew it, it's seriously dangerous to force soldiers to ignore their convictions of conscience from both a spiritual and psychological perspective by punishing them for not taking it. A soldier is being good to go on. The front line of the battlefield involves healthy spiritual, mental and psychological resilience, which is the ability to bounce back from trauma. Otherwise, they're unable to fully cope with the stresses of war as it relates to their respective traits. When soldiers lack resilience, they are prime candidates for PTSD, which used to be called moral injury. And before that, spiritual injury and mental health workers and chaplains recognize and agree that matters of heart, soul, spirit and mind are key variables in a soldier's physical ability to perform.

Harold Ristau:
God gives us consciences to keep our moral and ethical behavior in check when we ignore or contradict them. The guilt and disillusionment resulted by our compromises in our integrity and authenticity means eventually, in the military context, lots of sick leaves for mental health reasons or even occupational releases. A soldier's mental and spiritual health is sustained by three variables strong values that are supported by the chain of command, confidence in who they are and what they do, and personally believing in the mission, and that they themselves individually matter in the role that they play in the mission. Soldiers with strong consciences don't do mentally and spiritually well in life when they are forced to, say, fight wars that they don't believe in. People don't do well in life when they are forced to behave in ways that contradict their convictions. And you can ask any honest mental health professional regarding the impact on overall mental health in the military in regards to these mandatory vaccinations. In light of this, members were not allowed to get advice while deliberating the ethics behind these injections. What do I mean? Horrifically, CAF chaplains with whom I served for 11 years were forbidden from fulfilling their mandate of guiding members through these religious, ethical and moral questions, which again are essential acts to keeping these members mentally and spiritually fit.

Harold Ristau:
In October of 2021, as soon as the obligatory injections were being rolled out and soldiers began having a crisis of conscience and were in moral distress, the government forbade chaplains from providing any recommendations, direction or guidance on religious accommodation for the refusal to be vaccinated. To be clear, a key component to the chaplains mandate is to make recommendations to the chain of command and advise members on matters of ethics, morality and conscience. To forbid them of doing that even for a minute is like preventing the ombudsman or an ethics commission from doing their job. Besides being an abuse of chaplain consciences and indicative of systematic unprofessionalism, it's arguably an unlawful order. Now, members who question the morality and safety behind the injections were only allowed to make exemption requests for two reasons medical and religious, and no other reasons when it comes to medical exemptions. While that made little sense as an avenue to avoid the jab because most members you can't serve unless you're in tip top physical shape. So that left only the religious option, meaning non-religious people were not allowed to follow their convictions of conscience or ethics and morality. So the spiritual but not religious people and even those who had no spirituality at all, were systematically discriminated against from the get go. Now, I wish that everyone believed in God, but I would never treat someone differently who didn't.

Harold Ristau:
And it's wrong and illegal to give, say, an atheist, no other venue to not take the jab. So we have the religious exemption as the avenue, the only avenue really to keep yourself from receiving that jab. This avenue involved only those who firstly could demonstrate that they were active members of a recognised religion or denomination in Canada, for instance, chaplains. Now, do you know how many chaplains were approved by the chaplain branch to two chaplains? So this in stealth is scandalous, considering the unsettling connection to abortion to all the vaccine options. Roughly half of chaplains are members of denominations and religions that hold pro-life positions, meaning many of these chaplains were forced to contradict their consciences. Those that did not succumb to the temptation to get the jab lost, their jobs quit, or are floating within the system with no real job. Now, if chaplains didn't merit religious accommodation, what do you think the chance was for regular members? And so virtually none received these exemptions, the religious exemption route. Was an absolute farce. To make matters worse, chaplains who are sympathetic to religious accommodation requests or raised red flags of concern due to the science or their consciences or CAF ethics over the topic were persecuted or removed from their units. Members who then applied for religious accommodation had all the cards stacked totally against them by chaplains who are largely expected not to support religious accommodation requests.

Harold Ristau:
In fact, most people were shut down from making these requests before actually doing the paperwork requesting. Now, Chaplin's eventually were permitted to make recommendations for or against religious exemptions, but only in accordance with a strict and laughable assessment tool. Remember, prior to COVID, anyone could get exemptions for virtually anything based on that sincerely held beliefs. The Canadian charter protected these beliefs. Well, this up until COVID happened, indisputable notion of sincerely held beliefs was put into question by anyone claiming to have them. For example, chaplains were essentially asked to decide whether a member's sincerely held belief was sincere enough, held enough, and believed enough. So now government officials, who largely were prejudiced in favour of the shots, got to decide to what degree the applicant's belief was valid. Not only that, but according to the rigid assessment tool provided to Chaplin's, which was carefully orchestrated by government officials to make a claim to a religious exemption as difficult as humanly possible. The Chaplin also got to decide whether the church, denomination or religion to which the member belonged had valid reasons for holding their beliefs. So ultimately, the Government of Canada was judging whether the church's teaching was reasonable in accordance with or to the degree to which it was aligned with the mainstream media narrative at the time in the Big Pharma messaging. Registered Christian denominations were flagged as being non-credible and not to be taken serious if they held a position that was not fully supportive of the vaccine mandates.

Harold Ristau:
And I personally witnessed this with my own Orthodox Lutheran denomination. At one point in this foolery, we were categorized with religious cults and even the Taliban for not fully supporting the vaccines. So in short, members who sought a religious exemption in spite of belonging to historical churches had no chance at a religious exemption because the validity of their church body was put into question for the first time in Canadian history. Believe it or not, pro-life churches who did not have a pre existent vaccine policy in place and who ever heard of this idiocy before COVID? They were originally rejected as having no reason to oppose the injections at all. Now what an absolute insult to the integrity of Canadian churches and religions. Yet chaplains who spoke against this were immediately silenced. Bottom line, chaplains were pressured to refrain from any moral, ethical or religious discussions on this controversial injection. Instead, they were asked to function as inquisitors resembling a medieval inquisition, as they were expected to decide whether a military member's faith claims were worthwhile and whether their church or religion was worthwhile. They were even asked to judge whether members were lying about their religious convictions by prying into the details of their religious and spiritual lives in order to expose any hypocrisy and inconsistencies under the guise of verifying the truthfulness and sincerity so that they could well largely deny them their requests, which they did.

Harold Ristau:
Very few received an exemption. In fact, under these conditions, even my Lord Jesus Christ probably wouldn't have qualified for religious exemption. Incidentally, commanding officers were more reasonable in sneaking the important dissenters and exemption, since they didn't want to lose these particular members yet, many of their decisions were overridden by higher authorities. In conclusion, these mandatory vaccinations have resulted in our nation losing some of its most courageous and hence best troops like the dedicated and highly decorated Warrant Officer Top. You want to fight with guys like this in the foxhole? Soldiers that actually believe in the battle and the order, like the church esteems the ultimate and iconic soldier. I believe Jesus Christ who altruistically sacrificed his life for the greatest of goods. The calf seeks to vet and form soldiers who are willing to die for their convictions, and they'll only do it if they're respected and it's voluntary. Otherwise, they may, as we would distinguish a mercenary army from a normal army if people are forced to do things against their convictions. So questioning and violating their consciences is basically the worst thing you can do to them psychologically and spiritually. Now, certainly you want soldiers to follow orders, but not blindly and without conditions. As it is destructive to both the individual and the larger Canadian security. So thank you for inviting me here and sharing this testimony today.

Trish Wood:
Thank you very much. I have a very high, highly held esteem for military chaplains and Padres, so.

Harold Ristau:
Thank you, ma'am.

Trish Wood:
Yeah, we're really short on time right now, so I'm going to ask the panel if they have anything super pressing for the padre.

Preston Manning:
One question has it seems to what you've described is, is a violation of the fundamental right to freedom of religion supposedly guaranteed by the Constitution. Has there been any legal attempts to affirm that that right or challenge these orders in the courts on the grounds that they violate the freedom of religion?

Harold Ristau:
No, not that I know of. As to reiterate my friend Andrew. There's a climate of fear. We're used to obeying orders, following orders. And frankly, as at the first levels of your chain of command, if you challenge those orders, it's a culture of, well, what's really turned into bullying. But but prior to COVID, there are mechanisms in place, again, through the chaplains. The chaplains are actually there as people to help the soldier on the ground who has these struggles to make sure that justice is preserved, that his case or her case is made clear. But that's been entirely shut down over these last several months.

Preston Manning:
So maybe the root would be somebody from outside, the outside, the military to challenge this and use the military as an example. But not it's not not initiated by the military.

Harold Ristau:
Well, what's interesting is the chaplain stands outside of the parade square. So we're actually supposed to be that person. We I mean, in some some places of the world, we don't have the ranking system and so forth, because we're intended to have access to all levels of the chain of command to keep a moral pulse on the authorities and to be the voice to everyone in anyone. So this is actually an absolute undermining of of one crucial portion of my mandate, which is what I've tried to underscore here. So there really isn't any mechanism left in place for someone on the ground to say, I'm not comfortable with making this decision or following this order because of my conscience. You're basically told you're going to be court martialed or you may as well resign at that point.

David Ross:
Padre, thanks very much. Your comments are very clear. What came to my mind. Is that really what you're describing? And I realize that you're just one person testifying, but I'd love to hear somebody give it from the other side. As I mentioned previously, we don't have a whole lot of that. But what you've described to me seems to be a widespread failure of integrity within the command. And and and I'm not sure how commanders can expect respect from the enlisted men by doing such things. So would you have a prescription of some kind for how to remediate this this situation?

Harold Ristau:
Well, I don't think we can. There's really much to be done to remediate. I mean, as as you heard earlier, I mean, morale is at an all time low. Recruitment is is frankly laughable. People are reluctant to join the CF with with these conditions. But if you're going to require something like a vaccine or a vaccine, you know, you don't pull this once you're already employed, you don't put this as a condition and then punish people for having a difficulty with it. So there is some sense in having those conditions at enrollment, you know, or prior before you sign up on the dotted line. But even then, getting insisting upon a yellow fever vaccine so that you can serve in the Middle East is quite a different thing than what we've been seeing here in these last a couple of years. So so I think that's the only way we can really address this is transparency at that level. When you don't treat people like adults and you know, you're setting them up for a mercenary type of a mindset. And and that, again, is quite dangerous to to to national security in their own mental health. And that applies to the RCMP and the police forces, too. They are all struggling with the exact same or a very similar phenomenon here.

David Ross:
Thanks very much. I think I think you've exposed a very important area here. Thank you.

Harold Ristau:
Thank you, sir.

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