Not enough evidence to expel cadet after Qur'an desecration

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.

Students issued warnings, put under 'close scrutiny,' official says

A Qur'an was desecrated while eight officer cadets from Royal Military College Saint-Jean were at a cottage over the Easter weekend. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

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 the 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 the students.

He and five of the 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 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."

Video destroyed

The Qur'an desecration occurred when a group of 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 told 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.

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 the cadets. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

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.