Moroccan-born Jalal Khaldoune is set to become one of Canada's only four Muslim military chaplains, and the first Muslim chaplain who speaks French.
It's like a dream come true, the environmental scientist told CBC.
Khaldoune moved to Quebec City in 2001 to do his PhD at Université Laval after completing his master's degree in Switzerland.
He worked in various scientific roles both at the university and for the federal government in the ensuing years. He became a citizen in 2005.
But he wanted to do something else, he said — something he considered both prestigious and a way to give back to Canada, the place he has called home for the last 16 years.
"I'm completely satisfied with the life here in Quebec, so why not? I feel myself part of the country," Khaldoune said. "I can participate by helping others and also supporting people."
Becoming a military chaplain seemed the perfect fit, he said.
When Khaldoune enlisted, he was 40 — what some might consider an advanced age for basic training.
"I did training with young people, and I succeeded," he said. "Better than half of the platoon, believe me."
Sharing faith's richness
Khaldoune will offer spiritual guidance to members of the forces of all faiths, as well as to those who are atheist or non-practising.
"The aim is to serve everyone."
He said he's looking forward to breaking down prejudices or poorly understood ideas of what it means to be Muslim.
"For me, it's a richness," he said. "I want to share this richness with others, to show them that a Muslim is someone who is open, someone who is tolerant, someone simple, someone who is free, like you."
Khaldoune is now completing his master's of theology degree and will be finished in two semesters.
He will have to complete some military training after that, and if it all goes successfully, he will receive his first posting.
He expects to be posted somewhere in Quebec, but he says it will be up to the Canadian Forces to decide where he ends up.