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Here we go lads...laddettes?

Royal Canadian Navy to replace 'seaman' in rank titles with gender-neutral term
Lee Berthiaume
The Canadian Press
Staff
Contact

Published Thursday, July 16, 2020 12:47PM ADT
Last Updated Thursday, July 16, 2020 1:50PM ADT
Money owed to Canadian Armed Forces members
Sailors head towards HMCS Ville de Quebec for the Royal Canadian Navy Change of Command ceremony in Halifax on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan)

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OTTAWA -- The Canadian military's sailors and the public will have a chance to weigh in as the Royal Canadian Navy moves to drop the term "seaman" when referring to its most junior sailors and replace it with something more gender-neutral.

Navies around the world have described their junior sailors as "seamen" for decades if not centuries, with the Royal Canadian Navy using "ordinary seaman," "able seaman," "leading seaman" and "master seaman."


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But those terms are being replaced in Canada as the navy -- which is short hundreds of sailors -- charts new waters to become more diverse and inclusive, according to Cmdr. Deborah-Lynn Gates, who is responsible for the navy's personnel policy.


"We appreciate tradition," Gates told The Canadian Press. "And we're not downplaying tradition absolutely at all. But it's truly a matter for us to show that we are progressive and that we are listening and we are really, truly representative of Canadian society."

The move is also aimed at making sure the navy's most junior members feel safe and proud of their ranks and jobs, Gates said, acknowledging the double entendre associated with the term "seaman."

"What this will do is ensure a safe environment so there is no double entendre," she said. "Definitely at the tactical level, we want to make sure our most junior members understand and feel safe when they are being called their rank, being called their name or being addressed."

Members of the navy as well as the public at large will be able to vote online on two alternatives starting Friday, with both variants substituting "sailor" in place of "seaman" in different ways.

One simply replaces "seaman" with "sailor" in the existing ranks. The other would do away with adjectives such as "able" and "leading" in favour of labels such as "sailor first class" and "sailor second class."

There will also be an option to suggest alternative terms.

The poll will be posted online and run until the end of July. The results will feed into senior commanders' decision on which term to use. The suggested change will ultimately need to be approved by cabinet.

The plan to drop "seaman" has already prompted backlash on social media, with some criticizing what they see as an overabundance of political correctness and others decrying a loss of tradition. Others, however, say the move is long overdue.

Gates suggested the use of "seaman" has been a potential barrier to recruitment for the navy, which has been pushing to address a shortage of 850 sailors. The navy has said it can manage the shortfall at the moment, but is worried about the longer-term implications.

"When they hear you'll start off as an ordinary seaman, it's maybe just a little thing, but it did not resonate," Gates said. "So we know it's not resonating with recruits and for us it's a matter of making sure we're being representative and that we are modern and forward-looking."
 

Sumo

War Hero
Is that hello sailor with a handbag. Will the by the left quick bimble be replaced by, hold hands feel safe and mingle?
 

sampost

Lantern Swinger
But those terms are being replaced in Canada as the navy -- which is short hundreds of sailors -- charts new waters to become more diverse and inclusive, according to Cmdr. Deborah-Lynn Gates, who is responsible for the navy's personnel policy.

Alternative headline:

Will Royal Canadian Navy Commander receive dishonourable discharge for stirring up mutiny?

or should that read Commodore?
 

Waspie

War Hero
So there getting rid of gender specific titles and replacing it with a class system!!

Yeah, that'll work. Until people get fed up with there class specific undermining there feelings!!!
 

Wightsparker

War Hero
Hey! To be more inclusive, why don't the Canadian armed forces personnel all wear the same type of uniform - for the sake of argument, a sort of bottle green - and adopt a universal rank structure across the three Services?
 

PedlarP

Lantern Swinger
Hey! To be more inclusive, why don't the Canadian armed forces personnel all wear the same type of uniform - for the sake of argument, a sort of bottle green - and adopt a universal rank structure across the three Services?

That's a sore subject for a lot of Canadian veterans.

The Unification of the Canadian Armed Forces took effect on 1st Feb, 1968. The Unification legislation abolished the historic titles Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army, and Royal Canadian Air Force, and create a single entity called the Canadian Armed Forces (which was later changed to Canadian Forces). On the run-up to the date, the existing 11 regional commands in Canada were reduced to six: Maritime Command, Mobile Command, Air Defence Command, Air Transport Command, Material Command and Training Command. A single uniform and rank structure was introduced.

Unification was very unpopular with both officers and rank and file; many senior officers were 'fired' by the architect of unification and the then Minister of National Defence, Paul Hellyer, for their refusal to to support unification. Warrant Officers and Senior Chiefs, along with many other Non-Commissioned Officers from all services left the forces in droves.

I was in the RN from 1971 to 1982, serving in submarines. I left the RN and joined the CAF in 1982 as part of their submarine 'get well' program. Of course I was issued the requisite green uniform, green shirt, green tie and green cap. Apart from the gold cloth dolphins sewed above the left buttoned down pocket I, along with the rest of the forces, looked like a Green-Line bus driver. At least the navy had managed to retain its' old rank structure and I was happy to be a Leading Seaman at the time and not a Corporal. Imagine a Colonel (four ringer) commanding a ship instead of a Captain!

Throughout the 1980s a lot of work was carried out within government and senior leadership to restore the traditional and distinct navy, army and air force uniforms. I got my new uniform issued in 1989; the green one went straight out with the garbage.

In 2011, the three environment commands were renamed to reflect the original historical service. Maritime Command reverted to the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), Land Force Command was changed to the Canadian Army, and Air Command was went back to being the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). Each service has a senior officer commanding. That being said, unlike before unification where the three services were separate entities, the unified command structure of the Canadian Forces remained unchanged.

Sadly, I cannot say with conviction that I served in the RCN. Although I served from 1982 to 2005 it was still named the Canadian Forces. Oh well, I did have a lot of fun and some great runs ashore.
 
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