Beginning early next month, the Royal Canadian Navy, which says it is short hundreds of sailors, has announced that references to “seaman” in the English-language designations–ordinary, able, leading and master–will now carry more gender-neutral terms,
The ranks will now be known as sailor third class, sailor second class, sailor first class and master sailor.
The announcement comes the same week the Navy introduced its new combat uniform.
Watch: the RCN unveils new combat uniform:
The Canadian Press’s Lee Berthiaume reports the names changes come as the military attempts to become more reflective of Canadian society–a push that includes trying to recruit more women, visible minorities and members of the LGBTQ community while cracking down on hateful conduct.”
Since junior sailors have been called “seamen” for decades, the change has not been without controversy.
In July the RCN’s deputy commander responded to a series of online posts critical of the move, warning that there is no place in the force of sailors who subscribe to “hateful, misogynistic and racist” beliefs.
“To those of you currently serving with these beliefs, I would like to emphatically state you have no place in our navy,” said Rear Admiral Chris Sutherland.
“If you cannot live by or support the values of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, then you cannot defend them.”
The change, which the navy said came after surveying 18,000 respondents, has the support of the military’s high command.
“By adopting gender neutral designation for junior members of the Royal Canadian Navy, we demonstrate to all Canadians that the Canadian Armed Forces will welcome anybody who wants to serve their country and uphold the values of inclusion and diversity. We will continue to work to build a diverse force that is representative of the Canadians they protect,” Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan said in a statement
With files from CBC News, The Canadian Press (Lee Berthiaume), RCI, Government of Canada