Canadian Navy replaces ‘Seaman’ title with gender-neutral ‘Sailor’

The Royal Canadian Navy is dropping the word “seaman” from its ranks in favour of the more gender-neutral title “sailor”.

The decision came after a survey of civilian and military personnel and veterans, according to Forces Net.

The survey drew almost 18,000 responses and Vice-Admiral Art McDonald, Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, says the “rank change initiative is long overdue, necessary, and welcomed”.

According to Vice-Admiral McDonald, more than 75% of those surveyed support the move, including an “overwhelming participation by the junior ranks who will be most impacted by the change”.

As of 4 September, ranks Ordinary Seaman, Able Seaman, Leading Seaman will change to Sailor Third Class, Sailor Second Class and Sailor First Class, respectively.

Vice-Admiral McDonald said the ranks will be simply referred to as ‘Sailor’, except for Master Sailor (formerly Master Seaman) which “merits” the use of the full title.

“While ours is proudly a service steeped in tradition – a service which was historically dominated by straight, cis, white males – it’s equally, necessarily, and proudly a modern service that prides itself on striving to continuously evolve in-step with the nation,” says Vice-Admiral McDonald.

The change is “about far more than attraction and recruiting”, he says. “At its essence this initiative is about nothing less than ensuring that our Navy strives to keep pace with the society we serve.”

Vice-Admiral McDonald says there were some “inappropriate, hurtful views and harmful expressions” during the survey and said “those embracing them are not welcome” in the service.

He encourages those who have such views to “do the right thing and identify yourself to your superiors so that we can get you the help you need to identify and overcome your biases and prejudices or help you leave the Navy”.

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