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Royal Canadian Navy to replace 'seaman' in rank titles with gender-neutral term

Last Updated Jul 16, 2020 at 11:24 am EDT

The Royal Canadian Navy is looking to chart new waters by dropping the term "seaman" when referring to its most junior sailors and replacing it with something more gender-neutral. Members of the Royal Canadian Navy take part in the 2019 Pride Parade in Toronto, Saturday, June 23, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Lahodynskyj

OTTAWA — The Royal Canadian Navy is looking to chart new waters by dropping the term “seaman” when referring to its most junior sailors and replacing it with something more gender-neutral.

Navies around the world have used the terms “ordinary seaman,” “able seaman,” “leading seaman” and “master seaman” for decades and in some cases centuries.

But Cmdr. Deborah Lynn Gates says those terms are being replaced in Canada as the navy, which is short hundreds of sailors, works to become more diverse and inclusive.

She says it is also aimed at making sure the navy’s most junior members feel safe and proud of their ranks and profession, acknowledging the double entendre associated with the term “seaman.”

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.

While the plan to drop the term has already prompted some backlash on social media, Gates says the navy wants to show both Canadians and its sailors that it is a modern and progressive organization.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 16, 2020.

The Canadian Press