No more “sir, madam” at Service Canada

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Advocator has learned that Service Canada employees who interact with the public can no longer use the words “sir”, “madam”, “father” and “mother”. According to the documents we have been able to consult, “front-line staff” must now “use gender-neutral language.”

The government’s objective is clear: to avoid giving the impression that federal officials have a “gender bias”.

“It is important that Service Canada, as an organization, be a reflection of Canada’s diverse population to ensure that the views and interests of Canadians are taken into account when developing policies, programs, programs and services or initiatives,” reads the Notes for Managers and Team Leaders who will meet with their employees about the use of gender-neutral language.

The notes quote as examples the terms “mother” and “father” which are the terms of specific gender. Staff must now use the term “parent”.

Same story for the titles “sir”, “madam” and “miss”. Public servants must address clients by their full name or ask them how they prefer to be addressed to them.

Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, Manager of Service Canada, confirms that in the first interaction with

clients, public servants will have to use neutral language. However, he said on Twitter that afterwards, they will be able to use these terms, if customers request it.

“Let’s be clear, Mr. / Madam will continue to be used by Service Canada. We simply check how people want us to talk to them. It’s a question of respect, “he wrote.

A government source incidentally reminded Radio-Canada that a gay couple in Halifax had recently called on Service Canada to change their practices after being forced to decide who the father and mother were.

Delicate situations

According to an official who asked to remain anonymous to avoid reprisals, the new directive leads to difficult situations for civil servants.

“Some customers feel less respected,” he said. Older people expect us to be polite. There, you have to call them by their first name and their name, and that, it’s a little bothering them. ”

The new directive has also led to some imbroglios when it comes time to obtain certain information necessary for the resolution of the files.

“It happens to us to talk to people and say,” What is your # 1 parent’s name? ” And we are entitled to silence, people do not understand, “said this person who also regrets the fact of not having been consulted beforehand.

The directive that the CBC has obtained also states that public servants will have to make sure to use neutral language, since its use “will be added to the observations of the Quality of In-Person Services Monitoring Program”.

Computer modification

In addition to changes to customer service, Service Canada has amended the Social Insurance Number application form. There is no longer any question here of “father” and “mother” but of “parent”.

Service Canada is in the process of reforming computer systems to reflect these changes. The change “will take longer”.

Applicants must still complete the mandatory fields: “Mother’s First Name”, “Mother’s Last Name at Birth”, “Father’s First Name” and “Father’s Last Name at Birth”.

Controversy over gender

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in controversy last month at a public meeting in Edmonton where he said he preferred the word ” peoplekind ” to ” mankind “.

The remark, which he later called “a bad joke,” earned him criticism both on Parliament Hill in Ottawa and abroad.

Some had derided the Prime Minister’s “inclusive” language: the word “humanity”, in English, referring directly to the man (” man “).

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Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.


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