Radio Canada, the French-language arm of the CBC, reported that Canadian government employees who talk directly to users of government services can no longer refer to those citizens as “sir,” “madam,” or any other gender-specific term while doing so, and must eschew terms like mother or father also.
The documents also reveal that “father” and “mother” have been removed from the Social Insurance Number application form.
Service Canada’s front-line staff must “use gender-neutral language or gender-inclusive language” to avoid “portraying a perceived bias toward a particular sex or gender,” out of respect for the country’s “diverse” population, Radio Canada reported.
The forbidden terms include “mother,” “father,” “sir,” “madam,” “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” and “Miss.”
Workers are directed to call people “parents,” use their full names, and ask them how they wish to be addressed.
Government employees are also being warned that an In-Person Quality Monitoring Program will watch them for compliance with the new rules.
Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos downplayed any controversy, claiming that people can still be called “Mr.” or “Mrs.” if they so choose. The guidelines, he said, are for “confirming how people want to be addressed” first.
The CBC reported that an unnamed government employee said that both Service Canada employees and users are confused by the new rules. The source explained that people “of a certain age” find the use of first names to be rude and prefer honourifics such as Mr. or Mrs. “It bothers them when we call them by their first and last name.”
The source also said that asking for “parent number one”is confusing to users.