FILE – Rear-Admiral Bill Truelove will preside over the changing of command from Commodore Bob Auchterlonie to Captain (Navy) Jeffery Zwick CFB Esquimalt on board the HMCS Calgary, in Esquimalt B.C., on June 24, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Admiral lashes out at ‘hateful’ comments as Navy looks to drop ‘seaman’

Some have blasted what they see as an overabundance of political correctness and others decry a loss of tradition

The Royal Canadian Navy’s deputy commander has responded to a series of online posts criticizing the military’s plan to drop the term “seaman” by warning that there is no place in the force for sailors who subscribe to “hateful, misogynistic and racist” beliefs.

Rear-Admiral Chris Sutherland issued the admonition in a Facebook post over the weekend as sailors and members of the public are being asked to vote on a new title for the Navy’s most junior members by replacing “seaman” with a more gender-neutral term.

“To those of you currently serving with these beliefs, I would like to emphatically state you have no place in our Navy,” Sutherland said. “If you cannot live by or support the values of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, then you cannot defend them.”

Deputy Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy here. I have been made aware of the discourse occurring on on-line forums…

Posted by Royal Canadian Navy on Friday, July 24, 2020

Navies around the world have described their junior sailors as “seamen” for decades if not centuries, with the Royal Canadian Navy using “ordinary seaman,” “able seaman,” “leading seaman” and “master seaman.”

But those terms are being replaced in Canada as the Navy — which is short hundreds of sailors — charts new waters to become more diverse and inclusive. Navy officers have said the move is also designed to ensure junior members feel safe and proud of their ranks and jobs.

Members of the Navy as well as the public at large have until Friday to vote online on two alternatives, with both variants substituting “sailor” in place of “seaman” in different ways.

One simply replaces “seaman” with “sailor” in the existing ranks. The other would do away with adjectives such as “able” and “leading” in favour of labels such as “sailor first class” and “sailor second class.” There is also be an option to suggest alternative terms.

But while the move has been applauded by some as long overdue, there has also been varying degrees of criticism online as some have blasted what they see as an overabundance of political correctness and others decrying a loss of tradition.

ALSO READ: Activists will strike as calls continue for a public inquiry into Nova Scotia massacre

Some of those posts appear to have crossed a line for navy commanders.

Sutherland apologized for not speaking up sooner, saying he “needed a minute to come to terms with some of the comments that have been posted,” before targeting not only active-duty sailors but anyone who has made “hateful, misogynistic and racists comments.”

“I am shocked that you think that your comments would be acceptable, and that you are not able to recognize that those you are disparaging are the very people dedicating their lives to afford you the freedom to comment,” he said without expanding on the offending posts.

“These comments serve as a reminder of our need to call out cowardly attacks such as these, and remind us also that we should take every opportunity to show support for minority and marginalized groups.”

He went on to invite any sailor who wanted to know why the initiative is a priority for the Navy — “and would like to engage in constructive discussion on the topic” — to contact him directly.

The move to drop “seaman” comes amid a broader push by the military to become more reflective of Canadian society, which includes trying to recruit more women, visible minorities and members of the LGBTQ community while cracking down on hateful conduct.

At the same time, navy officials have suggested the use of “seaman” has been a potential barrier for recruitment at a time when the Navy is short about 850 sailors. Officers have said they can manage the shortfall at the moment, but are worried about the longer-term implications.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Canadian Armed Forces

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. families financially affected by pandemic eligible for grocery gift cards

Program open to struggling families in Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley communities

‘Each step is a prayer’: Ojibwe man will walk from Hope to Vancouver Island for Indigenous healing, reconciliation

James Taylor departs Sept. 20, returns to Saanich in five days for sacred fire

LETTER: Keeping Canada-U.S. borders closed is issue of safety, not bigotry

Only walls Trump deserves come in a set of four, and are found in a prison or institution: Reader

LETTER: CERB is simply worsening overdose issues in Maple Ridge

Taxpayer money is going to help buy more drugs and increase cases of death on local streets: Reader

Ridge Meadows Soccer welcomes former Whitecaps coach to club

Craig Dalrymple will join organization as new sporting director

QUIZ: A celebration of apples

September is the start of the apple harvest

VIDEO: gunshot incident at Langley gas station

No immediate reports of injuries in Saturday evening incident

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Preparations underway for pandemic election in Saskatchewan and maybe B.C.

Administrators in B.C. and around the country are also looking to expand voting by mail during the pandemic

Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July

WHO acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Air quality advisory ends for the Lower Mainland

It had been in effect since Sept. 8

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Most Read