Service Canada: ‘gender-neutral’ language required and monitored

A federal cabinet minister has released a statement apologising for the directive that went out to Service Canada agents, dictating that they avoid gendered words such as ‘mother’, ‘father’, ‘Mr’ or ‘Mrs’ when addressing the public, and warning them that their compliance with the directive would be monitored.

According to CBC, the order was obtained earlier this year by Radio Canada in an attempt to cater to politically correct norms:

"This avoids portraying a perceived bias toward a particular sex or gender," says a copy of speaking notes prepared for managers and team leaders. "It is important that Service Canada, as an organization, reflects Canada's diverse population and ensures that the views and interests of Canadians are taken into account when we develop policies, programs, services and initiatives."

Employees were upset, not only because the mandate infringed upon their freedom of speech, but because working within the range of this unclear mandate has made their job inordinately harder. According to one anonymous Service Canada agent: 

"It happens that we talk to people and we ask, 'What is the name of parent number one?' People do not understand.”

As of last month, in an attempt to save face, the federal cabinet released an apology promising that the order would be clarified:  

[I]n an interview with CBC News Network's Power & Politics, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Jean-Yves Duclos said that the directive is more about asking Canadians how they want to be addressed — and then following that advice.

"The directive that was sent this morning was confusing it will be corrected ... so that it's clear Service Canada agents have the respectful responsibility to do exactly what they are paid to do," Duclos told guest host David Cochrane.

More alarming than the confusing direction to use gender-neutral language was the warning staff would be monitored for non-compliance:

"Going forward, the proper use of gender-neutral language will also be added to the observations in the In-Person Quality Monitoring Program," the directive said.

The directive demonstrates the threats to free speech occurring in Canada that gained worldwide attention after University of Toronto Professor Jordan Peterson refused to comply with a similar directive at his college.  At the time, Professor Peterson commented that these types of directives were so dangerous because they went beyond preventing free speech, and actually forced employees to say things with which they disagreed.

Last month, we saw Qantas issue similar directives to its staff.  How long before this type of regulation and monitoring is found in all Australian workplaces?

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