An Associate Professor at UNBC recently provided her slant on Service Canada’s decision to no longer call Canadians Mr., Mrs., or Ms.
The organization is encouraging its staff to use more gender neutral or gender inclusive language like ‘parent’ while skirting away from more traditional terms like mother and father.
Dr. Jacqueline Holler teaches in the Gender, Women’s Studies and History Department, she believes the move is about acknowledging people the right way.
“I think what they are aimed at is not eliminating the term mother or father but just making sure that they are careful in a customer service sense about not assuming things about the people who come in and talk to them.”
“What they are trying to say is that when people come in and to a Service Canada office or call on their employees shouldn’t be making assumptions about how that person identifies gender wise or for example if there are a mother and a father in a family unit or if there are two fathers.”
Service Canada believes the new policy will avoid bias towards a gender or sex.
However, Holler says this doesn’t mean people won’t be called by these terms if that is indeed their preference.
“You know, you’re not going to go in their and be called person x, if you want to be called Mrs. Brown or Mr. so and so that’s certainly still going to be happening – it’s just about what the individual prefers.”
The associate professor is of the opinion the new preferred terms also remind her of a similar situation not too long ago.
“I really think about the term MS. in this regard, I mean people don’t even bat an eye at it and it started being used in the 1960’s and papers like the New York Times wouldn’t use it until the late 1980’s because it is considered so shocking and offensive and yet if a woman says she is Miss so and so we don’t even care.”
“This is just a continuation of the evolution in the way we use language and use titles, it’s no more different to my mind that the eventual use of the title Ms.”
My Bulkley Lakes Now made a separate inquiry to the Ministry of Citizen Services to see how they stood on the issue.
The organization provided the following points:
- We recognize the right of all British Columbians to receive service and to be identified according to their preference. That includes gender identification.
- Staff at all 62 Service BC locations across the province make every effort to be sensitive to citizen needs and preferences.
- We have practice protocols in place to guide staff to respond to citizens in the manner they prefer including gender-neutral terms for identity.