Service Canada employees not to address Canadians as Mr., Mrs., or Miss

Service Canada employees who interact with the public are being asked to stay away from  terms like Mr., Mrs., father and mother, and to use gender-neutral terms in their place.

According to documents obtained by Radio Canada, the French-language arm of CBC, front-line staff must now “use gender-neutral language or gender-inclusive language.”

“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,” says the directive.

The new guidelines also rule out using terms such as mother and father because they are “gender specific” and instead says the neutral term of “parent” should be used instead.

The new directive also includes a warning that the government agency employees will be observed to ensure they are following the protocols.

The same goes for honorifics such as Mr., Mrs., and Miss, and in both languages. Instead, employees are being directed to address customers by their full names or ask them what they want to be called.

Service Canada helps Canadians connect with a variety of government programs including Employment Insurance, the Canada Pension Plan, and Old Age Security.

According to an official, who asked to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to speak on the issue, the new directive is already in place and has led to some difficult situations for civil servants.

The official said, “Some customers feel less respected.People of a certain age expect us to be polite. It bothers them when we call them by their first and last name.”

The new directive has also led to some confusion, they said.

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

In addition to the changes in how staff interact with the public, the directive indicates that Service Canada is also in the process of amending some service forms, including the Social Insurance Number application form.