SCOTT TAYLOR: The Canadian military is keeping up with the times – again – with a new dress code

Last week, the Canadian Armed Forces officially announced that there would no longer be any gender restrictions on uniform clothing. Service members can now order and wear the uniform that they believe best matches their individual identity.

It was also announced that all restrictions on military haircuts would be lifted from September.

Making the announcement in a social media video was the awkward pair of Chief of the Defense Staff General Wayne Eyre and Canadian Forces Chief Warrant Officer Gilles Grégoire.

Watching two completely bald, Caucasian career military men talk about the importance of their hairstyle being an indicator of the CAF’s new inclusion policy was almost far-fetched.

Needless to say, following this announced policy change, the internet exploded with veteran outrage.

Martial Trade Options

To follow their collective argument, it’s the end of military life in Canada and yet another reason why they want Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to – to paraphrase softly – “go out and have sex”.

My first reaction was to wonder if this latest development would in fact successfully solve the CAF’s current problem with personnel retention and recruitment.

It’s hard to imagine someone in uniform thinking “if only they let me grow my hair long and dye it blue, then I’d happily continue to serve.”

Likewise, few blue-haired people are seen outside recruiting centers considering their martial trade options.

However, while this is another milestone in the evolution of the CAF, I am quite confident that over time it will become the accepted norm.

When I joined the CAF in 1982, the military was still struggling with acceptance of the newly adopted Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

My platoon was the last to graduate before the charter was implemented and our instructors lamented out loud that it would be the end of the soldiering profession in Canada.

Prior to charter protections, non-commissioned officers could verbally and physically abuse recruits, and this was believed to be the only way to properly forge a true soldier. It turns out those instructors were wrong.

Fast forward to 1987 when the decision was made to allow women to serve in the combat trades and aboard warships.

Diversity in the Force

Those who served in these trades, hitherto reserved for men, loudly protested that mixed units would be the death of the soldier in Canada. Turns out they were wrong too.

Until 1992, it was illegal to be gay and serve in the CAF.

Because of these strictly enforced regulations, the military was arguably the most homophobic institution in Canada.

When it was announced that homosexuals could legally serve, the old guard once again hailed that it was the end of military service in Canada as we know it.

This was in the pre-internet era, so those sentiments were aired through thrashings in messes and vitriolic letters to the editor.

That was of course 30 years ago and contrary to naysayers’ predictions, the Canadian military has continued to persevere with impressive style.

From 2001 to 2014, Canada deployed some 40,000 troops to Afghanistan.

This force included Canadians of diverse ethnic backgrounds, genders and sexual preferences and they fought side by side under one identity – that of being a Canadian soldier.

Throughout history, the Canadian military has effectively reflected the values ​​of society as a whole.

Seen through the lens of the hindsight of 2022, these values ​​do not always stand the test of time.

No. 2 Construction Battalion

During World War I, blacks wishing to serve in the military found it extremely difficult.

To accommodate these black volunteers and alleviate the labor shortage on the front lines in Europe, Canada created a separate unit known as the Number 2 Construction Battalion.

These black soldiers had white officers and were relegated to non-combat duties.

Until recently, the legacy of the 2nd Construction Battalion was trumpeted annually by the Department of National Defense during Black History Month.

Eventually, someone realized that separating these volunteers by race and having them do menial tasks wasn’t such a glorious martial history after all.

Last Saturday, the Canadian government issued an official apology to the descendants of the 2nd Construction Battalion at a ceremony in Truro.

One day in the not-too-distant future, we may realize that someone with long hair, makeup, and a skirt can still make a hell of a warrior.

Wait a minute, I just described Braveheart.