Duclos defends language

Canadian activists praised Service Canada's decision to ask its employees to adopt gender-neutral language when interacting with the public as a step toward greater inclusivity, while members of the political opposition mocked the policy mercilessly.

Families Minister Jean-Yves Duclos defended the federal institution's internal directive Wednesday, saying it was a matter of respect and an effort "to adapt to the reality of 21st-century families."

According to the directive issued to managers and team leaders in January, Service Canada employees are asked to use gender-neutral or gender-inclusive language to avoid "portraying a perceived bias toward a particular sex or gender."

Workers are instructed to use a client's full name or ask how they would prefer to be addressed instead of using honorifics such as Mr., Mrs. or Ms., which "can be seen as gender specific by a client," reads the memo, which was first obtained by Radio-Canada.

They are also being asked to eschew the terms "father" and "mother" in favour of "parent."

Some members of the opposition were quick to criticize the directive, including Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who described it as "ridiculous."

Rheal Fortin, the former Bloc Quebecois MP who now sits as an Independent, concurred, saying, "it's bordering on harebrained."

"I almost want to say I'm glad they don't have any bigger problems than that at Service Canada," he joked.

But Duclos told reporters that Service Canada's policies are a matter of respect.

He specified in a tweet the government department is not eliminating the use of Mr. or Ms.

"Let us be clear, @ServiceCanada_E will continue to use Mr/Ms when interacting with Canadians," he wrote on social media.

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