Navy consults on changes to rank designations



As the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) maintains its momentum toward a more inclusive environment, an effort has been initiated to consider new rank designations for junior ranks that will result in more inclusive and gender-neutral terms rather than the current Ordinary, Able, Leading, and Master Seaman.

The navy is engaging currently serving and retired members, stakeholders, and other interested Canadians to receive their feedback on this initiative.

The potential alternative rank designations developed by a focus group of Non-Commissioned Members, and were reviewed by the Directorate of Gender, Diversity, and Inclusion using Gender Based Analysis +.

Options for consideration are:

Replacing “Seaman” with “Sailor” meaning ranks would be Ordinary Sailor, Able Sailor, Leading Sailor and Master Sailor and would maintain their current abbreviated titles (OS, AB, LS and MS); and Sailor classes such as Sailor 3rd Class (S3), Sailor 2nd Class (S2), Sailor 1st Class (S1) and Master Sailor (MS).

The RCN is an organization steeped in history, and while traditions provide an important part of the culture, the service also needs to continuously evolve, and live up to the standing as a progressive service and, indeed, one of Canada’s Top Employers (2019).

Sailors from across the Canadian Armed Forces will receive an emailed invitation to participate in the poll, and Social Media posts will invite retired members, stakeholders and interested Canadians to also participate. The engagement period runs from July 17, through to the end of the month.

There will also be an open feedback field to allow respondents to suggest alternative options for consideration.

The results of this poll will be considered before making the final decision to effect changes to these rank designations this fall, corresponding with the 110th Anniversary of the RCN and the 20th Anniversary of UNSCR 1325: Women, Peace and Security. This is an opportunity for the navy to reinforce its commitment to being an inclusive and diverse organization.


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  1. Bruce Campbell says:

    The RCN never used army drill, i.e. stamping feet when coming to attention or standing at ease. Stamping was never part of Royal Navy drill either.

  2. Charles Wincott says:

    additionally Naval recruits could be classed as eager Beavers.

  3. Charles Wincott says:

    I think we should keep it truly Canadian and change Seaman to Beaver. We could have ordinary Beavers, Able Beavers, Leading Beavers and of course Mater Beavers. This would also address the gender issue as we have had seamen for centuries now we could appease the fairer gender who only recently in naval history we allowed to even sail on naval warships / submarines.

  4. Peter Munro says:

    My family has a long history in the military. The proposed change is long overdue. I support Sailor 1st class;
    Sailor 2nd class
    Master Sailor

  5. Stew Baker says:

    Why not “Marine”? I spent 27 years from Ordinary Seaman to Master Warrant Officer, enrolled in 1953. All training, parade drill and ranks were those of the Royal Navy. For several years personnel have mostly British Army ranks and parade drill. Smashing your heel into the pavement when called to attention. So, our ships are manned by sea borne soldiers. Aren’t they usually called Marines? Ordinary, Leading, Master, Cpl, Sgt., WO,MWO,CWO Marine. Covers both (or other) sexes.

  6. Stephen Rybak says:

    Would have been nice if you could have published a link to the poll. It proving to be very difficult to find to cast a vote – or is that the intention? If I had my druthers, I’d support a change to sailor with the rank progressions of junior, able, leading and master to keep it nautical.

  7. Chris says:

    Imagine caring about this.

  8. Doug Anderson says:

    Leave the rank structure alone

  9. Tom Graham says:

    Changing the names of the navy’s NCM members will be a challenge but it must be done. I have always objected to the use of the word “petty” in the rank structure. In my opinion Chief WO, Master WO and WO should be universal in the CAF for members of the RCN, the Canadian Army and the RCAF. Perhaps we should move to “sailor”, “soldier” and “aviator” for the three services but I know the navy would object to “sergeant “master corporal” and “corporal” just like they objected to “sea green” uniforms fifty years ago.Master sailor, leading sailor, able sailor and junior sailor would work for me. I would also opt for some thing other than Sub Lt and Acting Sub Lt in the officer rank structure. lets adopt something that is truly Canadian

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