Canadian Forces Review Finds 'Unacceptable Language' In Cadet Dress Code Pamphlets

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A Canadian Forces probe of cadet dress-code pamphlets has uncovered eight containing "unacceptable language," months after controversy over a similar recruitment leaflet that "shamed" young women.

Defence spokesman Maj. Doug Keirstead said a review of documents used by all 1,135 cadet organizations across the country revealed that most of the eight newly uncovered pamphlets used similar references to a leaflet distributed by a St. John's, N.L., squadron.

navy league cadets
Navy League Cadets march following a commemoration to those lost as sea in the Second World War campaign known as the Battle of the Atlantic, on May 3, 2015. (Photo: The Canadian Press)

That pamphlet referred to the four Bs — "boobs, belly, bums, boxers" — and was condemned by Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan in September as shaming of young women. It showed what it considered appropriate civilian dress for cadets, saying girls should wear shirts that do not "reveal their developing bits."

The language came to light when a mother complained her 13-year-old daughter was given the brochure at the 510 Lions Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron in St. John's. The mother said she believed it sexualized young girls and imposed different standards on them than their male counterparts.

"We considered that whole concept of the four Bs to be inappropriate," Keirstead said from Ottawa. "The language that was used there was totally unacceptable and doesn't represent the values of the Canadian Armed Forces or the cadet organization."

"This shaming of young women is offensive to me as a person, as a father and as the minister of national defence." — Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan

He said most of the documents using similarly inappropriate language were found in Atlantic Canada, with two in Nova Scotia, two in P.E.I., three in New Brunswick and one in British Columbia. He added that the one in New Brunswick had no longer been in use when it was discovered and that while the B.C. did not use the four Bs, it included a similar theme. None of the eight additional documents contained references to "developing bits."

Keirstead said the Forces are developing new standardized guidance on dress, since the document in St. John's was locally produced in 2014 and revised several times without "sufficient review." He said the national organization is also coming up with a way of looking at materials developed by particular sea, air and land cadet squadrons.

"We're also strengthening procedures to ensure proper review of locally produced documents and ensuring that cadet instructors receive sensitivity training," he said.

harjit sajjan
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan condemned a document containing the inappropriate language in September. (Photo: Getty Images)

"There are almost 8,000 cadet instructors working in these communities across the country and as a result of this situation, we're going to take steps to ensure they have some guidance and support in order to prevent an inappropriate situation like this from happening in the future."

Keirstead said any references to the four Bs have been removed.

In September, Sajjan issued a strongly worded statement condemning the 510 Lions squadron document, saying "this kind of language and the attitudes it represents are completely unacceptable in the cadets, in the Canadian Armed Forces and in our society."

Document sent a bad message to young girls

He went on to say that "this shaming of young women is offensive to me as a person, as a father and as the minister of national defence."

The document spelled out guidelines for acceptable hair, makeup and body piercings.

Brig.-Gen. Kelly Woiden, commander of the national cadet program, rescinded the document and said it sent a bad message to young girls interested in joining the program, which has about 53,000 cadets between the ages of 12 and 18 and is designed to teach youth how to become good citizens.

The revelation came at a time when the Canadian Forces was stepping up efforts to stamp out what retired justice Marie Deschamps described as an "underlying sexual culture" in the military.

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