Royal Canadian Navy Adopts More Inclusive Rank Designation


**** RCN Media Release

Royal Canadian Navy Adopts More Inclusive Rank Designation

The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) is continuing to work to create a more inclusive environment within the workplaces, whether that is at sea or at home. Following survey with over 18,000 respondents, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) has chosen a new English rank designation for its junior ranks that will result in more gender-neutral terms than the current titles, which are not reflective of the modern, progressive Service that is the RCN today.

The RCN’s junior ranks will soon be known as Sailor Third Class (formerly Ordinary Seaman), Sailor Second Class (formerly Able Seaman), Sailor First Class (formerly Leading Seaman), and Master Sailor (formerly Master Seaman).

These changes help retain the history of these roles and aligns the English rank designation with the existing ranks in French. These new rank designations will be effective upon the issuance of a CANFORGEN in early September. At that point, the junior ranks will begin referring to shipmates using the new rank designations.

By ensuring that the RCN continues to be an accepting and inclusive organization, we can demonstrate to Canadians that we uphold the values they hold as the RCN continues to protect them, both at home and abroad.


“By adopting gender neutral designation for junior members of the Royal Canadian Navy, we demonstrate to all Canadians that the Canadian Armed Forces will welcome anybody who wants to serve their country and uphold the values of inclusion and diversity. We will continue to work to build a diverse force that is representative of the Canadians they protect.”

The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence

“The Royal Canadian Navy, our senior service, continues to adapt to better reflect Canadian society. Today’s announcement of changes to junior ranks nomenclature is just one example of how we continue to work to remove barriers to a more inclusive Canadian Armed Forces.”​

General Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff

“The Defence Team is delighted to hear that the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) has changed the rank names of the most junior sailors for more gender inclusive rank names. This initiative is another important step for all members of our Defence family members to be recognized and proudly serve in the RCN.”

Jody Thomas, Deputy Minister of National Defence

“The Royal Canadian Navy has profited immensely from the dialogue regarding the rank change initiative this summer. We emerge from it with a greater insight into who we are, including the sobering reality that we all need to do more – individually and collectively – to be diverse, inclusive, and welcoming. More positively, we can now take satisfaction in knowing that through this initiative we have taken another important and far from symbolic incremental step in ensuring that the RCN remains the modern Service that all shipmates deserve – indeed, that our nation deserves.”

Vice-Admiral Art McDonald, Commander Royal Canadian Navy

Quick Facts

  • In an effort to ensure that this new rank designation reflects the thoughts and ideals of the Royal Canadian Navy, and Canadians, a survey was completed internally and externally, the results of which helped to inform decision making for this new designation.

  • The decision for the new rank designation was shaped by the clear preference of the junior ranks for sailor classes. Further, this new English designation aligns with the existing designations in French.

  • ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​This rank change represents an opportunity to reinforce our commitment to be an inclusive, diverse, gender-neutral, welcoming and safe organization.

  • Diversity and inclusion are viewed as a source of strength and flexibility, and play a pivotal role in making the RCN a modern, forward-looking organization. To achieve that objective, the RCN is committed to increasing diversity and promoting inclusiveness amongst its personnel.​

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