North Cowichan will begin using gender-neutral language and pronouns in all its official documents, social media content and written communications.
Council unanimously made the decision to switch to using gender-neutral language at its meeting on Sept. 21 after Coun. Rosalie Sawrie put forward the motion.
Language that is gender-neutral avoids bias towards a particular sex or social gender; like using chairperson instead of chairman, firefighter as opposed to fireman, flight attendant rather than stewardess/steward and actor instead of actor/actress.
Sawrie said she hadn’t recognized that the municipality was using gender-specific pronouns in all its documents until she was reading a report earlier this month.
“It occurred to me that this is something that we should address,” she said.
“Language does influence how we think. I think this is an important step in promoting inclusiveness and diversity.”
Sawrie said everyone should be free to consider themselves in any role held by the municipality regardless of gender, and that begins with how these roles are represented publicly.
“Using gender-neutral language will provide the opportunity for everyone to feel included in participating in municipal business, engagement and any other general interactions,” she said.
Coun. Kate Marsh asked if Sawrie’s intention is for the municipality to go back over all its bylaws, policies and reports and change them to contain gender-neutral language.
“I wonder how much staff time would it take to do that?” Marsh asked.
When Sawrie said the intent of her motion is to have the changes to the documents done only when they are being edited, Marsh said she was 100 per cent behind it.
Coun. Christopher Justice said he thinks it has become evident that it is now recognized that gender-neutral language is a good step toward inclusiveness.
“For example, using ‘they’ when referring to people is a good solution to the linguistic problem of including all gender possibilities,” he said.