‘Language matters’: B.C. government replaces 600 clauses in 70 laws and regulations with gender-neutral terms

'Language matters': B.C. government replaces 600 clauses in 70 laws and regulations with gender-neutral terms
Province of BC

The B.C. government has announced some sweeping changes to the language used across 70 laws and regulations in an effort to move towards social acceptance and legal clarity.

This week, the provincial government replaced more than 600 instances of gendered language in a variety of laws, including the Family Law Act and Employment Standards.

Pronouns, like “he” or “she,” have been updated with gender-neutral alternatives while familial relationships, like “sister” and “brother” will use the term “sibling.”

The government says that these changes help ensure that all British Columbians have “equal access to government services,” no matter their sexual orientation, gender identity, race or cultural beliefs.

“Language matters. It allows people to feel recognized and affirmed,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation. “By upholding inclusive language, our government is taking steps to protect British Columbians’ human rights. We believe outdated language that prevents people from being seen for who they are should be removed to help tackle gender bias.”

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Terms such as “husband” and “wife” will be replaced by “spouse” and gendered terms like “man-made” will become “human-made.” The government says that the changes to change to more inclusive language acknowledges gender equity and diversity.

“These amendments are an important step forward as we continue to build an inclusive British Columbia by reframing the language we use,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Finance. “It is our goal to remove barriers that stop people from reaching their full potential. This includes updating regulations, policies and programs to reflect all British Columbians.”

In an effort to be more inclusive and accessible, the B.C. government has established a parliamentary secretary for gender equity and a Gender Equity Office that works across government to ensure equity-based principles are reflected in budgets, policies and programs.

“These important updates signal that all folks across gender diversity are valued in our social fabric here in B.C.,” said Elijah Zimmerman, executive director, Victoria Sexual Assault Centre. “Being intentional with inclusive language is a form of welcoming and belonging, and a positive step toward uplifting gender-diverse experiences.”

The government says changing gendered language in B.C.’s policies will be an ongoing process over the coming months. The 600 “outdated” terms that have been converted is the start of a process to remove a remaining estimated 3,400 instances of gendered language in legislation, laws and regulations.

These changes came into effect on Thursday, March 11, 2021.

Graham CoxGraham Cox

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