(Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Hairy mission: Canadian military eases restrictions on beards in uniform

The move is effective immediately and hopes to modernize the military for the 21st century

The Canadian Armed Forces have been in a lot of hairy situations over the years, but is taking that notion in a totally different direction by officially easing its restrictions on beards while in uniform.

The move announced Wednesday, and effective immediately, follows other recent attempts by senior officers to modernize the military for the 21st century — and in the process increase recruitment and improve morale.

Previously, beards were only allowed for a small segment of the military population — notably sailors on shore duty and members of a specific infantry unit thanks to historical precedent — or because of religious or medical reasons.

There will still be some restrictions: unit commanders, for example, will be able to order troops to be clean shaven for safety reasons, such as if personnel are operating in places where they might need gas masks.

Sailors deployed on ships will also continue to be required to keep their five o’clock shadow under control for the same reason, as they need to be prepared to don firefighting equipment in the event of an emergency.

And anyone whose ability to grow facial hair is more akin to Sidney Crosby during the NHL playoffs than Joe Thornton will be required to shave off what the commanders have described as “unsuccessful attempts to grow a beard.”

Sorry, Sid.

Otherwise, all service members will be permitted to sport beards provided they are neatly trimmed, worn with a moustache and no more than two centimetres in bulk.

Sorry, Joe.

The decision to allow beards followed nearly two years of consultations with service members who repeatedly questioned the restrictions, said Chief Warrant Officer Alain Guimond, the military’s top non-commissioned officer.

“We were getting for a good year-and-a-half to two years questions as to why they weren’t allowed,” Guimond said in an interview. “It is 2018. That culture, it’s okay if we change it so we keep our people happier.”

At the same time, Guimond acknowledged the hope that the change would result in more Canadians considering a career in the Forces, which has been working overtime to recruit — and retain — more service members.

“The word was there that in the army, the beard was not allowed. What we are basically doing is opening the doors a little bit more.”

Yet senior commanders felt some restrictions needed to remain in place to balance what troops wanted with the need to ensure service members remain safe and operations are not negatively affected.

The new policy on beards comes weeks after the military released guidance on when troops can use marijuana and opted to stop forcing soldiers to buy their own boots. It is also pushing to be more inclusive and diverse.

The decision sparked mixed reactions Wednesday from service members and veterans on social media, with some praising the move as long overdue even as others worried the military would look less professional.

While he said he had heard only praise for the move, Guimond predicted it could be years before beards become commonplace in the Forces — and admitted that he won’t be growing out his own whiskers.

“It’s my personality,” he said. “Even on the weekend, when I don’t work, I shave in the morning.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

WATCH: Video shows Kelowna bylaw officers throwing away items belonging to homeless

The video, which was uploaded to Facebook on Dec. 4, has drawn the ire of many local residents

Kelowna man loses appeal claiming he was too drunk to murder his roommate

Daniel Ruff will remain behind bars and is ineligible for parole until 2027

Supportive housing complex for women and seniors’ home approved in Glenmore area

32 townhouses for women fleeing violence and a 162-unit seniors home are planned for the site

Rich the Kid cancels hours before Kelowna debut

Rich the Kid is currently on his ‘I Need A Grammy Tour’

Major development proposed for Black Mountain area

The proposal includes plans for condos, child care centre, assisted living facility, grocery store

VIDEO: A brief history of bumps in the Trudeau-Trump relationship

Remember Peter Navarro saying ‘there’s a special place in hell’ for a foreign leader who aims to cheat?

Half of shoppers say they have no holiday spending budget

B.C. consumers surveyed estimate they will spend $921 this season

Grandparents raising children: Salmon Arm grandma sees need for support

Peer group formed for those who have unexpectedly taken on the role of parenting

Man sentenced in Salmon Arm to one year in jail for luring adolescent girls

Offence took place online, sentence conditions include restrictions on contact with people under 16

COLUMN: Light holiday movies, filmed here in B.C.

How is it possible to come up with so many holiday-themed movie scripts each year?

Penny the Vernon pitbull works on her fitness

BC SPCA Vernon celebrates Penny’s milestones on social media

Shooting victim’s son-in-law sentenced for vandalizing B.C. home of alleged killer’s wife

Zachary Charles Steele, son-in-law to Rudi Winter, pleaded guilty to mischief over $5,000

Falkland shootout suspect has lengthy criminal record

Williams Lake RCMP issued a warrant for Darwyn Sellars’ arrest on Nov. 4, 2019

Most Read