(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

RCMP ‘desperate’ for clues in case of missing Parksville mom

Carmel Gilmour was last seen more than a year ago

Mental health issue suspected after spike belts end car chase from Parksville

Woman in her 30s from the Nanaimo area detained in Lantzville after Tuesday afternoon incident

Parksville Qualicum Beach drivers reminded to be aware of possible icy road conditions

Shaded areas, bridge decks and corners are common areas where slippery conditions can occur

Multiple Parksville resorts report stolen Christmas decorations

Oceanside RCMP say three thefts likely occurred on same night

Winds of up to 90 km/hr predicted to hit Vancouver Island

Environment Canada is warning that loose objects may cause damage

VIDEO: Close encounter with a whale near Canada-U.S border

Ron Gillies had his camera ready when a whale appeared Dec. 7

B.C. Lions hire DeVone Claybrooks as head coach

Former Stampeders DC succeeds CFL legend Wally Buono

Boy with terminal disease gets his wish – a trip to Disneyland – but family still looking for support

Kaleb Francis, 4, was diagnosed last month with X-linked myotubular myopathy

B.C. city considers scrapping funds for Christmas decorations

Victoria city coun. Ben Isitt doesn’t think the government should pay for any religious symbols

Prosecution in Colin John murder trial wrapping up in Duncan

John on trial for stabbing death in Chemainus in 2016

Out of the doghouse: B.C. city lifts ban on pup who barked too much at dog park

Cameron the Shetland sheepdog is allowed back into Uplands off-leash dog park under some conditions.

France shooting: 2 dead, several wounded in Strasbourg

A world-famous Christmas market was put on lock down on Tuesday

B.C. man wants trapping laws changed after dog killed

Louis Seguin’s 10-month-old Australian shepherd died in a body-gripping trap last month

Most Read