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Canadian military trims restrictions on beards amid push to modernize forces

Canadian troops arrive to a UN base in Gao, Mali, June 25, 2018. .
Canadian troops arrive to a UN base in Gao, Mali, June 25, 2018. . THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA – While the Canadian Armed Forces has been in a lot of hairy situations over the years, it’s taking that notion in a different direction by officially easing its restrictions on beards while in uniform.

The move is effective immediately and follows other recent attempts by senior commanders to modernize the military for the 21st century – and in the process increase recruitment and improve morale.

READ MORE: Canada’s Armed Forces, struggling to hit diversity goals, turns to new digital recruiting tools

Previously, beards were only allowed for a small segment of the military population – notably sailors and members of a specific infantry unit – or because of religious or medical reasons.

Unit commanders will still 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.

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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.

The decision to allow beards follows consultations with service members who repeatedly raised the issue with senior commanders, and comes weeks after the military released a new marijuana policy and opted to stop forcing soldiers to buy their own boots.