July 25, 2019 9:09 pm
Updated: July 26, 2019 2:36 am

B.C. family says cadet grooming policy discriminates against boys

WATCH: A B.C. family says cadet grooming policy discriminates against boys. Megan Turcato has more.

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More than 50,000 Canadian kids participate in cadets.

For boys, joining the popular youth program means keeping their hair short.

However, that dress code is being question by a Shuswap family who believe the rule discriminates against boys.

Dani Hickman says her son, Gerrit, took to air cadets right away.

READ MORE: A preview of the HMCS Ontario Cadet Training Centre’s summer programme

The only problem was his long hair. It didn’t conform to cadet dress standards for boys.

“He didn’t want to cut his hair. His hair has been a part of who he is for quite some time,” Hickman said.

However, Gerrit asked for and received a trial exemption.

Gerrit Hickman,13, participated in cadets over the past year by conforming to the dress standard for girls.

Courtesy: Dani Hickman

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Last year, the grade seven student was able to participate in his local squadron in Salmon Arm without chopping off his locks.

Instead, he followed the grooming rules set for female cadets when he was in uniform.

“I would braid it and loop it back up and tie it so it met that standard. Gerrit’s dress was impeccable,” Hickman said.

“We knew at the beginning it was just a local exemption and that if he did get accepted to…summer training, that he would have to cut his hair.”

His mother says that’s exactly what happened.

The family wrote to the Department of National Defence, hoping Gerrit might be able to keep his hair and attend the training course in Esquimalt.

However, the letter they received back did not offer any leeway, so Gerrit got his hair cut.

Gerrit and his twin brother left for summer training together after Gerrit decided to cut his hair to attend the course.

Courtesy: Dani Hickman

“He couldn’t even look in the mirror once it was done. Every time [the hair stylist] turned the chair around to the mirror, he would close his eyes,” Hickman said.

“He just said ‘Thank you’ and left. He was pretty upset.”

Now the family is hoping to see the rules changed for all cadets.

“Gerrit’s whole point is if girls can have long hair, why can’t he? It is gender inequality and he doesn’t understand what the big deal is,” Hickman said.

The commanding officer for cadets in B.C. said Gerrit’s stand is a good example of the active community participation cadets promote.

“I think what this cadet has done is an exemplary example of being involved, having a view, being willing to stand up for his beliefs and we encourage that,” Cdr. Brad Henderson said.

“I applaud him for that. I also applaud him for taking advantage of the opportunity he was given and adhering to the rules. He was given an answer to his request and he accepted that answer.”

READ MORE: Cadets converge on Vernon for summer training

Commander Henderson defends the cadets grooming policy.

“[The policy] is designed to give us a standard of excellence that everyone can be proud of and be measured against. That allows cadets to have a feeling of belonging because they are considered over the same standard,” Henderson said.

Hickman said her son is not against grooming standards, but would like to see separate grooming rules for those with long hair and cadets with short hair, rather than having different rules for boys and girls.

“I’m hoping for more gender equality because that is really what this is about,” Hickman said.

It’s not clear if there will be more hair cuts in Gerrit’s future.

Cadets said dress standards can be reassessed if the concern is submitted to its dress committee through the proper channels.

WATCH: (April 6, 2019) Cadets honour Canadian soldiers at the Battle of Vimy Ridge

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