An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
BRITISH COLUMBIA’S MARCH toward gender-neutral language in our laws continues, with another 741 instances of “outdated” references removed from 138 regulations.
That brings the total to 1,300 since the provincial government embarked on its ‘Better Regulations for British Columbians” program of purging the language.
Mostly, it involves words like “he,” “she,” “himself” and “herself” but also includes “aunt,” “father” and “son.”
Many years ago, in journalism, there was sensitivity around the constant use of “he” or “him” when everybody knew darn well there were two genders. So, instead of sentences such as, “Each candidate must file his papers before the deadline,” some news outlets began writing, “Each candidate must file their papers before the deadline.”
Since that was grammatically incorrect, I always preferred, “Each candidate must file his or her papers before the deadline.”
Anyway, I have no objections at all to the change from two genders to none in legislation. As a government news release said, such changes help Two-Spirit, trans and non-binary people “recognize themselves in the law.”
But the exercise has now extended beyond gender issues. What was once commonly called “substance abuse” will now be known simply as “substance use.” It’s “more inclusive.”
There’s been a well-intentioned effort for some time to redefine how we refer to people with substance addictions, on the grounds of reducing stigma.
I wonder, though, whether we’re going too far in nixing “substance abuse” in favour of “substance use.” You and I “use” substances, including drugs, for all kinds of things ranging from headache tablets to doctor’s prescriptions for high blood pressure.
“Abuse” is defined as “the improper use of something.” Like alcohol or drugs. “Substance abuse” refers to over-indulgence or dependence on addictive substances. Such abuse doesn’t automatically make anyone a bad person, nor should the word “abuse” add to the stigma of addictions. It just means some people use drugs improperly, as opposed to those who use drugs properly.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.