CAF issues updated policy on tattoos

On Aug. 12, 2019, the Canadian Armed Forces issued a Direction and Guidance to update the current tattoo policy for members. Photo: Cpl Jean Archambault, 17 Wing Winnipeg WG2014-0388-059 ~ Le 12 aout 2019, les Forces armées canadiennes ont publié de nouvelles directives concernant les tatouages afin de mettre à jour la politique actuelle sur les tatouages pour les militaires. Photo : Cpl Jean Archambault, 17e Escadre Winnipeg WG2014-0388-059


On Aug. 12, 2019, the Canadian Armed Forces issued a Direction and Guidance (internal link) to update the current tattoo policy for members.

The Canadian Armed Forces continues efforts to attract, recruit, train, and retain the right people with the necessary skills and abilities to ensure operational effectiveness through a diverse and inclusive workforce. The tattoo policy was updated to reflect the more mainstream acceptance by Canadian society of body art. The updated policy expands the eligibility of suitable applicants interested in joining the Canadian Armed Forces, while also respecting the rights of others in the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces to work in a non-discriminatory and harassment-free environment.

“As the Canadian Armed Forces Chief Warrant Officer, I’m always observing who we are as a force and how well we are reflecting those we serve. Tattoos are more and more mainstream in Canada and that’s what this policy update is all about. Greater control over your personal appearance is good for the morale of our people and it helps us attract future members to our team,” Chief Warrant Officer Guimond said. “As part of the CAF leadership, I’m proud of how we are modernizing our work culture and we will continue to do so.”

The new policy states that tattoos are now only prohibited on the face and the scalp. Members can request an accommodation if they have, or intend to have, cultural or religious-based tattoos on the face and scalp. Exceptions are also being made for cosmetic tattoos that are natural looking in shape and colour.

Restrictions include tattoos displaying any connection with criminal activity, nudity, or promoting or expressing hatred, violence, discrimination, or harassment on the grounds prohibited by the Canadian Human Rights Act.

In order to be eligible for enrolment, recruits are subject to the same rules on tattoos as existing members. Any non-compliance with the policy can result in administrative and disciplinary measures.

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