New Iron Ring ritual embeds best of original into modernized ceremony, Wardens say

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Following years of calls to modernize the Canadian Iron Ring ceremony for graduating engineers, which has been criticized for being outdated and non-inclusive, the ceremony’s governing body has now decided to keep the “best elements” of the traditional ritual and “embed them in a modernized ceremony.” 

The ceremony has drawn criticism in recent years over what some have seen as colonialism, racism, sexism, and a Christian religious leaning to the nature of the ritual text authored by Rudyard Kipling in the early 1920s. Others have criticized the ceremony for its secrecy and exclusion of family and friends from participating.  

Many engineering associations and bodies across Canada wrote to the Corporation of the Seven Wardens, which oversees the ceremony, in the fall of 2022 calling for change in a 30-page letter entitled “Retool the Ring”.  

In spring 2023, the Wardens took several actions. First, they issued a submissions call for one new English poem and one new French poem as replacements for the Kipling text, and to help mark the 100th anniversary of the ceremony in 2025. Second, they instructed all 28 Camps across Canada to use a modified (interim) version of the Ritual. Lastly, the Wardens began opening up more of the ceremonies to family and friends of participants. 

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According to the Corporation of the Seven Wardens, a new advisory panel was selected in January 2024 to provide additional guidance to the Ritual Review Committee.  

“A short list of potential authors for the new text has been prepared and preliminary contact has been made with some authors,” the Wardens announced in a March 11 statement. “The committee is striving to involve a variety of Canadian voices in preparing the new ceremony. It is envisaged that one additional author will be required to tie the old and new text together and make sure the ceremony is cohesive.”  

The Wardens update noted that a new framework for the ceremony has been developed. It will keep traditional elements like the Obligation and the presentation of the rings. New text will emphasize the history of the ceremony, the values being promoted, and their application to modern engineering, the Wardens statement continued.  

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