Change the Name!

The McGill Daily - - Contents -

Con­tent warn­ing: anti-in­dige­nous slurs, racism

Ademon­stra­tion call­ing for the change of the “R*dmen” name, which cur­rently des­ig­nates all Mcgill men’s var­sity teams, will be held at Mil­ton Gates on Oc­to­ber 31 at 2 p.m. This protest, or­ga­nized by SSMU In­dige­nous Af­fairs, fol­lows a broader move­ment on cam­pus led by Kainai Na­tion and Black­foot Con­fed­er­acy mem­ber To­mas Jirousek. He is the SSMU In­dige­nous Af­fairs Com­mis­sioner and a stu­dent ath­lete on the var­sity row­ing team. He ex­plained to The Mcgill Daily that the “Change the Name” cam­paign will “serve as an op­por­tu­nity for In­dige­nous stu­dents and our al­lies to ex­press our de­sire to change the R*dmen name on the ba­sis of its of­fen­sive and pe­jo­ra­tive con­no­ta­tion.”

Since the 1920s, the men’s var­sity teams’ name has been the R*dmen. The Mcgill athletics web­site hosts a page ded­i­cated to the “Ori­gins of the R*dmen name,” which states that the name al­legedly refers to “Celts [and their red hair] in honour of James Mcgill’s Scots’ de­scent.” Ad­di­tion­ally, an ar­ti­cle pub­lished by The Mon­treal Gazette claimed that R*dmen came about as a ref­er­ence to the univer­sity’s dom­i­nant colour – “red hel­mets, red sweaters and red trousers, [...] R*dmen is a nod to school, not skin, colour. If the Mcgill R*dmen are guilty of any­thing, it’s only by as­so­ci­a­tion.” The ar­gu­ments above show a clear dis­in­ter­est in the harm that this name has caused, and con­tin­ues to cause, In­dige­nous stu­dents.

In 1947, Mcgill var­sity teams adopted “a new logo for the team that in­cor­rectly as­so­ci­ated a na­tive con­no­ta­tion to the name,” as the Mcgill Athletics page in­sists. This was wors­ened in 1982, when a “newer styl­ized na­tive logo was adopted de­pict­ing a na­tive per­son wear­ing a head­dress.” This logo was only re­moved from the var­sity teams’ hel­met in 1992 fol­low­ing out­cry. The Mcgill var­sity teams have also been re­ferred to as the “Mcgill In­di­ans,” “the tribe,” or “squ*ws.” Vanessa Racine, an In­dige­nous stu­dent who plays on the Mcgill Mart­let rugby team, told the Daily that “peo­ple us­ing the ‘his­tory of the name’ as an ex­cuse to keep it both­ers me. It’s been used with a racist logo and in quotes such as ‘scalp­ing R*dmen.’ When it’s as­so­ci­ated with racist slang for so long, its se­man­tics change and it be­comes an­other stereo­typ­i­cal racist name that’s harm­ful to In­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties.”

In 2017, the fi­nal re­port of the Task Force on In­dige­nous Stud­ies and In­dige­nous Ed­u­ca­tion urged for the Univer­sity to im­me­di­ately “be­gin a process of con­sul­ta­tion in­side Mcgill [...] with the goal of re­nam­ing Mcgill male var­sity teams.” The ad­min­is­tra­tion launched a Work­ing Group on Prin­ci­ples of Com­mem­o­ra­tion and Re­nam­ing that aimed to es­tab­lish a broad process for re­nam­ing at Mcgill, rather than di­rectly ad­dress­ing the is­sue. The fi­nal re­port from this work­ing group will not be pub­lished un­til De­cem­ber, fur­ther de­lay­ing this process.

In ad­di­tion to the demon­stra­tion, SSMU In­dige­nous Af­fairs is­sued an open let­ter to the Univer­sity call­ing for the change of the name. They also started an on­line pe­ti­tion, which has re­ceived 5,000 signatures as of Oc­to­ber 26. In an email ad­dressed to stu­dents, Provost Man­fredi “re­gret­ted” the “un­for­tu­nate” anti-in­dige­nous mean­ing the name has come to bear and went on to praise the “pride and honour” Mcgill ath­letes have brought to the Univer­sity un­der the name. A SSMU stu­dent ref­er­en­dum con­cern­ing the change of the name will take place mid-novem­ber. How­ever, the ul­ti­mate de­ci­sion be­longs to the Mcgill ad­min­is­tra­tion, which has failed to ac­knowl­edge the im­por­tance and ur­gency of the is­sue.

To only fo­cus on the al­legedly harm­less ori­gin of the name and dis­re­gard more than 60 years of its ac­tively racist mean­ing is un­ac­cept­able. Chang­ing the var­sity team name is a cru­cial step in ad­dress­ing Mcgill’s colo­nial and racist his­tory. Join the demon­stra­tion at 2 p.m. on Oc­to­ber 31.

* The Mcgill Daily’s Ed­i­to­rial Board de­cided to cen­sor “R* dmen” to ac­knowl­edge that it is not our place to use the term.

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