McGill student fights to remove the name 'Redmen' from university's sports teams
Published Tuesday, October 16, 2018 5:37PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, October 16, 2018 8:19PM EDT
A first-year McGill student is taking on the university, asking that it remove the term ‘Redmen’ from its sports teams.
Tomas Jirousek is a member of the rowing team and said the term Redmen is derogatory and hurtful.
“It hurts to think about all the Indigenous athletes that have been hurt by the Redmen name,” he said, adding that the university needs to take action.
Jirousek says it's been decades of damage, and the university needs to take action.
“The university hasn't adequately recognized the history, damage that was done to the Indigenous people, and the fact is the continued usage of the Redmen name just continues perpetuating damage towards Indigenous people,” he said.
The name Redmen has been around since the late 1920's.
The university said it originated as a reference to the colour worn by the team, but acknowledges Indigenous symbols and connotations were attached to the name over the years.
"Much like many other universities in North Americam McGill is criticially examining issues linking to naming or renaming of assets, teams or programs,” said Fabrice Labeau, McGill’s interim deputy provost, in a statement. “We recognize and regret any harm the unfortunate association of athletic team nicknames to Indigenous cultures during this period may have caused to our indigenous communities."
A McGill university task force on Indigenous studies launched in 2016 recommended changing the Redmen name, but the university said more studies are being done and it's not prepared to make a decision yet.
Town halls are planned to open a dialogue, and a schoolwide vote on the issue is taking place in November.
“We've had Indigenous logos on jerseys, we've had Indigenous logos on helmets, we've had depictions in school yearbooks of Indigenous people being scalped,” said Jirousek. “There is no way to separate the Redmen name and indigenous identity.”
Jirousek has a demonstration planned for Oct. 31.