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McGill drops controversial Redmen name

WATCH: Effective immediately, McGill University's men's sports teams will no longer be known as the "Redmen.” McGill principal Suzanne Fortier explains the reason why the name needs to change. Global's Amanda Jelowicki has more.

McGill University is dropping the Redmen name from its men’s varsity teams, effective immediately.

Suzanne Fortier, principal and vice-chancellor, made the announcement via a communique sent out Friday morning.

READ MORE: McGill University to announce decision on Redmen team name in January

Fortier said it wasn’t a decision she made lightly, taking time to reflect on the various perspectives from McGill’s community.

“Many people sent messages directly to me; others made their voices heard by writing to members of McGill’s senior leadership or through open letters, votes, petitions and other means,” she said. “I have read all these messages and I am grateful to the hundreds of people who shared their views.”

The Redmen name first came into usage in the 1920s as a tribute to the teams’ red uniforms. In the 1950s, however, the men’s and women’s teams were given nicknames that are considered derogatory toward Indigenous Peoples, and various McGill teams later adopted a logo with an Indigenous man wearing a headdress in the 1980s and early 1990s.

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READ MORE: McGill postpones decision on changing controversial Redmen team name

In a November referendum, 79 per cent of students supported abandoning the Redmen name. The vote followed a campaign by Indigenous staff and students to drop the name, which they consider derogatory.

WATCH (Nov. 13, 2018): McGill urged to change team name

McGill University urged to change team name
McGill University urged to change team name

Ultimately, Fortier agreed, saying it was not a name the university would choose today and that it would not be carried forward.

“McGill did not adopt the Redmen name as a reference to North American Indigenous Peoples,” she said.

“However, the name has been associated with Indigenous Peoples at different points in our history. Today, ‘Redmen’ is widely acknowledged as an offensive term for Indigenous Peoples, as evidenced by major English dictionaries.  While this derogatory meaning of the word does not reflect the beliefs of generations of McGill athletes who have proudly competed wearing the university’s colours, we cannot ignore this contemporary understanding.”

Reaction to the news has been split on social media, with many applauding the move and others accusing the university of bowing to pressure to be politically correct.

“A profoundly eloquent answer to a deeply complex issue,” wrote Twitter user @mariedlefebvre in a thread on McGill’s Twitter feed. I am proud to be a part of the McGill alumni community and will happily keep on cheering for the McGill teams, whatever their future chosen name.”

“Fortier is wrong — cowardly submission to pc-ness.” @alexsimonelis wrote.

At McGill, there is support for the decision.
“I completely understand why they had to get rid of it,” said first-year student Anna Walton. “I am quite mad that it took so long. I really don’t think that the legacy of McGill sports teams deserve to have that much time to go over.”
Education pofessor Allison Gonsalves was of the same opinion.
“I am sad that it took so long and there was so much controversy around it, but it was the right thing to do.”
For the 2019-20 athletic season, the men’s varsity teams will be known as the McGill teams. The university has promised to come up with a new name in time for the 2020-21 season.
“It has been a very divisive question around our community, so being able to move forward and look to the future is very important,” Fabric Lebeau, the university’s deputy provost said.
Lebeau has been tasked with putting together a steering committee on the name change.

McGill football player Maxime Bernatchez said the new name can’t come soon enough.

“I think they should have let us keep our name until they find something else,” he said. “It’s pretty ordinary to be forced to have no name for the next season.”

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— With files from the Canadian Press

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