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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
— With files from the Canadian Press