Response to McGill’s “Next Steps Regarding the ‘R-e-d-m-e-n’ [Men’s Varsity Teams’] Name”

Response to McGill’s “Next Steps Regarding the ‘R-e-d-m-e-n’ [Men’s Varsity Teams’] Name”

The next step is to change the name. The first step should have been to change the name. The only step with regards to this decision is to change the name, and it is a step should have been taken years ago. The University’s decision to continue to delay and postpone this step is disappointing. It contradicts McGill’s core Principles of equity and inclusiveness and does a disservice to the notion that McGill is fully committed to “pursu[ing] an unedited truth about its historical and contemporary relationship with First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples to meaningfully inform its goal of reconciliation.”

This November, undergraduate students voted resoundingly in favour of a name change. Almost two thousand students signed on to the SSMU’s open letter, over one hundred professors released a letter of their own, and the executives of the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) and the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) also firmly stated their support. Additionally, there are an over 10,000 signatures on a public petition from people who did not feel the need to wait longer and further deliberate over what McgIll’s values of equity and inclusiveness demand in this situation.       

The Change the Name initiative made every effort to run a thoughtful, informed, and robust campaign.  Through a series of demonstrations, educational events, personal accounts, and one-on-one conversations, the Change the Name campaign provided students and others in our community with a chance to learn about the history and impacts of the men’s varsity athletics team name.

Generations of Indigenous students at McGill have completed emotionally taxing and unfair labour, putting themselves and their identities on the line for the sake of a more equitable and inclusive campus.  We all ought to reflect on the deep injustice that the brunt of the work to change McGill’s racist sports team name has been shouldered by the very targets of this racism. Instead of recognizing this and choosing to begin easing this burden, the University has actively chosen to prolong it. It has chosen to prolong the feelings of isolation, anxiety, and discomfort experienced by Indigenous students on account of this name, and it has chosen to defer an opportunity to take responsibility for its actions and to deconstruct stereotypes in our community. As such, this decision also contradicts McGill’s core Principles of integrity and responsibility.

It is worth noting our support for the Principal’s decision not to hand this off to another committee. There is no need for another committee on this subject. Two years ago, the Provost’s Task Force on Indigenous Studies and Education recognized the “pressing importance for the future of moving forward under a McGill team name that breaks with the associations that ‘Redmen’ evokes in contemporary society.” That the Principal has taken responsibility for this decision—even if late—is a valued and welcomed step. Even more noteworthy is the Principal’s commitment to be “guided by the principles set forth in the Report of the Working Group on Principles of Commemoration and Renaming.” Finally, McGill has kept to both dates it has set this year on this subject: The Working Group submitted its report by December 6th and the University followed up on next steps in January. As such, we encourage students and other stakeholders to continue submitting feedback ahead of the University’s announcement by the last day of classes, April 12, 2019.  

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