This is a developing story and will be updated as new information becomes available.
On Friday, April 12, Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier formally announced through an email to the school community that McGill will officially change the name of the university’s male athletics teams.
This decision comes after months of student advocacy as part of the Change the Name campaign, where McGill students and community members protested against the name for carrying offensive connotations for Indigenous students. In October, the McGill student body also voted overwhelmingly in favour of changing the name in a SSMU referendum.
In her announcement, Fortier insisted that the name was not originally a reference to Indigenous communities, but acknowledged that “Today, ‘Redmen’ is widely acknowledged as an offensive term for Indigenous peoples.”
“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,” Fortier explained, “we cannot ignore this contemporary understanding. Intention, however benign, does not negate prejudicial effect.” Fortier described the university’s core values as inclusion and respect, writing that “pejoratives run contrary to who we are as a community.”
We cannot ignore this contemporary understanding. Intention, however benign, does not negate prejudicial effect.
She described the process behind making the final decision, noting that she worked closely with McGill’s Working Group on Principles of Commemoration and Renaming. Fortier also described the nature of the messages that she received from McGill students and alumni on both sides of the debate that informed her decision.
The Redmen name is not one that our community would choose today, and it is not one that McGill should carry forward into our third century.
On one hand, Fortier expressed recognition of the pride and attachment that current and past athletes feel in regards to their traditional team name. Conversely, she described messages, most notably from Indigenous students at McGill, who shared their experiences of alienation resulting from the name. Fortier acknowledged that the name caused Indigenous students to feel “disrespected and unconsidered,” and conflicted about their identity as an Indigenous person at McGill. Having listened to the concerns of these students, Fortier asserted that “the Redmen name is not one that our community would choose today, and it is not one that McGill should carry forward into our third century.”
The name change will be effective immediately. Fortier noted that the men’s varsity teams will simply be known as the “McGill” teams for the upcoming athletic season. An official re-naming committee will have until the 2020-2021 season to find a new team name.