'Time for a change': N.S. school to drop Redmen name amid concerns about cultural sensitivity
For as long as there's been a boy's hockey team at Riverview High School in Coxheath, N.S., they've been called the Redmen.
“I’ve always liked the name Redmen,” said Grade 10 student Alex MacKinnon. “I don't have a problem with it, honestly. I mean, I can see how it could be offensive to some people, but I haven't heard anyone complain about it.”
But soon, the name will be no more.
The school board explained in a statement Wednesday: “The history of the name ‘Riverview Redmen’ in the beginning did not refer to First Nations people, however it did refer to the jersey colour and the candy cane socks. Initially, when the name was created, a consultation process occurred with community leaders from our First Nations communities. At that time the name was not found to be offensive. However, as we move forward the school recognizes that the name can be offensive and it is time for a re-branding process of all team names to occur.”
Barry Bernard is co-ordinator of Mi'kmaq services for the school board.
“It's time for a change,” he said.
He admits that during a recent consultation process, there haven't really been any complaints.
“Every single person that I interviewed -- whether it be an elder, a former hockey player, or a former student -- they all said the same thing, that the name is about the colours. It's about the red and white colours.”
Several pro sports teams have come under recent fire for names that no longer fly. The Cleveland Indians turfed their infamous Chief Wahoo logo. Football's Washington Redskins won a legal fight to keep their moniker, though many still oppose it.
“In terms of Washington Redskins, it's going to take some time for that one to change,” Bernard said. “And I don't think they want to change.”
Just months ago, McGill University announced it would be discontinuing the Redmen nickname after mounting pressure from students and faculty to change.
That wasn't the case at Riverview High, where dozens of Mi'kmaw players from nearby First Nations communities have suited up for the Redmen over the years.
Some students say the move will be a bit of a culture shock.
“Around town, they're still going to be known as the Redmen, I think, to all of us,” said Julia Carroll.
As for when the name change will take effect, Bernard says it's going to take time -- it likely won't happen for this coming school year.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Ryan MacDonald.