Did you know that ‘midget’ is a bad word?

Story by CBC Kids News • 2019-11-19 11:25
This article was originally published on Nov. 28, 2018. On Nov. 18, 2019, Hockey Canada announced that starting next season, it would change all division names, from under-7 (U7) to under-21 (U21). This applies to all Hockey Canada programs. Some provincial hockey programs have already made changes to exclude the word 'midget.'

Some dwarfs want sports organizations to stop using the M word

For some, the word midget is just a boring sports term. For others, it’s a slap in the face.

That’s why some Canadians with dwarfism are calling on sports associations to stop using the word, and why many athletic groups are responding.

Dwarfism is a medical or genetic condition that causes some adults to grow less than four feet ten inches tall.

The term midget is commonly used by hockey, football and baseball leagues to describe players in the 15-17 age group.

But for Manitoba athlete Vivek Bhagria, who has represented Canada at the World Dwarf Games, it’s also a bad word.

Bhagria said it hurts when people call him a midget, and he’d prefer they use terms like “little person” or “dwarf.”

Why is ‘midget’ a bad word?

Allan Redford, director of the Dwarf Athletic Association of Canada, said the “M word” was created to label little people who were on public display in circus freak shows back in the 1800s and early 1900s.

In those situations, he said, people with dwarfism were treated as objects to be stared at and made fun of.

Little person in grey sweater with slicked back hair smiles into camera.

Manitoba athlete Vivek Bhagria says it hurts when people call him a midget and he’d prefer they use terms like "little person" or "dwarf". (Photo from: Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Bhagria is supporting a push for Sport Manitoba to stop using the word midget.

He said he remembers what it was like to hear that word as a young person, and he wants to protect future generations of athletes.

“I know how it felt back then,” Bhagria said, “and I don’t want them to feel the same way.”

Janet McMahon, the director of sport for Sport Manitoba, said her organization won’t force its leagues to drop the term.

But her staff will start an education campaign and encourage the leagues to do the "right thing," she said.

Who’s making the change?

CEO for Athletics Canada, Mathieu Gentès, said his organization plans to stop using the word, because it’s “simply the right thing to do.”

He said a switch to the term U16 (under 16) will be discussed at a meeting this coming weekend.

The Ontario Basketball Association has also promised to make the change next year.

That decision comes after the Guelph Youth Basketball Association in Ontario agreed to stop using the term midget after the parents of a boy with dwarfism complained earlier this year.

They now use the term minor instead.

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