City councillor to ask Morden Redskins to change 'derogatory' name

A Morden city councillor wants the Morden Redskins hockey team to change their name – but the team’s president said they have no plans to do so.

Morden councillor Heather Francis unable to pass motion at city council over name, will talk to team

A Morden city councillor will ask the Morden Redskins to change their name, after her motion asking city council to petition for the change failed earlier this month. (Morden Hockey Team/Facebook)

A Morden city councillor wants the Morden Redskins hockey team to change its name – but the team's president said they have no plans to do so.

Earlier this month, Coun. Heather Francis put forward a motion to have city council approach the team and ask them to change the name because it's a derogatory term for aboriginal people.

She said last year, council was approached by a citizen asking them to help get the team to change its name, but council "passed it off and asked the citizen to go and approach the Redskins hockey team."

Over the last year, she did some research and changed her mind.

"Merriam-Webster calls it 'usually offensive,' Cambridge calls it 'offensive' and 'dated,' and Oxford is the same. It's definitely a derogatory term," she said. "I think we need to change it."

Francis sent a letter to her fellow councillors, urging them to support a name change and start discussions with the team. She suggested consult with local First Nations and possibly a contest to come up with a name that was acceptable to everyone.

The motion was defeated 5-2.The only supporters were Francis and the city's mayor.

Now, Francis said she plans to go to the team herself, as a citizen, and see if they'll change the name.

No name changes planned, president says

The hockey club's president, Brent Meleck, said there are no plans to change the name and finding it offensive is a matter of opinion.

"[The motion] is the first I've heard [that the name] is offensive to somebody around our community," said Meleck, who has been with the club since 1997. "It's funny, because I'm First Nations, and I don't think it's offensive at all."

The team is made up of men in their 20s and 30s who still want to play competitive hockey after finishing bouts in the juniors, college hockey circuits or the NHL. Meleck said there have been and are currently First Nations players on the team.

"We're providing a place for these guys to play, and it's also good entertainment … everyone's enjoying it," he said. "We have probably the best league in Manitoba."

The team won the Southeastern Manitoba Hockey League last year. Also last year, they won the Manitoba Senior A Championships. They've had the same name for more than 20 years, Meleck said.

Meleck said he's more than willing to talk to Francis about her concerns, but he doesn't see any reason to change the team's name – and considers any offence a matter of opinion.

"Absolutely, we would listen to their opinions for sure. I mean, there's no sense hiding it under the rug or anything. If there's a problem, it's pretty easy to get a hold of anyone," he said, adding, "I don't see any reason to change it. I don't see it being a bad thing at all. Other than opinions, there's really no reason to change it."

But Francis disagrees. She said the name does matter, and she wants to see it changed.

"I don't think anybody on the Redskins hockey team is intending to offend anybody … but I think times have changed … and names and words have an impact," she said. "I'm not intending to provoke a fight."

Francis said we're past the time where we can pretend names don't matter.

"In light of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that has been going on this year, we know better," she said. 

Hockey Manitoba will 'monitor' situation

Hockey Manitoba hasn't received any complaints about the name so far, but it would consider investigating if it did, according to executive director Peter Woods.

"I've been 14 years, and it hasn't been brought forward … Certainly we'll be monitoring as it is now," said Woods. "Certainly, we want all our members or people that are participating in our program – they want to feel comfortable and they want to be participating in a program where they feel safe and it's respectful."

Francis said that's exactly what it comes down to – respecting everyone in their community.

"We are an open, welcoming community and country, and there are so many other things a hockey name can be named rather than something that is derogatory towards a group of fellow Canadians in our towns, in our cities," said Francis.

Washington Redskins petitioned to change name

This isn't the first time the "redskins" term has caused controversy in the sports world – the NFL's Washington Redskins have seen increasing pressure in recent years to change the name.

Protests attended by thousands, television ad-campaigns, a call from former Daily Show host Jon Stewart and even a warning from the FCC that they may discipline broadcasters who say the name on air have not been enough to convince the team's owner, Daniel Snyder, to change the name or the logo.

Last year, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office even decided to cancel the trademark registration for the team's name based on the term being disparaging to aboriginal people. 

The team has appealed that ruling.


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