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Western Canada High School changes name to Redhawks from Redmen amid past complaints

It’s been the name at Western Canada High School since the 1940s, but starting next year, they’ll be the Redhawks and not the Redmen.

After a year-long consultation with students, staff, parents, alumni and First Nations groups, the school has decided to change the name to be more inclusive, stemming from complaints that it was derogatory.

Principal Kim Hackman said out of five names considered, Redhawks was chosen because it shared the colours of the school and has significance not only in southern Alberta, but also with native communities.

Other names considered included Wild and Rockies.

He said the main reason for the change was complaints that date as far back as the 1970s.

There was also a review over the name back in 2006, but he said now is the right time.

“I think there’s a change in values within Canada and within our own system and so we needed to review this as a result,” he said.

But the change won’t come cheap, costing the Calgary Board of Education $200,000 to redo the logos painted in the school and to get new uniforms.

The move also comes a couple of months after a school in Saskatoon changed their Redmen name.

Although he couldn’t provide specific numbers, Hackman said there was equal opposition to the change as there was for it to happen, citing the long history associated with the school, which has been around since 1903.

The name originally stemmed from the colours athletes wore, red and white, and not with the native logo being introduced in the 1950s, but Hackman said the longstanding link between the two merited the move.

“Redmen still does have that connotation, attachment to a specific skin colour and so that was part of the issue all along and that continues to be the issue, so that’s why the name itself needed to change,” he said.

Mihnea Nitu was one of the students on the committee that decided on the change and the 17-year-old said he used to be opposed to it, like many other students because of the school’s history.

“I wasn’t sure of the repercussions and the reasons as to why this was happening,” he said. “I think over time people will come to realize that this was a very good decision for the aboriginal community that not only attends the school, but will attend the school or maybe has attended the school in the past.”

Nitu said he was very pleased that students from all grades were able to have a say in the decision and among the student body, there was stronger opposition to changing the name than the logo.

“Because of costs and what not I think, but they’ve also come to accept it and they’re coming to accept more and more,” he said. “I’m pretty sure by next year most people will be okay with it, as we have the new Grade 10s coming in and they will basically be known as the Redhawks for their entire high school career.”