I am a graduate student at the U of C working on my second Master’s Degree, following an over 20-year professional career in the government relations field. I am the proud father of two adult women and also have one granddaughter, who is two years of age and who loves hockey already and who I hope will pursue this interest as a life-long activity as a female hockey player. I also have worked previously as a part-time intramural hockey official for the Active Living Department and was a member of the 1967-68 Ontario Minor Hockey Association Pee Wee “B” Championship team. The action that Active Living has taken to ban offensive team names for intramural sports teams, in response to the initiative of Ms. Lexi Narowski, is commendable, appropriate and long-overdue. During my tenure as a part-time hockey official, I noticed some team names that could easily have been construed as offensive, such as those mentioned by Chris Adams in the article.
Mr. Josh Bijak claims that the new Active Living policy of banning offensive team names is a limit to free speech. The perpetual challenge that we have in our evolving Canadian democracy is to establish the line of balance between the values of individual freedom of expression and the rights of other citizens to live within a respectful, orderly society, free of actions that are disrespectful of and infringe upon the rights of others. In this instance, Mr. Bijak’s insistence that freedom of expression trumps the collective and individual rights of others not to be subjected to actions that are disrespectful toward women is inconsistent with current social norms in Canada. The position that he articulates may have been consistent with social norms in Canada in the 1950s, but it is now the 21st century. Actions that are overtly disrespectful of women are no longer deemed legitimate or appropriate or in any way acceptable in Canadian society. Moreover, publicly funded universities in Canada have a responsibility to be leaders in the community and to provide examples and models for other segments of society to emulate. Recent events have underscored that Canada has a lot of work to do to entrench respect towards women as a value that is reflected consistently in the daily behaviour of individuals within Canadian society.
Congratulations to Active Living for showing proactive leadership and initiative in doing the right thing. Congratulations also to The Gauntlet for airing views on this extremely important contemporary issue in Canadian society. I look forward to my granddaughter having an opportunity to play hockey in an environment that is respectful of her gender and her identity as a female. Women at the U of C today deserve to have the university take action to ensure that they enjoy that opportunity today.