MONTREAL- The Indigenous student who led the fight to convince McGill University to drop an offensive name for its men’s varsity sports teams has been named one of the school’s valedictorians.
Tomas Jirousek says he feels mixed emotions about being named one of the school’s few Indigenous valedictorians, and likely the first with First Nations status.
Jirousek, now 22, was at the forefront of a student campaign to get McGill to drop the name “Redmen,” which Indigenous students described as offensive and alienating.
McGill announced last year it would drop the name after a fierce debate that revealed deep divisions between students and alumni who defended the nearly century-old name, and those who opposed it.
Jirousek, who is heading to law school in the fall, says his experience taught him about the racism that still persists in society, but also about the support Indigenous students can get from non-Indigenous allies.
He says he used his speech as valedictorian for the Faculty of Arts as a call to action for McGill graduates to join the fight against systemic discrimination and oppression.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 23, 2020.
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