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Manitoba football, basketball groups drop ‘midget’ from local sport lexicon

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Two prominent Manitoba sports associations are doing away with a term long-considered offensive by little people everywhere, and local hockey organizations could also soon follow suit.

The Midget Football League of Manitoba announced this week it will drop “midget” from its name and undergo a rebranding for the 2020 season.

“At our season break, our league started the conversation that the term ‘midget’ that is so prominently placed in our league name was in need of a long overdue change,” MFLM president Maggie Yestrau said in a statement on Monday, citing the league’s desire to foster “an atmosphere of respect and inclusivity.”

The move comes about one week after Basketball Manitoba’s board of directors passed a motion to no longer use the term to describe an age division of play.

Both organizations were among 17 to send a representative to a recent meeting put on by Sports Manitoba and Little People of Manitoba president Samantha Rayburn-Trubyk.

Rayburn-Trubyk outlined the history of the term and why it’s so hurtful to those living with dwarfism. She explained why its continued use harms little people, regardless of what’s intended by its meaning in a sports context.

‘Butt of jokes for centuries’

The term itself has connections to the Vaudeville days and Barnum and Bailey “freak show” circus era.

“Little people were bought and sold and just really on display for entertainment — to be laughed at, to be made a mockery of, to be the joke,” she said.

But the exploitation of little people stretches back further, said Rayburn-Trubyk, to times when they were bought by royalty to make kings look larger, among other reasons.

If we blur the lines and allow this term to be acceptable, provided it is being used in an unintentionally offensive context, then we are sending a mixed message.– Samantha Rayburn-Trubyk

“Little people have been the butt of jokes for centuries,” she said. “It’s just such a hurtful term and unnecessary in this day and age.”

How the term is used varies slightly from sport to sport, though it typically describes players between the ages of 15 and 17 in hockey, football and baseball.

Rayburn-Trubyk and others have been pressing Manitoba sports leagues to discard the pejorative term for some time. After speaking with media about the issue last fall, she said she received a number of hateful online messages.

Other provinces are also having the conversation.

‘An eye-opener’

Ontario Basketball announced last fall it would do away with the term, so the added context from the meeting with Rayburn-Trubyk made it an easy decision for Basketball Manitoba.

“[It] was really an eye-opener,” said Adam Wedlake, executive director of Basketball Manitoba.

“It’s an outdated form of defining ages, and if we can make that step to make our sport and all sports more inclusive, to not use a derogatory term that defines an age for really no reason, it’s a good step forward.”

Adam Wedlake, executive director of Basketball Manitoba, says Rayburn-Trubyk’s presentation was an ‘eye-opener.’ (Supplied by Adam Wedlake)

He said Basketball Manitoba has been phasing out the term over the past decade, opting instead to use the age of the traditional 15-year-old bracket to define competitions and leagues. A few basketball leagues in Manitoba still use the term, said Wedlake, but that will change moving forward.

Minor hockey could be next

Hockey Manitoba executive director Peter Woods also attended Rayburn-Trubyk’s recent talk and said he sees no reason not to make the change.

“The more it’s brought up the more attitudes and societal changes will adjust to it,” he said.

He said the subject will be up for consideration at the Hockey Canada spring congress in May. If approved, all minor league branches Canada-wide would be expected to follow suit and reclassify the age grouping without the term, he said.

Woods feels like there’s a good chance the term will get nixed before the beginning of the next hockey season.

“I know in the case of hockey, the terms that we use, like a lot of English words, have a double meaning, and I don’t think they were there ever intended to be offensive to anyone. And for people that participate in the game, they certainly don’t see them that way,” he said.

“But we also certainly recognize that it might be offensive to some and that’s why I think groups are willing to make that change.”

Rayburn-Trubyk knows the term isn’t used by most in the sports context in a malicious way, but she nonetheless believes it needs to go.

“If we blur the lines and allow this term to be acceptable, provided it is being used in an unintentionally offensive context, then we are sending a mixed message,” she said.

“Our position is to remove the ambiguity from the situation all together, and by simply choosing a new word (or number) to classify this particular age group in amateur sports we will be taking a major step toward eradicating this term and any mixed messaging along with it.”

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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