OPINION: Squamish, are we serious about embracing diversity? | Squamish Chief

OPINION: Squamish, are we serious about embracing diversity?

As many of you are well aware, we are in a different era.

Norms that have been around for many, many years are now being challenged.

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Statues are being taken down.

The NFL Washington team is dropping its “Redskins” name. So too the Edmonton “Eskimos.”

There are thousands of examples that we’re sure you can think of. Minorities, whose voices have been ignored for a long time, are starting to be heard.

Here, in Squamish, our old N.W.A.-inspired nickname “Squampton” has become the subject of much debate.

So what are we to do?

There are some who say that there are bigger problems in the world. That haggling over issues like nicknames and offensive terms are really distracting from the greater issue. They’re not wrong.

No, the term “Squampton” was not made with bad intentions.

But, first, let’s add some context.

 We are an outdoors town. Squamish prides itself fon its outdoor recreation. We are “Hardwired for Adventure,” and, for a time, we called ourselves “The Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada.”

However, It’s no secret that in North America, the outdoors hasn’t been a very diverse place. Minorities have generally been underrepresented when it comes to outdoor recreation.

In the U.S., The New York Times reported in 2013: “only about one in five visitors to a national park site is nonwhite, according to a 2011 University of Wyoming report commissioned by the Park Service, and only about 1 in 10 is Hispanic — a particularly lackluster embrace by the nation’s fastest-growing demographic group.”

Here in Canada, in 2018, the CBC reported an “adventure gap” that showed minorities are less likely to pursue outdoor adventures.

This year, the CBC reported that the outdoor recreation industry is “facing its own reckoning with diversity and inclusion.”

No, not every person of colour will be offended by our “Squampton” moniker. But for every person who isn’t offended, there may be another who quietly thinks to themselves that they are not welcome in our town, nor in our outdoor spaces.

People around here often say they are accepting of others from different backgrounds and viewpoints.

If they are serious about it, it may be worth thinking about how “Squampton” sounds to some, even if it was created with good intentions. We’re not saying that “Squampton” must be erased from our history, but rather than name-calling those who raise concerns about the phrase, there should at least be some effort made to understand a different viewpoint.

If this is too much to ask — that’s fine. And perhaps understandable. But let’s admit, in that case, that diversity is not our priority.

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