Your letters: The word 'chief' is a sign of respect, not derision
TDSB removing ‘chief’ from job titles out of respect for Indigenous people, Oct. 11
Enough is enough. This is political correctness gone mad. The word “chief” is not an inherently Indigenous word. It derives from the French word “chef,” which means a leader or commander.
It was used by Shakespeare long before it was applied to the original inhabitants of the Americas. Just because it was the word used to denote the leader of a group of natives, it has not lost its generic quality.
What’s next? Will the 12 tribes of Israel now have to be called something different because the word “tribe” was also applied to a band of Indigenous people?
This is insanity. And the saddest part is that the people making such decisions are responsible for educating our children.
Ronald Weir, Toronto
Chris Churchill, Scarborough
It was not a derogatory word coined to denigrate the original settlers who had come before them. It was, instead a term of respect, a recognition of the status of the leader. We continue to use the word as a noun or adjective whenever we need to describe a person or thing of higher status.
When we are introduced to the chief executive of a company, our minds never conjure up a connection to Indigenous tribes and, even if it does, it is to put the person in a respectable higher status in our minds. It always carries a positive connotation.
The action of the TDSB, to remove the word from the titles to leading figures in their organizations, not only displays an ignorance of the English language but also smacks of a hypocritical empty gesture.
Venkat Krishnan, Ajax
This follows closely on the heels of the federal government’s proposal to change the oath of citizenship to require new Canadians to faithfully observe treaties with Indigenous peoples. Just how does a new Canadian fulfil or comply with treaty obligations? Another pointless exercise.
The reality is that we have done virtually nothing since Confederation to seriously address problems experienced by Indigenous Canadians. Even the highly touted inquiry into missing and murdered women appears to be floundering.
Instead of a serious examination of problems experienced by Indigenous peoples, we are getting shallow gestures that smack solely of political correctness.
Mirek A. Waraksa, Toronto
Chief, as noted in the article, is not an Indigenous word, nor was the role it denotes part of their form of governance.
Like all words, chief has acquired baggage, and that baggage is the proper subject of etymology, history and literature. Erasing the word to shed the baggage only impoverishes the language.
Instead of dabbling in superficial lexical revisionism, the TDSB should look to the root of the problem and add its voice to repeal the archaic Indian Act, which could then be moved from the civics to the history syllabus.
Paul Collier, Toronto
At Massey College of the University of Toronto, the word “master” — from a respectable old academic tradition — is being eliminated because it reminds some people of slavery. Master, like chief, has many quite respectable meanings and should be left alone.
We are in a comically hyperbolic world of political correctness and ideologically inspired hypersensitivity, which hovers somewhere between George Orwell and Alice in Wonderland.
This is counterproductive in the search for true mutual respect and progress toward equality, cultural maturity and respect.
Gilbert Reid, Toronto
Removing the word chief reveals the shallowness and short-sightedness of the leaders of the country’s largest board of education. This kind of silly posturing contributes to the lack of confidence people have in the public school system.
Hugh McKechnie, Newmarket
I doubt very much that changing these titles will instill respect in the majority of students in the TDSB. Most will probably have a reaction similar to mine.
Dave Keeley, Mississauga