November 20, 2020
Canwest News Service
By Catherine Rolfsen and Mike Barber


  They say blonds have more fun, but it was redheads who might have got a bigger kick on Thursday, dubbed by some as Kick a Ginger Day.

Across the country, school boards had to contend with a joke from an episode of the satirical animated show South Park that has spiralled into a day of promoting violence.

RCMP in B.C. are investigating the 14-year-old administrator of a Facebook group called "National Kick a Ginger Day, are you going to do it?"

RCMP in B.C. are investigating the 14-year-old administrator of a Facebook group, pictured above, called "National Kick a Ginger Day, are you going to do it?"

The Vancouver Island boy said the group, which had nearly 5,000 members from across Canada and internationally, was only a joke and he is sorry.

The page, which urges members to "get them steel toes ready," had garnered hundreds of messages. Many were from people claiming to have already kicked redheads that day; others expressed outrage.

The page's teenage administrator said he didn't make the group, but inherited it after its original creator got in trouble.

"It was a joke," he said. "I'll message everybody and say I'm sorry that this offended people."

Comox Valley RCMP Const. Tammy Douglas said the group is being investigated and those involved could face charges.

"We do treat this sort of thing seriously," she said. "This is sort of inciting hate. It's a hate crime really."

Ironically, the day falls in the middle of the international Bullying Awareness Week.

In St. John's, N.L., schools warned students they'd be disciplined if they acted on the joke.

Tony Stack, principal of St. Peter's, a grades 7 to 9 school near St.
John's, said they were told about the event by parents of red-headed kids.

In Flin Flon, Man., an elementary school sent a letter home to parents alerting them and their children to the possibility of disturbances.

And in Sylvan Lake, Alta., one red-haired student said she and her 13-year-old sister were punched and kicked by their peers when they got to school.

In the episode of South Park in question, Ginger Kids, one character - Eric Cartman - begins a campaign against red heads, calling them soulless and inherently evil.

Brenda Morrison, a criminology professor at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., said she was "shocked" to find out about the day.

Morrison, who has written extensively on bullying, said social networking websites such as Facebook or MySpace provide conduits that make bullying in school much easier, as they allow for information to be spread rapidly and with little supervision from adults or authorities.

"Anything that legitimizes (bullying), we should take care to control, as a community, as caring adults," she said, noting that her husband and son are redheads.

Morrison said school boards should be made aware of the event, so that any abusive incidents can be treated like they would any other day of the year.

"Gingerism" is a growing concern in the United Kingdom, home to the largest proportion of redheads in the world. In 2003, a young man was stabbed repeatedly over a dispute about his red hair.

In 2007, a ruby-headed Newcastle family said they had to move because of endless abuse from their neighbours, and no less than Prince Harry was singled out as the "Ginger Bullet Magnet" when he served a tour of duty in Iraq.