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Who’s your daddy? 

The Christmas Daddies does good work, but Jane Kansas thinks the organization’s name should change with the times.

I am the only person to have ever complained in public about Christmas Daddies.

Christmas Daddies is the seasonal telethon, broadcast by CTV across the Maritimes. This year it’s on Saturday, December 3, from 11am to 6pm. It raises money for underprivileged children.

The story of the beginning of Christmas Daddies, recounted at, is like Dickens. In 1964, on a winter’s night, a boy stumbles into a tavern. Two media guys are there, having beer and steak. The boy’s toes protrude from his shoes. He shivers. He is begging for money to buy milk and bread for his mother and sister. The bouncers boot him out. Twice. The boy is “determined to get enough money to bring these necessities home.” A hat is passed. The boy leaves happy.

The media guys start up a telethon and the rest is 42 years of above-reproach do-gooding. Christmas Daddies has raised more than $20 million. CTV donates airtime and resources. Staff from both the Robie Street affiliate and from Aliant donate their time and talent, some of them for many consecutive years. Art Steeves was a technician at CTV. He heard about the first telethon and volunteered. This year’s broadcast will be his 42nd telethon. He’s volunteered for them all.

Proceeds go to the Salvation Army, which is part of a group of service organizations providing for people in need at Christmas. It’s big money; last year mainland Nova Scotia raised $333,000. Diane van der Horden is divisional secretary for public relations and development for the Salvation Army. She says the Army received $290,000, or 87 percent of the total raised: a goodly amount. She says anyone can apply on the behalf of children for Christmas help. You don’t have to be Christian or straight or nuclear.

Roxanne Robinson is executive director of Christmas Daddies. She’s the one who tells me I’m the only person to have ever complained about Christmas Daddies. That was in 1999, I think, in a Daily News column. “It’s a Maritime tradition,” she says. “Anyone in the Maritimes knows what the telethon does—raise money for underprivileged kids.”

So, is just too bad the name Daddies shuts out the people who gave birth to the children? Or are “Mommies” included in the word “Daddies” the way “she” is included in “he”? The way “woman” is included in “mankind”?

It’s false to suggest that Daddies are the givers and providers for children. Especially to children. It’s a Dick and Jane fiction: that Daddy goes to work to find the money to provide for his little sweethearts while Mommy is at home coming up with a new way to make macaroni and cheese exciting. Is Mommy’s name on the cheques? Does she have a credit card?

Is the hurt of the Daddies who work their tails off at a minimum wage work or lose their jobs, get assistance cheques from the government and feel sad because they can’t buy the toys their children want at Christmas a deeper hurt than that of the Mommies? Is it more important than the sadness of the Mommies, who may be in the very same situation?

If so, no matter who we are, men or not, parents or not, we’ll call ourselves Daddies so the children we help and everybody who donates and everybody who hears about the telethon will know: proxy Daddies are on the job. Every child will have a Daddy who provides.

And Mommy can do the dishes.

Just so it’s clear. Christmas = good. Daddies = sexist, exclusive language. On Monday morning, as I am writing this, the phone rings. It’s an on-air personality from ATV. He wants to know if I’ll come on Live at 5 tonight to take a side on the Christmas tree vs. Holiday tree debate. I tell him this article will be published on Thursday, so I don’t think it’s a good idea to put me on ATV tonight. Then, he is shocked to find I’m on the side of Christmas trees. “I thought you’d be more politically correct,” he says. I tell him I’m not automatically PC. I tell him if something is good, like Christmas trees, it’s good. If something sucks, like the name Christmas Daddies, it sucks.

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