Sports logos, street names under microscope as Ontario human rights watchdog mulls ‘derogatory display’ policy

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Brad Gallant gets goosebumps whenever he sees the Chicago Blackhawks playing on Hockey Night in Canada.

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For the Mississauga man, the team name, logo and mascot reflect institutional racism and promote and perpetuate negative stereotypes that shape how indigenous people are viewed.

“I have to turn off my TV. No other group needs to do that,” said Gallant, of the Kalypu Mi’kmaq dynasty, who in 2015 about local sports teams using indigenous-themed names and logos Human rights complaint was filed, which he found offensive to his culture and heritage.


Now – three years after his case was settled, and as the debate over naming institutions and streets after controversial historical figures intensifies – the Ontario Human Rights Commission is developing a policy on the issue for the first time.

NS Policy The Human Rights Code will set out the scenarios and limits to be covered when disputes arise – and provide tools to guide communities to resolutions.

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“Over the years, this is the first time that Indigenous peoples and people of color were able to occupy this space to reflect how these negative images impacted their lives,” said Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission Patricia DeGire said.

“So all these names and words and pictures that existed and didn’t matter before because people haven’t reached this consciousness, are now taking effect.”

In a year of racial reckoning, which saw John A. Having seen a statue of MacDonald demolished, and a growing demand to rename buildings, streets and institutions such as Ryerson University and Dundas Street, the commission is seeking public input on this policy. Offensive names, words and images.

DeGuire said trying to determine which name or symbol is offensive or acceptable can be subjective and polarizing, and is bound to create some uncomfortable conversations.

She said the commission is looking forward to hearing from all Ontarios how they feel about the issues and come up with a policy that is based on the Human Rights Code and that will protect the public when faced with a complaint involving derogatory names. It can help them understand their responsibilities. and imagery.

NS PolicyHe further added, is known as an education tool for communities to share their experiences, promote awareness and address those concerns collaboratively.

This would apply to street and street names; Geographical areas, landmarks, buildings and outdoor facilities; Commemorative sculptures, plaques and days; Sports teams and their mascots and programs. It will also include names and images that may include current or historical figures known for their discriminatory views and actions.

“We are not telling people what they should do, how they should do it, or whether to change their name or whatever. We do not intend to take away people’s freedom of expression,” DeGire said.

“The policy we are developing is a strategy to tackle these issues, to promote awareness in these groups about the impact of these derogatory names and images.”

People hold a cedar sprig over a statue of Sir John A. Macdonald, which was toppled in Hamilton, Ont., Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021.

For the affected groups, these symbols and the names of streets, schools, government buildings and other institutions are hurtful symbols of the oppression, cultural carnage and trauma that are displayed on their faces day after day, DeGuire said.

“What we are trying to do is to use our policies as a preventive tool to reflect back to the community,” she explained.

Another reason why an educational approach is preferred, she said, is that sometimes even members of the same community do not feel the same, which makes it difficult to reach a consensus.

“There are some people who don’t mind being called African Canadian and there are some people who shy away from being called African Canadian and say, ‘If you want to define me, you can call me Black.’ You always have this dynamic,” DeGire said.

“You’ll have people who say, ‘I don’t mind,’ and others who will say, ‘I feel bad in those situations.’ What the commission is doing is pointing out to the people that some people are sensitive to such things… make sure your actions are not offending them.”

Addressing these issues is going to be a difficult journey, said Gallant, who is still dissatisfied with the settlement of his three-year-long human rights saga that didn’t even stop the use of the team’s name and logo.

Gallant, a father of three children, said he only became aware of the sports team’s naming issue in 2010, when he first heard calls for the Chicago Blackhawks to change their surname and logo. But then he started paying attention to all the indigenous team names and logos when he took his three kids to play hockey.

Ryerson University, named after Egerton Ryerson, one of the architects of Canada's residential school system, said in August that it would rename the school.

In 2015, Gallant filed a complaint against the city of Mississauga in support of sports teams with names and logos that he found offensive to indigenous peoples. He asked the municipality to remove the mascots and banners of five local teams from their hockey rinks and to end the discounted ice time for them.

The matter was settled in 2018, when the city agreed to commit to removing all Indigenous-themed mascots, symbols, names and imagery belonging to non-Indigenous sporting organizations from its facilities.

Regarding the Human Rights Commission’s proposed policy regarding the display of derogatory names, words and images, Gallant said, “I am skeptical.”

“I am not ashamed of my efforts to ban mascots. Finally, I have no doubt that the Braves will be on Sportsnet next week, showcasing the Hockey Night in Canada Blackhawks, that the CBC will burden the decision to do so.

Ontarians will have until October 22 to complete the online survey or email their response to the Commission.

Nicholas Keung is a Toronto-based reporter who covers immigration for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung

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