Native mascots mock Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Tonight Washington will again be featured on TSN Monday Night Football. The program will be universally listed using the team nickname, a known slur. Canadian companies will line up to affiliate with the broadcast and organization while ignoring the hostile environment the broadcast and the corporate affiliation makes for their Indigenous employees and customers. Thank you CRTC and CHRC.
In August 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) refused to hear my complaint against the Canadian Broadcast Standards Commission (CBSC). My complaint centered on one fact, that the CBSC discriminated against me when they used the popular conception that mascots honor Indigenous as justification to deny my request that Washington Football broadcasts be classified as containing offensive language.
The CHRC registrar judged that I was only appealing the decision of the CBSC not complaining about discrimination. But I believe that by citing the importance of context over result, the CBSC made and use erroneous and discriminatory reasoning to ignore my complaint. I wanted the CHRC to instruct the CBSC that the result of the discriminatory event is more important than the intention as the CHRC defines as the legal standard.
Instead of confirming their teachings on the basics of discrimination, the CHRC declined to give direction to the CBSC, and chose to hide behind the covers of jurisdiction. Ultimately, the CHRC dismissed my complaint as to one of a petulant child, an uninformed incomplete opinion of an Indigenous person incapable of understanding the complex interpretations of the law rather than an individual trying to knock over the positive image fallacy upon which all defenses of native mascots rest, the notion that they are honoring us.
This ruling cemented my opinion that CHRC is the photo opportunity of Canadian judicial system. In Canada, each human rights decision has to be played out race by ethnicity, gender by cross gender, sexuality by religion. Each person has to be examined to verify their acceptance to universal human rights. This forced evaluation period is tantamount to economic exclusion, with those least able to fund their own application for acceptance being those lost to being brought out of the cold.
Canada’s Indigenous, the poorest by economic exclusion, cultural and literal genocide, suffers far worse than any group provided the protections of human rights. We are mocked constantly. Women have gone missing without investigation by the thousands. We have been forced to the farthest reaches of the continent, evicted, killed, induced to deny our heritage, and starved out to make way for Canadian progress. Mascots are the lingering reminder that the Indigenous cannot participate in Canadian society equally nor expect the simplest rights that every Canadian takes for granted.
I want my children and all children to be able to go school, a mall, an arena, watch TV or browse the internet without institutionally sanctioned or corporate sponsored racism.
Last month, I made application to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal with the support of people in the Indigenous community over the provincial governments decision to “discourage the use of names that are considered offensive to Indigenous people in organizations funded by the government.” Discourage, while meant to be part of reconciliation, defines the second class human rights protections for the Indigenous.
Their commitment to only “discourage” actually provides room for the continuation of the discrimination against Indigenous people. It opens the possibility of the government ignoring infractions against their existing laws and creates room for discriminatory mascots to continue in schools.
I want to force the government to enforce the Human Rights Code of Ontario and the Safe Schools Act to prevent discrimination and I want all third party native mascots and native mascot paraphernalia to be banned at Ontario schools.
Since I have taken the City of Mississauga to the HRTO over their funding of native mascoted teams, my daughters continue in Mississauga schools. I have made sure to publicize my progress to both encourage other Indigenous to join in and to get non-Indigenous to move towards change. My oldest daughter has had many conversations about the nature of mascots with her school peers. Many kids get the discriminatory nature of the mascots while others disagree with my daughter and argue that she should not be offended.
Last year, she played Mount Carmel Crusaders girls hockey (yes Crusaders in a heavily Muslim neighborhood). Most of the girls play with the Mississauga Chiefs. They wear sweat pants, t-shirts, flip flops, hats, jackets, sweaters, hockey bags, and hockey equipment that all feature the Chiefs’ logo. They know my daughter finds this offensive. Their coach and principal know that she finds it offensive and that the HRCO has implied that is discrimination. Yet, without ministry direction, kids continued to sport native mascot wear at school on a daily basis.
Despite the good work by the Lorne Park Hockey Association and the Peel District School Board, discourage is not enough to stop the hostile public environments for Indigenous experience. Discourage is a half commitment to the law and embodies the government’s intention to not fully protect Indigenous people. I want my daughter to feel comfortable asking a teacher to get a student to remove native mascoted wear and to have the confidence that if she expresses her anger at the cultural discrimination that she will be heard. School is where my children’s friends are free to dispute and seek relief for any anti-gay, anti-muslim, anti-special needs, anti-ethnic attack, yet she is not free to dispute another child wearing a Redsk!ns hat. She is therefore, unable to attend any Ontario School in a truly Safe or Welcoming School Environment.
And my family is fortunate, this offense is trivial compared to the hardships imposed on the Indigenous that reside in traditionally native areas in the province. But as I learn more about the struggles of the fellow Indigenous, I am sure that mascots teach non-Indigenous that it is okay to treat Indigenous as less.
Through animism and the scientific racism inspired mascots they preserve the cultural attitude of many Canadians toward the Indigenous, most recently and tragically represented by the quotes of Ben Kautz of Browning, SK in reference to the Colten Boushie case.
This callous treatment of Indigenous must end, and the cultural attitudes it must be eliminated at the earliest level, and all sanctioned discriminatory images that are part of our culture must not be discouraged, but prohibited, in accordance with the law, and be representative of the equal treatment that everyone else receives. Otherwise, my daughters, or other Indigenous will never be capable of truly visiting a Safe and Welcoming School in Ontario. They will never be able to watch TV or browse the internet without feeling excluded from rights and protections offered to other Canadians.
And the root cause of the inequality is inaction by our governmental institutions. Governments continue to fund native mascoted organizations. Native mascoted teams still participate in Hockey Canada events. The CBC will broadcast 5 Chicago Blackhawks games in 2016-17. The provincial governments will not fund schools though this could be accomplished by allowing off reserve living Indigenous to designate their school tax to reserve schools. The army will build schools and provide clean water overseas, but they will not assist Indigenous communities by building flood protected and water secure sites. The CHRC will lend their moral support to ending native mascots, but will not actually give a public opinion on the central pillar of the native mascot defense.
Instead, the government, CHRC, and other publicly funded institutions accept casual racism against as part of our culture. Or worse yet, like CHRC or the Ombudsman of CBC, refuse to use the power of their office to ensure that the laws of the country are applied equally to all people, even the Indigenous.
Because before governments reconcile with the Indigenous they have to first reconcile themselves with the extent of the violence against the Indigenous on behalf of English and Canadian governments.