Aboriginal man files human rights complaint against Mississauga hockey team names

After Gallant filed the complaint, two of the five teams changed their names.
After Gallant filed the complaint, two of the five teams changed their names. (Image courtesy Mississauga Girls Hockey League)

Looks like the recent Ontario court case against the Cleveland Indians isn’t the only one that tried to stop the usage of native names and logos for sports teams.

Mississauga, Ont. resident Brad Gallant, a member of the Qalipu mi’kmaq tribe, filed a human rights complaint against the city of Mississauga last year. He did it, because he says the city’s sponsorships of five minor league hockey clubs which contain indigenous words and images is culturally insensitive and alleges discrimination. The case has yet to be heard by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

He was following the #notmymascot twitter movement, directed against the Cleveland Indians, when he told a minor league coach that he found his hockey team’s name offensive. The coach of that team told him, “Buddy, get over it. That’s never going to change.”

Obviously he didn’t agree with the coach and took his complaint to the city, asking them to cut off the various teams funding until they changed their names and logos to something more appropriate.

The city responded by saying they would be happy to be a mediator between Gallant and the clubs but that they’re not involved in team name or logo selection. Gallant didn’t think the city went far enough and filed his complaint.

After he filed the complaint, two of the five teams changed their names. The Lorne Park Ojibwa are now called the Lorne Park Clarkson Wild and the Meadowvale Mohawks are now the Meadowvale Hawks. The other teams have kept their name, like the Mississauga Chiefs, who actually received the Mississauga’s of the New Credit First Nation blessing to keep their name.

Those names and logos are leading to not-so-nice behaviour by other hockey parents. Gallant has watched parents make insensitive gestures and say “vile”, anti-native things during games but it goes beyond that for him.

He told the National Post, “It’s not just a question of whether some people are thin skinned… the question is, (whether) it’s demeaning to a group of people to use a representation of their characteristics or history as a logo for your sports team which has no connection to their community.”

Some experts are speculating that if Gallant is successful in his complaint against the city, it could set a nation-wide example for other cities as to how they need to deal with the issue of insensitive sports team names.

The HRTO will hear the case on November 21.

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