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When Brad Gallant was told to get over the fact he found the Mississauga Chiefs logo and mascot offensive to Indigenous people, it only steeled his resolve to grab that bull by the horns.
“I was told it was never going to change,” Gallant said in an interview Thursday. “What do you mean it’s never going to change?”
The former Corner Brook resident, who is of Mi’kmaq descent, took his fight against how Indigenous culture was being presented by five local sports teams — including a hockey team he refused to allow his daughter to play for — to the City of Mississauga and then all the way to the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
His beef even included photos of teams wearing logos adorning city-owned properties.
“When you put up those images, then you are creating a hostile environment for Indigenous people,” said Gallant, who likened the offensive imagery to having placards containing derogatory jokes about Newfoundlanders on public display.
The effort led by him was a success as two applications brought before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal have led to resolutions in Gallant’s favour.
A press release issued by Gallant and his lawyer Wednesday outlined the results of the applications regarding the use of Indigenous-themed mascots at Mississauga’s sports facilities, which were originally brought under Ontario’s Human Rights Code in March 2015.
In September, as a result of hearing that took place between 2016 and early 2018, the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board committed to end the use of Indigenous logos and mascots at its schools.
In late November, the City of Mississauga followed suit by agreeing to remove Indigenous-themed mascots, symbols, names and imagery related to non-Indigenous sports organizations from Mississauga sports facilities.
Gallant said it’s a small step forward in the path towards reconciliation with all First Nations groups, but he hopes what he did will have a ripple effect.
“I’m hoping that this will make more changes than just in Mississauga,” said Gallant. “It’s kind of hard to make the case to argue for (using such imagery) when the Human Rights Commission has said it’s wrong. Hopefully, it has an effect in other places where native mascots are used, where people might not be as receptive to (changing) it and where people who complain aren’t as safe.”
Arguments have been made in the past to ban the use of such imagery in professional sports, but the names and logos of teams such as the Chicago Blackhawks, Washington Redskins, Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Chiefs still exist.
“I’m hoping sponsors will walk away from those teams first,” said Gallant of the effect of his successful application spreading to the professional sports level.
“If it’s a hostile environment thing, then you can’t affiliate your business with it, so maybe major companies would back away. That would be the neatest thing.”
Gallant is a member of the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Band and said he will continue to recognize and proudly celebrate his native heritage.
He said winning this recent battle in Mississauga, where Gallant has called home for the past 14 years, is proof of that.
“Part of getting Qalipu status is acknowledging this is our history and who we are,” he said. “It’s OK to be native and understand what our heritage is and you don’t have to take any crap for it.”
The fallout of Brad Gallant’s human rights applications:
The Human Rights Commission of Ontario intervened in the applications brought forth to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario by Brad Gallant to highlight the impacts of racism and cultural appropriation, especially on Indigenous youth, and was also party to the settlement.
The City of Mississauga has agreed to:
- remove from Mississauga sports facilities Indigenous-themed mascots, symbols, names and imagery related to non-Indigenous sports organizations;
- supplement its diversity and inclusion training with expanded material addressing reconciliation and Indigenous peoples; and
- develop a policy related to the use of Indigenous images and themes at its sports facilities, and will develop that policy by working with Indigenous groups, including the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, the Peel Aboriginal Network, the Indigenous Youth Council of the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres, and other groups such as the Indigenous Sport and Wellness Ontario.
The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board also committed to ending the use of Indigenous logos and mascots at its schools as part of the resolution of Gallant’s complaint.
Under the settlement, the School Board agreed to:
- amend its dress codes and ensure that the dress codes will prohibit the wearing of any clothing with messages containing offensive content, including the use of Indigenous symbols and imagery.
- inform all secondary students that Indigenous mascots are not to be worn by students on clothing or bags (hockey or backpacks) at school or when attending school-related events.
Source: Bradley Gallant and his lawyer, Matt McPherson