Two junior hockey team logos are no longer painted on center -is in Brockville, Ont., Municipal Arena, after the city decided that their depiction of original themes was not in line with the municipality’s human rights obligations.
The city of Brockville said it would no longer display the logos of the Brockville Braves and Brockville Tikis at the Memorial Civic Center and would offer support to teams if they choose to rebrand – including helping with costs and easy consultations.
Braves and Tikis are part of the same hockey organization, where Braves is the A squad and Tikis the B squad.
While the organization had requested that the logos be returned to the centeris, the city cited a directive from the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) regarding a 2018 settlement on the removal of original-branded sports branding from non-native sports organizations.
The Braves logo resembles the emblem of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, while the tiki have a stylized illustration of a man holding a spear as their comb.
Dustin Traylen, co-owner and general manager of Braves, declined to be interviewed before speaking to local indigenous groups and the chief executive of the Mohawk Council in Kahnawake near Montreal.
While disappearing from the center ice, the two logos remained visible in offices at the arena during Wednesday’s night match between Brockville Tikis and Athens Eros.
Brian Decaluwe, whose son played for the Tikis, said he can not see why the Braves logo should change when the Blackhawks keep theirs.
“I think it’s ridiculous. It’s a long tradition, a long history. Brave stands for brave warrior,” he said.
Ian Ellis, a fan from Woodstock, Ont., Also said he sees no reason for the teams to follow the example of the Washington NFL team, which dropped its former name in 2020 after decades of criticism or the newly renamed Edmonton Elks of CFL.
“I think it’s an honorable type of situation,” he said, adding that he did not understand the origin of the Tikis name.
However, several others present said they were open to a change if the names offended indigenous peoples or the owners decided to do so.
‘Offensive and inappropriate’
Ron McLester, vice president of truth, reconciliation and indigenization at Algonquin College, said the hockey organization must demonstrate that it has a relationship with the people it claims to be honorable.
“These names, these symbols, these graphics … were taken from our community, and they were taken from our people,” said McLester, a member of the Turtle Clan of Oneida Nation, which is part of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
“They were used solely for the benefit of the proprietor of these sports organizations, and there is no form or form which I can see it as ‘honorable’.”
McLester said he would like to see the team engage with local indigenous groups from its area so they would also see benefits in revenue related to these symbols and images.
Acquiring indigenous culture or using “cartoon” sports logos to portray indigenous peoples is “offensive and inappropriate,” said Grand Master Abram Benedict of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, whose community is about 100 miles northeast of Brockville.
Although such a grant is not new, Benedict said more people are becoming aware of its ill effects as they learn about housing schools and cultural genocide.
“We are seeing some progress,” he said in a statement.
“For example, a certain Washington NFL team finally removed a slanderous name like their team logo. But seeing names like Brockville Braves makes you realize we still have a good way to go.”
Benedict said he hopes the organization reflects and is considering changing the team’s names to “do their part” in the reconciliation process marked with last week’s National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.
Human rights settlement
This summer, the OHRC followed up on requests it had previously made to 40 municipalities to change the label with native themes for their non-native sports teams.
The OHRC letters refer to a 2018 settlement in which the city of Mississauga, Ont., Agreed to remove original-themed images and develop a policy to integrate original elements into its sports facilities.
The Commission said evidence is increasingly suggesting that these logos may create a “poisoned environment” that has a negative effect on indigenous peoples participating in sport.
The OHRC also said it was supported by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls for action to ensure that sports policies are inclusive.
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So far, 19 municipalities have worked with teams to change their names and logos, from Sarnia Braves became Sarnia Brigade to Whitby Chiefs became Whitby Canadians, the commission told CBC in a statement.
In two cases, indigenous communities supported the use of existing team names and logos, the commission said.
A further 17 municipalities are still in contact with teams, and four have not responded to the OHRC’s letter, even though at least one of the teams in the four communities has stopped operations.