Aboriginal sports teams names 'not changing'

A human rights complaint about an Ottawa-area football team called the Redskins has re-ignited the debate over aboriginal sports team names — and it has people behind teams like the Copper Cliff Redmen and the Abitibi Eskimos on the defence.

Some say no teams should be named after any kind of group

The hockey teams in the Sudbury neighbourhood of Copper Cliff have used the name "Copper Cliff Redmen" for decades (Erik White/CBC)

A human rights complaint about an Ottawa-area football team called the Redskins has re-ignited the debate over aboriginal sports team names — and it has people behind teams like the Copper Cliff Redmen and the Abitibi Eskimos on the defence.

The Sudbury suburb of Copper Cliff has been using the name “Redmen” for its hockey team for decades. Long-time Copper Cliff Minor Hockey Association president Ken Creasey said he doesn't expect that will ever change.

Sports teams in northeastern Ontario that have Aboriginal-themed nicknames aren't hearing the same kind of complaints as their counterparts in the south. (Erik White/CBC)

"I don't think we should,” he said.

“Why should we? It's been here a long time. There's no problem."

Creasey said the only complaint he's ever heard was about 10 years ago from someone not involved with the hockey club.

"We put a stop to it and that's as far as it went. We just told the person 'No.' We're not changing nothing."

'Names do hurt'

Neither have the Abitibi Eskimos, a junior hockey club based in Iroquois Falls.

"I don't find [the name] offensive, but what people find offensive is a subjective thing,” said team president Scott Marshall. “Maybe an Inuit person would find it offensive, I don't know. It's never been an issue here.”

But in Copper Cliff, the public school did abandon “Braves” as its nickname last year. The school is now known as the “Crushers.”

It's a change Ted Nolan would like to see other teams make.

"Sticks and stones will break your bones, but names will never hurt,” he said. “I don't believe that. Names do hurt."

Nolan is from Garden River First Nation near Sault Ste. Marie and coached in the National Hockey League.

"I just don't think it's appropriate to name any team after any kind of group."

Nolan said he does believe it's OK for First Nations teams to use those kinds of names, as is the case with the Whitefish River Warriors and his hometown Garden River Braves.

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