Mississauga to remove Indigenous-themed mascots, imagery from sports facilities

Mississauga will take down all "Indigenous-themed" imagery, symbols and names from city-owned sports facilities as part of a settlement worked out in part before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

'We need to work to tear down the structures of discrimination,' said Bradley Gallant

The city of Mississauga has agreed to remove all 'Indigenous-themed mascots, symbols, names and imagery related to non-Indigenous sports organizations' from its rinks. (Erin Collins/CBC)

Mississauga will take down all "Indigenous-themed" imagery, symbols and names from city-owned sports facilities as part of a settlement worked out before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, according to the man who initiated the case. 

Details of the agreement were revealed Thursday by Bradley Gallant, a Mississauga resident of Mi'kmaq descent, and his legal counsel. Gallant originally brought an application before the tribunal in March 2015, alleging discrimination under the province's human rights code. 

At the time, some five youth hockey clubs playing and practising at city-owned arenas were using mascots, logos and other imagery that Gallant and his lawyer, Matt McPherson, argued were harmful to the wellbeing of Indigenous people. 

"We need to work to tear down the structures of discrimination, and we can start with the continued use of Indigenous peoples as mascots for sports teams," Gallant said.

"These types of images and mascots are harmful and have a negative effect on both Indigenous and non-Indigenous kids," he continued. 

Over the course of nine hearings held over a two-year period, Gallant and McPherson presented expert testimony on the harmful psychological consequences Indigenous people can experience when presented with trivializing imagery. 

The tribunal eventually invited the province's human rights commission to take up intervener status in the case. 

The two sides were able to reach an agreement, mediated by the tribunal, at the end of November. 

The City of Mississauga also agreed to:

  • Add more learning materials on reconciliation to its diversity and inclusion training for staff.
  • Develop a new policy to govern the use of Indigenous images and themes at its sports facilities, in concert with the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation and a number of advocacy groups.

Gallant said the commitments are a "positive step forward to ensure the equality and to protect the dignity and well-being of First Nations."

He hopes the settlement will encourage people in other jurisdictions to bring applications forward to the human rights tribunal to have Indigenous-themed mascots banned elsewhere.

"This stuff has got to stop," he said. 

A spokesperson for the city did not respond to a request for comment. 

Gallant also recently reached a similar settlement with the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District Board as part of a different case he initiated in the summer of 2017.

As part of that agreement, the board, which confirmed its agreement with Gallant in an email to CBC Toronto, says it will change its dress code to explicitly prohibit "the wearing of any clothing with messages containing offensive content, including the use of Indigenous symbols and imagery."

School board spokesperson Bruce Campbell said any student wearing a logo will be asked to cover it. 

"We are looking to implement this across the system as soon as we can," he said.

Further, students will not be allowed to have any Indigenous mascots on their backpacks and hockey bags when they're at school or while they're attending school events. 

"I want to make sure that my daughters and other Indigenous kids won't have to be confronted by these hurtful images and logos when they go to school," Gallant said.