Clearview council approves policy on use of Indigenous images
Clearview Township has passed a policy on the Use of Indigenous Images and Themes and will work with the Creemore Braves to encourage a name change.
On Monday, council unanimously approved a policy stating, “the township will not permit the display of any Indigenous images in the township’s sport facilities that are related to non-Indigenous sports organizations and teams, including during events. The township will work with Indigenous groups, as well as community sport groups, to proactively build awareness of this policy through open communication and education. Staff in the parks, recreation and culture department, will coordinate all engagement with Indigenous and community sport organizations.”
Indigenous images include symbols, team names, logos and imagery/themes on banners, trophies, plaques, signs and murals that pertain to Indigenous culture.
“I want to remind council that what we may consider an innocent logo or team name can be hurtful to others, and in this case Indigenous groups,” said Councillor Doug McKechnie, who worked on the policy with Clearview’s general manager of parks, culture and recreation, Terry Vachon.
“I think we owe some support to the baseball team in Creemore because we have to encourage them to change their name,” he said, recognizing that new uniforms will need to be purchased.”
Councillors were in agreement that money could be found to help with the cost of rebranding and purchasing new uniforms.
McKechnie hopes that a rebranding of the team would be a community effort.
“I look at this as a positive. I’d like to thank Terry for working on it and bringing it forward. I think there will be a lot of comments out there in the community but I think that we have to get past that and look at it as a positive, help the Creemore baseball team change their name and move forward,” said McKechnie.
The policy is the result of a campaign spearheaded by Christopher Dodd, who looped Creemore’s local baseball teams that use the name The Braves and have used the Chief Wahoo image into a global conversation about the inappropriate use of Indigenous names and imagery for sports teams. Last summer, the Home of the Braves sign in Gowan Memorial Park still displayed the image, and later in the summer, yard markers with the image were installed, and promptly removed by staff after complaints were received. The current logos use tomahawk imagery.
“Clearview Township is consistent with its message,” said Dodd. “Clearview Township has come out against racism and they mean what they say. Our communities have come out against racism and we mean what we say.”
“I’m very pleased that the township seems ready to assist. I think it would be an unfair financial burden to place on the shoulders of a not-for-profit organization, to foot the bill entirely by themselves,” said Dodd. “But I also know there are people who are ready to reach for their chequebooks, myself included. But it requires a humbling first step maybe for The Braves, and that’s to open the door and ask for that help. And I hope the organization steps up. All they have to say is, we’re ready to make the change.”
Dodd, who grew up in Creemore and played sports, said he is certain the community will step up, given the chance and that the entire community must share in the responsibility, and not be complacent.
“At the end of the day, Creemore loves its community sports, of that I’m sure,” said Dodd, “and that love puts us all on the same team.”
The new policy mirrors that of the City of Mississauga, which came into effect in 2019.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission had intervened in an application before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario alleging that the use and display of Indigenous-themed logos and team names in the City of Mississauga sports arenas was discriminatory. The commission said it conducted extensive outreach with Indigenous peoples to learn about the harmful impacts of stereotypes, especially on youth.
Evan Dodd, who identifies as Métis and grew up in Creemore, shared his perspective in a letter to council, saying as an Indigenous person growing up in Canada, it has not been an easy path.
Dodd, a cousin of Christopher, goes on to say, “Until this summer, the people of Creemore and Clearview Township saw no problem with displaying images of a red-skinned Indian face in Gowan Park. I saw them many times when I drove past. Each time, they caused real pain in my heart because those signs seemed to be saying: look at the funny Indian. Isn’t he silly? Isn’t the Indian someone to be mocked – like a clown? The fact that those signs stayed there for so long was its own answer. Even though I felt anger and hurt, I said nothing because I knew no one would listen. Maybe people are ready to listen now?”
“I have a family. A wife. Two children. Imagine us sitting in that park and seeing those signs,” writes Dodd. “We are members of the local community. We contribute to the economy and we pay our taxes. We deserve to be treated respectfully like all human beings do… but those signs on township property said something very different. They said: even if you think you deserve it, you will not be respected, because you have Indian blood. You are ugly. You are just a mascot for our baseball team, the Creemore Braves. You exist for our entertainment. I would never take my family to that park. Those signs are gone now, and we might go to that park someday, but I am worried that those signs could come back. I am worried that my children might see signs like that in other Clearview parks. I think about the pain in their hearts should they see them there. I want to protect them from that ugliness, so I am writing to you.”
The commission sent a letter to Clearview Mayor Doug Measures in August urging Clearview to take steps to removing barriers to participation for Indigenous peoples by collaborating with diverse Indigenous communities to develop a policy on the use of Indigenous-themed logos and names in their sports facilities and arenas. The letter specifically identifies the Creemore Braves as a non-Indigenous sports organizations that uses Indigenous-themed names and logos.
Creemore Minor Baseball organizers Marc Dupuis and Sabrina Stamp-Dupuis said they are stepping away from the organization. Stamp-Dupuis said a lack of communication on the issue has prompted them to let someone else oversee the rebranding of the team. They say they have had little to no communication and feel they have been “thrown under the bus.” They were not aware that the policy was going to council on Monday and that there was zero communication with the municipality regarding the letter from the Human Rights Commission.
“We wanted to have open communication. We wanted to know what everyone’s opinions were, it didn’t mean that we were going to rush to change it but we still wanted to be a part of it,” she said.
She said they are not using the name in a derogatory way, and don’t think it should have to change but agree that the logo should change.
“It’s not that we’re against this, it’s a matter of approach,” said Stamp-Dupuis.
The Dupuis family had put a lot of effort into the league to build it up from one team to more than seven, using their own funds to build a second ball diamond and make up the difference for the purchase of uniforms and equipment. The time, financial commitment and lack of volunteers had prompted them to start stepping back as organizers, but this is the final straw.
“Honestly, the amount of work and energy and money that we’ve already put into this and now we have to start all over, it’s not possible,” said Stamp-Dupuis.
“There’s more important things right now to us than having the name change to someone’s liking and it’s not because we’re against it, we don’t believe the name should have to change, we agree the emblem should change.”