If readers have been spending the last short days of summer down at the local river or lake (and who could blame them) they may have missed the dust-up over the name of an Ottawa minor league football club called the Nepean Redskins.
A man named Ian Campeau, a card-carrying Nippissing Ojibwe, also known as Dee Jay NDN from the band A Tribe Called Red, has been campaigning to convince the team to change its name to something… well… something that isn’t a derogatory description of the Indigenous people of North America.
It had been a slow-moving campaign that began a year or so ago, but it got a boost from a slow-moving Ottawa city councillor, whose response to an email from Campeau was, let’s say, like throwing gasoline on a fire.
Jan Harder is the city councillor. She represents the ward of the city where the football team operates. When asked for her support of a petition urging the name change, she told Campeau he could go kick stones down the road.
“You won’t get it (support) from me or anyone else I know,” she emailed back, telling Campeau that he was looking for trouble where none existed.
Well, Harder now knows a little about trouble. Campeau put her response online and all of a sudden Campeau had a slew of pals standing behind him all calling for the team to do the right thing.
Harder, for her part, however, was slow to clue in to the shift in the direction the wind was blowing. She compounded her first error in judgement by likening Campeau’s campaign to a witch hunt. Even if the name was racist, which it’s not, she said, the cost to change it would be too expensive to ‘rebrand’ the team and too much of an expense for the volunteer organization to shoulder. Regardless, it wasn’t her issue to be concerned with, she told media.
Of course, she’s been proved wrong. Oh so wrong.
Whether the name change was an issue of city council, it was still her issue as a human being. That’s the problem here. For decades the football team has been operating under the name, changed in the 1980s for some reason from the Barrhaven Buccaneers. For decades people have been flocking to the game to watch their team, probably never thinking twice that the name of their team was, in fact, passing along the slang racial descriptor to their kids as being acceptable, and even equating it in their minds to something fun.
Campeau is one person who chose not to ignore something that was not right. We congratulate him on the stand he took, and for harnessing the powers of social media to get his word out. There’s talk as we go to press that the team’s management is meeting to discuss changing the name. Well done Mr. Campeau and friends.
And what is truly inspiring is that they are not alone. It’s been a long time coming, but people are pushing back, saying,’ I’m not going to sit by and let this stuff slide anymore.’
Take for example the restaurant menu of Holy Chuck’s on Young St. in Toronto, which was changed in August because one person (and that person’s like-minded friends) decided it just wasn’t right that one of the burgers there was called The Dirty Drunken Half Breed.
Now, it didn’t take the restaurant owner three decades to come to the right decision and change the menu after he was made aware that the name of the burger was offensive. Yes, you read that correctly. The owner said he had no idea that the term half-breed was a derogatory term for the Métis people, and, in fact, didn’t even know that Métis people existed.
This is an ignorance that, to many, is astounding in itself and not to be believed, but we will give him the benefit of the doubt, given the sorry state of education in Canada regarding first peoples, and because when it was pointed out to him, he removed the offensive burger names (yes, there were others).
The point is, someone decided to take a stand, and, low and behold, others were quick to stand up too and presto-chango, something wrong is now right.
This month in Cranbrook there was push back against the local Royal Canadian Legion newsletter that contained a joke about killing Indians. One person complained, and the newsletter was recalled, and the policy of the legion was adjusted so that the main office is now to review the local chapters’ newsletters before they are published.
One person is all it took to start us down the road toward change in the world.
Is there something that’s been eating at you?