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Above: The logo for the Chicago ‘Blackhawks‘. Below: The logo for the Washington ‘Redskins’.

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Sikh-Canadian Activist Campaigns Against Offensive Sports Teams Logos:
Pardeep Singh Nagra





Students should be banned from wearing clothing with offensive logos -- such as the Cleveland Indians or Chicago Blackhawks -- says a group of school board equity officials who are now lobbying Ontario's provincial government in Canada, and directors of education to change dress codes.

“The use of pejorative indigenous names, logos and mascots is both an exploitation of indigenous cultural, spiritual and intellectual identity, and in many cases, a racist misrepresentation of that identity,” says a letter sent Monday to Ontario’s Education Minister Liz Sandals and education officials.

“This extends to students wearing clothing of amateur and professional teams that bear the pejorative and racist names and logos. When this occurs, our schools across Ontario are fostering a learning environment that is asking indigenous and non-indigenous children to tolerate racism and it must stop immediately.”

The letter, from the Equity Summit Group, representing 26 school board equity officers from across the province, says allowing such clothing, names or mascots violates the province’s own strategy on inclusive education and dealing with the issue is timely given the recent report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The group notes that Justice Murray Sinclair, who headed the commission, has publicly stated that such mascots “have no place in a country trying to come to grips with racism in its past.”

Some have argued such names honour indigenous peoples, but Pardeep Singh Nagra, Manager of Employment Equity of the Toronto District School Board and co-chair of the Equity Summit Group, said that can be done in other ways.

When Pardeep worked at the University of Toronto Mississauga more than a decade ago, the team was the Erindale Chiefs.

“We went through a process with the local indigenous community there, because part of what we were trying to say was we don’t want to ban indigenous team names,” only those that are pejorative, he said.

“Why, in this day and age, do we allow racist logos?” Chris D’Souza, who founded the Equity Summit Group, added.

“It seems to me it’s time for a mandate or directive from the ministry to school boards to ban (offensive logos and names) in schools,” he said, adding boards could then create -- and update -- a list of offensive logos or amend dress codes, while consulting with local aboriginal communities.

In the U.S., the names debate is in the news as the Washington Redskins of the National Football League continue to come under pressure to change it. In recent years, California has banned schools from using “Redskins” as a team name and in Madison, Wis., clothing with racial logos was banned, as were offensive mascots.

Closer to home, schools here have grappled with names or logos, with Scarborough’s West Hill Warriors keeping their name but changing their mascot, and, back in the 1990s, Runnymede Collegiate eliminating the “Redmen” team name.

The National Football League continues to be pressured in the U.S. to change the Washington Redskins' name. Aboriginal groups, who say the team name and logo is offensive, have filed lawsuits against the team in the past.

“The UTM team is now called the Eagles,” a symbol of spiritual peace. “If you want to honour a tradition, work with the community,” says Pardeep Singh of the Toronto School Board.

In a statement, Minister Sandals said the province “(encourages) school boards to work with their schools and communities to ensure everyone feels safe, welcome, respected and included. Research shows that students who feel welcome and accepted in their schools are more likely to succeed academically.

“We continue to work in partnership with school boards and stakeholders to build awareness, understanding and respect for diversity among all members of the school community, and to identify and address discriminatory biases, stereotypes and barriers that may exist.”

[Courtesy: The Toronto Star. Edited for]
February 24, 2016


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Pardeep Singh Nagra"

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