Hamilton moves to ban Indigenous symbols from city sports teams and facilities


Published January 16, 2024 at 12:10 pm

A ban on the use of Indigenous symbols, themes or imagery in local non-Indigenous sports teams and facilities has been recommended by Hamilton city staff.

The recommendation comes from a report ahead of the Jan. 18 Community Services meeting. It notes there is no city policy about the use of Indigenous themes or imagery. However, it says the city should implement one based on a similar recommendation from the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

Back in 2019, the City of Mississauga received a complaint alleging the use of Indigenous imagery in sports was discriminatory. The Human Rights Commission intervened and, following collaboration with Indigenous communities, oversaw a settlement between the city and the applicant.

Ultimately, Mississauga agreed to remove all Indigenous-themed mascots, symbols, names and imagery related to non-Indigenous sports organizations. They also agreed to collaborate with different groups such as the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, the Peel Aboriginal Network, and others when implementing any such imagery in the future.

The precedent-setting settlement prompted then-Ontario Human Rights Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane to write to all other Ontario municipalities to explain and encourage similar action. “Sports are drivers of social inclusion; they bring communities together and help youth develop their self-esteem,”her office wrote saying they and the municipalities shared a “goal of actively removing barriers to participation in sports for Indigenous youth.”

“The use of Indigenous-themed names and logos by sports teams has been a long-standing norm in our society. However, it is time to revisit these pervasive images,” the commission concluded. They nothed the American Psychological Association found using this kind of imagery

  • Misuses cultural practices and sacred spiritual symbols;
  • Denies Indigenous peoples control over social definitions of themselves;
  • Perpetuates stereotypes of Indigenous people;
  • Creates hostile environments for students and others;
  • Negatively impacts the psychological functioning of Indigenous people (decreased self-esteem and community worth)

Additionally, the Commission cited the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to action to ensure that sports policies and programs are inclusive of Indigenous peoples. The Human Right Commission specifically cited the Dundas Chiefs and the Stoney Creek Minor Hockey Association as in need of changes. However, Hamilton found there were no Indigenous themes or logos present in city-owned arenas when the letter was sent.

Since Mississauga’s settlement was satisfactory for the Human Rights Commission, Hamilton based its proposed policy on theirs. It also presented a draft of the policy to a local Indigenous Community Justice group, The Circle of Beads. The city described this group as ” made up of Indigenous leaders in the Hamilton area who gather to discuss important issues that affect the Indigenous community.”

“Based on feedback from the group, there was a consensus that this type of policy was very important, and that it should be implemented as soon as possible,” Hamilton wrote. If passed, the policy would come into effect on Jan. 24, nearly five years after the Ontario Human Rights Commission letter.


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