Canadian Politics (Federal), Canadian Politics (Provincial), Opinion, Published Articles

Time for a name change

Originally published in the Whitecourt Star

The Canadian Football League’s (CFL) Edmonton Eskimos recently stopped in Whitecourt and Grande Prairie as part of their northern Alberta tour.

The trip has been presented as an opportunity to engage northern Albertans in the CFL by giving locals the opportunity to meet players from the closest CFL team.

But if the Eskimos are truly serious about engaging northern Albertans, they may want to consider changing their team’s name from a term used for Inuit people, many of whom reside in province’s north.

As Natan Obed, president of Canada’s national Inuit organization, observed in 2015 Globe and Mail opinion piece, ‘Eskimo’ has never been a term Inuit people have used to describe themselves. It was imposed on them by European settlers as part of the colonization process.

“The CFL football team does not honour our culture, our history, our present, or our future. The name is an enduring relic of colonial power,” wrote Obed.

It’s not just the Eskimos that have an offensive team name, of course. There’s the Cleveland Indians in baseball, Washington Redskins in American football and hockey’s Chicago Blackhawks, to name but a few.

These team names share a common thread — they’re all directed at indigenous peoples.

It’s noteworthy that Edmonton’s CFL team is the only professional Canadian sports franchise faced with this issue.

Canadians often pride ourselves on being more tolerant than our southern neighbours, so let’s act the part.

Particularly at a time of heightened awareness regarding the plight of aboriginals, it would be a measure of considerable goodwill for the team owners to at least consider a name change.

Toronto Mayor John Tory, a former CFL commissioner, said last year that the time was right for the Eskimos to change their name to something more inclusive.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, whose overall politics are far more progressive than Tory’s, has been conspicuously absent from the debate, merely calling it “an important (question) to grapple with.”

Understandably, Iveson doesn’t want to offend fans of a popular franchise, but sometimes one must risk offence to do the right thing, particularly when it’s as simple as changing a name.

The CFL continues to defend the Eskimos brand, pointing out that the team doesn’t use race imagery in its advertising, unlike the Cleveland Indians’ notorious Chief Wahoo.

If the team is genuinely trying to avoid using discriminatory images, then it’s all the more reason for them to change its name.

So what would Edmonton’s CFL team change its name to?

Nearly anything would be less odious then the current moniker, but I think Tory was correct to suggest the team hold a contest for fans to select a new name.

This would be a means of truly engaging the entire community with the franchise, while demonstrating respect for indigenous peoples by treating their diversity of cultures as more than a caricature.

Crime, Published Articles, Toronto Politics

Carding a blight on multicultural Toronto

Jeremy Appel
Originally published in Humber Et Cetera

Tactics used by Toronto police lag far behind the city’s rich multiculturalism, according to critics, and nowhere is this more evident than with carding – a practice community advocates say amounts to racial profiling.

That was the message Jamil Jivani of the Policing Literacy Initiative brought to Humber Lakeshore campus Wednesday for the latest installment of the President’s Lecture Series.

The lecture, entitled “Bridging the Divide Between Police and the Community,” fell on the one-year anniversary of the Ferguson, Mo., grand jury’s decision not to charge Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown.

“Why does a Canadian sitting in Toronto look at what’s happening in Ferguson on CNN and feel like there’s a connection to that?” Jivani asked.

It’s because of the racial biases shared by police in both the U.S. and Canada, said Jivani. Carding is a manifestation of this systemic racism, he continued.

Jivani defines carding as when one is “stopped for no criminal investigation,” but has “personal information recorded by a police officer and then entered into a database.”

After studying police data obtained through a Freedom of Information request, a 2012 Toronto Star  investigative report concluded that black Torontonians are four times more likely to get carded than their white counterparts.

Andray Domise, co-host of the Canadaland Commons political podcast, is a long-time Rexdale resident who’s seen the effects of racial profiling on his community.

“If I am stopped and carded, then the information from that interaction can find its way through some database, which then comes back to haunt me later on,” Domise said. “I’ve spoken to people who that’s actually happened to.

“It used to be that (the police) could repress you physically, but now they can repress you socially,” he said.

Domise emphasized that not all Toronto cops are racist. From his experiences in Rexdale, he noticed many officers making genuine efforts to engage with the community and its leaders.

But these efforts are undermined by TAVIS (Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy) officers who are sent from outside to intensively police neighbourhoods perceived as crime ridden.  They have no genuine connections, social or otherwise, with the areas they police.

“They don’t care about working with people. What they care about is getting their arrests (and) their carding information,” he said.

Former Toronto mayor John Sewell also has a lot to say about carding. He founded the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition in 2000 after gaining a reputation as a passionate critic of Toronto police.

“You aren’t engaging with someone who you’re threatening. And that’s what police are doing when they’re carding,” said Sewell.

“If you’re constantly carded by police and treated as if you’re a criminal, you’re going to feel as if you don’t belong in society,” he said. “That’s not a good thing for police to be doing to people.”

The Ontario government recently announced plans to rein in carding, but under the new legislation, police are not required to provide receipts detailing their interaction, nor are they required to dismantle their database of information.