Over 5 000 Canadian moms will attend the Blue Jays Mother’s Day game versus the Atlanta Braves. The Braves discrimination against Indigenous people is not a problem for even the most committed non-Indigenous Social Justice Warrior. From that Canadian perspective, John Anderson making fun of Zach Whitecloud’s name should come as no surprise; of course toilet paper would be the first thought of an asshole. Hockey is a sport, like Canada is a country, that does not see Indigenous racism. Indigenous racism is baked into hockey culture more completely than in other sports. And that is quite a statement considering the Tomahawk Chop racism of teams like the Atlanta Braves in baseball and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Hockey is intertwined with Canadian culture; a culture that struggles profoundly with even admitting there is a culture of Indigenous racism. Statistically, outcomes for Indigenous people in Canada deviate more from the norm than for African Americans. Unlike African American hate, it is socially acceptable. It is in the mainstream media, on daily sports broadcasts, and reflected in outcomes and policies that would shock many Canadians, let alone Americans.
For every good Canadian who loudly demonstrates their manners as a sign of their moral superiority, sorry; there is another who calls social services whenever an Indigenous woman is about to give birth, there is a school board employee who gives a high five to a student wearing a Blackhawks shirt, and there is an announcer giving updates on his favorite native mascoted sports team. In Canada, an Indigenous person cannot go to school, an arena, a mall, watch TV or browse the Internet without the ever-present reminder that Canadians see Indigenous as less than human.
Why do you think so many Indigenous kids drop out of schools where their culture is mocked? I chose to leave a Ph.D. program in Sociology: Social Justice at the University of Windsor this January since I knew I could not be part of a program where a professor thinks it’s okay to glorify works calling Indigenous cultures primitive and savage because Durkheim and Mauss wrote it in French. The professor knew that my work on mascots was focused on breaking the stereotype of the primitive savage indigenous person.
In Canada, Indigenous is represented most in alienation stats: incarceration, being shot by police, murders, missing persons, homelessness, high school dropouts, and foster care. When you see a homeless person in Canada, the person is most likely part of the 4% Indigenous population. In the US, when I watch Finding Your Roots, Dr. Henry Louis Gates takes pains to illustrate that Black people were never recorded with names in pre-civil war censuses, to take away their humanity. In 2021, Indigenous people were finally allowed to choose their own names on their Canadian government documents; that name John Anderson made fun of may have been the only name Zach Whitecloud was permitted to give him.
For the worldwide protests spurred by the Murder of George Floyd, there were 6 murders of unarmed Indigenous people in the spring of 2020 that were unprotested in Canada. Most Canadians don’t know of the police killings, almost all are unaware of the absence of police charges, and fewer still know the victims’ names. Eishia Hudson. Jason Collins. Stewart Kevin Andrews. Patrick Everett. Chantel Moore. Rodney Levi.
Yet Canadians stood by as the NHL did its Black Lives Matter stand against racism, in partnership with Indigenous free Hockey Diversity Alliance. To reopen the season during Covid the Edmonton Oilers stood with the Chicago Blackhawks. Ethan Bear, a Cree citizen, stood by and watched. Within 11 months of this most exclusionary stand against racism, Bear was racially harassed by Edmonton Oilers fans, stood up for himself, and was traded. Makes you wonder if Whitecloud offered an Olive Branch to Anderson because he likes Vegas.
The weakness of Indigenous leaders is appalling. Many Indigenous leaders in Canada support the Blackhawks. They believe the Blackhawks logo honors them, and that they have the right to approve it for me. An Indigenous Children’s Lawyer for Ontario initially worked with the Mississauga Chiefs to keep the name. An Ontario Human Rights Commission Partner for Indigenous people, and a University of Toronto Psychology professor dismissed mascots as not being important to Indigenous people, disregarding the APA report on Indigenous mascots.
After a deal I signed in the HRTO with the City of Mississauga on mascots, where the Ontario Human Rights Commission agreed to let 4 Indigenous partners decide what mascots were offensive to all Indigenous, Six Nations hosted Rogers Hometown Hockey on a night APTN broadcasted the first NHL Cree Game; that game featured the Chicago Blackhawks and hosts in Six Nations Blackhawks jerseys. Later, CBC Indigenous did an award-winning Indigenous racism story featuring a mohawk man in a Blackhawks hat. The reporter was on the plane with the pope during the residential school apology tour and never once asked why the University of Notre Dame still runs Mission Schools in the US.
There are over 300 Indigenous employees at CBC. Most are educated and versed in the history of Indigenous mascot issues and their problems. They may or may not believe that mascots perpetuate racism and contribute to the ongoing discrimination that they report daily. But all keep quiet when “Hockey Night in Canada” broadcasts the Chicago Blackhawks games as they did 3 times this season.
Imagine that. Your employer pays you to report on the outcomes of Indigenous racism while they profit from a system that promotes it. Indigenous employees must make a choice in Canada. To work for an employer who may discriminate against them as part of their business or to not work. They know if they speak up against it, against the system that denigrates them, they will be threatening their employment, like Ethan Bear, or end their career, like the writer.
At the end of the process and realizing that my work on mascots will be muted and denied, I decided to do a documentary on my experiences fighting mascots to explain why mascots are a much larger problem than we acknowledge. In this way, my approaches could be improved upon by the next person up who could build upon my argument that mascots reinforce a culture of Indigenous racism that contribute to tragic symptoms of racism like MMIW, Residential Schools, Forced Foster Care, etc.
Though unfunded, the documentary was accepted to 5 festivals and won two awards, tying with a PBS Independent Lens Production for Best Native American Film at the Latino and Native American Film Festival in 2022, but is 0 for 16 on entry to Canadian festivals. “Systemic Injustice” is on tubi in an older edit. The version with the latest soundtrack is on WoCoo.TV. It is unlikely that you will see any film criticizing Canada and Canadian broadcasters on Canadian broadcasters. We live in a country where TSN did hours on Indigenous culture last Indigenous People’s Day and showed the Shawinagan Cataractes playing in the Memorial Cup in 2022.
Canadians deny the culture of Indigenous Racism. The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal denied equality for Indigenous 6 times in the cases I brought forward in a country that the Ontario Human Rights Commission defines as one built upon colonization and immigration. Rather than understanding the pattern of racism in Canada’s institutions, the Ontario Human Rights Commission, to their shame, allowed 4 private groups, not the law, to decide what mascots were offensive. Those groups sold out to the NHL within 4 months. Their logic is reflective of the uniquely racist approach to Indigenous mascots’ bargaining. Professional teams routinely, in agreement with the “wisdom” of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, reach out to a single group to get permission for a universal slur.
Ideally, if you watch “Systemic Injustice”, first, you will understand the harm of mascots. Second, you will choose not to allow the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal processes to evaluate if you are deserving of human rights. Skip the process. It has the wisdom of Solomon Grundy and is designed to punish those who complain.
But more likely you will ignore this. Go to or watch the Blue Jays – Braves game on Sunday. Take your mom. Donate to prevent homelessness as you avoid the homeless begging under the QEW outside the Rogers Centre. Ignore the fact that most are Indigenous. Deny the systemic racism that contributes to the homelessness and other tragedies faced by the Indigenous people you are standing on. Join historical revisionists who deny the harm of residential schools in the same way the 1930s saw the prevalence of Good Slave Stories to reposition the Civil War to a war of state’s rights. Ignore a genocide that since contact in 1492 produced a negative constant annual growth rate for North America’s Indigenous. Believe in the goodness of Canadians in the absence of proof. Sorry!