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Two Toronto-area schools pull sports teams' indigenous imagery

Students at Port Credit Secondary School in Mississauga wear the school T-shirts during gym class on May 2. The team will continue to be called the Warriors next fall, but the logo will be changed.

Students at Port Credit Secondary School in Mississauga wear the school T-shirts during gym class on May 2. The team will continue to be called the Warriors next fall, but the logo will be changed.

FRED LUM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Two Toronto-area high schools will be removing native imagery and names from their sports teams by the fall – part of a wider movement among educators to ban logos that are deemed offensive and culturally inappropriate by the aboriginal community.

Port Credit Secondary School in Mississauga will keeps its name, the Warriors, but remove the image of two yellow feathers painted on its gym floor and phase out team uniforms with a Chief's head image, while sports teams at Brampton's Chinguacousy Secondary School won't be referred to as the Chiefs. The school will find a new name by the fall that does not include any elements that reflect aboriginal culture.

Brian Woodland, a spokesman for the Peel District School Board, said there was no resistance from the schools, and dismissed any charges of political correctness.

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"I think that's such a misnomer. As a school system, we don't ever want something that is offensive, that is hurtful," Mr. Woodland said. "We don't ever want something that makes people not feel included."

Championship banners hang from the rafters of the gymnasium at Port Credit Secondary School.

Championship banners hang from the rafters of the gymnasium at Port Credit Secondary School.

FRED LUM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

The debate is intense around the use of logos and names for sports teams that are particular to aboriginal culture. Defenders say it demonstrates pride and a fighting spirit, while opponents say it promotes misunderstanding and prejudice.

From the archives
Former Edmonton Eskimo supports changing team's name A former Edmonton Eskimo who once visited Nunavut with the Grey Cup says it’s time to respect that the team’s name is considered offensive to aboriginal people.

Among the most controversial names is the Washington Redskins, part of the biggest sports monolith on the North American sports landscape. The National Football League team has come under pressure to change its name and image, which is seen as offensive. The team's owner, Daniel Snyder, has been openly intractable on the issue.

Closer to home, a group of school equity officers in Ontario have called on Education Minister Liz Sandals and school boards to stop sports teams from using indigenous names, logos and mascots.

Ms. Sandals said in a statement that school boards should work with their schools and communities. "All forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on race, age, disability, or other factors are unacceptable in our schools, and we have strengthened the requirements for school boards to foster safe, inclusive and accepting schools for all students," she said.

Ontario Education Minister Liz Sandals. FRANK GUNN/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Across the country, school boards say they deal with issues as they come to light.

A Toronto District School Board spokesman said he is not aware of any schools that currently have aboriginal names or logos. There have been issues in the past. Among them, Runnymede Collegiate Institute changed its name from the Redmen to the Ravens in the 1990s and West Hill Collegiate Institute changed its logo (an aboriginal head with red war paint and feathers) in 2009, but retained the name Warriors..

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At the Halton District School Board, west of Toronto, Georgetown District High School removed the confederate flag from its logo in the 1990s. The flag is associated with racism and slavery.

"The board and its staff are …committed to the elimination of all types of discrimination," said spokesman Jason Misner.

At the Peel District School Board, an equity and inclusion advisory committee reviewed all sports team names and logos recently, and then took them to a group of aboriginal leaders for review. The names and logos of only two high schools were found to be problematic.

Port Credit Secondary School will be losing this logo at its gym’s centre court.

Port Credit Secondary School will be losing this logo at its gym’s centre court.

FRED LUM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Bill Morrison, with the Métis Nation of Ontario and who was among the aboriginal leaders advising the school board, said the feathers on the gym floor at Port Credit Secondary School had "ceremonial significance" and had to be removed. He said the changes made by the two schools in Peel speaks to an educational awareness, as opposed to being politically motivated.

"I think it is a very significant move by the schools to be aware and be cognizant of the histories that surround them," Mr. Morrison said. "The changing of the logo and the changing of the name is probably, in my perspective, more appropriate. They're making a correct decision."


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