On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Lynne Courchene-Allard and Jean-Paul Allard. They are parents in Ottawa, Ontario, who have taken up the fight against racist logos, mascots, and team names, most recently by filing a human rights complaint against the Ontario Ministry of Education seeking a ban on such logos in the province’s schools.
This year’s dramatic growth in the street-level boldness of openly fascist and white supremacist forces in North America turned into fatal violence in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier in August. As welcome as it is to see the broad wave of horror and condemnation in response, there seems to be far too little recognition of the ways in which such openly preached supremacy and hatred rest on the countless racist messages that permeate our culture and on the massive harm done every day by racist and settler colonial systems that organize all of our lives. It remains to be seen how much of that horror, particularly on the part of those of us who are not ourselves targeted by racism, will be turned into action to challenge all of the big and little ways that our workplaces, our communities, our places of worship, the stores we shop in, the media we consume, the curriculum we’re taught, and so much more are set up in ways that harm Black people, Indigenous people, and people of colour.
Lynne Courchene-Allard and Jean-Paul Allard are both originally from Manitoba but they and their young children currently live in Ottawa. Lynne is from Sagkeeng First Nation, and she has faced racism in all of its forms all her life, while Paul is a white settler who grew up in Winnipeg and who has been learning as an adult about all of the devastating ways that racism permeates our communities.
A couple of years ago, they had a chance encounter in a local store with members of a minor hockey team from another part of the province bearing a blatantly racist name and logo. As they set out to address that specific instance, they began to learn more and more about the many sports teams in Ontario that still have names and/or logos that are racist, particularly in ways that target Indigenous people, and how thoroughly normalized that particular manifestation of racism is in many contexts.
Their ways of challenging this racism have shifted over time. Their current human rights complaint against the Ontario Ministry of Education argues that allowing students in Ontario’s schools to wear names and logos of sports teams that constitute racial slurs violates the Safe Schools Act and the Accepting Schols Act, and that such clothing should be banned. The Ministry has thus far declined to take the requested action, and they are scheduled to have a mediation meeting on September 6. Throughout all of this, Lynne and Jean-Paul have been quite clear – and have cited both lived experience and social science research to this effect – that this is not just a matter of offense, but a matter of harm. In contrast to gun- and torch-wielding fascists roaming the streets, these impacts are often dismissed by people who are not themselves targeted, but the couple insist that tolerating racial slurs in the form of logos and mascots propagates stereotypes against Indigenous people that facilitate other kinds of discrimination, and causes demonstrable harm, especially to Indigenous children.
We talk about the harms that are caused by everyday racism, and the steps that Lynne and Jean-Paul are taking to challenge one facet of that racism and make Ontario’s schools a little bit safer for their children and for all Indigenous kids. To learn more about Lynne and Jean-Paul’s work, or to find out how to send a letter of support, follow Lynne on Twitter.
Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada, giving you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out its website here. You can also follow them on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org to join our weekly email update list.
Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.