City of Thunder Bay Apologizes over Mascot Launch

Thunder Bay City Hall
Thunder Bay City Hall

THUNDER BAY – The City of Thunder Bay has a new mascot. Or did. Quietly on Friday amid the City of Thunder Bay’s 50th year, the anniversary committee revealed “Thunder” the new official mascot for the city.

Thunder is a bird.

Comments on Social Media regarding the City of Thunder Bay's decision on a mascot were swift and mainly negative.
Comments on Social Media regarding the City of Thunder Bay’s decision on a mascot were swift and mainly negative.

In a video released on social media on Friday afternoon, showing the new mascot making its way around the city, the response was at best mixed. Most comments were quite negative.

Several of the comments on Facebook have apparently come to the attention of Administration and by Saturday afternoon the city issued this statement:

We want to apologize for the hurt caused by launching the 50th-anniversary mascot with no explanation of the meaning or process.

As part of the City of Thunder Bay’s 50th Anniversary campaign in 2020, the committee approved the creation of a City mascot at a cost of $5000.

A general bird character was selected by the committee for the mascot.

We shared the creative concept of the mascot in late 2019 with the City’s Elder’s Council and Chief Peter Collins of Fort William First Nation. None raised issues with the concept.

The bird was named Thunder as part of the launch to reflect the city’s name.

In light of the recent comparisons of the mascot to a Thunderbird, and recognizing that the Thunderbird is sacred in certain indigenous peoples’ history and culture, the committee will select a new name for the mascot and make revisions to the creative campaign.

We will be sure to involve the community in the renaming.”

Editorial Excerpt: Is an apology enough?

The City of Thunder Bay has worked toward making great strides in overcoming systemic racism in our city. The Thunder Bay Police Service was one of the focal points of the “Broken Trust” report that said there was “Systemic Racism” in the Thunder Bay Police Service.

OIPRD Report Broken Trust
OIPRD Report Broken Trust

There have been changes made with the police service.

The City of Thunder Bay likely needs to look inward after the decision by the team behind this mascot and its naming.

Ripping open wounds that are barely healing is not the way forward. Moves like this by the city administration and others within the city point to a serious problem – the need for inner reflection and setting a path forward of unity not of single-minded “business as usual”.

Likely it is now up to City Councillors and the Mayor to demonstrate that real change is what is needed. It is time for open dialogue, not the quiet continuous march of assumed dialogue. It is time to recognize that what has been done, in the past has caused great pain and suffering. It is time to realize real change is going to take real courage.

That it appears not a single person involved in the creation of the mascot, the promotion of the mascot, the video, and production of the materials saw it was going to be seen as cultural appropriation speaks volumes.

That within mere minutes, citizens in the City of Thunder Bay started speaking out so quickly and effectively, demonstrates that the journey of the citizens has left the Administration far behind is both a positive sign and a negative sign.

It says growing numbers of people in our community are on the right path, while painfully pointing out within the leadership and administration of the City of Thunder Bay, they are far behind the people in that journey.

Perhaps the task of City Council and the Mayor now is to demonstrate to the citizens who they represent that they are going to put on their running shoes and hurry up and catch up. Perhaps that will come with some changes within the administration and some new people?

Mayor Mauro is on record as saying that one of his heroes is Martin Luther King Jr. The mayor has also said that if MLK couldn’t solve the issue of racism, it speaks to how hard solving that problem is. Perhaps in this instance, the Mayor can see that there are ways that he too can “Have a dream that one day…” in our city we will see all people treated equally and fairly.

The naming of this mascot demonstrates, at a time when other corporations have announced their logos and mascots will be changed. “Uncle Ben’s Rice”, Aunt Jemima pancake mix and syrup will be removing their logos because those products are realizing change is needed.

Here, in Thunder Bay, perhaps it is time for some more radical change, to fully demonstrate that Thunder Bay’s brightest days are ahead of all of us.

We can not as a community realize our full potential with people in positions not to fully see the realities of today’s world. The Mayor and Council have some leadership to show.

Thunder Bay has a tainted reputation already. That the people of our city had to lead the administration in this and create the impetus for change is a positive road sign that Mayor Mauro and Council should see as a starting point for their next moves.

James Murray