Thunder Bay Apologizes Over More ‘Mistakes’ in ‘Mascotgate’

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Thunder Bay City Hall
Thunder Bay City Hall

THUNDER BAY – EDITORIAL – The City of Thunder Bay has issued a second apology on behalf of the 50th Anniversary Committee over the ‘Mascotgate’.

As a part of the City of Thunder Bay’s 50th Anniversary, the proposed new mascot was to have been revealed, after public consultation, on January 1, 2020. The mascot was unveiled in late June, just before Canada Day. The mascot, a bird named “Thunder” was released on a Facebook video and immediately drew negative comments from across the city over the new mascot being insensitive to the Indigenous people in the area for whom the Thunderbird is a sacred symbol.

At the time the City said that the Elder’s Committee had been approached. Now we find out that simply was not true.

On Friday, July 17, 2020, again on Facebook, the City posted: “We sincerely apologize to the Elders Council for not reaching out to them or the broader Indigenous community prior to the launch of the 50th Anniversary mascot and confirm the final concept for the mascot was not approved by the Elders Council. We have learned from this experience and, with humility and resolve, commit ourselves to continued collective learning and working with and following the guidance of the Elders Council in a meaningful way moving forward.”

The City has stated that the 50th Anniversary Committee will be re-engaging with the city over a new name for the mascot.

There is no word if that decision is in keeping with the wishes of the citizens of the City of Thunder Bay, or not. Perhaps what needs to be realized is the bird is tainted. A new name won’t be enough.

A Positive Message

If there is a positive message in all of this, it is that when it comes to fully understanding and accepting the importance of Indigenous peoples and their contributions to our community this instance has shown how much further along that journey of healing the ordinary citizens of Thunder Bay are when compared to some of the leadership in the city.

It is likely a demonstration that Thunder Bay at the corporate level still has a long way to go before the full measure of trust and reconciliation will be realized.

It is encouraging that the citizens of this city are leading the way, that speaks very positively to the future of our beloved city.

So what should happen?

We are now in mid-summer, the Coronavirus Pandemic has shut down most of the activities where the public would gather and a mascot could be present.

Perhaps it would be more keeping that after this fiasco, that both the bird mascot and the current 50th Anniversary committee both be shelved. This entire episode has put our city in a very bad light and done so at a time when what was and is needed are as many positive messages as possible.

Perhaps all the people involved in ‘Mascotgate’ need to take and pass meaningful cultural and sensitivity training. The management over this situation have bungled the entire incident in a manner that suggests there need to be some changes made to allow moving forward to happen.

The apologies are a start. Now it is up to Mayor Bill Mauro and City Councillors to decide if they want to get in step with the majority of the city and send a message of hope over this issue.

That, of course, is just my opinion, as always, your mileage may vary.

James Murray