“I’ll be a little more at peace”: Inuit chief reflects on report on CFL team name change

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Natan Obed does not think he himself changed the name of the Edmonton football team.But the national Inuit leader – whose 2015 Globe and Mail edition put the discussion in the national spotlight ahead of the team’s Gray Cup victory – says if reports are to be believed, the Inuit can now move on to other problems without that “distraction”.

CBC News has not been able to verify information from TSN and Postmedia that the Edmonton CFL club has decided to change its name internally, with an announcement expected this week.

A spokesperson for the team said that on Saturday there was no update regarding the name change.

But if the reports are true, that puts an end to a bitterly divisive debate that took place not only in southern Canada, but among Inuit across the country.

“This is something that weighs heavily on me because I hate to see our community and our people fighting against each other over issues. But much less something that seems so personal, ”Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), told CBC News.

Repairing relationships

Support and opposition on behalf of the team throughout Inuit Nunangat depended largely on demographics. The Inuit of the western Arctic were generally more favorable to the name, as were the older Inuit; while the eastern regions and younger generations mainly supported a change.

In the fight for Inuit self-determination, we all want to feel like we are part of it.– Natan Obed, President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Duane Smith, president of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation – and ITK board member – told Sportsnet radio earlier this month that many of his constituents are proud of the Edmonton team name.

The issue even reached the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut in February, when Minister Lorne Kusugak told opponents on behalf of the team to “take a Valium” and stop being “so sensitive” during his statement. deputy.

Obed acknowledged that some would be upset by the announced result, comparing it to former Nunavut MP Nancy Karetak Lindell’s vote for a gay marriage law, despite strong opposition from her constituents at the time.

“When the name changes I will be a little more at peace and I hope I can start to mend some of those relationships that have been broken by this speech,” Obed said. The problem for him, he said, has never been what Inuit think of the term, but rather with a company that uses it as a nickname.

“There has never been any question of blatantly criticizing and ridiculing anyone. It was about social justice. It was systemic racism. And it’s really about Inuit self-determination.

“I think in the fight for Inuit self-determination, we all want to feel like we’re part of it. “

Other issues to focus on

During a phone show on CBC Nunavut Tausunni On Friday, an interviewee suggested that there are more important issues facing the Inuit than the name of a football team.

Obed agreed, but said this is an important issue as well.

“Systemic racism has all kinds of different ways it presents itself to Inuit,” he said.

“And the replacement of that name ends one of those avenues of systemic racism. And that to me is so heartwarming in the face of so many other things that Inuit face every day.

Obed also said that this question proves that Inuit have a voice for change in this country.

“The fact that that name can change, I think, also shows that when we mobilize and use our voices and stand up for the things we do well,” he said.

“And it will be difficult. And our own community may not be with us every step of the way. But we do things that matter to Inuit and to all Inuit to come.

According to TSN and Postmedia, the Edmonton CFL team has decided to change its name, with an announcement scheduled for this week. The team did not confirm the report. The team applied for the trademark “Edmonton Empire” in 2018. (John Woods / The Canadian Press)

End the use of the term in non-Inuit discourse

When asked if this reported CFL team decision was the turning point for non-Inuit to stop using the term altogether in social discourse, Obed replied, “Yes.”

“This is a huge victory for the Inuit and for the self-determination of the Inuit,” he said.

“If the Inuit in our communities want to use this term to describe themselves or their friends, or use the term, it is at the discretion of the Inuit and the Inuit alone.

“I don’t want my children to be called [that term] by the government or by anyone with whom they interact. And this decision by the Edmonton football team will make it nowhere socially acceptable for a non-Inuit to use the term for any reason whatsoever to describe us. ”

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