An Open Letter to the Nepean Redskins & the National Capital Amateur Football Association:
I am writing to you on behalf of Jer’s Vision, a Canadian youth-run anti-bullying organization, in support of Ian Campeau’s request to the National Capital Amateur Football Association that the Nepean Redskins transition to a different name.
Jer’s Vision organizes conferences, facilitates workshops, and advocates on behalf of youth issues. We look at the intersectionality of how youth are bullied and oppressed by stereotypes and institutionalized frameworks based on race, gender, ability, and sexual orientation. We work with and advocate for youth who battle every day with how words can hurt them to the point where they struggle with low self-esteem and contemplate suicide.
According to the Rainbow Health Ontario 2011 Fact Sheet on LGBT mental health, LGBT youth are 14 times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual peers because of stigma, discrimination, and prejudice—like name-calling and the normalization of slurs. Similarly, according to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research 2012 Fact Sheet on Suicide Prevention, suicide rates for Aboriginal youth are 5-7 times higher than non-Aboriginal youth with language and culture retention being important factors to prevention. Because culture and language are so important to youth in this country it is not difficult to see how a term such as “redskin”, which the dictionary defines as “dated”, “offensive”, and “disparaging” to Native Americans and First Nations people, has a negative effect.
I remember in high school when my gender presentation, sexual identity, and race were objectified or ridiculed. I remember when “that’s so gay” were flung around as if it didn’t have decades-worth of dehumanization behind it, normalized because “everyone was saying it” and rationalized away by folks who “didn’t mean it in that way”. When we don’t fight to have this type of language eliminated from our vocabulary, we are telling a group of people that they don’t matter, that they are inferior, less than, and not welcome in our institutions and society. Even if we don’t mean it “that way”, whether it’s homophobic or racist, if the term or phrase is inherently disparaging, it needs to be taken out.
For clarification’s sake, I am not part of the First Nations, nor do I presume to speak for First Nations people. I am writing to you not just as part of an anti-bullying organization, or as someone who supports indigenous rights and struggles globally.
I am writing to you as an Ottawa resident who volunteers with community organizations and loves fostering respectful, fun environments for youth. I am writing to you as one of many, like Ian Campeau, that would personally help to fundraise for the name change in support of both your work and of progress. I am writing to you as a person who believes that you can be a leader in the community and a positive example for your volunteers and youth.
Faye C. Estrella
new office: 440 Albert St, suite C304