Alex Bishop

Exclusion of Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation at Grey Cup was a national failure

Indigenous engagement must be embedded into every organization in Canada, or they risk reputational damage.

I work for Indigenous-led organizations, at their request, toadvise on matters suchas raising capital, partnering with non-Indigenous organizations, engaging with the public and government. Almost every week we hear of another gaffe of an organization which through ignorance (wilful or not), malice or greed failsto engage with a First Nation, Inuit or Métis Community.

The Grey Cup was another, though it was on a national stage.

The 108th Grey Cup was (as Arkells said) “years in the making.” The return of the Cup to Hamilton was supposed to be full of fanfare and celebration of all things great in our community.

The City of Hamilton, the Ticats and the CFL all missed the mark by failing to include and invite the treaty holders of the land where Hamilton is situated — the traditional territory of theMississaugas of the Credit First Nation. The year 2021 was a year when voters in Canada placed Indigenous reconciliation as one of their top issues in our federal election. Thus, it is poor politics and bad business that our city, our team and our league didn’t meet some minimum standard of engaging all the First Nation communities on which Hamilton is situated.

Prior to European settlers, the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation inhabited lands north of Lake Superior and around Georgian Bay. They migrated into southern Ontario, formed allyships and settled in two locations on the east and west ends of Lake Ontario.

By the time the British Crown conquered New France at the middle of the 18th century, they recognized the rights of First Nations and their ownership and stewardship of their lands.

When my firm was hired to curate what came to be the largest National Indigenous People’s Day, for another southern Ontario community, we, of course, contacted Chief Stacey LaForme of the Mississaugas. When the Grey Cup organizersfailed to include Chief Stacey LaForme’s community, it became a problem not just for the CFL, but also for our Ticats and the City of Hamilton.

All should have been checking to ensure this didn’t happen.

The resulting lack of cultural awareness caused only one nation, the Six Nations of the Grand River, to be invited to Hamilton’s Grey Cup celebration.

In speaking to Chief LaForme, he said: “This was such a missed opportunity to show unity.” Unity with Hamilton and its businesses, its federal and provincial government (who were recognized) and its First Nation Communities — Six Nations and the Mississaugas of the New Credit.

After being informed of this gaffe, I understand that the Tiger-Cats, instead of going down the path of restorative justice, doubled down and refused to acknowledge the error.

My suggestion to the city, the CFL and the Ticats: Apologize to the Chief, Council and the community. Recognize the harms done. Ask: “what can we do to make things right?” And then do that.

As a take away, I will leave you with these thoughts which I hope will move you into action.

I am asking the readership, our city leaders and all businesses in Hamilton and across this country — are we creating harm through inaction or ignorance? What is our role? What action can I take? Can we take? What steps can my organization make?

Alex Bishop lives on Turtle Island with his two children.

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