Edmonton needs to talk about the name of its football team, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley both said in Ottawa on Wednesday.
Trudeau was asked about the name Edmonton Eskimos at a news conference. The nickname has been criticized for its use of an outdated term for the Inuit people of Canada’s North.
“Obviously that’s a part of reconciliation, is listening to concerns and understanding what habits of the past need to change,” he said.
“This is a discussion and a reflection that the city of Edmonton certainly needs to undertake. Reconciliation is not just about Indigenous people and the government. It’s about all of us as Canadians, non-Indigenous as well. And I think that’s a really important discussion to have.”
Ottawa is the host city for Sunday’s Grey Cup game between the Calgary Stampeders and the Toronto Argonauts.
Notley also weighed in on the Edmonton club’s contentious nickname Wednesday. She was in Ottawa on a speaking tour promoting the need for pipelines to get Alberta oil to new markets.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Notley said it would show good leadership for the franchise to engage the community — including Indigenous people — in the conversation.
Notley said while she won’t tell the team what to do, she would like to hear what people have to say about the issue.
Many consider the word Eskimo a slur, or at least an uncomfortable vestige of colonialism for Inuit people.
There have been periodic calls in recent years for the team to change its name.
The team said this month it was keenly listening to all input, including from loyal season ticket holders and other fans.
In Edmonton Wednesday, Mayor Don Iveson repeated his position that the team needs to deal with the nickname because the questions about it aren’t going away.
Iveson said concerns raised by Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the national Inuit organization, must be taken into account.
“Now that we’ve heard repeatedly from the leader of the national Inuit organization, who is an elected official there to represent his people, and he’s spoken consistently — very calmly, very persuasively but consistently — that it raises concerns for his community, I think that demands further conversation,” Iveson said.
“It really is for the team to follow up on that, but again, as I’ve said before, I don’t think this issue is going to go away, either.”
Any discussion should involve Edmontonians, including Inuit people, and national Inuit leaders, Iveson said. He also said fans and players on the Edmonton team should be included in the conversation.
“We’ve seen players taking pretty strong positions in the United States around strong issues of inclusion and equity, and so I think the players have a stake in this, too,” he said.
“That’s a difficult conversation for the team to manage but … there probably is a respectful process to at least make sure the Inuit perspective is fully heard by the community, including by fans who may not have heard what Mr. Obed has to say.”