With its blue-and-white colour scheme and embroidered maple leaf, the Toronto Blue Jays logo is arguably one of Canada’s most recognizable and iconic symbols.
Over the years, more than 44 iterations of the jersey have been produced, but none perhaps as important as the design announced just last week.
Two artists have joined forces to reimagine the traditional design in a way that celebrates Indigenous culture and raises awareness about the lack of access to clean drinking water in Indigenous communities in Canada.
The design — unveiled on July 7, but in the works since 2016, the Star reported — sees the team's blue jay transformed with Haida-inspired art. Adding Mohawk words such as Tkaronto and Konoronhkwa, which mean "Toronto" and "I love you," respectively, artists Kory Parkin and Casey Bannerman have reimagined the design scheme in a way that focuses on Indigenous identity.
The proceeds from the jerseys — which are already sold out — will go toward charities such as Water First and Dreamcatcher Foundation, whose work focuses on providing clean water to Indigenous communities across the country.
According to the latest figures, more than 34 long-term drinking water advisories are currently in effect in First Nation communities, down from 58 last year. These advisories are meant to alert and protect communities from water that is contaminated or unsafe to drink, and some have been in effect for years. When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was first elected in 2015, he had pledged to end all long-term drinking water advisories by March 2021, but was unable to do so. The government now hopes to end all advisories by 2025.
Bannerman and Parkin are here to remind us that the work is far from over.
"I believe it was just recently that the boil-water order was lifted [on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory]," Parkin, a member of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, who grew up on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, told the Star. "It had been in place for 14 years. We could always get drinking water, but it wasn’t always easy. I’d been in other reserves where it was not as easy, especially the northern reserves. In 2022, it’s still a huge issue for Indigenous peoples."
Lack of access to drinking water has been linked to health issues, such as gastrointestinal illnesses and cancer, as well as ongoing stress and economic hardship. Child mortality rates in Indigenous communities are two to four times higher than other children in Canada, and research suggests that the provision of safe water alone could reduce these rates by 30%.
In its calls to action, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, the body that conducted an inquiry into the legacy of residential schools, recommended the government "close the gaps in health outcomes" between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. This means making sure that everyone has the same access to clean water.
While the jersey design might not see an immediate impact, it's all about sparking conversations that can lead to sustainable change... which would be a real home run.