A rare event: forest history on the sports pages.

Statue of Mufferaw in Mattawa, ON. Wikipedia

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Ottawa RedBlacks mascot named Big Joe Mufferaw. (@REDBLACKS)

I cannot remember the last time that forest history became a topic of controversy on the sports pages, though perhaps your memory is longer than mine.

The third CFL team to play in Ottawa, the RedBlacks (Le Rouge et Noir d’Ottawa), have just announced that their new mascot will be called “Big Joe Mufferaw.”  Some may recognize the name as a Stompin’ Tom Connors song, but as the CBC reports, “some French-Canadians are upset [by the Anglicized name since it is a] translation from Jos “Montferrand,” who was a raftsman well known for his role in a fight against the Irish.”  For more on the controversy, watch this short clip from Radio Canada.

Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec: http://collections.banq.qc.ca/ark:/52327/2072647

So, what say you, gentle people?  Should the RedBlacks have been more sensitive to the historic figure (or for that matter, their own fans in the Outaouais)?  Before you chime in, do take a look at Jos Montferrand’s entry in The Canadian Dictionary of Biography, where we learn that the Montferrand character “came to embody the ideals, ethics, and aspirations of the French Canadian community.”  Authors Gérard Goyer and Jean Hamelin also write that Jos Montferrand still awaits his historian or folklorist. “In the present state of research, it is impossible to distinguish clearly history from legend and to give their true proportions to both the voyageur and the figure of folklore.”  Just in case you were looking for something to do…



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David Brownstein is the Principal of Klahanie Research Ltd (www.klahanieresearch.ca). He is also a longstanding UBC sessional instructor, and the continuing co-ordinator of NiCHE's "The Canadian Forest-History Preservation Project" (still facilitating archival donations after 11 years).

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