We are celebrating today in Toronto. Today is our championship parade. The Toronto Raptors are coming home with the NBA’s championship trophy. According to the latest estimates, as many as 2 million people will be downtown to cheer the Raptors’ historic win.
In The Athletic, there’s an article this morning about how the Raptors “are helping basketball challenge the ‘dominant status of hockey’ in Canada”. Danny Chau wrote a great piece for The Ringer last week about the “significance of Canada’s first NBA championship”. Omer Aziz wrote a wonderful piece in The New York Times about what the Raptors and basketball mean to Canadians, how the Raptors might even be redefining what it means to be Canadian. Today, then, for us, is more than just sports. And over two years ago, it was more than just sports when the Raptors connected with La Loche.
In January 2016, a school shooting devastated La Loche, a northern village in Saskatchewan. La Loche’s population is predominantly Indigenous and in 2011, almost half of the town’s people were 19 years old and younger. Canada has been called out internationally for its atrocious treatment of our Aboriginal Peoples and the consequences of that history continue to reverberate today, particularly in places like La Loche, where despair can drown out hope – which is what happened that January day in 2016.
A few days later, veteran journalist Marci Ien (also my colleague on The Social) noticed that some of the La Loche youth were wearing Raptors gear in one of the photos. She really wanted to do something. She really wanted to find a way to help. She thought…maybe… maybe the Raptors could be the inspiration. So she reached out to the acting principal at the school and then she cold-emailed Raptors president, Masai Ujiri, to invite him to come to La Loche with her. Masai said yes. Together they visited La Loche, brought all kinds of Raptors gear with them, and then, a year after the shooting, in January 2017, a group of La Loche students were flown to Toronto to meet again with Masai and the Raptors, and attend a game. The relationship has continued since then. The Raptors and La Loche have a bond, the kind of bond that makes today so much more than just a sports victory for people across this country.
Yours in gossip,