VALOUR Maritime Society's logo displayed at the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo on Tuesday. What colour would you say that stripe is?

Trouble at the Tattoo over a thin blue-green line

In a colour controversy, the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo parts ways with VALOUR Maritime Society.

What’s the difference between teal and blue? This question of hue is at the centre of a controversy this week at the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo, which caused the Tattoo to break off its relationship with one of its partners.

The partner in question is VALOUR Maritime Society, a “non-profit company” that sells branded apparel to raise money for organizations that support veterans and first responders with PTSD. VALOUR had partnered with the Tattoo to help distribute “Thank a Veteran Tickets,” a discounted ticket to the Tattoo that people can purchase to be given to a veteran for free.

click to enlarge Trouble at the Tattoo over a thin blue-green line
A Canadian "thin blue line" flag for sale on
The Tattoo started receiving backlash—most notably on Twitter from Steve MacKay, who you may recognize as the raccoon of Robie Street—for displaying VALOUR’s logo, which bears a striking resemblance to the controversial thin blue line flag. For some, the thin blue line flag is meant to honour police killed in the line of duty, or signifies solidarity between police. For others, it represents an “us vs them” mentality in law enforcement at best, and has been co-opted as a white supremacist symbol at worst. American versions of the thin blue line flag have shown up at rallies against the Black Lives Matter Movement and the 2017 Unite the Right white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Police forces across Canada, including the RCMP, Calgary Police, Saint John Police and the Halifax Regional Police, have directed officers not to wear thin blue line patches.

click to enlarge Trouble at the Tattoo over a thin blue-green line
VALOUR Maritime Society's Logo
On Wednesday afternoon, June 29, the Tattoo and VALOUR issued a joint statement, clarifying that the flag on VALOUR’s logo, social media and apparel is not blue but teal, the colour of PTSD awareness. “The teal international ribbon for PTSD awareness is in no way a representation of the ‘thin blue line,’” the statement reads. “The Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo and VALOUR Maritime Society would like to extend our apologies to those who have misidentified the logo.”

By that evening, the statement had been removed from the Tattoo’s website and replaced with a message saying “upon further review, we have decided to end our partnership with VALOUR Maritime Society. Thank you to everyone for bringing this matter to our attention.”

click to enlarge Trouble at the Tattoo over a thin blue-green line
The joint statement the Tattoo and VALOUR issued, before it was removed from the Tattoo's website.
According to Graham Walsh, co-founder of VALOUR, the Tattoo actually tried to break up with him over email Wednesday morning. After he explained to the Tattoo that the logo is a teal flag, not blue, the event “apologized for the knee-jerk reaction,” and put out the joint statement. By the end of the day, the Tattoo broke off ties anyways.

“To say I was disappointed is an understatement,” Graham Walsh says in an interview with The Coast. “We are a non-profit society operated by serving and retired RCMP, first responders and veterans, and it's a teal ribbon through a Canadian flag. That is what it is.”

Now, confusing teal for blue is an easy mistake, is it not? defines teal as “a medium to deep blue-green color.” Walsh says after the Tattoo ended the partnership, he got messages of support from people. “They understand it’s a teal line, it’s not blue,” he says. On the other hand, this is not the first time the colours have been mixed up. “We do explain that to people if they ask, ‘oh is that the thin blue line?’ No, it’s not the thin blue line, it’s a teal line to support and promote awareness,” he says. Walsh says “some educational information on our social media” might help the confusion.

click to enlarge Trouble at the Tattoo over a thin blue-green line
VALOUR Maritime Society uses #thinblueline on its social media posts.

That could be useful, because alongside its teal—not blue—flag, VALOUR uses the hashtag #thinblueline on its social media, which makes it seem as if the organization doesn’t see the difference either. “I'm not going to deny that we use it, but that's something that I'm going to have a meeting about with our board of directors moving forward,” Walsh says.

He also points out that some performers in the Tattoo are displaying thin blue lines. “We have teal lines because we're not representative of the thin blue line, but they actually have performers in the Tattoo performing with a thin blue line on their uniforms and on their drums, but we're being cast away by the Tattoo,” he says.

click to enlarge Trouble at the Tattoo over a thin blue-green line
The "thin blue line drums" at the Tattoo

“We were just trying to help the veteran community, and now we are the ones that now have this negative cloud over us,” Walsh says. “We're trying to make sure that this doesn't, you know, basically shut VALOUR Maritime Society down.”

Scott Long, managing director of the Tattoo, says he will not be commenting on the matter at this time. The Tattoo’s 2022 run ends Saturday, July 2.

About The Author

Kaija Jussinoja

Kaija Jussinoja is a news reporter at The Coast, where she covers the stories that make Halifax the weird and wonderful place we call home. She is originally from North Vancouver, BC and graduated from the University of King’s College in 2022. Jussinoja joined The Coast in May 2022 after interning at The Chronicle...

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