No place for racism in hockey

STRAIT AREA: Following a well-documented instance of racism during a Midget A game in Cheticamp, hockey officials locally and provincially are taking steps to make rinks in Nova Scotia welcoming to people of all cultures.

The incident in question saw a player with the Cape Breton West Midget A Islanders verbally harassed by a group of fans cheering on the Northside Vikings, as well as Viking players. The incident happened back on December 8. The harassment included racist slurs.

The player is a 16-year-old from Waycocomagh. A number of media sources have identified the player as Logan Prosper.

The following Wednesday, Hockey Nova Scotia executive director Amy Walsh issued a statement on discrimination in the sport of hockey. She did so on behalf of the Hockey Nova Scotia Board of Directors.

The statement indicated that Hockey Nova Scotia is taking steps to make rinks in the province safe and welcoming for people of diverse backgrounds.

The provincial body is setting up a Hockey Nova Scotia Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. The task force will be “made up of individuals from under-represented communities in our game, that will help inform our policies and procedures to ensure that the rink is safe and welcoming for everyone,” Walsh said in a press release.

The group will be made up of Kendrick Douglas, Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission Senior Counsel; Levi Denny, Team Mi’kmaw Nova Scotia Chef de Mission; Dean Smith, Hockey Nova Scotia Black Youth Ice Hockey Program program lead; Crystal Watson, Recreation Nova Scotia executive director; Steven Googoo, Waycobah First Nation band councillor; and Chuck Dauphinee, Halifax Mussels team founder.

“We look forward to working with these individuals to begin a genuine process of understanding to make our game better,” the press release read. “Racism and discriminatory behaviour will not be tolerated in our sport.

“We know that hockey is a powerful tool that can bring people together. Today we are declaring that Hockey Nova Scotia, hand-in-hand with our task force partners, will work towards fostering this unity.”

In the release, Walsh said the last few weeks have been difficult for those associated with hockey in Nova Scotia. Acts of discrimination in hockey, the release read, shine a light on some disturbing behaviour.

“The victims of these incidents have demonstrated courage in coming forward with their stories,” Walsh said. “It is through these stories that we will see change.

“At Hockey Nova Scotia, we believe that the rink should be a welcoming place for everyone. We believe that racism and discrimination have no place in our game. While that is our belief, it is clear to us that racism and discrimination continue to exist in our sport.

“This is a complex issue with deep and ugly historical roots,” Walsh said. “There are no easy solutions. But that is no excuse for inaction.”

Elder, teacher and former Chief of Potlotek First Nation, Lindsay Marshall offered some thoughts to the Bantam AA Pirates last Thursday.

Last Thursday night, in a campaign that other teams across the region are following, members of the Strait-Richmond Pirates Bantam AA team were presented red tape, in a show of their commitment to stand against racism.

Aiden Bernard, Ethan Bernard and their father Tyrone Bernard presented each player with a roll of red stick tape. With them was elder Lindsay Marshall, a teacher and former Chief of Potlotek First Nation. A discussion was had regarding being inclusive of people of other cultures.

“Red is a powerful colour for First Nations – it represents the warrior, it is said it is the only colour the spirits can see, thus the red dress campaign for murdered and missing women and girls,” said coach Robert MacDonald in a Facebook post.

“The giving of the tape by Aiden and Ethan to their teammates is a gift of strength to the team and using the tape in games is a sign they support their friends – and all our First Nations players – on and off the ice.”

Additionally, the Richmond Academy High School Hockey team, the SAERC Saints, and the Strait-Richmond Atom A Girls showed support for ending racism in hockey at the Richmond Arena. Several other teams are also adding red tape to their sticks or wearing red ties, in a show of support.

The Strait-Richmond Bantam AA Pirates, the Strait-Richmond Atom A Girls, the Richmond Academy Hurricane, and the SAERC Saints took a united stand against racist behaviour last Thursday.

Garreth MacDonald, the communications and special events director for Hockey Nova Scotia, confirmed his group currently has an investigator looking into the initial incident in Cheticamp.