There must be consequences for racist behaviour in sport

June 7, 2018
By Paul Melia, CCES President and CEO

Recently a team of First Nations hockey players claimed they were subject to racist taunts during a hockey tournament in Quebec City. Racist taunts from a coach and spectators as well as opposing players. The tournament was the Coupe Challenge Quebec AAA held May 25-27. The players were 13 and 14 years old.

It is incredible to me that this kind of harassment would still be going on in minor hockey. But what is more incredible to me is that the incident occurred almost two weeks ago and there do not appear to be any consequences for those who aimed racial slurs at the young boys. Not for opposing players, not for coaches, and not for spectators, presumably most of whom were parents. The referees did nothing, the tournament organizers say there is little they can do about behaviour on the ice and in the stands, and Hockey Quebec says they have no jurisdiction over the tournament. Neither the Coaching Association of Canada nor Hockey Canada has spoken up.

This seems like a classic case of when something is everybody’s business it becomes nobody’s responsibility. Surely we can agree that racist taunts are deplorable and totally unacceptable, but no one appears to be stepping up to investigate the allegations and, if substantiated, mete out consequences.

This situation points yet again to the urgent need to do a better job in Canada of keeping our athletes safe. It can no longer be acceptable to turn a blind eye or deflect responsibility and have no consequences for the perpetrators. Either someone has the authority to do something about racist behaviour in sports; in which case they should do something, or nobody does; in which case the system needs to be changed so that someone has such authority.

Let’s get our head out of the sand and do something!