• By: Dan Donovan

The Red Coalition says Hockey Canada Must Confront Racism in Canadian Hockey

Montreal-based ‘Red Coalition’ has written a letter to the Board of Directors at Hockey Canada to express their concern over recent racist events against Black and racialized hockey players in Canada. The Red Coalition is a federally registered lobbying firm who advocate to eliminate the practice of racial profiling and systemic racism within Canada.

The Coalition says they are concerned about some disturbing incidents in minor hockey in the national capital region. In their letter to Hockey Canada, they reference an incident that was reported in Le Devoir on October 27, 2023, which exposed a disturbing incident that took place nearly two years ago during an under-15 triple-A 2021-2022 hockey season in Gatineau, Quebec.

The investigation report, leaked to Le Devoir, detailed an appalling episode in which a white teammate placed his knee on the back of a Black teenager’s neck, demanding the victim to utter the words “I can’t breathe” if he wished to be released. The leaked report also uncovered at least 14 “racist gestures and remarks” directed at two Black players on the Gatineau team. From racial slurs to monkey noises and references to slavery, the victims endured months of torment in silence.

Shockingly, the parents of the perpetrators were left in the dark about the incidents and the actions taken in response.

It has also been learned that École Polyvalente Nicolas-Gatineau, the school associated with the team, failed to provide adequate support to the teenagers involved or communicate the events to their new school.

In his letter to the Hockey Canada Board, Joel DeBellefeuille, founder and executive director of Red Coalition, says that “racial discrimination within the sport must be addressed decisively and note that it is a problem that affects racialized children across the country, perpetuating an environment of hostility and fear.”

DeBellefeuille notes that In December 2022, Hockey Canada reported over 900 cases of on-ice discrimination. He told the board that, “While all discrimination must be denounced and stopped whenever it rears its ugly head, discrimination based on race and ethnic origin forms the bulk of ongoing treatments that most racialized kids must endure in a sport where they are a growing minority.” “This must stop.”

DeBellefeuille called for Hockey Canada to take specific measures to address racism in hockey and to enforce anti-racism measures, including:

1.  We call upon the Minister of Canadian Heritage to create an external oversight body whose sole purpose is to receive and investigate claims of racial, sexual, homonegative, and gendered

2. We call upon Hockey Canada to appoint/elect anti-racism champions to work with the above external oversight body to ensure that compliance with anti-racism policies and promotion of anti-racism initiatives are embedded in the portfolio of paid staff at all levels of participation.

3. We call upon Hockey Canada to institute a “duty to report” policy in relation to all incidents of suspected racism in the sport.

4. We call upon Hockey Canada to track all such incidents over time, to establish objectives with regard to the elimination of such incidents, and to develop metrics for assessing the success of anti-racism initiatives.

5. We call upon Hockey Canada to develop a “zero tolerance” policy in relation to racism in the sport and to institute clear protocols for dealing with racist incidents that will be considered required knowledge for all coaches, administrators, and officials.

In September Red Coalition held a news conference in Ottawa to deal with alleged racism at the Royal Bank of Canada when they held a news conference in support of Barratou Barry, a 15-year Royal Bank of Canada customer who was the victim of alleged profiling and racism when she went to her branch on Bank Street south of the Greenboro park-and-ride to deposit some money and pick up a new credit card. When asked for identification, Barry explained she didn’t yet have her driver’s license and instead provided her health card and new passport. Instead of providing her with the card, the bank called the police, claiming they suspected the passport was forged and that they were concerned over the fact her documents spelled her name two different ways.

Barry says she felt humiliated by the incident, telling CBC, “Everyone was passing by, looking at me, giving me that guilty look,” she said. “The dehumanization … that I have been through, me and my family — no one should be put into that position.” Calling the police over doubts about a Black customer “shouldn’t be [the bank’s] first response,” Barry added. The Coalition has filed a complaint against RBC on Barry’s behalf with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. RBC has yet to apologize to Barry over the incident. The board of directors of Hockey Canada have not yet responded to the letter from The Red Coalition.

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