Dawson: Anti-Racism in Hockey

Bridging The Gap: A Policy Paper on Anti-Racism in Canadian Hockey

Bob Dawson

by Bob Dawson

OTTAWA, Ontario -May 19, 2020 – 

Racism has no place in hockey, just as it has no place in society. Hockey, as a sport, has the important choice to either be affected by racism or to affect racism. Frankly speaking, hockey, unlike other sports, has not always responded well to diversity, inclusion and social change. {

Over the years, racist attitudes towards racialized players, particularly Blacks, Aboriginal peoples, persons of Middle Eastern descent and South Asians, have been embraced and became part of the hockey culture. Accordingly, these attitudes then found expression in the acts of racial discrimination, harassment, verbal and physical abuse as well as vilification by hockey coaches, players, hockey officials, spectators, the media and even hockey analysts/commentators. 

Hockey officials in the NHL and Hockey Canada, particularly provincial branches, have treated acts of racism as isolated incidents rather than symptomatic of systemic racism requiring an organizational response. Despite the impact on the racialized victims, the incidents, more often than not, are downplayed, overlooked or even ignored. Consequently, the structures and culture enabling racist behaviour, for the most part, remain intact despite the NHL and Hockey Canada’s noble efforts to address the issue. Sadly, in more recent years, acts of racism have reached disturbing heights in all levels of hockey both on and off the ice.

Advocating for Action and Change“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. The time is always right to do what is right.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. Inspired to take action as a result of several racial incidents, this writer together with Courtney Szto, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology and Health Studies and Sam McKegney, Associate Professor of English Language and Literature, at Queen’s University in Kingston, ON organized a Roundtable on Racism in Hockey that took place on March 30, 2019 at Queen’s. Hockey officials from the NHL, Hockey Canada and the Canadian Hockey League were invited to take part in this noteworthy event. As it turned out, only the NHL felt it important enough to not only participate, but to help sponsor the event.

More than 50 people from various parts of Canada as well as the United States took part in the day-long Roundtable discussion that was intended to (1) bring together hockey coaches, players, and officials, parents, members of the media as well as academics to discuss the issues that contribute to racism in hockey and (2) provide those involved in hockey with practical solutions and strategies to address racism in the sport.

Following the Roundtable, this writer, Courtney, Sam together with Michael Auksi, a PHD student in Kinesiology at McGill University, collaborated on the development of a Policy Paper on Anti-Racism in Canadian Hockey. This policy paper is designed to (1) advocate for policy changes, (2) invigorate the need for the re-education of hockey officials, coaches, players and parents on the importance of anti-racism that involves the elimination of individual, institutional and systemic racism, and (3) promote strategies for making the hockey culture safer, more welcoming, inclusive and accountable for its policies and practices. Hockey Canada, like the NHL, has a leadership role to play in addressing racism in hockey. For the co-authors of the policy paper, it’s incumbent upon Hockey Canada to lead the way in developing and implementing anti-racism policies, practices and programs at all levels of amateur hockey. Accordingly, the policy paper calls for action in 10 key areas. In brief, they include:

· All levels of government and hockey administrative bodies to publicly adopt and enforce Calls to Action 87 to 91 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/1524505883755/1557512006268.

· Implementing modules addressing intercultural competency, conflict resolution, and anti-racism in sport to be included in certification for coaches, administrators, billets, and officials.

· Hockey Canada instituting a “duty to report” with relation to all incidents of suspected racism and track those incidents over time to establish objectives with regards to the elimination of such incidents.

· The Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities creating an external oversight body which sole purpose is to receive and investigate claims of racial, sexual, and gendered abuse/discrimination, and to advocate for claimants.

· Improving hiring policies and practices to ensure the diversity and inclusion of members of racialized groups at all levels of hockey.

· Calling upon Hockey Canada to implement a system to collect data on the participation of racialized groups in hockey in order to monitor demographic changes and trends.

· Hockey Canada promoting and celebrating the diversity of Canada’s hockey history.

· Hockey Canada and the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities subsidizing high school hockey programs and asking sporting goods retailers to create hockey equipment libraries to help mitigate costs.

· Asking Hockey Canada to allocate a percentage of the budget to support Indigenous hockey in Canada.

· Calling on the members of the media to work to illustrate the pattern of racism experienced by racialized players, rather than treating examples of racism as isolated incidents.

For more on the Roundtable and Policy Paper click onhttps://hockeyinsociety.com/2020/03/02/exclusive-policy-paper-for-anti-racism-in-hockey/.
After finalizing the policy paper, the Media Centre at Queen’s University distributed a press release to numerous Canadian and American media outlets. The press release was also sent to officials with the NHL and Hockey Canada, regional hockey organizations, major sports writers as well as hockey analysts/commentators. On top of that, a copy of the policy paper was sent to the Minister of Canadian Heritage in Ottawa, who has dual responsibility for sport in Canada and the federal Government’s Anti- Racism Strategy 2019-2022. The Senior Special Assistant to the Minister of Canadian Heritage has agreed to meet with this writer, Courtney, Sam, and Michael to discuss the policy paper as soon as the Coronavirus pandemic eases and it’s safe. For more on the Anti-Racism Strategy 2019-2022 click onhttps://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/campaigns/anti-racism-engagement/anti-racism-strategy.html.

Bob Dawson is a former hockey player, diversity management consultant and a senior writer for the Boxscore World Sportswire. For additional information,  you can visit his website at http://thebobdawsonway.weebly.com.

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