Hockey P.E.I. says third party to investigate alleged racist incident at game in Charlottetown

·4 min read
Hockey P.E.I. says third party to investigate alleged racist incident at game in Charlottetown

Hockey P.E.I. says an independent third party will investigate claims that a 16-year-old goalie from Nova Scotia was the subject of racist abuse at a game in Charlottetown.

Al MacIsaac, the organization's president, told CBC News: Compass he was "sickened" when he learned that Mark Connors, who is Black, had said he was called the N-word multiple times by young kids in the stands two weeks ago.

The Halifax Hawks U-18 AA player also said that following the game members of a P.E.I. team told him that hockey "was a white man's sport."

"We don't condone this type of behaviour," MacIsaac said. "We have a zero-tolerance policy for it in our organization and quite frankly we need a zero-tolerance policy for it in our society in general."

The organization had said previously in statement it had launched an investigation into the matter.

MacIsaac said Hockey P.E.I. had discussions with national and Nova Scotia counterparts and decided to leave the investigation in the hands of someone from outside the province.

"We didn't feel that we are necessarily qualified to deal with something of this complexity, so we've obtained the services of a third-party investigator," he said.

MacIsaac said he didn't know how long the investigation would take, as it isn't his field of expertise.

In the meantime, the Hawks said they will boycott games on the Island until the issue is addressed.

'A long way to go'

Orlando Bowen, an ex-CFL player who runs the youth leadership organization One Voice, One Team, said Connors's experience is evidence of a wider problem outside of sports.

"We got a long way to go," Bowen said. "I think some of the attitudes and beliefs that lend itself into this type of behaviour are still much alive and well. And I think we've seen evidence of that over the last couple of years."

Bowen said the community needs to do "everything that we can" to make sure these types of incidents don't happen again.

"We need to legislate what we can legislate," he said. "We got the Halifax Hawks that are ... boycotting tournaments until something is done, and we have people in the community that are willing to stand up, speak out."

MacIsaac said the organization will be working with Hockey Canada to introduce some cultural sensitivity programming on the Island.

"We recognize it is a bit of a hole in our structure and it is one we're working to address," he said.

He said the situation isn't entirely new for Hockey P.E.I.

"We've had cases in the past where we had to deal with grievous behaviour like this, maybe not quite to this extent," he said.

"Without going into details, I can assure you that there are some former members of Hockey P.E.I. that recognize how serious Hockey P.E.I. takes this."

'Be better'

Mark's father, Wayne Connors, said that he spoke about the incident with Premier Dennis King on Wednesday and that he'll talk with Hockey P.E.I. next week.

"Racism doesn't belong in the game of hockey," he said. "Educate yourself and just take the feelings of others in account, you know. These things are hurtful and it doesn't belong in our game."

NHL star P.K. Subban also came in to support Mark.

"When does it stop? Believe it or not these stories are sent to me everyday," Subban wrote on social media. "Hang in there, Mark! We got you."

Bowen said there needs to be a willingness from Hockey P.E.I. to address this behaviour, and that the organization shouldn't just give lip-service to the fight against racism.

"There needs to be an internal willingness and fortitude to tackle the challenge," he said. "People that have undertaken tasks and activities, sometimes they're check-box activities, and they're not necessarily aimed at real systemic or real institutional change.

"That's what we need. And that work isn't easy work. It's messy work, but it's necessary work."

He said it all starts with "recognizing and acknowledging that there are challenges. So recognition that there are gaps in terms of what's possible in terms of a race-relationship perspective I would think is a good starting place."

MacIsaac said the incident is not representative of the province's hockey community. "This isn't P.E.I. A couple of individuals don't paint a whole province," he said.

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