Montreal teen expelled from hockey program after being called racial slur, mother alleges
After J.C. was allegedly called racial slurs and punched in the face by a teammate, his mother is taking a hockey association and the Lester B. Pearson School Board to the human rights commission.
Nadine Hart says 13-year-old J.C. — whose name CBC agreed to withhold to protect his identity — was kicked off his junior hockey team after standing up for himself against a white teammate who repeatedly called him the N-word and hit him Dec. 8.
Hart says her son came home with a swollen face and cuts in his mouth.
Despite her son not fighting back, J.C. was punished for "bad behaviour" while the other player was allowed to stay on the team, Hart says. She says neither John Rennie High School or its partner, the Pro Action Hockey sports association, took her concerns seriously.
"It's 2023 and I don't think that this should be happening anymore and it shouldn't be allowed to happen," she said.
"I want our case to be the beginning of the end of racism that prevents not only my children, but all children of colour from playing hockey and studying in full dignity, security and equality."
Before the Dec. 8 incident, J.C. had repeatedly been called racial slurs by his teammate in his former team's Snapchat group chat, Hart says. CBC has reviewed the messages which contain multiple usages of the N-word.
"It makes me feel mad and angry because I know the history behind [the N-word]," said J.C.
Pro Action Hockey said in a statement that it took immediate measures with John Rennie High School to address the event and "that the appropriate disciplinary actions were put in place."
"We take allegations of this nature very seriously as diversity, inclusion and equity are of utmost importance to us at Pro Action Hockey," it said.
"We will continue to work closely with the school to ensure all students participating in our program can train and play in a safe and positive environment."
Hart says she reported the incident to police, but they hesitated to press charges because of the players' age. Montreal police say they're aware of the situation and that the investigation is ongoing.
Demand for zero-tolerance of racism
The Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) is helping Hart navigate the human rights commission.
It wants the school board to adopt a zero-tolerance rule for racism and ban the use of the N-word from schools, said executive director Fo Niemi.
"People have to understand that use of the N-word is an attack on, among other things, the psychological safety and dignity of a Black child," he said.
"Part of the right to education is the right to a bias-free and racism-free education."
Niemi also wants an update on the school board's anti-Black racism task force and the recommendations it was given in 2021.
In a statement, the Lester B. Pearson School Board said it deplores all acts of racism and discrimination and that it has refined existing policies and practices to address racially motivated incidents.
Despite no longer being part of Pro Action Hockey, J.C. is still playing the sport in a new program. Hart says her son's academic performance and overall mood shot up since playing in a team where he feels appreciated.