The body that oversees youth soccer on southern Vancouver Island says it has received multiple reports of racial abuse at on- and off-field events this season.
In light of the incidents, the Lower Island Soccer Association (LISA) says it is reviewing its policies, speaking with local minority groups, and looking at other ways to ensure its leagues are safe for everyone to participate in.
It also sent a notice to all association members calling for an immediate end to racial abuse.
While the organization did not share details of each incident, one took place at a U16 boys game last fall.
Aaron Walker-Duncan, president of the Saanich-based Gorge Soccer Association, says a spectator yelled a racial slur at an Indigenous player from his organization.
"It was very disappointing," said Walker-Duncan, who also volunteers as a coach and a referee.
"I volunteer my time because I want to create a positive environment."
Stuart Bancroft, executive director of LISA, says the spectator was disciplined, but did not elaborate on what that discipline was.
After the incident, Bancroft says a local First Nation requested a meeting with parents, coaches and association members, and were told of other instances of racism. He would not share which nations were involved.
"We were very thankful that they invited us to sit down and meet with them. We know it was not not an easy thing to do."
Since then, Bancroft says the association has been made aware of several other instances of racial abuse.
"We all know racism is a societal issue, and unfortunately, and heartbreakingly so, it does make it into youth sports."
He says LISA is committed to making sure it provides a safe place for everyone to play.
Promoting safe sport
Mataya Jim says that's a good start.
She's the manager of Indigenous initiatives at Sport for Life, a Victoria-based non-profit that promotes sport and physician literacy for all Canadians.
She says she's disappointed, but not surprised, to hear about racism in youth sports, since she hears about it in her own community, too.
"It's a little bit disheartening, to know that you know your nieces and nephews or your cousins … are facing these types of things in something that should be enjoyable, and inclusive, and a place to celebrate."
Jim says organizations need to have anti-racism policies in place, and they need to enforce them.
Given how many people are involved in amateur sports, she says it's also up to everyone — parents, coaches, and other volunteers for example — to speak up when they see or hear abuse.
She says there are plenty of resources online to help organizations promote safe sport for all — including workshops her own organization offers.