Black teen filing human rights complaint against Hockey Quebec after being called racial slur
A Black teenager from Île-Perrot and his family are taking action against Hockey Quebec for what they say is a failure to address racism on and off the ice.
The family is filing a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission against the governing body for ice hockey in the province after the teen was allegedly subjected to racial slurs.
The junior hockey player, Aiden Chase, and his mother, Laurie Philipps, made the announcement alongside the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) on Sunday.
The complaint stems from an incident in December during a game in the Lac St. Louis league, when 16-year-old Chase, who plays with the L'Île-Perrot Midget A U18 team, was allegedly called the N-word by a player on the opposing team from Valleyfield.
A brawl ensued on the ice.
L'Île-Perrot's assistant coach, James McCaig, said he was shoved by the opposing team's coach while trying to break up the fight. He called the police who arrived shortly after to get statements from both teams.
The Valleyfield Braves coach is now facing assault charges.
According to CRARR, the Valleyfield player was given an eight-game suspension, which was later downgraded to five following his appeal at a disciplinary hearing in January.
At the hearing, a parent allegedly repeated the N-word, and Philipps says the committee did not speak out against the use of the racial slur — an allegation Hockey Quebec refutes, saying one of its directors stepped in to mute the microphone of the parent who used the word.
Hockey Quebec says it apologized for the incident.
Words meaningless without action, mother says
Chase isn't satisfied with how the situation was handled. He thinks Hockey Quebec isn't "equipped" to properly deal with racist behaviour, and after seeing how the initial slur and hearings were handled, he considered giving up on the game.
To his mother, the idea of Chase never lacing up his skates again is upsetting. "He shouldn't have to stop playing because of other people," said Philipps.
"He shouldn't feel he's the one that's the problem here."
Philipps doesn't think the governing body has done its job in protecting her son.
She says she's tired of hearing that these types of situations are being taken seriously without being followed up with the concrete action needed to make a difference in the players' lives.
CRARR executive director, Fo Niemi, agrees. He wants Hockey Quebec to adopt a specific policy on racism and human rights — one that implements comprehensive and clear remedies for incidents like what happened to Chase.
"Obviously based on the number of cases we've heard in recent years from Black families, from Indigenous families in Quebec alone, we believe that there is a problem of a systemic nature with the way Hockey Quebec deals with situations that have to be remedied," he said.
Niemi is calling for mandatory training to increase sensitivity and understanding when it comes to dealing with incidents involving racial abuse.
"Even the disciplinary committee members could not even handle the N-word properly," he said.
And reflecting on who makes up Hockey Quebec, from top to bottom, may have an impact, according to Philipps.
"There seems to be a lack of diversity within the ranks of Hockey Quebec in the people that make up the committees, so we definitely need to see diversity," she said.
The same applies to what goes on outside of the rink, she says.
"There are incidents off of the ice, in the locker room [and] in the stands where an official doesn't hear them," she said.
"Those cases aren't dealt with. They're not even considered. It's as if it didn't happen and that's not OK."
In a statement, Hockey Quebec told CBC it would not comment on the complaint, but it said it is working on changing the sport's culture in the province and tackling racism. It said it abides by Hockey Canada's rules against discrimination based on grounds including race, gender identity and disability.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.