Justine Mercier, a reporter for French publication Le Droit, recently unearthed deeply disturbing racist acts by teenage hockey players in Gatineau, Que. In one case during the 2021-22 season, a player knelt on a Black teammate’s neck, only releasing him after the victim evoked George Floyd’s death by saying “I can’t breathe.”
In May 2020, Floyd died in Minnesota after white police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his back and neck for more than nine minutes. Floyd’s death inspired widespread racial justice protests in the U.S. and around the world.
Mercier obtained a Hockey Quebec report that indicated there were at least 14 racist incidents targeting two Black members of Gatineau Intrepid (Intrépide de l'Outaouais), an under-15 team. Incidents ranged from uttering slurs such as the N-word to making references to slavery.
Mercier reports that, after several months of incidents, the two Black hockey players left the team. Meanwhile, the players who committed the racist actions received suspensions.
According to Mercier, an additional report by the Integrity Protection Committee criticized the way two people in the organization handled the incidents, ordering them to undergo training.
The Canadian Press noted that Hockey Quebec did not comment on the matter on Friday and also did not share the report when asked, labeling it confidential. However, Quebec Sports Minister Isabelle Charest deemed the incidents unacceptable.
"Deeply shocked by what I read," Charest said. "Such actions should not be tolerated in a hockey locker room or anywhere else. We work hard to provide our athletes with a healthy and safe environment."
Complètement inacceptable. Profondément choquée par ce que j'ai pu lire. De tels gestes ne doivent pas être tolérés dans un vestiaire de hockey ni nulle part ailleurs. On travaille d'arrache-pied pour offrir à nos athlètes un milieu sain et sécuritaire. https://t.co/yMfvXZWwig
— Isabelle Charest (@IsabelleCharest) October 27, 2023
TSN’s Rick Westhead brought considerable attention to the story and pointed out how easily those ugly incidents could have slipped by unnoticed.
Without journalism, the public would never know about this case.
Most local and provincial sports organizations across Canada still refuse to provide transparency about officials, coaches and athletes who are reprimanded or sanctioned for misconduct and failures in leadership.
— Rick Westhead (@rwesthead) October 27, 2023
The 2019 General Social Survey on Canadians’ Safety found that 41% of Black people experienced discrimination based on their race or skin colour.