“It’s not OK.”
That’s the message behind an online video being created in the wake of a racist incident directed at young Indigenous hockey players during a tournament in Quebec.
“This is not OK,” said Steve Currie of Bible Hill, who came up with the concept for the video.
“Like, what makes this OK? Why would this happen?”
Currie decided to take the initiative for the video after watching a video from a recent Bantam Triple A hockey tournament in Quebec. During the event, a team of First Nations players from northern Ontario and northern Quebec were repeatedly subjected to racist taunts and actions by non-native players.
The native players were called names and were subjected to simulated tomahawk-chopping motions and war whoops, some of which were captured on video by the manager of the First Nations Elites team.
“Everything bothered me a lot,” said player Julien Marshall in a telephone interview. “Like, when they called us a bunch of savages. The parents were calling us that, the coaches, players.”
Julien is 14 and a player with the Elites. His father, Rod Marshall, is a former Millbrook resident and off-reserve band member who now lives near Gatineau, Que.
At the end of the first game, Julien said, players lined up at the blueline and the other team’s players continued their taunting.
“And they started doing like the war cry stuff with their hands over their mouths. The whole other team started doing that.
“I went up to the ref and I told him ‘you’re seeing this and you’re not doing anything about it?’ and he told me to just go back to the blueline and did nothing about it. That part made me really mad.”
The tournament was a privately organized event. Rod Marshall said Hockey Quebec officials said while the league was not involved, it does not condone racism and the matter will be looked into. So far, however, that hasn’t happened, he said.
After seeing the team manager’s video online, Currie reached out to Millbrook First Nation Chief Bob Gloade, who was immediately supportive.
“My intention was to influence anybody who would listen to create awareness and to help people understand that it is not acceptable,” Currie said. “And, from my own perspective, I think it’s as important that non-First Nations people are aware that this is no longer acceptable.”
Julien said he and his fellow players came away from the tournament extremely disappointed.
“We just wanted to play hockey. We didn’t want to start any stuff like that. For them to do that, it just kind of makes you feel like, ‘wow!’
“It’s just awful, I don’t think it belongs anywhere.”
Gloade agrees and said he too is disappointed such blatant racism still exists and is being directed at a sector of youth who are working hard to be both good athletes and role models for peers.
“Racism is wide and rampant,” Gloade said. “It’s repetitive and it just keeps happening over and over again and it doesn’t go away.”
Besides the immediate impact it has on those involved, he added, such behaviour has the potential of driving talented youth away from participating in a sport they love.
“It’s frustrating because when you look at who is being subjected to these types of attacks, it’s kids,” he said. “Those types of behaviours are definitely unacceptable and people don’t realize the impacts it has on the individual that they are targeting. And that’ the unfortunate thing.”
Anyone who would like to submit their own video can do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .
It’s Not Okay can be viewed on YouTube.