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Former Stampeder Jon Cornish never experienced racism in Calgary ‘until last week’

Jon Cornish creates new society to help aid and mentor students
Former Calgary Stampeders running back Jon Cornish joins Global News Morning Calgary live via Skype to discuss how the Calgary Black Chambers Society aims to prepare students for careers in professional fields.

Former Calgary Stampeders running back Jon Cornish is speaking out about an incident of racism he experienced in the city last month.

“As a Canadian in Calgary, I have never experienced racism in Calgary until about a week ago,” Cornish said while speaking to Global News Morning Calgary on Monday.

READ MORE: Greer, Fernandez, Cornish named to 2019 Canadian Football Hall of Fame

He explained that he and his wife were out for a walk in their neighbourhood when they ventured down the back lane behind somebody’s house.

“She came out and started yelling at us. That proceeded until [we got to] the end of the lane, and then she told us that she was going to call the cops,” Cornish explained.
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“My wife and I started getting a little bit uncomfortable at that point,” he said. “We continue on and we see that she’s now in her car following us. This continued for a little bit. We get out to a main intersection and she ambushes us.

“[She] pulls up in front of us and then tells us to ‘get out of her neighbourhood and never come back.’”

Cornish said he and his wife have lived in the community for almost 10 years.

“It was scary to see [racism] right down the street.”
Calgary Stampeders Jon Cornish, right, lifts the Grey Cup as he listens to Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi during a rally celebrating the win in Calgary, Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014.
Calgary Stampeders Jon Cornish, right, lifts the Grey Cup as he listens to Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi during a rally celebrating the win in Calgary, Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

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Cornish shared the story amid days of violent unrest in the United States sparked by the death of George Floyd and protests in Toronto in response to the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet.

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Speaking candidly about racism, Cornish said, “it is here. It’s not like this is some issue that’s far away.”

Calgarians recount their experiences with racism
Calgarians recount their experiences with racism

Cornish, who retired from the CFL in 2015, has gone on to help launch the Calgary Black Chambers, which aims to provide mentorship, fellowship, advocacy and scholarships to prepare the next generation of college-aged Canadians for prestigious careers in a professional field.

“We’ve got doctors, lawyers, accountants, dentists, investment managers, investment bankers… so we covered the whole spectrum of professional services,” he told Global News on Monday.

2019 Canadian Football Hall of Fame inductee Jon Cornish
2019 Canadian Football Hall of Fame inductee Jon Cornish. CFL.ca / Kevin Sousa

READ MORE: Ontario’s police watchdog probing family’s claims that Toronto woman pushed off balcony

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Cornish said the society leapt into action when COVID-19 hit.

“Very quickly we realized from the students we had been in contact with at SAIT, MRU, different schools — that the international students that were coming into Canada weren’t very well supported during this time.”

“Their support structure almost completely fell apart. So what we did was fundraise within the group, we put together about $3,000,” Cornish explained. “There’s a growing number of people who we’ve been able to help with money to get along through these times.”