When Mi’kmaw hockey player Logan Prosper became the victim of racial taunts during a Midget hockey game in 2019, he told his parents he wanted to quit hockey altogether.
The 18-year-old from Whycocomagh, N.S., said he’s glad his parents, Mary and Phillip Prosper, never let him quit, but instead told him to use the racist remarks to make change.
“I wanted to take my equipment off during the intermission and quit,” said Prosper. “My dad told me to put my anger out on the scoreboard and that’s what I did. I ended up scoring a goal and an assist in the third period.”
Prosper filed a complaint with Hockey Nova Scotia after the racist taunts were directed at him during a game played in December 2019.
Following the complaint and other instances of racism in the game of hockey across Canada and internationally, Hockey Nova Scotia launched the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force to address racism and discrimination in the game and find ways to make the sport more diverse and inclusive.
“I think we first needed to be vulnerable and admit it (racism) exists and then turn to action,” said Hockey Nova Scotia executive director Amy Walsh.
The game of hockey is something that unites Canadians like no other and it’s meant to be fun, but it can also be cruel, as racism does exist and it’s a real problem, said the Diversity & Inclusion Task Force chair Dean Smith.
“I think racism and discrimination is a topic not easily spoken about,” said Smith, an African Nova Scotian lawyer who grew up playing hockey and now coaches his two sons.
“Growing up, I don’t know any other player of colour who hasn’t experienced racism in the game, without exception,” said Smith.
Over the past 16 months, the task force examined racism and discrimination in the game and provided a list of recommendations on how the game could be more welcoming and inclusive for all.
The 53-page report, released Wednesday morning, surveyed more than 840 Nova Scotians and received thousands of recommendations on how to improve the sport.
“These ideas didn’t only come from those who are currently in the game, but also from those who have left the game, or were never attracted to it in the first place,” said Smith.
For Walsh, the first step was acknowledging that racism exists, then it was about action and listening to the grassroots and those involved in the game and those who may not have had the chance to get involved in the sport.
“It was about listening to those who were currently in the game and our members and our hockey families, as well as those who were outside of the game,” said Walsh.
“Maybe they left the game for various reasons, potentially discrimination or those who have never come into the game in the first place.”
Prosper applauds the work of the task force and holds hope the report findings will help ensure other players don’t experience racism in the game as he did.
“I fully support the task force,” said Prosper. “It was possibly the greatest decision they ever made in my eyes.”
Prosper has used the instance of racism hurled at him as a way to advocate and raise awareness around the issue to help foster change so everyone can play the game in a safe and inclusive environment.
Shortly after the racist taunting incident, Prosper and task force member and Waycobah First Nation band councillor Steven Googoo initiated the Red Tape movement, where players from around the globe took part taping their sticks red to call out racism.
“At first was kind of overwhelmed by all the support, I didn’t expect it to blow up, I just wanted to be heard,” said Prosper. “It was being picked up by hockey organizations across Canada and into the U.S.”
Prosper says his playing days are done but now wants to coach and give back to the game but hopes the Red Tape movement can become an annual event.
The three key recommendations from the report which have already been approved by the Hockey Nova Scotia board include the establishment of The Future of Hockey Lab, which will look to create and experiment, and test existing and new ideas that will help make the sport more inclusive and diverse.
The other key recommendations include adding a permanent seat to the Hockey Nova Scotia board to make the Task Force a permanent board committee designed for the chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, while also rewriting the constitution and developing a member code of conduct that reflects its zero-tolerance approach to racism and discrimination.