West Island family calls out alleged racism on hockey rink, high school

Nadine Hart says she wants answers.

“Because the racism that my son experienced in the sports hockey program at John Rennie High School is unacceptable,” she told reporters during a press conference Sunday.

Her son, who doesn’t want to be identified for fear of being targeted, claims that he and other racialized players faced numerous incidents of race-based bullying from some white teammates shortly after joining the hockey program at the school.

“This one time on the ice when somebody called me the N-word, I spoke up about it,” said the teen who registered for the program in September 2022.

But things boiled over in early December at the Bob Birnie Arena in the Montreal suburb of Pointe Claire, when the 13-year-old had an argument with a white teammate who, he alleges, made derogatory comments about his skin colour.

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“He started saying racist stuff to me,” Hart’s son insisted. “After, I retorted and started saying stuff back to him.”

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According to the alleged victim, the other youth struck him, causing visible facial injuries.

Hart said she spoke to the school’s principal about that and other alleged racist acts against her son, but maintains she wasn’t taken seriously.

Fo Niemi, head of the civil rights group Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, believes both John Rennie High School and the Lester B. Pearson School Board, which oversees the school, dropped the ball.

“One of the disturbing things is that during the two months that (Hart) was trying to get answers from the school board and the school, nobody told her about recourses under the anti-bullying policy,” he pointed out.

In a statement, the school board administration wrote that they did take immediate action.

“In the wake of the incident, disciplinary measures including suspensions were taken against the individuals involved. As well, the school offered the team a series of anti-racism workshops and team-building exercises.”

Pro Action Hockey, an independent group that runs the John Rennie hockey program, wrote in a statement, “we can confirm that we took immediate measures in partnership with John Rennie High School to ensure that this event was addressed with care and that the appropriate disciplinary actions were put in place.  Following this event, we continued to implement further measures.”

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Hart claims the N-word is still being used on the ice against other Black players and that her son was treated unfairly once again in late December.

“I was informed that my son was expelled from the program for his unacceptable behavior,” she stated.

In a subsequent email to Global News Pro Action Hockey claims Hart’s child was not expelled because of the incident, but declined further explanation saying, “due to the sensitive nature of this subject, the event in question, and the age of all involved, we do not feel that it is appropriate to get into further details at this time.”

Global News reached out to the other youth’s mother but she declined an interview.

The Hart family now plans to take the matter to the Human Rights Commission.

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