Mi’kmaw hockey fan says he faced racism at Scotiabank Centre. He’s calling out how it was handled

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Mi’kmaw hockey fan says he faced racism at Halifax’s Scotiabank Centre
WATCH: A Mi’kmaw couple is calling for change after they say racial slurs were directed at them during a Halifax Mooseheads game. The season ticket holders spend thousands of dollars each year catching the games, but say things have now turned sour. As Skye Bryden-Blom reports, they’re frustrated with how they say the Scotiabank Centre handled the incident. – Apr 3, 2023

What was once a “happy place” for Sebastian Foote and his family turned sour after they say he was subjected to harassment and anti-Indigenous racist taunts during a hockey game at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax last month.

Foote, a lifelong hockey fan from Millbrook First Nation, has been attending Halifax Mooseheads games since the team was founded in 1994. He, his spouse and two children are season ticketholders and they spend thousands of dollars a year to attend games.

Foote says he’s “probably the biggest fan” of the team, and considers his fellow attendees to be his family.

“It’s the best sport in the world, if you ask me,” he said.

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But he’s frustrated with how he says the Scotiabank Centre handled an altercation during a game on March 24.

Foote said the incident began when he saw a player take a hit, which he believed should have resulted in a penalty for interference.

“I holler out the things the ref missed, because it’s part of hockey, and I had this guy behind me, who was clearly intoxicated, started yelling at me that ‘It’s hockey, not soccer,’” he said.

“I said, ‘Yes, that’s true, (but) that’s still an interference call, no matter what.’

“He proceeded to yell back at me and tell me to ‘eff off’ and stuff like that.”

Sebastian Foote and his family are season ticketholders for the Halifax Mooseheads and he says the games are his ‘happy place.’
Sebastian Foote and his family are season ticketholders for the Halifax Mooseheads and he says the games are his ‘happy place.’. Submitted by Caitlyn Moore

The situation escalated, Foote said, when the man and a woman he was with began making racist comments, including mocking Foote’s hair, which is long and braided.

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“It was a hard thing to hear, especially at a game — that’s supposed to be my happy place — that I had to hear this loud, drunk man speak on our heritage while we’re there just trying to have a good time,” Foote said.

‘It is not just hair’

That stung, he said, especially since the comments were made in front of his young boys, aged four and six, who also have long hair and have faced similar comments in the past.

“They have very beautiful hair, very long, braided, beautiful hair,” said Foote.

“That’s something my children have dealt with in school, my children still deal with to this day in school, because it’s not taught. It’s not taught that our hair is our strength, it’s our sweetgrass.”

In Mi’kmaq culture, hair is their connection to Mother Nature, explained Caitlyn Moore, Foote’s spouse.

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“The three strands in a braid represent your mind, body and your spirit, and how they weave together to create you as an individual,” said Moore, of Qalipu First Nation.

“It really does mean so much to us. It is not just hair.”

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Caitlyn Moore says hair is an important part of Mi’kmaq culture. Skye Bryden-Blom/Global News

Foote said they asked a nearby usher to get security, but he never returned. Eventually, someone else got security, who spoke with the couple who were making the comments.

Foote finished watching the game in another area, but after the game, he said he was approached by another man, who he said was sitting behind the first man who harassed him.

Foote said that man insinuated he was on drugs, in front of his children.

“I don’t do drugs. But because he knew I was Indigenous, and he had hate for me, he told me to, ‘Go do more drugs,’” said Foote.

“And then he called me an ‘effing Indian’ on the way down, and that’s when I couldn’t handle it anymore.”

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Foote said he and the man then had a brief scuffle outside the Scotiabank Centre. He admits that was a mistake.

“I know right from wrong. I know what I did was wrong, but it should have never got to that point,” he said.

“My kids, and my culture, and my heritage, I will continue to fight for.”

Foote said he has now been banned from the Scotiabank Centre for three months.

“I can take the comments, I can take the making fun of my hair, I can do that. But when it comes to my children – or any other Indigenous children that deal with this … I feel very deeply for that,” he said.

Moore, his spouse, agreed it shouldn’t have gotten to that point, but noted that Foote has been attending games for decades and this is the first incident he was involved in.

“If things were handled properly (by the venue), that wouldn’t have happened,” she said.

“He’s been there for 30 years, this is the first and only ban that he’s had … it was just a rough night where things were not handled right, and unfortunately, he’s … getting the backlash for it. And I don’t see that as right.”

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‘We don’t want our children to be scared’

The worst part of the incident, Foote said, was the impact the man’s comments had on their children, and other children nearby.

Mark Davis, a friend who attended the game that night with his child and witnessed the man’s remarks, said the incident was an “atrocity.”

“If he didn’t get outraged, I was going to,” he told Global News.

Davis said his young son asked him on the way home from the game that night if the same thing would happen to him if he grew out his hair.

Foote said hearing that hurts.

“This poor young boy who wants to grow his hair out and be a part of his culture is now afraid to show his culture because of one man’s racial actions,” he said.

Moore agreed. “We don’t want our children to be scared to be proud of their hair,” she said.

Erin Esiyok-Prime, the director of marketing and communications for Events East, which operates the Scotiabank Centre, declined to do an interview about the incident.

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“Our primary focus is always on the safety of our fans and staff. We are aware of this incident and are communicating directly with those involved,” she said in an email. She would not say if the people who Foote said harassed him were also banned from the venue.

In a statement, Halifax Mooseheads spokesperson Scott MacIntosh said the team was “made aware of the incident and understand the venue is handling it based on their standard protocol to ensure the safety of fans.”

“We will not comment further on the incident and will leave that in the hands of the venue,” he said.

Foote was clear that he did not blame the Mooseheads for the incident and said he will always support them.

“This entirely has to do with the Scotiabank Centre and their staff,” he said.

He and Moore want to see his ban reconsidered, and better training for staff in dealing with incidents of this nature.

But more than that, Foote wants to see a future where his children are not afraid to carry their culture with them throughout their lives.

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“They’re the ones that are keeping it going,” he said.

“I’m going to pass away at some point, and I’m not going to be able to do anything except to teach my kids their heritage, to teach their kids their heritage, to teach their kids’ kids their heritage.

“And as long as we have people that are making us feel like that’s not right, or it’s weird, or to be ashamed of it, nothing’s ever going to change.”

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