Slur on the ice at SAIT prompts calls to get tough on racism in hockey
CALGARY -- A SAIT Trojans hockey player wants harsher penalties to combat racism in the league after a ruling on a slur aimed at her on the ice.
Davina McLeod said a Red Deer College Queens hockey player made the remark after a whistle during the February 8th game at SAIT. McLeod said the opposing player later admitted it and was made to apologize.
The Trojans pressed for further action and an Alberta College Athletics Conference (ACAC) commissioner has ruled no further action is required.
"That’s letting Indigenous players in this league know that it’s okay and no one really has your back when things like that happen," said McLeod.
A verbal apology was made in front of McLeod and both teams’ coaches after the game and was followed by a written version where the word 'Indigenous' was misspelled twice.
"She gave an apology but I didn’t feel it was really genuine or sincere at all," said the 22 year-old forward for the Trojans women’s hockey team.
She adds that the Red Deer player claims McLeod also made a racial remark but the SAIT player said that is not true.
SAIT’s athletic director filed a formal complaint with ACAC and a third party commissioner ruled not to take any further action citing contradictory allegations and denials from both teams.
"A Red Deer college player accepted accountability for her use of a racial slur," wrote Mark Kosak, ACAC CEO adding the entire RDC Women’s Hockey team also received training from the college’s Indigenous Services Coordinator on diversity, inclusion and respect.
"We are disappointed with the ruling," said Chris Gerritsen, SAIT spokesperson.
"We know what matters is not only the statement but its impact on our students. We support our students and work hard to create an environment that is safe and inclusive for all. Our concern right now is for our students and focusing on their well-being."
At the very least, McLeod wants the offending player to get a one-game suspension.
"There’s seven Indigenous girls on my team so I’m doing this for them as well," said the Gwich'in and Inuvialuit woman.
McLeod said her school and team have been supportive and some Queens alumni have also supported the Trojans player online.
The ACAC said the organization is using the incident as an opportunity for improvement. A new policy regarding diversity, inclusion and respect is expected to be presented at the ACAC general meeting in May.
"Our goal (is) to ensure the safety and protection of all ACAC student athletes and we will commit to do better at all times," said Kosack.
McLeod has played four years in the league for both NAIT and SAIT and had a good experience up until the slur.
“It’s just sad,” she said adding, “I’ve thought about it every day since.”
Red Deer College issued a statement to CTV Calgary Wednesday, saying, "RDC is committed to, and strives to create an environment that is inclusive for all students.
"On February 8, there was an on-ice incident at an RDC Queens Hockey game between a SAIT student-athlete and an RDC student-athlete. The incident involved a verbal exchange between both players using racially insensitive language.
"RDC and the Athletics program does not condone the choice of words used by our student-athlete. The Queens hockey player took full responsibility for this behavior by apologizing to the SAIT player and coaching staff in-person after the game and through a written letter delivered in the days following the incident.
"RDC believes that our role as a post-secondary institution requires us to educate students through formal studies, as well as with broader life skills. Through its own investigation, RDC Athletics determined an appropriate course of action to include community service for the RDC student-athlete, which will be completed during the next two months. RDC's Athletics program has also taken this incident as a learning opportunity. With guidance and leadership by the College's Indigenous Student Services, student-athletes participated in a discussion about diversity and respect. ACAC investigated the situation, with findings inconclusive, and no further actions were issued for either the players or teams involved."
Mark Kosak, the CEO of The Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference issued a statement that said, "The ACAC would like to reffirm its commitment to building a culture that promotes inclusivity, diversity, and equity.
"There is no tolerance for racism, and the ACAC will continue to create a place where all students, staff and spectators feel safe and respected. The recent incident in a SAIT-RDC Women's Hockey game reported to and investigated by the ACAC underscores the complexity and sensitivity of this subject matter. Faced with contradictory allegations and denials from both teams involved in the game, the ACAC Commissioner was challenged to draw conclusions.
"A Red Deer College player accepted accountability for her use of a racial slur for which she verbalized an apology immediately following the game to the SAIT player, and then issued a written apology to the SAIT player afterwards. The entire RDC Women's Hockey team subsequently undertook remedial training about diversity, inclusion and respect led by RDC's on-campus Indigenous Services Coordinator. This individual is also overseeing the RDC player's community outreach work assignment in the Indigenous Services office, as part of her post-incident education. Regardless of the circumstances, the ACAC in no way condones the racial slur used by the RDC player.
"The ACAC, however, acknowledges that RDC Athletics and the Women's Hockey team have accepted responsiblity for this incident and have undertaken measures to use this as an opportunity for further education abut diversity, inclusion and respect. The ACAC is presently in the midst of work towards a draft policy intended to address incidents of intolerance during competitions. It is anticipated that this new policy will be approved for application in May at the ACAC Spring Meeting.
"The ACAC respects the right for the SAIT student athlete targeted by this rcial slur, and for any ACAC student-athlete, to share their truth and express themselves. Our goal (is) to ensure the safety and protection of all ACAC student-athletes and we will commit to do better at all times. Th ACAC will have no further statement about this matter as the Commissioner's ruling still falls within the 10-day appeal window."