An independent report into alleged racist incidents at a P.E.I. hockey tournament last year is now in the hands of the young player who says he was the target of slurs.
The family of 16-year-old Mark Connors said they are keeping the contents of the 29-page report confidential at the request of Hockey PEI, the governing body for organized hockey on the island.
“Now we can move forward. Let’s have a disciplinary hearing and let’s decide where they go from there,” said the teen’s father, Wayne Connors, from his Halifax home.
It’s been over two months since the Halifax Hawks goalie said he was called racist names, including the N-word, at a game in Charlottetown.
The next day, he also reported facing racist abuse from some P.E.I. players in a hotel where the teams were staying. Mark Connors said he was told he shouldn’t play hockey because it’s “a white man’s sport.”
Disappointment over lengthy investigation
Connors said he thinks the response from Hockey PEI is dragging on too long.
“Two months later, I find after the incident I’m just taking it day by day, keeping it simple,” he said. “The only thing I feel is disappointed in how long this process has taken, and in Hockey PEI.”
The teen said he thinks it’s the right decision to keep the investigation report under wraps, adding he wants to shield the names of the players he accuses of making the racist comments.
“I wouldn’t want them to be judged by society as a racist or any of that. Just because they made one simple mistake … we hope,” he said.
His father also expressed frustration with the pace of Hockey PEI’s response, which he said should have been finished in weeks rather than months.
“It was a long time coming. But at least it’s thorough. I’m glad Hockey PEI stepped up and did a thorough investigation,” said Wayne Connors.
Disciplinary hearing coming up
The next step is a virtual disciplinary hearing scheduled for Feb. 1.
Stephen Carpenter, the Charlottetown lawyer who will chair that meeting, said no one on the panel has had any prior involvement with the case.
He said the discipline and ethics committee will stay silent on the matter until its decision is released.
The president of the Halifax Hawks Minor Hockey Association, Spiro Bokolas, said it’s been a hard wait for Mark Connors’s teammates as well.
“We’ve been waiting two months for some kind of outcome and resolution,” he said. “Obviously we haven’t resolved anything, but at least there’s some movement.
“Wayne and Mark have been extremely patient, more patient than most.”
Help from Hockey Canada sought
Bokolas said he’s feeling positive that Hockey PEI is following through on what it promised to do.
“If we disregard the time that it took, the overall process seems to be working,” he said.
“We will continue supporting Wayne and we will support Mark in his effort to get justice, whatever it takes.”
Bokolas is calling on Hockey Canada to take a leadership role in addressing incidents of racism in minor hockey.
He would like to see anti-racism certifications that are as detailed and rigorous as Hockey Canada’s coaching certifications.
Bokolos also said he believes Hockey Canada should set tight timelines for discipline around racism, and immediately step in to help provincial organizations meet those targets.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
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