Racist bullying of Black teen allowed to 'fester' in Quebec hockey program, mother alleges
A Montreal-area mother is filing civil rights complaints against a junior hockey program and a local school board after her 13-year-son was allegedly targeted by racist insults and harassment from his peers.
Nadine Hart says her son, referred to as "JC" for privacy reasons, was regularly called the N-word by his teammates while enrolled in the Pro Action Hockey program at John Rennie High School in Pointe-Claire, Que.
When she brought these allegations to the school's attention, Hart claims they weren't taken seriously.
"Racial bullying and slurs were allowed to fester in that program due to the tolerance and inaction of the Pro Action Hockey and John Rennie High School. And it created a breeding ground for racism," she told reporters at a press conference Sunday.
JC said that when he tried reporting an incident on his own, nothing came of it.
"This one time on the ice[...] someone called me the N-word, and that's like the only time I spoke up about it," JC said.
"They didn't do anything about it."
According to Hart, the alleged abuse occurred online and in the locker room, even becoming physical at one point.
On Dec. 8, after a home game at Bob-Birnie Arena, one of JC's teammates allegedly made a derogatory comment about his skin colour. After JC "verbally responded out of frustration," Hart says he was punched in the face.
Hart spoke with John Rennie's principal after the incident, but felt there was more focus on her son's conduct rather than on the alleged racial harassment.
"Why is it acceptable for other children to use the N-word and not be called out for their behaviour, when my son is called for his behaviour which is the result of the frustration that he's feeling?" Hart said.
A few days later, JC was expelled from the team.
According to the Centre for Research-Action of Race Relations (CRARR), the advocacy group helping Hart file the claim, a complaint was made to Montreal police following the altercation, but no charges have been laid.
Hart later discovered that racist language was also being used in a team group chat on the Snapchat messaging and photosharing app.
The messages, reviewed by CTV News, show the repeated use of the N-word directed at Black students.
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In a statement, Pro Action Hockey said it's working closely with the school to prevent future incidents.
"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," the statement reads. "Following this event, we continued to implement further measures with help from Sportaide, an organization that focuses on increasing awareness and equipping our players with the tools they need to diffuse difficult situations in the future."
In addition to filing a complaint against Pro Action Hockey, Hart is filing a complaint against the Lester B. Pearson School Board, which oversees John Rennie High.
"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," reads a statement from the school board.
Both Pro Action Hockey and Lester B. Pearson say "immediate" action was taken in response to the events.
But Hart and the CRARR dispute this.
"She often faced silence or vague responses. She was not given any information on how to complain against racism, bullying and violence nor did she receive any offer for support from the school or school board," the CRARR release reads.
According to Hart, her son was the only person kicked off the team.
She hopes JC's story can prevent other students from having similar experiences.
"This is not right."