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Fighting for change

September 8, 2020

Policy paper for anti-racism in hockey developed by two Queen’s University researchers is gaining momentum.

A recent paper authored by Queen’s University researchers Courtney Szto and Sam McKegney is back in the news again after the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association, and Major League Baseball recently postponed games in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

The Policy Paper for Anti-Racism in Canadian Hockey calls on hockey organizations and governments to enact policy changes to invigorate the need for re-education of coaches, parents, players, and officials on the importance of anti-racism, and to promote strategies for making hockey culture safer, more inclusive, and more accountable for its practices. 

During a segment on Sportsnet after the NHL postponed several playoff games, host Ron MacLean highlighted the paper while in conversation with fellow broadcaster Harnarayan Singh. It was also featured on In Conversation with Ron MacLean where Dr. Szto was joined by Olympic sprint champion Donovan Bailey to discuss racism and moving forward as a society. 

“Am I happy with the coverage it has received – yes. Am I happy with the change it has fostered – not yet,” says Dr. Szto (Kinesiology and Health Studies). “We had meetings with Hockey Canada and Bauer in July and have had ongoing meetings with the Minister of Heritage’s Office. The paper has been downloaded over 4,500 times to date and has been widely read but it seems like people still have questions about what they should be doing instead of tweaking the recommendations so they fit their organization. If people can make one change this season and add another next season then we encourage them to do so, but we need to see action in some form.” 

The calls to action include: 

  • All levels of government and hockey administrative bodies to publicly adopt and enforce Calls to Action 87 to 91 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada 
  • Implementing modules addressing intercultural competency, conflict resolution, and anti-racism in sport to be included in certification for coaches, administrators, billets, and officials 
  • Hockey Canada instituting a “duty to report” with relation to all incidents of suspected racism and track those incidents over time to establish objectives with regards to the elimination of such incidents
  • The Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities creating an external oversight body which sole purpose is to receive and investigate claims of racial, sexual, homonegative, and gendered abuse/discrimination, and to advocate for claimants
  • Calling upon Hockey Canada to implement a system to collect numbers on the participation of racialized groups in hockey in order to monitor demographic changes and trends
  • Asking Hockey Canada to allocate a percentage of the budget to support Indigenous hockey in Canada 

“Racist incidents occur time and time again, and the hockey community is righteously appalled—but then attention fades and it’s back to business as usual, with no substantive structural or systemic change,” says Dr. McKegney (English Language and Literature). “We’re advocating for practical, actionable changes we believe will not only make hockey more inclusive but will help unlock the game’s potential as an instrument of positive social change.” 

The paper was developed during a Roundtable on Racism in Hockey hosted at Queen’s. Drs. Szto and McKegney worked in collaboration with Michael Auksi (PhD student, McGill University) and Bob Dawson (Senior Sportswriter, Boxscore World Sportswire). 

Note: This article originally appeared in the Queen’s Gazette.