Fighting racism in hockey

October 16, 2020 | Sports, Society
MacEwan University has received a $65,000 Anti-Racism Action Program grant from the Government of Canada to fund an initiative to address racism in hockey.

The initiative, For the Growth of the Game: Addressing Racial Discrimination in Hockey, is led by Irfan Chaudhry, director of MacEwan’s Office of Human Rights, Diversity and Equity, and supported by the university’s athletics department as well as other community partners.

For the Growth of the Game’s activities will include a virtual summit and the development of online resources to identify and address racial discrimination in hockey. “Diversity and inclusion enriches our communities, on and off campus and MacEwan is happy to share its expertise to ensure hockey is open to all,” says Dr. Annette Trimbee, president and vice-chancellor of MacEwan University.

“Sports have an impact on many people's lives, so it’s a problem when racial discrimination limits someone's ability to be involved,” says Chaudhry. Although many stories of racism in hockey have been shared with him over the years, one in particular stood out: when a team of non-Indigenous players spit in their own hands before attempting to shake hands with an opposing team of Indigenous players. “That incident spurred my interest in developing this project,” he says.

The project will focus primarily on community and university hockey organizations, rather than major professional leagues.

“The big leagues don't necessarily need the support – they have the resources to be able to do this work on their own,” says Chaudhry. “This is about supporting smaller associations, the community organizations, the person who is coaching on evenings and weekends, the volunteer referee – anyone involved in the game who is looking for resources to help them address racism, on and off the ice.”

According to Chaudhry, addressing racial discrimination in hockey is key to growing the game in a positive way. “Hockey is still a predominantly white sport,” he says. “By making it more welcoming, we can grow the game. And that’s something that is of interest to leagues at all levels.”

The project is one of 85 recipients of the Anti-Racism Action Program grant, which aims to fund organizations working to combat systemic racism and discrimination, promote intercultural and interfaith understanding, promote opportunities to participate fully in Canadian society, and strengthen research and evidence to build understanding of the disparities and challenges faced by racialized communities, religious minorities and Indigenous Peoples.

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