New Brunswick Racism Commissioner believes Prince Edward Island should create a similar role
The New Brunswick Commissioner on Systemic Racism believes Prince Edward Island should consider a similar role following recent reports of racism on the ice during Island hockey games.
Manju Varma was appointed to her post in September.
She is studying systemic racism in New Brunswick and preparing a report to offer recommendations to the government on how to dismantle it. But she also hears about incidents of racism in other Atlantic provinces.
Some PEI MPs have asked for a Racism Commissioner on PEI.
“If I were the government of Prince Edward Island, I would go to New Brunswick first,” said Varma. “I would contact the experts who are in the province, your multicultural groups, your academics who work in this field, the people who work in the immigration field, and I build from scratch.
Varma has heard of a few high profile incidents of racism involving Island hockey players. She said a role similar to her post could help investigate these incidents.
“A commissioner in a province could have different roles. For example, for me, I am collecting information which is my role.
“If we think about the roles of the other commissioners… of the clearing-house mechanism, or the point of contact for complaints. And then they investigate. “
To me, that sends the message that if you do something wrong and get caught you have to apologize, and if you stand up and try to be an ally, you are going to be punished.– Manju Varma
A player was suspended indefinitely by Hockey PEI recently for a social media post criticizing the two-game suspension of a player who made an anti-Asian comment.
Varma said the penalty for the speaking player sent the wrong message, given that the penalty for the commenter was much lighter.
“To me that sends the message that if you do something wrong and get caught you have to apologize, and if you stand up and try to be an ally you are going to be punished,” he said. she declared.
“That says a lot about your priorities. When something is done to make the organization bad, which it sure is, then they act quickly. When something is done to hurt one of their players, it doesn’t seem like not that they are so quick on the ball. “
Hockey PEI executive director Connor Cameron said earlier this week that the player who made the anti-Asian comment was remorseful for his “mistake.”
However, to downplay racist incidents as mistakes is a mistake in itself, Varma said.
“A mistake is something you do by accident or something you do without knowing it,” she said. “I find it hard to believe in those days and with the age of these hockey players that they did not know that a racial slur is inappropriate or hateful.”
Calling an act of racism a mistake is an example of systemic racism, she added.
There was another incident involving Mark Connors, a young black hockey player from Nova Scotia, who was the victim of racism during a tournament in Prince Edward Island in November.
Hockey PEI is still awaiting a third-party report before a decision is made in this case, but said it is expected later this month.
Varma said an independent party looking at these issues is a good place to start, but still believes the organization could do more.
“It should be a wake-up call to say, ‘We need something in place’. It is not the first organization to have problems like this. But, if you haven’t already put an anti-racist policy in place, this is your wake-up call. “
Hockey PEI has harassment and bullying rules in its code of conduct that include attacking people based on race, but Varma believes the organization could strengthen itself by adding specifically anti-racist policies.