Gatineau minor hockey player speaks out about racist incidents
A young Gatineau, Que. minor hockey player is speaking out about several alleged incidents of racism and discrimination on the ice.
The troubling circumstance caused the teen pain, but also empowerment as he hopes to prevent this from happening to others.
“Stuff like that shouldn’t belong in a sport, or life in general,” said David Godwin, a 14-year-old hockey player.
Godwin says the incidents made him feel unworthy.
“I felt I shouldn’t have my place there. I shouldn’t play the sport because of what they were saying,” he said, adding that he is speaking up about what happened because it's the right thing to do.
“People were calling me the 'n-word' and calling me an African animal,” he said. “They were trying to get in my head and trying to discriminate me because of my colour.”
He says the incidents involved a player on another team while he was playing minor hockey for Aylmer, Que.
“It’s a lot of pressure, but I want to speak up to myself so the next person that is going to have to go through this, they know what to do,” he said.
Vicky Desellieres, David’s mom, says the first alleged incident happened in November while facing a team within the Association of Minor Hockey in Gatineau.
“The second and the third time I made a written complaint,” she said. “The second time there was a kid on David’s team, another player, that heard them calling David a ‘chacal.’”
She said it’s a French word for an African animal.
While Desellieres doesn’t want to publicly identify the team or player involved, she says she wrote an email to the coach and provided the information, but nothing was done.
“After complaining and nothing getting done, even when he had a witness and nothing got done,” she said.
Desellieres says he got fed up with nothing happening so he checked the player involved on the ice.
“I don’t think its the right thing that he did and he felt badly, but he was complaining and nothing got done,” she said. “Nobody hears the racist comments and in the end, he looked like the bad guy that day."
Desellieres said her son was suspended for the check and was advised to leave the rink by the back door to avoid running into the player and his family after the game.
Both hockey associations say all the players on both teams have been spoken to about the incident, but the person responsible hasn’t been identified.
“We now have the name of the players who may have told that kind of comment and we will meet again with these players,” said Vincent Britt-Guy, the president of the Association of Minor Hockey La Lievre de Gatineau President.
“In order for us to give the player the five-game suspension for the comments, we really need to identify who did that, but this isn’t the case in this situation,” said Claudine Bourgeois of Hockey Outaouais.
Meanwhile Hockey Quebec says it’s requested a report of the events.
"Any discriminatory incident or comment that affects the integrity of a person must be reported and denounced," Hockey Quebec said in a statement. "Under no circumstances will such discriminatory actions or comments be tolerated, whether on or off the ice. We invite any person involved or witnessing such a situation to file a complaint."
After speaking up about what happened, Godwin is trying to refocus on his love for the game.
“I really like hockey. I train for it everyday and it’s my favourite sport,” he said.
The 14-year-old hopes to one day play professionally and says he realizes now that he deserves to be on the ice no matter what.