Nova Scotia

Millbrook adopts zero-tolerance policy on racism in sport

The First Nation will be the next Nova Scotia community to specify that racist or discriminatory behaviour at its sport facilities will be dealt with swiftly.

Sports facilities in CBRM, Eskasoni already post signs warning of consequences for racist behaviour

Racism will be grounds for removal from Millbrook sports facilities. (Facebook)

Millbrook First Nation will be the next Nova Scotia community to adopt a zero-tolerance policy on racist or discriminatory behaviour at its sport facilities.

Coun. Colin Bernard, a member of the Tripartite Forum of Mi'kmaq, Nova Scotia and Canada, recalled his own experience with racism while playing sports as a teen.

"I was a former fastball athlete, pitching in one of the towns in Nova Scotia, at age 17 at a provincial playdowns," he said. 

"And I had to deal with racial remarks being thrown at me and I was the only Mi'kmaq person on my ball team."

Several signs like this one are posted at CBRM sports facilities. (Peggy MacDonald/CBC)

The recent case of a woman heckling an Indigenous player from the stands highlights the need for a specific anti-racism policy, said Bernard.

"When the facility people were going to remove her, she basically asked, 'What am I breaking? I'm not threatening anybody. I'm not using any type of profanity,'" he said.

"So she found a loophole to be racist, and the facility managers thought their hands were tied."

The Mi'kmaq Sport Council of Nova Scotia took the issue to the Triparte Forum's sport and recreation committee after a parent complained about racism directed at a player.

'Small effort'

From there, a project was launched to test signage in sports facilities warning of consequences for racist or discriminatory actions. 

Paul MacDonald, pictured here at Centre 200, says the signs reassure athletes that their sports facilities support them. (CBC)

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality agreed to be the first community to post the signs.

"It was a small effort on our part, to put up some signage and to be aware that if something should occur, how we should deal with it," said Paul MacDonald, facilities manager for the municipality.

There are now signs in three CBRM facilities: Centre 200, the Centennial Arena in Sydney and the County Arena in Coxheath.

Eskasoni First Nation has posted similar signs at its facilities and bans those who break the rules.

Safe environment

In the year since the CBRM signs were posted, MacDonald hasn't heard of any racist incidents although he said that doesn't mean none has occurred.

Nevertheless, the signs are a signal to athletes that the facilities are behind them, he said.

"With any facility, I think you want to provide a safe environment, whether they're here playing or here watching," MacDonald said.

"You know, you do enough small steps, it can add up to a pretty big leap, so that's what we're trying to do here."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Peggy MacDonald

Reporter/editor

Peggy MacDonald has been a reporter and editor with CBC Cape Breton for 18 years. She also serves as assignment editor. With a background in both print and radio, Peggy now primarily works in the digital world.

with files from Information Morning

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