Manitoulin hockey players speak out against racist ‘war cries’

The Conseil scolaire public du Grand Nord de l’Ontario (CSPGNO) has announced that it will implement mandatory cultural sensitivity sessions in all of its schools, following incidents involving students at Macdonald High School- Cartier during recent hockey games.

In games against the Manitoulin High School (MSS) women’s hockey team, Manitoulin players have reported witnessing racist acts by players from the opposing team.

Team MSS goalkeeper Jorja Peltier said in two different games in March this year that she saw students giving “battle cries”.

“If we say and highlight their actions, I hope they probably don’t do it again. Because I don’t want another person to experience racism. Because it’s honestly just a horrible feeling,” Peltier said. .

“I didn’t want to believe it”

Peltier said the first incident she witnessed was during a match at Garson Arena on March 1. She was sitting on the bench during the game, she said, when she saw a student in the stands slap his hand over his open mouth in what appeared to be an imitation of a ‘battle cry’ stereotype.

“When I first peeked I didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t want to be that person to say hey, that’s racism. So I just looked away. But then I noticed that my coaches and my manager noticed it. And that’s when I knew for sure what it was,” Peltier said.

Danica Peltier, left, and Jorja Peltier were hurt by racist gestures from an opposing team during a recent hockey game. (Submitted by Jorja Peltier)

In another game two weeks later against the same team, Peltier said he witnessed something similar.

“In that one, we had just lost and they were cheering. And under the normal cheers, you could hear the battle cry again.”

Jorja’s friend and teammate Danica Peltier remembers the same.

“I felt really sad that people could even do this to another team,” Danica said.

Cultural Sensitivity Training

Weeks after the second incident, Jorja said it still bothered her, so she decided to speak up and wrote about what happened in an op-ed she sent to local news outlets.

“Usually I’m a pretty introverted person and I’m not the one talking so I feel powerful enough myself to be able to do it. But it’s also sad at the same time that I have to go because honestly , people should be educated about cultural appropriation, cultural sensitivity in 2022,” she said.

Following this letter, Jorja said she received a letter of apology from the French school board, which also outlined plans for cultural sensitivity training.

Jorja Peltier said she is pleased that the Conseil scolaire public du Grand Nord de l’Ontario is taking steps to provide cultural sensitivity training in its schools. (Submitted by Jorja Peltier)

In a statement to CBC, the board’s director of communications, Carole Dubé, said the board worked with the school to identify the students involved, and that “[n]necessary measures have been taken to ensure that this situation does not arise again.” She did not specify what this action entailed.

Dubé said the board has been producing cultural sensitivity videos for students and staff for several years and is “committed to promoting respect for all cultures.” She said this incident will further those efforts.

Jorja Peltier said she thinks cultural sensitivity training is “a really good first step”. She hopes the students involved will recognize the effect of their actions.

“I hope they know it really hurts. Like it just ruined my hockey season and it’s been bugging me…ever since it happened. So just be careful of your words and yeah those actions make me wrong for a long time.”