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Independent committee finds racism, discrimination in Greater Toronto Hockey League

TORONTO — An independent committee, formed by the Greater Toronto Hockey League, has found that racism and discrimination exist in the GTHL and that there is a need to put greater efforts into promoting a culture of acceptance and inclusivity.

TORONTO — An independent committee, formed by the Greater Toronto Hockey League, has found that racism and discrimination exist in the GTHL and that there is a need to put greater efforts into promoting a culture of acceptance and inclusivity.

The committee identified 44 recommendations that the GTHL may look to make in order to bring change in relation to racism and discrimination.

"I think just as human beings we have an obligation to create the safest possible environment for every young person that wants to play this game," Scott Oakman, the GTHL's executive director and chief operating officer, told the Canadian Press.

Included in these recommendations were the reviewing of incident reports where racial slurs were alleged to have been used but not heard, the elimination of ethnic or stereotypical mascots or imagery and the implementation of a BIPOC coaching mentorship program as well as to improve opportunities for women to work and participate in the league.

"We recently announced a partnership with Hockey Equality, which is a charity run by Anthony Stewart. Anthony is a former GHTL player, a former NHL player and is currently a broadcaster with Sportsnet," said Oakman. "And we're going to partner with other organizations. There's a fairly new organization called the Black Coaching Association of Canada as another example of a likeminded organization that we'll be hoping to work with to achieve some of the recommendations."

These recommendations will be turned into action by the GTHL.

The league has now created a formal investigative process by a third party to probe all accusations of discrimination, including ones that occur in-game and go undetected by an on-ice official and, as of June 1, the use of any Indigenous names and logos will be banned — meaning a team like the Mississauga Reps, whose logo is similar to that of the Chicago Blackhawks, will need to find new imagery.

The GTHL is looking to find ways to engage the LGBTQ2S+ community as well.

"There are great organizations that we have or will be partnering with," said Oakman. "You Can Play is one of them. We have regular dialogue with them and we have done a few special events with them."

The growing problem of mental health issues within young athletes is another important problem the GTHL is looking to tackle.

The GTHL has done work with the Canadian Mental Health Association and is eager to do more.

"We expect and anticipate growing our relationship and partnership with them in order to provide the support to players in our organizations and also the leaders in the organization so they're properly equipped to support players that are having mental-health challenges," said Oakman.

According to the league, despite the work it acknowledges needs to be done, the committee said that the GTHL "was perceived to create a welcoming culture that takes issues of racism and discrimination seriously with education and training programs in place."

The GTHL is the largest minor hockey league in the world, with more than 40,000 registered participants across Markham, Mississauga, Toronto, and Vaughan.

This committee came about after the GTHL held what it called its "Transition Game" summit in November 2019, where the league came to the conclusion that an independent and systemic review of itself was needed.

"Our jurisdiction for hockey is the most diverse population in the world congregated in a particular area, Oakman said. "So, there was an acknowledgement that our participants didn't reflect the participation that our geographical juris represents."

In December 2020, the GTHL Board of Directors formed an equity, diversity and inclusion committee that included Karl Subban, father of former GTHL stars and current NHLers P.K. and Malcolm.

The committee was tasked with examining policies, protocols, and practices of the GTHL and how the organization might create a safer environment when concerns regarding equity and diversity are raised.

Processes such as surveys, town halls and one-on-one interviews were used to gather data.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 29, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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