When the hockey season resumes, 13-year-old Matéo Pérusse-Shortte will be taking a shot at a long-standing problem in his sport: racism.
The Montreal teen and his mother Moashella Shortte are starting a hockey diversity group in Quebec to make the sport more inclusive by allowing players of colour to share their experiences.
Pérusse-Shortte, a right winger, was only eight when he first had to confront racism head-on. As he pursued his hobby into his teens, the discrimination continued.
“We were in the semi-finals and I scored the tying goal. I got to celebrate in the stands and there was a family flipping me off and calling me the N-word,” he said. “Coaches would look at me differently, maybe [give me] less ice time … I felt it, the ignorance of coaches.”
A self-described hockey mom, Shortte says being one of the only parents of colour in those stands was an additional barrier to speaking about the prejudice her son faced.
“If I start telling people, ‘Hey, you know, this happened to my son,’ I know exactly what’s going to happen: those people are going to talk to me less and less,” she said.
“People are not comfortable to talk about race, and Black people are not comfortable to put themselves out there because we know that we will be isolated.”
Plans for the group are still in development, but the first online session is scheduled for September and will be open to players, parents and coaches.
“I would love to see coaches seeking out information on how they can support their Black players, how they can learn to identify when racism is taking place and what to do about it,” said Shortte.
Once the group is launched, Pérusse-Shortte says he hopes to have a greater sense of belonging.
“I hope to feel more comfortable in my sport after all of this.”
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
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