The president of an Innu community’s hockey association is calling for changes on how officials are assigned for big games between his players and squad from non-Native communities after a controversial end to a regional final earlier this month.

In the wake of an incident that got a lot of attention on social media, Uashat mak Mani-utenam Hockey Association president David Jean-Pierre is calling for changes to the way referee assignments are given out after a controversial ending to a Cote-Nord regional-final U15 B game earlier this month.

In the game, a series of unfortunate events in the final minutes of a highly-competitive regional final took place that left Jean-Pierre with more questions than answers.

“With about seven minutes to play in a tie game, in a very competitive game, a premature whistle was the impetus for disallowing what would have been the go-ahead goal in Uashat mak Mani-utenam’s game with Sept-Iles,” Jean-Pierre said. 

He explained that a few minutes after that, the officials attempted to intervene in an altercation involving players from both teams. In doing so, Jean-Pierre said, the official put his entire weight on the Uashat mak Mani-utenam player, creating the impression the officials were callous and biased.

After that, a controversial penalty-shot was called for Sept-Iles.

“A few minutes later, a penalty shot was called, and Sept-Iles scored to win the game with just a little bit of time left on the clock,” Jean-Pierre said. 

The controversial ending left a bad taste in the president’s mouth and he hopes the Cote-Nord regional hockey body will seek to create a better atmosphere between officials and players from non-Native communities.

“There needs to be some level of Reconciliation in the way referees are assigned and how they are trained and informed. It feels like there was a certain level of ignorance of the cultural realities that are at play,” he said.

No sanctions were placed on the officials in the game, and the result will stand. 

“We don’t really have an issue with losing the game, because that happens. But when it involves an Indigenous community’s players and referees don’t seem to be all the way aware that their actions did not present an unbiased perspective, by any means,” Jean-Pierre said. “We accept that Hockey Cote-Nord has come to a decision and the result will stand, but we are looking for some changes to how referees are assigned. Whether it’s assigning one referee from each community that’s playing, or something similar, we are looking for changes.”

Uashat mak Mani-utenam Chief Mike Pelash Mckenzie agreed.

“The images that have been shared on social media leave little doubt and raise many questions about the officials’ decisions. What’s more – and what appeared to be the most concerning – were images of a referee on top of a young player,” he said. “It’s very reminiscent of an incident that happened in the United States a few years ago. I hope the Cote-Nord hockey officials and especially Hockey Quebec will take the time to analyze it all and help level the playing field. It goes to the credibility of the organization charged with the responsibility of making sure the rules are applied justly and fairly for both Native and non-Native teams.”

Both the Uashat mak Mani-utenam Council and hockey association hope the incident prompts changes in the way officials are assigned.

“Remember, in 2021, Innu chiefs asked for better Indigenous representation amongst provincial hockey authorities in the hopes of creating a level playing field. There remains quite a bit of road left to travel to make the sport fair and to eliminate any discrimination against Indigenous teams,” they said.

By Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 11, 2024 at 06:41

This item reprinted with permission from   lori:wase   Kahnawake, Quebec
Comments are Welcome - Leave a reply below - Posts are moderated