Racist incident at semi-pro hockey game ‘unacceptable,’ Quebec premier says

Quebec Premier François Legault is condemning a racist incident that occurred at a semi-professional hockey game in Saint-Jérôme, Que.

Jonathan Diaby, a player for the Marquis de Jonquière, a team in the Ligue Nord-Américaine de Hockey, said he and his family members were called the N-word and compared to baboons during a game on Saturday.

Instead of ejecting those making racist taunts, Diaby said security guards asked his parents and girlfriend to change seats so people “could have a quiet game.”

On Wednesday, ​Legault said the game should have been stopped so those responsible could be ejected from the arena.

“It makes no sense that in 2019 people in the bleachers would insult a hockey player because he’s black,” Legault told reporters at the National Assembly Wednesday.

“I would say to the league, and I would say to other spectators, they have the obligation to say to people who make such comments that it’s unacceptable.”

The league’s commissioner, Jean-François Laplante, called Diaby to apologize and posted a video apology to the league’s Facebook page on Sunday.

Laplante said racism has no place in society, and he told fans to be respectful.

“Intolerance of difference is based in ignorance. To combat this problem, we must speak out,” he said.

The video also includes messages from a coach and other players from the league, offering Diaby and his family their support.

Criminal charges?

Liberal MNA Enrico Ciccone, a former NHL player, told CBC News on Wednesday he was “disgusted” by the incident.

“Everybody has the right to to feel safe. Everybody has the right to have some dignity,” Ciccone said.

Ciccone said he was particularly struck by the fact that nobody who witnessed the event took action.

Liberal MNA Enrico Ciccone told reporters the people who made racist remarks at a Ligue Nord-Américaine de Hockey game on Saturday should face criminal charges. (CBC )

“What I feel was a shame the most was the people that were around. It’s our responsibility to protect anybody that is beside us in society, and nobody really did anything,” said Ciccone. 

“That’s what I felt sad about.”

Ciccone said the people responsible should face criminal charges.

Police in Saint-Jérôme said Wednesday they’re not investigating because they haven’t received a formal complaint.

Ciccone also suggested professional and semi-professional leagues in Quebec emulate European soccer leagues. There, when repeated racist incidents occur in the stands, fans are banned and teams are forced to play in empty stadiums.

Isabelle Charest, the Coalition Avenir Québec​ government’s sports minister and a former Olympian, said the government has no legal authority over professional leagues.

But Charest said the government could play a leadership rule by working with leagues to encourage tolerance and openness.

The Montreal Canadiens also condemned the incident in a series of tweets.