Saint Mary’s U: Huskies embrace the growing Red Tape movement
An important new tradition launched at Saint Mary’s on January 22, during a “Red Tape Game” between the SMU Huskies and the Acadia Axemen. Players for both teams put red tape on their hockey sticks, in a show of support for Logan Prosper of Whycocomagh First Nation, and as a symbol aimed at ending racism in sport.
“I wear red tape on my stick every time I go out. I make sure I’ve always got red tape and everyone on my team has it,” Prosper said at the pre-game reception at the Dauphinee Centre, where a Mi’kmaw flag now hangs permanently by the rink’s scoreboard.
The 16-year-old forward for the Cape Breton West Islanders faced racial taunts in a Midget A hockey game in December. He considered quitting hockey altogether, but instead started the Red Tape initiative with his father Phillip to create awareness of racism in hockey, and to encourage players to take responsibility for combatting racism. The movement is receiving widespread support as far as Ontario and New York State, and Hockey Nova Scotia has formed a task force to address discrimination. Several former NHL players, including Cody McCormick, have reached out to Logan directly with encouragement.
Saint Mary’s hosted its first Red Tape Game to promote inclusion in sport and to celebrate Indigenous students and athletes. (The Huskies won, 4-2.) The event was held in partnership with the provincial Office of Aboriginal Affairs, Treaty Education Nova Scotia, and the 2020 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) Host Society.
“While everybody loves a great game of hockey, events like this have great significance for the university, the Indigenous community and for youth,” said Scott Gray, Director of Athletics & Recreation. “For the hockey community, it is important for us to highlight the fact that racism exists in sport. And there is still work that we must do in order to combat this racism.”
Opening the event with a traditional Mi’kmaw prayer was George “Tex” Marshall, President of the 2020 NAIG Host Society and a member of the Bear Clan in Cape Breton. Marshall recalled his own days of playing hockey from the 1970s to the early 1990s.
“Back then, there was a lot of racism within the sport here in Nova Scotia,” he said. “People don’t like to acknowledge or hear that, so this gathering affirms and acknowledges that those issues are still here today, they’re alive and kicking. The fact that we can come together in a collective to educate, to promote and prevent incidents that hurt people is a great thing.”
Before the hockey got underway, Logan Prosper took part in a ceremonial puck drop along with Erin Denny, an outstanding young hockey player from Eskasoni First Nation who will be joining the Huskies next season. She currently plays forward for the MacIntyre Chevy Panthers of the Nova Scotia Female Midget AAA Hockey League, and represented Nova Scotia at the 2019 Canada Games. Then Eskasoni’s Trevor Sanipass performed the Mi’kmaw Honour Song. An Indigenous Liaison Officer with the provincial Department of Justice, Sanipass also has a new CBC Information Morning column called Aknute’n (translation: “tell us a story”).
President Dr. Rob Summerby Murray thanked all of the special guests, who also included more officials from the 2020 NAIG Host Society: Fiona Kirkpatrick Parsons, Chair; Melissa Labrador, the artist who created the NAIG 2020 Logo; and John Rogers, CEO of the Host Society and Chair of Acadia’s Board of Governors. Saint Mary’s will be a key venue for the Games, which are expected to bring more than 5,000 participants to Kjipuktuk (Halifax) and Millbrook First Nation this summer.
Members of the Saint Mary’s Board of Governors in attendance included current Chair, Lawrence Freeman QC, and former Chair, Bob Belliveau. Dr. Summerby Murray also applauded Ryan Francis, the new Indigenous Visiting Fellow in the Faculty of Arts, for bringing the Red Tape movement to Saint Mary’s and organizing the game with Athletics & Recreation. (For more background on the Red Tape movement, see this recent CBC-TV interview with Francis, starting at 3:33.) The President also paid tribute to Dr. Margaret MacDonald, Dean of Arts, and Associate Dean Dr. Peter Twohig, for recognizing the power and potential of bringing sport and recreation together in a learning community.
“Sport brings people together,” agreed Gray. “That’s why we’re so honoured here to start off this recognition game. It will continue to be on our Huskie schedule. Acts like Logan’s can change the world as we combat racism in sport.”