Home News Violence follows racist gesture at Survival School

Violence follows racist gesture at Survival School

Nanor Froundjian The Eastern Door

When the last buzzer went off signalling the end of the basketball game at Kahnawake Survival School (KSS) Tuesday evening, where the KSS Eagles basketball team hosted Emmanuel Christian School (EMCS), players and coaches lined up to shake hands, just as they normally would. But things took a turn only a few minutes later when a physical altercation broke out on the court. 

The incident was provoked by racially offensive gestures and noises by a basketball player from the opposing team, according to an investigation by the Kahnawake Education Centre (KEC) with information gathered through written and verbal testimonies as well as closed-circuit TV (CCTV) cameras in the gym. 

One student from KSS is said to have approached that player to address the inappropriate behaviour.

“Video and incident reports indicate the player and three other opposing teammates became physical with the KSS student and this was the catalyst for the ensuing altercations,” said KEC in a statement released yesterday morning. 

The problem is something Kahnawa’kehró:non have experienced before, whether on the court, the field, or the ice.

“Casual racism is something our athletes have been facing for years,” wrote the KSS communications team in response to questions from The Eastern Door. “It is the lack of awareness of who we are as a people and a lack of understanding of what is inappropriate as well as acceptable to say regarding our culture. 

“When placed in a competitive environment, it happens quite frequently that comments such as ‘savages’ or gestures implying feathers are made by the opposing team. Hopefully with constant efforts to educate others this problem will subside.”

Parents, coaches, and KSS staff were among the observers who helped diffuse the situation, which escalated quickly and left the gym tense.

“The only thing I will say is that I’m proud of the KSS Juvenile Akweks (Eagles); despite the heated situation, each member of the team stayed cool, calm, and collected,” wrote head coach Brandon Bordeau in a public Facebook post, noting that he would not be answering questions. “They make KSS proud to be their student-athletes, they make their parents proud ones, and they make me proud to be their coach.”

By the time Kahnawake Peacekeepers arrived at the scene, the fight was over. “Our involvement at the time was just dispersing the crowd, keeping the peace,” said Peacekeepers spokesperson Kyle Zachary.

No one at the court requested to press charges, but it remains a possibility should somebody want to come forward about the incident. None of the people involved in the altercation required medical attention.

KSS and EMCS spoke yesterday and confirmed that the investigation is concluded on both sides. Later in the day, KEC announced in an amended press release the two schools will meet again soon to discuss resolutions and open a dialogue highlighting inclusion and understanding between both schools. 

“KSS and the KEC are pleased to have made contact with the school and are looking to collaborate on positive solutions and educational opportunities moving forward from this isolated incident. Educating our youth remains the key prevention approach in this situation as well as others,” said Robin Delaronde, director of education at KEC. 

Following the meeting, both schools appear to be on the same page. “Everything will be resolved between the two schools. We’ve explained the situation and they seemed satisfied with that, and we are satisfied also on our side,” said Martin Plante, director of operations at EMCS. 

Plante said consequences have been implemented on the students who were said to have been involved in the incident in accordance with Emmanuel’s procedures for these types of incidents, although he declined to give more details, citing legal reasons seeing that the students are minors. 

“We will work together to make sure that these things don’t happen again,” said Plante. 

The KEC has also lodged a complaint with the Greater Montreal Athletic Association (GMAA) as both teams are members of the organization and are therefore bound by their various guidelines and regulations and should hear back shortly. 

Amanda Maks, executive director at GMAA said they are not yet in a position to make a comment. “We don’t have a comment on the incident. We’re currently gathering the information from all parties to send it to our discipline committee,” she said. 

On Wednesday, the day following the incident, KSS broached what happened with its students. “The school administrators gathered the senior students and they addressed the situation, and they really debriefed about it,” said said Darlene Roberts, executive assistant to the director of education at KEC. “It was not necessarily a long meeting, and there will be further follow ups and then they wanted to address the middle school students as well because this is something that of course affects the entire student body.”

In addressing the incident from a safety and security standpoint, Delaronde said KEC is considering measures to prevent these situations or respond to them more effectively and efficiently should it ever happen again.

Regarding external measures implemented outside the community to get the message across to visiting people to avoid the recurrence of such incidents, Delaronde didn’t seem hopeful. 

“The Quebec ministry of education has repeatedly ignored the history and rights of First Nations people in Quebec. This is clearly reflected in their history and citizenship curriculum,” she said.

Lou Ann Stacey, who’s been involved in Kahnawake’s sports scene for decades, agrees this is nothing new. “It continues to come up where people will make racial gestures, people will make comments about our boys having long hair, different things like that,” she said. “Honestly, I was hoping by 2023 we wouldn’t be dealing with it, but it still keeps bringing up its ugly head.”

The Peacekeepers have experience with similar incidents, not only at KSS but also at the Kahnawake Sports Complex. “We’ve had to intervene in the past for situations like that, too. In most cases, there are no charges filed; it’s just a matter of dispersing the crowd and keeping the peace,” said Zachary.

The KSS Eagles lost the Tuesday night game, 28-41, and have their next game set for Thursday at Rosemount High School as they continue to vie for a spot in the playoffs.

In the coming days, Stacey is hoping to see EMCS and GMAA step up to address this situation and believes that developing education programs on racism could be an avenue to consider down the line.

“We keep telling our kids to take the high road, we’re telling our kids to be responsible, but it’s starting to get out of hand instead of getting better,” she said. “It’s every year, it’s every season, every sport.”

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Nanor is a reporter and copy editor with The Eastern Door. She was previously the managing editor and creative director at The Link.

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Nanor is a reporter and copy editor with The Eastern Door. She was previously the managing editor and creative director at The Link.