Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The race card

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SOME people are too quick to scream racism when events unrelated to ethnic heritage or skin colour get out of hand, but then racism can be a subtle prejudice even its perpetrators do not recognize.

It's this sense of historic injustice that led the leaders of Norway House First Nation to cry discrimination when the Keystone Junior Hockey League refused to play a single game in the playoff final in the northern community.

The suspension, however, was based on the very real fact opposing teams in the seven-team league suffered extreme abuse and violence from players and fans in Norway House. Some players had to be escorted from the arena by police last year. In March, several players from another team were severely injured.

Norway House responded by firing two coaches and taking other measures, but it does not appear the team's leaders reacted fast enough on such an important matter as safety.

The playoff series was rescheduled for Gimli, but Norway House refused to make the 700-kilometre trip as an act of protest, resulting in a forfeit.

It's unfortunate allegations of racism surfaced, particularly since it's teenagers who are affected, but the hockey league should not have been surprised aboriginal people are sensitive about the way they are treated.

Norway House may feel like the injured party, but the community's leaders must assure visiting teams they will be treated respectfully. That's the best strategy for building relationships in a world perceived to be hostile.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Gerald Flood, Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 3, 2012 A10

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