Throughout the province, people are standing with Saskatchewan NHL player Ethan Bear.
The 23-year-old Edmonton Oilers defenceman became the target of online racist comments during and following his team’s first-round playoff loss to the Winnipeg Jets.
On Wednesday afternoon, Bear addressed the situation in a video on the Oilers’ social media channels.
‘It’s disgusting’ — Edmonton Oilers GM reacts to racist comments about Ethan Bear
“I’m here to stand up to this behaviour, to these comments,” Bear said in the video. “I’m proud of where I come from, I’m proud to be from Ochapowace First Nation.
“I’m not just doing this for myself, I’m doing this for all people of colour, I’m doing this for the next generation. There’s no place for racism in our communities, in sports or in our workplace.”
Multiple Indigenous athletes, many of whom have faced similar treatment, are speaking out to offer Bear their support.
“It’s honestly very inspiring for him to, you know, stand up to this,” Team Canada defenceman Brigette Lacquette said. “(To) be a role model for a lot of the Indigenous communities.”
Former Saskatoon Blades captain Wacey Rabbit voiced a similar sentiment.
“He stood up for himself and our people, and I couldn’t be any prouder of him to do that,” Rabbit said. “It’s not going to be easy to step in front of a camera and stand up for yourself.”
The support came from well beyond the hockey community.
Brigette Lacquette making an impact on and off the ice
“My nephew is a strong man and a positive role model to so many people, but it hurts our community and our First Nations youth who read and see these comments online,” Vice-Chief Heather Bear said in a release from the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.
Premier Scott Moe also chimed in on Twitter when he re-tweeted Bear’s video.
“Racism has no place in hockey or anywhere in our society,” Moe’s tweet said. “I am so proud of Ethan’s example of confronting racism with class and courage, and I stand with him in condemning the racist comments he has faced.”
Despite the outpouring of support Bear has received, his longtime friend Courage Bear, who helps him run a hockey camp at Ochapowace First Nation, says he wasn’t overly surprised to see the racist comments come out in the age of social media.
“It’s shed some light on the situation in the province and in Western Canada that I think is long overdue,” Courage said. “I mean, it’s right here and we maybe don’t always want to acknowledge it, because it’s an ugly thing to acknowledge.”
Although he was angered by the comments, he was impressed by the will of Ethan to step forward and face the issue head-on.
“I’m proud of him for doing it obviously, utilizing his platform. But I think he does want good (to come) out of it, he wants to see people working together, people getting along, and I don’t think that’s unrealistic.”
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