During what has been an illustrious coaching career, Six Nations Jay Smith has witnessed his fare share of racism.
Smith, who over the years has put together quite the impressive resume in coaching Six Nations minor lacrosse, Six Nations Junior ‘C’ Warriors, and at the minor national level with Team Iroquois, recently recalled a very uncomfortable situation which happened when coaching the Six Nations Midget 1 squad.
“I believe it was 2012, and we were watching a Six Nations Bantam game. Team supporting team so to speak,” Smith said. “Prior to us entering the arena to watch the game, there was a scuffle in the crowd, as it would happen, we came and stood in the same spot where the tussle had happened about 15 minutes earlier. A member of the OLA brass came out and told us we had to move from that spot. I told her it was a public place, we were doing nothing wrong and we could stand where we pleased. The OLA exec member told me I had to move from where I was standing, or be removed from our own provincial qualifiers and would have to forfeit all remaining games.” Smith went on to add, “At the same time, they made a young mother from Six Nations (move) who actually had a child playing in the game we were trying to watch. No one else was asked to move, or was threatened with being removed from playing.”
Voicing his opinion about the Ontario Human Rights Commission plans to meet with Six Nations, Ontario Lacrosse Association and the Canadian Lacrosse Association to discuss racism against Indigenous players, Smith while obviously hoping, isn’t sold that they will come up with a solution.
“I personally think it (racism against Indigenous players) is a huge issue,” Smith said. “If you want to have a look, go back in history. Our game has been changed so much. Rules implemented meant to quell the rise of Indigenous players. In my opinion, the human right commission is like the U.N. in that it can do all the investigations they want. Have as many meetings as they want and put out as many recommendations as they want. Look at all their recommendations that the Human Rights commission has come forward with regarding the treatment of Indigenous people as a whole, very little has changed. To me it’s just a bunch of smoke and mirrors designed to say we did our investigation, we have recommendations, but we can’t enforce them. At the end of the day, education is needed.”
Continuing to speak honestly, Smith didn’t hesitate when asked about whether he believed in the last few years if racism against Indigenous teams have shown any improvements.
“I feel they (racism) are just as bad, or worse. I was there when the Rebels had a brawl in Halton Hills,” Smith said. “Six Nations fans had garbage thrown at them, like whole garbage cans. We were locked in the arena and couldn’t get away from the abuse. Elders were hit, women, children, etc. We were called every name in the book. Even at the NLL level, having announcers promote violence towards Indigenous players. Sure he lost his job, but the message was loud and clear. I remember attending a tournament in Florida and here were quite a few Indigenous teams there and all were treated badly. From phantom penalties, to players being ejected who were not even dressed for the game.”
Over the years, Smith had other trying moments such as when coaching the Six Nations Novice 2 team and during a game against NOTL, refused to bring his team out for the third period due to what they endured earlier in the game.
“It was so bad, our players were getting hurt,” Smith said. “NOTL was getting away with everything. High sticks, throat shots, butt ends, yet we were getting the penalties… after the second period, I refused to bring my team back out to play for their own safety.”
NOTL ended up talking on Six Nations behalf to referees and they ended up finishing the game.
There might be a lot of conflicting issues going on, but hopefully this upcoming meeting with the Ontario Human Rights Commission will be a giant step towards resolving that issue of racism.