Martine St-Victor: Now, the skate is on the other foot

After a year of discussions about the importance of representation, sometimes it takes a different perspective to bring home a point.

Montreal Canadiens Jake Evans is greeted at the bench my his team-mates after scoring goal during first period of National Hockey League game against the Edmonton Oilers in Montreal Monday May 10, 2021. It was the first game in more than 100 years where the Canadiens had no player from Quebec on the ice.

May 25 will mark the first anniversary of George Floyd’s murder and it’s now almost a year since the iconography in his honour became omnipresent across the world. Even here: from a mural on Montreal’s Villeneuve St. to an ice sculpture in Quebec City. These images have served as reminders of the battles that remain. But have they been enough to make us fully understand the ravages of exclusion and of homogeneity? We’ve had 12 months of marches,editorials, reports, podcast episodes and testimonials, breaking down all the ways the lack of representation is detrimental to us all. Almost 365 days later, do we finally really understand how?

What came after the death of a man that was witnessed by millions was a reckoning. In many instances, it led to real changes in corporations, governmental policies and homes. In others, it was performative and cosmetic. But makeup can’t hold up that long, and as we start taking stock, many entities’ true traits are surfacing again. After the virtue-signalling social media posts and tokenism, do they have real progress to show, a year later?

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association and its annual Golden Globe awards clearly don’t. Of its 86 members, none are Black. And that has, of course, a series of trickle-down effects. The organization was recently pressured into releasing a plan detailing how it would implement real change within its ranks and practices. It lacked teeth and satisfactory objectives. In response, such Hollywood heavy hitters as Netflix and Tom Cruise — who returned his three Golden Globes — dissociated themselves from the organization. The message and image were clear and unambiguous: The Globes had to shape up and end the smoke and mirrors.

Here in Quebec, we’ve collectively addressed the lack of representation in a timid and almost cryptic manner. The political leadership in power has minimized this plaguing ailment, unwilling to name it and kicking the can across the border. It’s an American issue, Premier François Legault once suggested in a press conference, ignoring all the data that prove that, in fact, it’s also very much a Quebec issue.

With our government setting a tone that was out of tune, and with a certain level of public fatigue with diversity and inclusion-talk, what would it take to expose the problem in the clearest of ways?

In the case of Joyce Echaquan, we had a made-in-Quebec example of how lack of representation can be harmful. But as powerful as the video and other images of her were, they seemed to have left the Coalition Avenir Québec government unmoved, as it refused to recognize Joyce’s Principle, about ensuring non-discriminatory health care for Indigenous people.

Sometimes, we need a different perspective to bring home a point.

Earlier this week, and for the first time in the team’s more than 100-year history, the Montreal Canadiens played a game without a single Quebec player on the ice. It hurt. Radio-Canada’s Martin Leclerc limpidly explained how that lack of representation in the Habs locker room came to be. It partly originates from the Quebec junior leagues’ pipelines. They are flawed and not well adjusted to the times. The problem is structural, systemic.

Does this mean the junior hockey coaches and staff are deficient? No. But it does signal that the hockey organizations they are part of need a reboot and better tools to deal with the realities of the junior hockey market.

Mayor Valérie Plante and opposition leaders at the National Assembly joined the provincial chorus wishing the sole Quebec NHL team had more Quebecers on its roster. Legault also chimed in: “I find it unfortunate that there are not more Quebec players with the Canadiens,” saying that more efforts could have been made at the last NHL draft. When suggesting a solution, Legault added: “I think things start at the top.”

He’s right. They do.

Martine St-Victor is a communications strategist and media commentator based in Montreal. Instagram and Twitter: martinemontreal

  1. Legault says Habs brass could try harder to get Quebecers on the team

  2. Canadiens centre Phillip Danault will miss his second straight game Monday night against the Edmonton Oilers at the Bell Centre because of a concussion.

    For the first time in a century, no Quebecer will suit up for the Habs

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