In April, 2015 I was suspended by the Ontario Lacrosse Association (OLA) for tampering with another club’s player, a charge that I vigorously disputed, but was denied on appeal. I then took the suspension to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal (HRTO) since I believed that the process of discipline was so foul that it had the effect of denying an Indigenous person the right to participate in a significant spiritual process. This too was denied and denied further on appeal. It seems that not too many people agree with my reasoning. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that I have accomplished what I set out to accomplish, and that is to bring to light, in a public way, the backward approach in which the OLA administers discipline. The almost non-existent disciplinary process the OLA uses can be exploited by unscrupulous persons in discriminatory ways. I will argue – and provide evidence – that has been the case here, not only for me, but for several others involved in the situation from 2015.
There are a few reasons for me proceeding in the manner I did, which I will elaborate on later, but safe to say my options were limited. I was advised by a Human Rights Commission lawyer to file a complaint, even though in her opinion my case was weak and would likely not get past the preliminary stages. She was correct about the outcome and she was also correct in pointing out that once everything was said and done, there would be a permanent and public record of the proceedings. For me – and hopefully others that encounter this kind of troublesome attitude from the OLA (or any other sport governing body) – notice has been served that unacceptable disciplinary procedures are a very worthy cause to fight. As things stand now, I believe that even though I might be the first, I won’t be the last to take up this cause.
In addition to this Preface, this exposé will be in sevenparts: Father and Son, the story that started it all and how the OLA rules and regulations were twisted to discriminate against a father and his son in order to satisfy what can only be described as a personal vendetta; Something is Wrong Here, my initial experience with a severely broken disciplinary process; Target and Isolate, the methods by which the OLA sanctions their members; Kangaroo Courts, my experience with the hearing process as used by the OLA; Obligations, taking the case through the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal process; Epilogue, the final outcomes of the action and its impact on what I see wrong with the OLA. Finally I will end the series with Resources, a step-by-step guide as to how one can approach the OLA disciplinary processes and protect oneself, including helpful links.
With all of this there are caveats. The most important caveat is that I will not name names. When I wrote the Constitution for the newly minted Oshawa Minor Lacrosse Association (OMLA) in 2009, my participation was dependent on the phrase “principles before personalities” being included as the first statement of ethics. What this phrase means to me is that we follow the rules, do everything in an above-board, good-faith way and, whenever possible, deal with people – players, club members, board members, etc., – in a fair, equitable and consistent manner.
‘Principles before personalities’ also means that when examining an issue, it is best to remove the personalities from the equation and look for the problems in the remaining information. In this story, I do not feel that naming names will positively contribute to illustrate the real problems; in fact it will likely detract from the overall urgency of it. I have therefore redacted names from documents and will refer to persons only by the title they possessed at the time of the events.
Another caveat is that I will not assign blame, even though there is a strong suggestion of where blame ought to lie. I believe that the people involved are not fully responsible for the current conditions of discipline (or any other condition) in the OLA in the sense that if they believe that the current process is adequate and others to not object, silence is approval; it’s merely the status quo. The OLA, and those names that run it, participate in a tradition that makes them appear secretive and anyone breaking this unspoken vow is summarily dismissed. While I illustrate how this phenomenon was used against me, I will not assign blame for its presence in the disciplinary process since it likely originated a very long time ago. In fact, what I encountered suggests that this method of dealing with people has entrenched as OLA ‘tradition.’
Finally, what’s fair is fair. Throughout this process I believe I have completed my obligations towards good faith, kept my mouth shut during the legal proceedings, and so on. I think these obligations are important and help the legal process move along in a fair and equitable way. So while I disagree with the final outcome as determined by the HRTO, I accept it as being fair enough for my purposes. Without completing the process I full, I did not believe I could ‘go public’ with my story.
On the other hand, I can appreciate that there is a segment of readers that find the resolution of matters by way of the Human Rights Code of Ontario to be distasteful and counter-productive. That too is a fair opinion, but not one I share. In this regard, the main point about any legal proceedings is that the affair is public and out in the open so that anyone may read and comment on it. It’s no longer a secret. In that regard, I will not defend the ethics of my choice to use the HRTO route in trying to resolve this, nor will I defend my position as an Indigenous person. This story is about discrimination, not limited to race or creed, but applicable to every single member of the OLA. I can guarantee that if you break unwritten rules that you are not aware of, you will still be held accountable. The next section, Father and Son, explain this process clearly.
Next: Part I Father and Son