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After Antisemitic Incident, U of Winnipeg Collegiate Disbands Basketball Team

Despite 48 hour reporting rule, Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association not informed

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The University of Winnipeg Collegiate (left), faces a controversy about their junior varsity team launching antisemitic taunts at players from the Gray Academy of Jewish Education. But the federal Antisemitism Envoy, Irwin Cotler (right), said that simply abolishing the offending team isn’t enough: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant and if you want to address the issue we have to be able know what happened and to be able to learn from it and to be able to properly act effectively to combat it.” 

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In an unprecedented action, the University of Winnipeg Collegiate has disbanded the boy’s Junior Varsity Basketball team as a response to the squad’s antisemitic behavior at a game against the Gray Academy Raiders.

The Wesmen also forfeited their final JV league contest after the incident, which occurred at the Jewish community gym at the Rady Centre on February 2. The teams play in Winnipeg’s Zone 12, which is traditionally made up of parochial and private schools with smaller enrollments.

TheJ.ca learned of the scandal from a parent at one of the Christian schools in the league who was mortified when they heard the reason why the Wesmen team was iced. In relaying the tip they also confirmed information from adult employees of the Jewish school; this was not the first time the U of W team had antagonized their opponents.

“There is a history” of provocative behavior in games against the Raiders, and this was “not an isolated incident.”

While the school officials clammed up when we asked about the specifics, and the process by which consequences were doled out and considered acceptable, the governing sports body confirmed the team was abolished as a result of the game – and had their own questions.

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First among them, is why no one informed the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association of the controversy before we contacted them for comment, which was a week after the incident.

The second question is, what does the vague euphemism ‘antisemitic gestures’ used by people at the Gray Academy to describe the offence, mean, exactly?   

When TheJ.ca contacted officials at the Gray Academy of Jewish Education about what happened, Athletic Director Jamie Kagan refused to deny that the UW Collegiate players made ‘antisemitic gestures’ and said “I’m not giving you anything to write about.”

A longtime staff member, Kagan asserted that the teams had come to a mutually accepted conclusion to the matter and claimed he was forbidden from discussing any details about the actual antisemitism or about the discipline imposed because the players are “minors”. 

The same excuse was used to maintain the cone of silence when we asked school CEO Lori Binder for details of what happened in the campus gym.  

The MHSAA has signed the “Anti-Racism in Sport” accord and Executive Director Chad Falk insisted that antisemitism would never be acceptable under their umbrella. In contrast to the cover-up from the Jewish school officials, Falk had no problem sharing details of what he had found out, after learning about the controversy first from TheJ.ca. 

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“There was a matter that occurred,” he said carefully about the Wesmen, which was handled between the respective Athletic Directors and “they had been disbanded.”

“I still haven’t heard a whole lot,” Falk said on Monday, noting “It’s a pretty big consequence.”

This further deepened his concern that the MHSAA had not gotten any formal report about what happened at the game. Asked if someone should have reported this, Falk replied “I would hope so”.

He explained that breaches (like antisemitic harassment) of the Anti-Racism Policy should be reported to him in writing within 48 hours. He confirmed that this is the first time he has ever heard of antisemitic or intimidating behavior from the UWinnipeg Collegiate team, so if the team was abolished because of an accumulation of unreported/escalating incidents, a red flag is now raised. And that’s not the only one.

Falk was stumped when asked to contemplate what ‘antisemitic gestures’ meant. “I was going to ask you,” he replied, adding “I’d like to get to the bottom of it.” 

This gym is the home of the Gray Academy Raiders, with the team logo seen on the wall and plaques commemorating winning basketball teams of the past at the far end. School officials failed to inform the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg that antisemitic gestures were directed at their boys’ junior varsity players there on February 2; the incident, which was not reported to provincial sports officials as required, resulted in the University of Winnipeg Collegiate disbanding their squad. (Photo: Facebook)   

Falk was uncomfortable with the entire affair and was considering if the decision was “to punish all” of the players for the actions of other teammates.

The offending team was made up of 5 players in Grade 10 and another 7 attending Grade 9 at the private, university-preparatory high school, which is located in the downtown University campus. When asked if under the circumstances, it is possible that some of the Wesmen may have been bullied or intimidated by the offending members, Falk mused, “that’s a good question.”

Falk had spoken with the Zone 12 president – not affiliated with the 2 teams in question – and she only knew the basics and that the Wesmen would forfeit their final game. She committed to getting more details for Falk. For his part, he intended to speak with officials at UW Collegiate and update TheJ.ca accordingly. Their UW Athletic Department did not reply to our inquiry directly, but the communications team sent a statement as follows:

The UW Collegiate takes any concerns regarding the conduct of our students very seriously and responds in keeping with our Code of Conduct. However, we do not comment on incidents between students. We work closely with administrations in other schools to collaboratively support appropriate conduct and follow up on any concerns brought to our attention.

The code of conduct forbids online and in-person bullying, harassment and racism, and conduct that brings the school into disrepute. According to their website, “We require a signed player contract/code of conduct that outlines how The Collegiate operates.”

The Dean of the Collegiate, Kevin Clace, did not respond to our two requests for a comment. 

The University of Winnipeg has a long tradition of basketball excellence; players have often come from their UW Collegiate team program. (Photo: U of Winnipeg)   

The University of Winnipeg campus is a longtime hotbed of antisemitic radicalism, typically associated with leftist extremists among faculty and students. It is not known if the school administration was kept in the dark about any previous Jew-hating antics of their JV team, or if they were informed and failed to take action. However, it is known that the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, like the MHSAA, had no idea about the scandal until informed by TheJ.ca.

JFW President Gustavo Zentner said he was ‘deeply concerned’ about the antisemitic incident and by the fact that as President of Federation he wasn’t informed, as the incident took place at the Jewish Community Center (JCC).

We then spoke about the situation with Canada’s Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism, who acts as the chief advisor on those matters to the Prime Minister. 

In an exclusive interview with TheJ.ca, Irwin Cotler, who is the International Chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, quoted a colleague at the Centre who said “antisemitism is toxic to democracies.” Cotler explained, “it’s a threat not only to Jews, it’s a threat to Winnipeg, it’s a threat to Canada, and we have to always combat it when we see it, not be silent in the face of it, and act collectively to combat it.”

He noted the dramatic upswing (especially since the Gaza war) of trouble for Jewish students in universities and high schools and said when an antisemitic incident occurs – “I believe we have to unmask antisemitism, expose it, and combat it.”

“Were these (UW) students themselves, disciplined?” Cotler wondered. “People should know and should be able to act upon it because they know about it… My sense is this has to do with some sort of Code of Conduct that also deals with issues of disclosure.”   

Asked about how to deal with antisemites from the University of Winnipeg Collegiate bringing their antics to a high school basketball game at the Jewish Community Centre, “I would hope that the issue would have been made known to the Jewish community leadership – because these kinds of antisemitism are not limited to the specific targets but they have fallout for the community as a whole,” said Irwin Cotler. “That’s why in order to address it, I’d like to think the Jewish community leadership would have been informed.” (Screencap: genevasummit.org)

Referencing other reported antisemitic incidents in Ottawa and Toronto high schools, Cotler continued, “I believe that (all) of these incidents have to be addressed, have to be combatted, have to be remedied, education is important in that regard.”

“Sunlight is the best disinfectant and if you want to address the issue we have to be able know what happened and to be able to learn from it and to be able to properly act effectively to combat it. This to me would be something that I would hope that the issue would have been made known to the Jewish community leadership – because these kinds of antisemitism are not limited to the specific targets but they have fallout for the community as a whole. That’s why in order to address it, I’d like to think the Jewish community leadership would have been informed and there could be collective action and collective discussion as to what is the best way to remedy these things.”

In conclusion, Cotler stated, “The message from me is that antisemitism has to be seen as a threat not only to Jews which it is, but as a threat to the overall community in which Jews reside… we have an individual and collective responsibility… We have a toxic brew that has to be addressed and combatted.”     

(Next week, TheJ.ca will have more from our exclusive interview with Mr. Cotler, as well as additional comments from the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, the Manitoba High School Athletic Association, and from the provincial Minister for Sports, Obby Khan.)

Marty Gold is the Editor-in -Chief of TheJ.ca. Known for investigative reporting, he has specialized in covering municipal and provincial politics, and a wide range of sports and entertainment, in newspapers, magazines, online, and on his first love, radio. His business and consulting experience includes live events and sales, workplace safety, documentary productions, PR, and telecommunications in Vancouver, Los Angeles and across Canada, and as a contestant on CBC-TV Dragons Den.

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Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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