Windsor Minor Hockey Association President Returns to Chair Annual General Meeting
On Tuesday night, a group of 60 to 80 demonstrators showed up in front of Average Joe’s Sports Bar to protest the reinstatement of Windsor Minor Hockey Association president Dean Lapierre. He was scheduled to chair their 6:30 Annual General Meeting.
Lapierre was suspended two months earlier for derogatory comments he made on Facebook regarding women at the time a group of Windsor women (and allies) traveled to Washington DC for the Women’s March on Washington. A review of his Facebook postings showed that the inflammatory comments were not an isolated incident, but similar comments had been used in previous postings.
One of the protesters, Victoria Cross, is a longtime Windsor activist. She offered as her reason for protesting, “it’s time for Windsor minor hockey to stand up. It’s not enough to do window-dressing about changing language; it is not just the words you speak, but the actions you take, and it’s very clear that the president of the Windsor Minor Hockey Association has not absorbed the lessons that he was supposed to have learned; his so-called apology blames those who hear the bad language, not his lack of respect for women and what that means in our community.”
Cross goes on to emphasize that the Windsor Essex County region is a hotbed for hockey, not just for young males, but for many young females – many of whom have excelled in the sport and gone on to the greatest heights. She is concerned that attitudes towards women such as those expressed by Lapierre act against the interests of young females in their pursuit of sports.
Carol Petroni is another protester whose children are now in their late teens and have gone through Windsor Minor Hockey Association. She indicated that she was protesting for two reasons: “firstly, we don’t want someone like Lapierre not only negatively influencing women, we don’t want him influencing the young males in hockey and teaching them to speak this way. Secondly, my children are now finished hockey, but if they were still in hockey I would not be able to be here. Because if you have a child in hockey, this will come back on your child. So, I’m here for the Windsor minor hockey parents who can’t be here, but who fear the repercussions.”
Among the protesters present was Michael Malott, Member of Unifor Local 444 and Education Committee Member with Windsor and District Labour Council and Labour Day Committee Chairperson. He was there with his young daughter and her four friends proudly wearing Toronto Maple Leafs’ jerseys.
Malott had read Lapierre’s press release apology (see below), but believes “that he is just apologizing for being caught, not apologizing for what he’s done.” Malott strongly supports the action taken by Dino Chiodo, president of Unifor Local 444, in suspending financial assistance to the Windsor Minor Hockey Association, and to the players individually. He is proud that his union establishes the standard for what is acceptable in our community.
I asked Malott if from his experience as a board member of a hockey Association whether he believed the controversy surrounding Lapierre is a one-off incident, or something deeper of a culture existing within Windsor Minor Hockey Association. He replied, “where the real change is needed is in the culture of the sport itself; it’s disheartening to see the number of people who support him, who say its blown out of proportion. And that’s sad. This was a direct attack on women in society and in sport.”
Video – Pat Papadeas, Organizer of Windsor’s Women’s March on Washington
Below is the official press release text of Windsor Minor Hockey Association president Dean Lapierre’s public apology posted on the Windsor Minor Hockey Association website.
Windsor Minor Hockey Association Press Release Apology – Dean Lapierre April 18th, 2017
In January 2017, Dean Lapierre made comments on his personal social media accounts that were disparaging and inappropriate. As a result the Windsor Minor Hockey Association (WMHA), in conjunction with the Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA) worked together to address the issue. It was agreed upon that Dean Lapierre be suspended and to participate in several rehabilitative processes during the suspension.
Those have been successfully completed. We have confirmed that Dean Lapierre’s has completed steps towards correcting this unacceptable behavior. Mr. Lapierre, in taking responsibility for his actions has written a letter of apology. Further, the WMHA has undertaken a review of their policies and procedures as it relates to Abuse, Harassment & Bullying. The WMHA has drafted a Social Media Policy that will also be added to our Bylaws. As well, the WMHA will be instituting a public awareness campaign to educate members of the WMHA with respect to the handling of social media platforms. All of these initiatives will be in place for the start of the upcoming season in September 2017.
Dean Lapierre Letter
“In the latter part of January 2017 I made some comments on social media that were totally inappropriate and should have never happened. I was under the mistaken belief that what I said on social media was okay but clearly it is not the case.
I know that I offended many people. I did not intend to hurt anyone and at the time I did not understand the impact that it has on some groups of people. I have spoken to many people, many of whom are professionals and I now have an appreciation of people’s perspectives and opinions.
I now believe that any kind of inappropriate behaviour for any reason is unacceptable and that everyone deserves the right to be treated with respect, not only on social media but anywhere else. I also understand that as the President of the Windsor Minor Hockey that I am held to a high standard within the community and that what I say and do in my private life impacts on the Windsor Minor Hockey Association.
During my suspension, I have had a chance to reflect on my actions and have taken steps to correct my behaviour. I want to apologize for the hurt that I have caused. I know that I am not perfect and have made mistakes. I can assure you that this will never happen again.”
Do you feel that Lapierre has sufficiently apologized and should be reinstated as Windsor Minor Hockey Association president? Or do you support those who fear that his actions signal a much deeper problem.
Story, photo and video interview by Joe McParland – Biz X magazine