Hockey Nova Scotia's new code of conduct promotes safety, respect on and off the ice

Hockey Nova Scotia has released a new code of conduct for its 2024-25 season, in hopes of promoting safety and respect for everyone involved in the sport, on and off the ice.

The new code took effect on June 17.

It was created at the recommendation of the Hockey Nova Scotia Diversity & Inclusion Task Force, which was set up in 2019 after a teenager from the We'koqma'q First Nation complained he was the victim of racial taunts at a game in Chéticamp, N.S.

Hockey Nova Scotia's website states the goal is to "emphasize appropriate behaviour" and "ensure a safe and positive environment for all participants" that is free of "maltreatment, bullying, and harassment."

The code applies to everyone involved with Hockey Nova Scotia, including players, coaches, referees, parents, staff and volunteers.

It's also compliant with the Universal Code of Conduct to Prevent and Address Maltreatment in Sport, a national document that outlines rules to deliver "quality, inclusive, accessible, welcoming and safe sport experiences."

CBC News requested an interview with Hockey Nova Scotia, but no one was available.

'Awareness is the most important thing'

Wendy MacGregor, the founder of a new non-profit called Athlete Zone, which offers support and guidance to anyone with concerns about their sport experiences, said there are some upsides and downsides to the new code.

She said since the code is quite broad, that may pose challenges when it comes to reporting and enforcement.

"It's talking about a lot of important principles, even though many of them are going to be almost impossible to enforce and nobody's ever going to report on them, but at least they're setting down these important concepts," MacGregor told CBC Radio's Mainstreet Halifax.

MacGregor said she'd like to see more education on how to use the complaints process that is outlined briefly at the end of the code.

The code says complaints should be submitted via email to Hockey Canada's independent, confidential reporting mechanism called the Independent Third Party.

That group will assess the complaint and decide whether it will remain in their care or if it will be returned to Hockey Nova Scotia.

MacGregor said this process could be potentially intimidating to people.

"Are you actually going to invest the emotional time, the investment, the energy that goes into bringing forward something that may be, like, a really minor discretion that would be much better dealt with in a less official, less combative way?" she said.

Still, MacGregor said she appreciates that the new code will also apply to conduct outside direct programming of Hockey Nova Scotia that could pose a safety risk or affect relationships within the organization.

She likened it to when students get into a fight just off school property, but the school claims it has no responsibility for that incident, despite the buildup likely happening at the school.

"If there are non-sanctioned programs or there are events that happen that are related to hockey, or if there's a person who is hired and vetted by the organization but they're not exactly in their official capacity, that clause allows the people bringing the complaint to say that the organization had some responsibility for this … and that's really important," she said.

MacGregor said the code is an important tool "to make sport healthier and safer for everyone involved."

"Awareness is the most important thing because we can't address issues if we can't identify them and the code is the first step toward actually identifying and setting down what those issues are."