‘We won’t be intimidated’: Women and Trans shinny players hold rally following ‘intimidation’ incident at Toronto rink

For just two hours a week, the skating rink at Dufferin Grove Park becomes a safe space for women and Trans people to play drop-in shinny.

This permitted playing time means a lot to those who come out and is something they aren’t willing to let anyone take away.

Last Thursday evening, this sense of security was compromised, says long-time player Nicole Da Rocha, when a man came to the rink and refused to leave the ice until the police were called. She also said that this person antagonized the players, placed a Canadian flag on the bench, and ignored their pleas to leave the ice, insisting that they were, in fact, discriminating against him. He also reportedly filmed the exchange and allegedly threatened to return the following week with a crew of people, she said.

“It definitely appeared to be a provocation… Clearly this individual was out to intimidate. He definitely knew what he wanted to do and wanted to say,” Da Rochasaid.

“We didn’t want any of this. None of us asked for this and it’s just so unfortunate. It ruined our night.”

Toronto police told CP24.com that they attended the rink at Dufferin Grove Park on Jan. 25 shortly before 7:30 p.m. for reports an “individual (who) insisted their entitlement to play and refused to leave.”

Const. Victor Kwong said that this unnamed person was given “numerous opportunities to leave” the ice and in the end was arrested for failing to leave when directed, which is contrary to the Trespass to Property Act.

Kwong also noted that police will respond immediately if they return tonight and cause trouble.

Da Rocha told CP24.com that this incident was very upsetting and even triggering for many of the women and Trans people who had come out for their weekly shinny  time, some of whom weren’t too sure if they’d be back again.

“It definitely took away that safety that we are looking for. … We came there to relax and have fun and that was taken away from us in that moment,” she said.

“This is not acceptable behaviour and it won’t be tolerated. … We won’t be intimidated.”

Wanting to do something to counter that negativity and show women and Trans shinny players that they can feel safe at the Dufferin Grove Park rink, Da Rocha decided to organize a rally as ashow of support, solidarity, and strength of community prior to tonight’s women/Trans shinny time.

Titled “Make Shinny (hockey) Safe Again – A rally in support of Women’s and Trans Folks’ Shinny Space,” the event will get underway around 6:45 p.m. just outside the skating rink at Dufferin Grove Park. Supporters and well-wishers are welcome, organizers say.

“We want change. We want this to stop. … The culture needs to change,” Da Rochasaid, adding that she’s experienced at least one incident like this every season.

“For some people, this is their social activity and their community. They don’t have many places where they can go. … (This incident) is like an assault on our safety.”

Da Rocha, who said that she’d like to see the City of Toronto do more to ensure diverse groups get the drama-free ice time they’re entitled to, said she advised local Coun. Alejandra Bravo as well as Mayor Olivia Chow of the situation, both of whom told CP24.com that they denounce what occurred.

“Women and gender-diverse people want ice time, which has been historically dominated by men. Time is allocated at City ice rinks to ensure women and gender-diverse people have time to play,” Bravo said in a written statement.

“Everyone should feel safe when participating in community recreation and it’s regrettable that conflicts are happening. In Davenport, I will be meeting with shinny players to discuss how we can move forward in a positive way.”

A representative from Chow’s office said that the mayor “condemns any discriminatory behaviour towards women, trans, and nonbinary hockey players on Toronto rinks, full stop.”

“(She) believes in creating a city where everyone belongs,” Arianne Robinson wrote.

In a statement provided to CP24.com, City of Toronto spokesperson Nitish Bissonauth confirmed that the city is aware of the incident,is taking it “very seriously” and is “looking into the matter.”

“The City of Toronto is committed to promoting a safe, welcoming, positive and inclusive environment where people are valued and respected. Staff, volunteers, participants, and park and facility users are expected and encouraged to be considerate and respect people and their rights,” he said.
“Harassment of any kind is not tolerated or condoned in City of Toronto facilities. The City’s code of conduct, which outlines expectations for safe and respectful conduct at recreation facilities, is posted at rinks citywide, and it is expected that all participants abide by the code of conduct.”

In response to previous similar incidents, the City of Toronto stepped up the supervision of dedicated skating times for diverse groups and installed large banners at rinks that offer dedicated women/Trans ice times.