MONTREAL — A junior college in Quebec City says it hopes an embarrassing video shared on social media showing members of its women's basketball team criticizing immigrants and Muslims will be a learning opportunity.
The school suspended four players last week and will require them to perform 30 hours of community service following their return to classes Tuesday.
A video circulating on Twitter shows the young women in their team dressing room making derogatory comments about immigrants. One says, "F--- Muslims, man, they're all terrorists."
News reports indicated the women had claimed they were joking, but Claude Boutin, head of student life and spokeswoman for the CEGEP de Ste-Foy, said intent is not the issue.
"Regardless of their intention, the comments are unacceptable and disrespectful," she said in an interview Monday. "Regardless of the context, we acted on what was said."
Boutin added she does not think the school's actions were too harsh.
"These comments should not have been made, they shouldn't have been recorded — and they most certainly shouldn't have been shared," she said.
The school says it learned of the video Nov. 7 and immediately held a meeting with the team.
Boutin said the college forced the team to forfeit its game scheduled for last Friday and is still considering what kind of community work the suspended players will perform. It is not disclosing the identity of the players involved.
Boutin said the school will also give the team training on the impact of sharing content on social media.
"We have young people who have good values but who sometimes make mistakes," Boutin said. "This will be a learning opportunity. The young people involved very much regret their actions. I don't think they realized the impact of their words."
Last December, Quebec City's police chief said there were 42 incidents of reported hate crimes towards Muslims in 2017 — double the number in 2016.
It was in January 2017 that a gunman shot dead six Muslim men in a Quebec City mosque. Months later, the car belonging to the mosque's former president was deliberately set on fire.
A Quebec City man later pleaded guilty to the crime and was sentenced to 12 months in jail in 2018.
The mosque's current president, Boufeldja Benabdallah, said in an interview he is satisfied with the school's response to the video and appreciated that it acted quickly.
"(The players) received a lesson, and it was done publicly. We should turn the page and hope they don't do it again," he said.
"The CEGEP didn't wait. It saw that it was unacceptable ... and it acted."
Giuseppe Valiante, The Canadian Press