A football team in Ottawa's east end has been left reeling after a racist slur was spray-painted on the outside of its clubhouse and the inside was vandalized.
Qasim Khan, president of the Orléans Minor Football Association, said the discovery was made Wednesday after the league was told there appeared to have been a break-in at the clubhouse.
Although a number of worst-case scenarios were running through his head when he made the drive there, he said nothing prepared him for what he found.
"Never in our wildest dreams did I think I'd turn the corner and see what was written on the side of our clubhouse," Khan said.
He said he was shocked to see vandals had spray-painted the N-word on the side of the building.
The Orléans Bengals are a minor football team for children as young as seven-years-old. Beyond the sport, the team also participates in community outreach programs, such as their anti-bullying campaign.
"To see this here in Orléans, as someone who's born and raised in Orléans, [it was] a shock. To see it on our club wall, that hurts," Khan said.
Inside the clubhouse, he also found a mess — an array of garbage, such as alcohol and food containers, all over the floor.
Some walls were also spray-painted with images of male genitalia, while others had damage from being kicked, he said, adding a trophy that had been with the team for several years was damaged and used as an ashtray.
Khan said he reported the incident to Ottawa police. Police said in an email Monday that the incident is being "fully investigated," but couldn't provide further details.
The area's city councillor, Laura Dudas, said she's "absolutely disgusted" by the incident.
Dudas's son played minor football, which is where he learned about giving back to the community, she said.
"That's what makes a situation like this more disturbing," Dudas said. "This is young people in the community who give back and give up themselves and then they have to go see this disgusting behaviour."
Coun. Rawlson King, Ottawa's liaison for anti-racism and ethnocultural relations said the incident reinforces the need for the city's anti-racism strategy, which is currently in development.
"All people in Ottawa deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, and have the right to live without fear," King said in an emailed statement.
Team hopes to use incident as teaching moment
While the team doesn't know how much the damage to the clubhouse will cost, Khan said there are bigger concerns.
"The monetary value is one thing, I think it's the emotional damage that hurts the most," he said.
Khan hopes the incident can become an educational moment for the larger community.
"It's a reality, you can't hide from this right? It's here and I think this is an educational moment that we get to share," he said.