OUA’s Black, Biracial, Indigenous Taskforce Delivers A Powerful, Poignant Presentation
From the files of Ontario University Athletics, original story: https://oua.ca/news/2020/11/5/oua-hosts-successful-virtual-annual-general-meeting.aspx
2020 has been a year like no other that we have seen in over a century, with a global pandemic that has sparked a hard “STOP” to life as we all knew it.
Besides the daily important concerns such as “case count”, or when a proper vaccine will be on the market, and everyone’s overall mental health, social justice matters have been pushed to the forefront with incidents from the United States. Incidents that mainstream North America believed did not exist or take place any longer, have arisen with the murders of most notably Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.
Racism is not just an American issue especially in football (soccer), with demonstrations by professional players in leagues all over the world. Since the restart of all professional sports, there have been protests standing against any sort of discrimination.
The OUA was latest sports organization to give recognition of the epidemic of the “racial divide” that continues to exist. A month ago, Ontario University Athletics (OUA) hosted its Annual General Meeting virtually. On that Thursday, October 29, 2020, the members of the 20 OUA conference institutions came together for an online gathering to discuss next steps for sport and an unprecedented recognition of the issues involving discrimination along gender and racial lines.
At that meeting, the day’s slate began with the formal AGM, featuring presentations from both the Women in Sport Committee and the Black, Biracial, and Indigenous Task Force. The work within these two critical areas of focus have remained focal points for the OUA and each have seen great strides taken over the last several months.
“The circumstances brought about this year have been difficult to say the least, and the OUA has continued to lead across the university athletics landscape, even without sport,” said Dr. Deborah MacLatchy, Chair of the OUA Board of Directors. “The work to develop stronger strategic foundations to better support the flourishing of Black, Biracial, and Indigenous stakeholders, and Women in Sport, has helped set the conference on a positive path.”
Continued MacLatchy, “These encouraging strides will further evolve and strengthen with the launch of the new Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Advisory Committee”, which was also formally announced at the meetings. The new committee will be made up of administrators, coaches, and student-athletes, to be chaired by York Lions Executive Director, Athletics & Recreation, Jennifer Myers.
BBI Task Force delivers powerful, poignant presentation as part of OUA’s Annual General Meeting
Following the adjournment of the OUA’s Annual General Meeting, on October 29, 2020, the conference’s Black, Biracial, and Indigenous (BBI) Task Force delivered an impactful presentation to members of the OUA community, the first of its kind by any athletic conference in North America.
The BBI Task Force that was formed in june 2020, has met on a weekly basis since its inception. setting out on a journey that began with introspection and sharing amongst themselves, before consulting and gaining valuable insights from OUA stakeholders.
“Helping facilitate the OUA Task Force on Black, Biracial, and Indigenous issues was one of the most satisfying journeys of my career,” expressed Mark Harrison, President & CEO of the T1 Agency and Chair of the BBI Task Force. “The opportunity to spend hours and hours with young student-athletes, up-and-coming coaches, and caring administrators provided me an education that I never anticipated.”
The initial groundwork led to the Thursday October 29th presentation, which took place in front of an online audience that included the OUA’s Board of Directors, athletic directors, coaches, and administrators, wherein the BBI Task Force thoughtfully discussed the five areas of focus that were identified at the outset of the group’s work.
After first seeing each member of the Task Force introduce themselves and express their reason(s) for being a part of this important effort, different members then spoke to each point. Included in each speech were key messages surrounding the identified problem, the corresponding recommendations, and what a successful resolution would involve, as expressed in the following presentation slides.
Area of Focus #1: Racial Violence Policy
Area of Focus #2: Hiring Process
Area of Focus #3: Educational / Anti-Racism Training
Area of Focus #4: Financial Access
Area of Focus #5: Mental Health
Continued Harrison, “Several members of the BBI Task Force presented at the OUA AGM and it was clear to me when listening to their clear articulation of the issues, that not only were they very thoroughly thought through, but they were provided in a manner that was actionable and attainable for every OUA member”.
In addition to the personal experiences woven into these presentations was further feedback collected from the various Town Hall sessions that the Task Force ran over the past few months. These virtual gatherings encouraged student-athletes, coaches, and administrators to share their thoughts and/or listen to what others had to say.
Buoyed by this feedback, the Task Force then worked to qualify these identified areas, developing concrete recommendations and helping to pave the way for what a successful future would look like in the weeks, months, and years to follow.
Said Dr. Deborah MacLatchy, Chair of the OUA Board of Directors, “The work of the BBI Task Force was exceptional. The response to the BBI Task Force’s presentation was overwhelming, sparking immediate discussion, and assuredly, further action to come within the OUA and our universities. The work done to this point by the BBI Task Force has been vitally important and it is by no means the end. The ideas and recommendations presented offer a road map for a more successful future and it is through this collection of actions that we can truly drive change.”
Moving forward, the OUA will work with the necessary stakeholders, including the newly formed Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee, to further explore these recommendations and continue to deliver on the BBI Task Force’s mandate to be a platform to make positive change across the province.
For further information about the OUA’s Black, Biracial, and Indigenous Task Force, please click here.
The mandate of the Black, Biracial, and Indigenous (BBI) Task Force is to be a platform to make positive change across the province, through building strategies to increase diversity and representation across the OUA, and to drive policy change to remove systemic barriers regarding racism.
AREAS OF FOCUS
To achieve a meaningful and lasting difference within the OUA landscape, the BBI Task Force has identified five main areas of focus:
- Racial Violence Policy
- Educational / Anti-Racism Training
- Hiring Policies
- Financial Access
- Mental Health
MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE
Mark Harrison – CEO The T1 Agency – Chair
Christa Eniojukan – Head Coach, Women’s Basketball – Ontario Tech University – Vice Chair
Kadre Gray – Student Athlete – Laurentian University – Vice Chair
Donnovan Bennett – Broadcaster and Writer – Sportsnet
Jennifer Brenning – Assistant VP, Athletics & Recreation Carleton University
Tommy Bringi – Student Athlete – Wilfred Laurier University
Dr. Mike DeGagné – President & Vice Chancellor – Yukon University
Kurt Downes – Coach – Athletics Canada
Corey Grant – Offensive Coordinator, Football – McMaster University
Dr. Ivan Joseph – Vice President, Student-Affairs – Wilfred Laurier University
Safya Muharuma – Assistant Coach, Women’s Hockey – University of Toronto
Teni Odeloinbo – Student Athlete – York University
Deverick Ottereyes – Student Athlete – Nipissing University
Payton Shank – Student Athlete – McMaster University
Shawn Small – Manager, Integrated Marketing & Sales – McMaster University
Troy Williams – Student Athlete – Lakehead University
This is a positive step in a long overdue recognition that we have issues here in Canada in our society and in Canadian sport.
It is good to see that the OUA has stepped up to the plate with this unprecedented action, the next question will be, how will it follow through? Will it be “lip service” and “band-aid” actions and solutions, or will it be real change. The good thing about the current “pause” in athletics is that there is “time” to put together policy and foster action with it 20 member institutions of the OUA, and for the other conferences in Canada in both USport and the CCAA to follow suit.
There are many institutions across the country that are looking at various initiatives, but it has taken a focused action by the OUA to undertake the lead. It is a positive step, after all the last time something full scale such as this had taken place in society, NOTHING was done to acknowledge that there is a problem, much less do something about it. Hopefully 30 years later, this generation can demand change and get change to put us on the road for things to get better.
To be fair, there has been progress in the last 30 years, as now at least there is open dialogue across gender and racial lines.
There are now Head Coaches of colour in USport and the CCAA. Schools are hiring the “best” person for the job and not a “token” or alumnus that would satisfy the school’s image. There are prominent members of colour across the country in administrative positions, but we also now have more student athletes of colour and more diverse backgrounds that ever before and for our sports to be inclusionary, our athletes must feel “safe”. From the survey by the BBI task force there is still a great deal of work to be done, but at least it has started.
BBC News: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52905408
The Cord: https://thecord.ca/oua-announces-the-creation-of-the-black-biracial-and-indigenous-task-force/
BBI Taskforce: https://oua.ca/sports/2020/8/31/bbi_task_force.aspx