New Black, Biracial, and Indigenous Task Force underway to help influence change across the OUA

Photos by Michael P. Hall
Photos by Michael P. Hall

Burlington, Ont. – As Ontario University Athletics (OUA) continues to establish ways to better emphasize, celebrate, and encourage the conference’s diversity as part of the organization’s overall strategic plan, there remains a pressing need to better support the Black and Indigenous communities. To play a more active role therein, the OUA is pleased to announce the formation and progression of the Black, Biracial, and Indigenous (BBI) Task Force.

This new Task Force, which has met consistently over the last several weeks, brings together various passionate and dedicated individuals spanning the OUA community, including Mark Harrison, President and CEO of The T1 Agency, who will serve as Chair for the group.

“I am humbled and honoured to Chair the OUA’s Black, Biracial, and Indigenous Task Force,” said Harrison. “I am committed to work on behalf of the current, future, and past; BBI student-athletes, coaches, administrators, officials, fans, and volunteers in the OUA.”

Not only will the BBI Task Force strive to represent these key stakeholders, but also bring their voices to the group with a membership that consists of coaches, student-athletes, alumni, and partners. Representatives of the former two groups – Christa Eniojukan, Ontario Tech Ridgebacks women’s basketball head coach, and Kadre Gray, Laurentian Voyageurs student-athlete – will serve as Vice Chairs and play a leading role in bringing the Task Force’s goals to light.

Explained Eniojukan, “The Black, Biracial, and Indigenous Task Force has been having great discussions on focus areas for BBI student-athletes, coaches, and administrators. We are excited about the direction we are heading and hopeful to make an everlasting change.”

Gray, a two-time OUA Male Athlete of the Year, is similarly hopeful that this group can contribute to a better future. “To be part of a task force that is focused on supporting and providing resources for Black, Biracial, and Indigenous people is an honour. Throughout my life and the work I do with ULU, we are tired of seeing inequity, and as part of the BBI Task Force, we hope to change this narrative for our brothers and sisters to come.”

Task Force member Dr. Mike DeGagné, who recently took on the role of President and Vice Chancellor at Yukon University, echoed these sentiments. “I am encouraged by the fact that these important conversations are taking place across the OUA community as well as what can be achieved when ensuring that all groups have their voices heard. As a member of the Black, Biracial, and Indigenous Task Force, I look forward to being part of these necessary steps and working towards concrete, positive change for the OUA.”

To achieve a meaningful and lasting difference within the OUA landscape, the BBI Task Force has identified five main areas of focus, which consist of OUA policy change, anti-racism training, racial violence rules, financial access, and mental health.

While these key areas will guide the group, the OUA community as a whole – including several members of the BBI Task Force – has already shown that change can be championed in a variety of ways. Student-athletes and teams have spread awareness and shared resources; partners and alumni have used their professional platforms to deliver difficult and heartfelt messages; and several individuals have stepped up in the form of asking poignant questions; all of which have been conversation-starters within the OUA.

“Over the last several weeks, we have been listening and learning from the unwavering responses emanating from across the OUA community,” said Gord Grace, OUA President and CEO. “We recognize more than ever the scope of what university athletics in Ontario can achieve, which is why we are so pleased to take this very important next step and have the Black, Biracial, and Indigenous Task Force in place.”

While the current Task Force membership, as listed below, has helped spark these initial discussions, the OUA is continuing to reach out to stakeholders and collect further feedback across the organization to further expand the group and encourage participation.

Among the next steps to be taken are a series of virtual Town Halls, to be led by BBI Task Force members, that bring together groups of student-athletes, coaches, and administrators, respectively, to share insights and experiences among their peers. For those looking to take part in the virtual Town Halls, please refer to the details below and register via the corresponding links:

  • Student-Athletes’ Town Hall | Wednesday, August 12 from 6:00 – 7:00pm | REGISTER
  • Coaches’ Town Hall | Thursday, August 13 from 1:00 – 2:00pm | REGISTER
  • Administrators’ Town Hall | Tuesday, August 18 from 11:00am – 12:00pm | REGISTER

Further developments and information will be announced as the OUA’s Black, Biracial, and Indigenous Task Force continues to meet moving forward.

The initial Black, Biracial, and Indigenous Task Force membership is as follows:

Mark Harrison, President & CEO, The T1 Agency – Chair
Christa Eniojukan, Women’s Basketball Head Coach, Ontario Tech University – Vice Chair
Kadre Gray, Student-Athlete, Laurentian University – Vice Chair
Donnovan Bennett, Host & Producer, Sportsnet
Jennifer Brenning, Assistant Vice President (Recreation & Athletics), Carleton University
Tommy Bringi, Student-Athlete, Wilfrid Laurier University
Dr. Mike DeGagné, President & Vice-Chancellor, Yukon University
Kurt Downes, Head Coach, Border City Athletics Club / Athletics Canada
Dr. Ivan Joseph, Vice-Provost Student Affairs, Dalhousie University
Charles Kissi, Assistant Coach, Raptors 905 / Head Coach and General Manager, Guelph Nighthawks
Safiya Muharuma, Women’s Hockey Assistant Coach, University of Toronto
Teni Odetoyinbo, Student-Athlete, York University
Payton Shank, Student-Athlete, McMaster University
Shawn Small, Manager, Integrated Sales & Marketing, McMaster University
Gord Grace, President & CEO, Ontario University Athletics
Jackie Chan, Sport Coordinator, Ontario University Athletics

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