OUA Launches Anti-Racism Project for BHM

Toronto, ON Canada: On the heels of numerous acts of racial injustices and violent acts against Black people in North America, millions of people worldwide shared Black images in support of a social media “black out” to show a stand of solidarity for Black Lives. Canadian sport organizations and institutions – justly – rallied to the call for solidarity.

Weeks later, the Black Canadian Coaches Association held online info-sessions with a call to action for Canadian colleges and universities. Lee Anna Osei, Founder of The BCCA and current U Sport coach, presented alongside colleagues Tenicha Gittens (Concordia University) and Ryan Thorne (McGill University) in front of over 150 Canadian sport leaders over two days. Representing the feelings and ideas of many Black sport leaders felt at the time, the group presented “The Racial Equity Project” as a standardized method to create inclusivity and foster safety for people of Colour in the Canadian sports community at U Sports and CCAA institutions.

Social Media Campaign for Racial Equity Project

The input came from weeks of numerous meetings and discussions with reputable Equity, Diversity and Inclusion professionals. Kristen Liesch, Co-Chief Executive Officer at Tidal Equality met with Osei to help generate a document outlining 5 main themes of support: academic support, financial support, anti-racism education, hiring practices and policy construction. Fostering change at the Canadian post-secondary level was a strategic first step to standardizing support for racialized minorities.

“We need to collect race-based data so that we (our sport community) can begin to validate experiences, understand differences in experiences, and implement evidence-informed policies and practices to support racial equity, ” Thorne announced, while presenting the document in the initial info-session.

“What place other than educational institutions like U Sports and CCAA schools would provide a better opportunity to lead an organized effort in combatting anti-racism?” Osei added.

OUA TAKES ACTION FIRST

In response to sport organizations sharing images of Black solidarity, numerous alumni of Canadian post-secondary institutions spoke out and expressed frustration about the systemic barriers and overt acts of racism they had encountered as student- athletes, coaches and administrators on Ontario campuses. This was a time to lead.

Gord Grace, currently the President and Chief Executive Officer of Ontario University Athletics (OUA) and a former OUA Athletic Director was compelled to take action in support of racialized athletes and coaches. His first step was creating an internal OUA Task Force, comprised of Black coaches, athletes, and staff. Shortly after, the OUA’s Black, Bi-Racial and Indigenous Task Force was created.

Grace states, “Ontario University Athletics (OUA) has been actively engaged with, listening to, and learning from a number of individuals within and beyond our membership. Through these initial insights, conversations, and the fantastic work of our Black, Biracial, and Indigenous Task Force, our organization better recognized the scope of what university athletics in Ontario can truly achieve. This was just the start; however, as further research was needed to help create a strong foundation for meaningful change.”

It was important for Grace, that Black, Biracial and Indigenous People led the charge. Shortly after assembling the Task Force the group appointed Black OUA stakeholders such as Christa Eniojukan and Kadre Grey as co-chairs, while he subsequently contacted leaders at OUA member institutions and prominent Black Canadian sport members to support the Task Force.

LEADING THE CHARGE

Janelle Joseph is an Assistant Professor of Critical Studies of Race in Kinesiology and Physical Education at UofT . She is also the Founder and Director, IDEAS (Indigeneity, Diaspora, Equity and Anti-Racism in Sport) Research Lab and the Director of Research for the BCCA.

Joseph and her team at the IDEAS Research Lab have been appointed as the Lead Academic Researchers for The BCCA’s “Racial Equity Project” (U Sports and CCAA across Canada) and the “OUA Anti-Racism Project” (Ontario Universities).

“The study was originally inspired by the experiences and actions of the Black, Biracial and Indigenous (BBI) task force of the OUA and members of the Black Canadian Coaches Association (BCCA), who collected anecdotal evidence about racial inequities in Canadian sports. A 2020 report by the BBI task force, for example, revealed there are no Black athletic directors in OUA or U Sports.”

Meanwhile, University of Toronto researchers studied websites of nine Canadian universities and showed racialized student athletes were underrepresented in every sport and team examined in comparison to their numbers in the student population at their university. “Systematic research must be done at every post-secondary institution,” says Joseph, “to get a clear understanding of the representation and experiences of racialized people in sport in Canada.”

THE TIME IS NOW TO ACT IS NOW

The OUA anti-racism project launched of February 1, 2021 in conjunction with Black Heritage Month.

The project will focus on four main questions:

  1. What are the racial demographics of the OUA membership?
  2. How are racism and anti-racism perceived and experienced in the sport community?
  3. What role do post-secondary educational institutions play in experiences of racism and anti-racism in sport?
  4. How can anti-racism be improved in the sport community and in post-secondary educational institutional settings?

The OUA BBI Task Force is asking ALL Ontario University Athletic stakeholders to fill out the survey, regardless of race or position.

LEARN MORE HERE: https://oua.ca/sports/2020/12/14/anti_racism_project.aspx

FILL OUT A SURVEY HERE: https://redcap.link/ouastudy

Joseph noted, “This is a multi-racial census. For us to understand how to better address these gaps we need ALL members of the OUA to fill out this optional survey. Participation from non-racialized members such as athletes, coaches, staff and athletic directors is one of the key ways we can develop evidence-based recommendations.”

“What we are seeing from OUA is a historical undertaking, and I believe that other U Sport and CCAA Conferences will follow suit – but now is the time for action for all those who stood in solidarity,” said Osei. “I am confident that allies and supporters in the OUA will do their part and complete the survey. “

Sabrina Razack, a member of the IDEAS Research Lab is the OUA Anti-racism Project Manager, and is available to help organize internal or external communications and presentations about the Project.

For more information about the OUA BBI or the OUA Anti-Racism Project, contact : sabrina.razack@mail.utoronto.ca

Leadership Through Sport – We Are #StrongerTogether.

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