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Introduction and scope

This plan was developed with a focus on the concerns of Black student-athletes and coaches. It lays out a comprehensive blueprint for forward momentum within Varsity Athletics, that will support the efforts of the University of Ottawa through the work of the Special Advisors Office on Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence. The strategic objectives and key activities apply to and will be implemented over the duration of the plan, while the key highlights and next steps will be progressively implemented on a year-to-year basis.

Coaches, staff and athletes at the University of Ottawa wish to learn about anti-racism. The education efforts underway by Varsity Athletics and various teams within it speak to our awareness and learning process. The willingness of coaches and student-athletes to share their lived experiences and raise their voices against racism speaks to a desire for change.

At the beginning of this project, we asked two questions: What activities support the changes we want to see? and How do we ensure they are aligned?

This plan has been informed by a review of existing documentation from the University of Ottawa and information pertaining specifically to athletics. Preliminary interviews were conducted with head coaches to establish what anti-racism work each team had started and to understand what additional supports coaches needed to continue their personal and professional learning.

Varsity Athletics has also been guided by work of Ontario University Athletics (OUA). The OUA Anti-Racism Research Project aimed to shed light on the experiences of BIPOC members by asking key research questions. The final OUA Anti-Racism Report provides recommendations in the areas of education, recruitment, support and accountability.

Varsity Athletics’ long-term objective is to ensure that this plan supports the points of view and experiences of the many groups within the BIPOC community. At this time, the groups that have been consulted are mostly self-identifying Black athletes, staff and coaches. We will extend our work over the upcoming years to other racialized groups. 

It should be noted the University of Ottawa, through the Office of Indigenous Affairs, has an Indigenous Action Plan that embeds the process of Indigenization in all aspects of university life, from curriculum to our corridors. In solidarity, the Indigenous Resource Centre was invited to participate in a facilitated session and has been participating in key conversations with Black student-athletes.

Last updated: March 7, 2022.

Our 2021-22 progress

Key highlights

  • Anti-racism plan: Creation of a Varsity Athletics anti-racism plan with our Black leaders and integration of this plan into Varsity Athletics’ new 2022–2027 Strategic Plan.  
  • Participation in OUA Ideas Lab research: The University of Ottawa has been an active participant in the OUA Ideas Lab anti-racism project. The lab’s report identifies recommendations for consideration by OUA institutions in the areas of education, recruitment, support and accountability.
  • Campus collaboration: Alignment of Varsity Athletics’ work with uOttawa efforts through the special adviser on anti-racism and inclusive excellence and various working committees.
  • Anti-racism and inclusion consultant: Varsity Athletics has hired a part-time anti-racism and inclusion consultant, who played a large role in creating this plan and in other initiatives, while providing guidance and advice during the plan’s first year.
  • Community relations: Varsity Athletics has hired a community relations coordinator to oversee day-to-day EDI activities for Varsity Athletics and teams.
  • Black History Month successes: Both the student-athletes and the Varsity Athletics administration see Black History Month as a time to showcase the successes and elevate the voices of our Black student-athletes, staff and alumni. A few examples where this has been done:
    • 2022 Black History Month video
    • Support of the Black Student-Athlete Advocacy Council (BSAAC)
    • Past Meets Present video series
    • Highlighting Black athlete successes across our many social media channels
    • Launch of the first ever Black Excellence Gala by the BSCAA, with support from Varsity Athletics
    • Black History Month-themed women’s and men’s basketball and men’s hockey games
  • Training: Implemented mandatory “Lessons Injustice” training for all Varsity Athletics  staff and student-athletes in year one and launched a new Lessons in Leadership education series.
  • Support of the Black Student-Athletes Advocacy Council (BSAAC): Dedicated resources to support the BSAAC, a student-athlete-led group that advocates for equity, diversity and inclusion within the Varsity Athletics community.
  • Scholarships: Creation of scholarships to support BIPOC student-athletes.
  • Work-study positions: Creation of work-study positions to support the BSAAC.

Athletics governance and policy

Strategic objectives:

  • Ensure Varsity Athletics is seen as an employer of choice for Black coaches and athletic administrative staff.
  • Ensure administrative guidance and policies related to equity, diversity and inclusion are clear and applied equally, with rigour.

Key activities:

  • Equitable selection: Prioritize the inclusion of racialized applicants through more equitable selection criteria.
  • Develop an anti-racism policy: Include specific wording and a focus on anti-Black racism (and its classist, colourist and misogynist manifestations).
  • EDI policy: Develop an equity, diversity and inclusion policy.
  • Collaborate: Create a mechanism for liaising with uOttawa, the Action Committee, Human Resources, Protection Services, and any other relevant groups to meet Varsity Athletics’  equity, diversity and inclusion needs.
  • Establish an oversight body: This group will review policies and governance practices to ensure compliance and maintain cultural transformation.
  • Performance review: Embed EDI as a key part of performance review for leaders, coaches and support staff.
  • Involve leagues: Liaise with U SPORTS and the OUA and RSEQ conferences to ensure alignment of policy and governance work.

Education and training

Strategic objectives:

  • Offer athletic coaching and leadership that is sensitive and responsive to the lived experiences of Black student-athletes.
  • Ensure that diversity, equity and inclusion are seen as core values within Varsity Athletics.
  • Foster an environment of learning within Varsity Athletics that is responsive to the learning needs of student-athletes and coaches.

Key activities:

  • Unconscious bias training: Provide unconscious bias training for all staff (including hiring committees).
  • Racialized coaches symposium: Launch an annual racialized coaches symposium where coaches and staff can receive targeted information (through workshops, presentations, panels, etc.) related to specific areas of anti-racism.
  • Orientation: Create an orientation program for new employees and integrate EDI in student-athlete orientation.
  • EDI education: Establish an EDI education program for all staff and student athletes, with minimum training standards for managers and those in leadership positions.
  • Reporting: Establish a mechanism for coaches and staff to raise concerns related to racism.
  • Diversity liaison: Create a diversity liaison position (through the Work-Study Program) to support the exchange of information on EDI training and communication between teams and Varsity Athletics.

Support programs

Strategic objectives:

  • Provide Black student-athletes with the opportunity to excel on and off the field in an environment that recognizes their unique lived experiences and supports their physical and mental well-being.
  • Take proactive measures to support student-athlete success based on an understanding of the diverse financial and social backgrounds of our athletes.

Key Activities

  • Counsellor: Hire one Black and/or racialized counsellor and encourage the University of Ottawa to hire more racialized counsellors.
  • Funding: Establish a needs-based bursary and grant program to support Black athletes as they transition to university and start a Black alumni fund to support Black student-athletes.
  • Engage with conferences: Continue to engage with the OUA and RSEQ and advocate for scholarship criteria that don’t reinforce systemic barriers to diversity.
  • Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) education: Establish an EDI education program and dedicated resources for Black student-athletes.
  • Physical space: Create a safe space within the Varsity Athletics facilities for Black and other racialized student-athletes to make diverse connections, share experiences and reduce isolation.
  • Mentorship: Establish a network of mentors for Black student-athletes from the body of alumni and the community at large and create an internal mentorship program where incoming student-athletes are paired with and mentored by upper-level students.
  • Reporting: Clarify the process for students reporting EDI-related complaints.
  • Compensation: Adjust activity priorities to better use the Housing Ambassador Program, the Work-Study Program, alumni, mentoring and other programs to compensate Black student-athletes for their time spent on Varsity Athletics’ initiatives.

Representation and visability

Strategic objectives:

  • Ensure Black student-athletes and coaches are visible within the University and seen as leaders.
  • Ensure Black student-athletes and coaches are active in modelling student and athletic achievement for young people in the community.

Key Activities

  • Community engagement: Create mentorship opportunities with schools and local community groups.
  • Visible representation: Advocate for more Black student-athlete and coach representation through marketing and branding initiatives (including website, social media channels, banners) and eliminate barriers to telling stories that centre race.