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ABOUT ICSN

Who we are

The inspiration for this organization is credited to the thousands of Black leaders throughout Canadian sport history who have and continue to promote physical, social, educational and cultural continuity to the people they mentor. Being a coach is all about empowering and supporting others. We are trailblazers in Canadian sport history, and leaders through sport.

ICSN is a not-for-profit organization comprised of individuals from ALL backgrounds who support racial equity in the Canadian sports community. We have 3 objectives: celebration, advocacy through allyship and networking.

Mission

To realize a more racially diverse and inclusive Canadian amateur sports market through creating pathways to increase the number of BIPOC Canadian coaches, officials, sport administrators and support staff through community connection, education and professional development, and sharing of job opportunities and building resiliency skills.

Vision

We are a Black-led organization devoted to empowering Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) in the Canadian amateur sports community through three objectives: celebration, advocacy through allyship, and networking.

Our Values

The inspiration for this organization is credited to the thousands of BIPOC leaders throughout Canadian amateur sport history who have and continue to promote physical, social, educational and cultural continuity to the people they mentor. Being a sport leader is all about empowering and supporting others. We are trailblazers in Canadian amateur sport history, and leaders through sport.

Celebration

Acknowledge and recognize former, current and future sport leaders who represent the rich history of racialized minorities in Canadian amateur sports.

Communication

Create platforms for racialized and non racialized persons in the Canadian amateur sport community to discuss and deconstruct barriers in sport. Provide psycho-social support to racialized persons (athletes, coaches and sport administrators) navigating the sport sector. Utilize our brand and social platforms to promote racial inclusivity.

Competence

Create and collaborate with sport organizations to enhance the educational and professional development of BIPOC coaches, officials, sport administrators and support staff while educating our broader sport community regarding the barriers racialized minorities encounter within Canadian amateur sport experiences.

Courage

Encourage all members of our sport community to denounce racism and prejudice in sport through action and advocacy such as: dialogue, research, education, policy making and more.

The ICSN will continue to lead and work alongside allied individuals and organizations to further the advancements of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) participating in the Canadian sport sector. In doing so, the ICSN has established the following goals and objectives to pursue its mission:

  • Recruit, engage and advance BIPOC coaches, officials, sport administrators and support staff who represent social change agents in our sport community.
  • To promote the ideals of diversity and inclusion, gender equity, and celebration for BIPOC members of our Canadian sports community including fans, athletes, coaches, business owners and administrators.
  • To lobby for the hiring of more visible minorities in leadership and executive positions within the Canadian sports sector to promote inclusion in sport as well as reflect our diverse economy.
  • To unify all members of our Canadian sports community on issues pertaining to racial equity in the sport industry at all levels.
  • To encourage all ICSN supporters and participants to serve as community outreach agents who elevate moral, ethical and educational values.
  • A commitment to assist provincial and national sport organizations in servicing BIPOC members of our sport community.
  • To amplify the voices of BIPOC provide services which address the needs of our BIPOC members and sport supporters professionally, emotionally, financially, physically and spiritually.
  • To formulate mentorship bonds directly and indirectly that foster strong and resilient relationships between allied individuals and organizations.

Inclusion in Canadian Sports Network (ICSN) formally The Black Canadian Coaches Association (BCCA)

History Timeline

June 2020
The Black Canadian Coaches Association (BCCA) founded by Lee Anna Osei launches.
June 2020
October 2020
BCCA and CAC Launch Black Female Coach Mentorship Program (BFCMP) – Year 1
October 2020
March 2021
BCCA and CAC Launch Black Female Coach Mentorship Program (BFCMP) – Year 2
March 2021
January 2022
First virtual Mentorship Summit with the Coaching Association of Canada (CAC), the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA), U SPORTS and Mentor Canada
January 2022
February 2022
Partnered with Hockey Canada for Female Coach Development
February 2022
May 2022
Launched Coach Mentorship for BIPOC in partnership with Football Canada
May 2022
August 2022
Recognized as Canadian Sport Leaders; earn invite to NHL Cultural Advancement Event
August 2022
September 2022
Launched BIPOC Hockey Coach Mentorship Program, powered by the NHL and NHLPA
September 2022
August 2023
Shauna Bookal becomes the 2nd President/CEO after Lee Anna Osei steps down.
August 2023
October 2023
BCCA rebranded to Inclusion in Canadian Sports Network (ICSN)
October 2023

Board of Directors

Frequently Asked Questions

As we move forward, we wanted a name that would be inclusive of all our organization’s members. Over the past three (3) years, our membership has expanded to include individuals from various cultural backgrounds and roles, such as officials, sport administrators, and sports medicine professionals.

The name change also allows us to explore additional funding opportunities beyond the Coaches Association of Canada (CAC) and the Coaches Association of Ontario (CAO).

No, our mission, vision, values have always included a commitment to Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) representative. Therefore, there was no need to update our core principles. We plan to revisit our mission, vision, and values during our Strategic Plan review in 2028.

ICSN is committed to sending out quarterly newsletters. Social media updates will be our primary form of communication. In addition, we will hold townhalls in January and July of each year to engage with our members and provide updates.

ICSN will continue to offer programs tailored to specific ethnic groups, such as Black Coaches. We are also expanding our programs to support BIPOC Officials, Sports Medicine practitioners, Sport Administrators, and the development of the next generation of BIPOC leaders. Additionally, we will host an annual forum to bring people from across the country together, featuring panel discussion, workshops, and networking opportunities for coaches, officials, sport administrators, and young leaders.

With change in ownership, we had a pause our programs temporarily. The ICSN Board Members are actively working on re-establishing partnership, with the goal of announcing new programs in 2024.
If you are not following us on social media, please consider doing so and share our updates with your network. Our strength lies in our unity. Now is the time for us to come together and present a united front in the amateur sports world. We cannot do this work alone.
We are committed to transparency. Detailed financial reports will be shared at our upcoming AGM in September 2024.
Yes, we are actively seeking partnerships and collaboration to enhance our offerings and create a more impactful presence in the sports community.
We are working on volunteer opportunities that align with our mission. Information on how to get involved will be shared as these opportunities arise.
We value member input. You can share your feedback and suggestions through our website, social media, or by attending our townhall meeting in September 2024.

#strongertogether

Dalton Myers

Dalton Myers is currently the Director, High Performance Sport Programs at Queen’s University. He is a sport administrator, entrepreneur, sport consultant, sport columnist, and Authorized World Athletics Athlete Representative. Dalton recently served as Assistant Director, High Performance Sport at Carleton University. He was the Corporate Planner at the Jamaica Olympic Association, and a former Director of Sport at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus. He has also been a President of the Jamaica Intercollegiate Sports Association, a member of FISU Americas, and a Director of both the Jamaica Cricket Association and Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association. He also served as Project Manager for the Council for Voluntary Social Services (CVSS) sports program in Kingston Jamaica.

Dalton joined Queen’s University in May 2023 and is responsible for the development and delivery of strategies for the competitive high-performance sports programs. He currently sits as a Board member of the Canadian Center for Mental Health and Sport (CCMHS) and serves as the Chairperson for the Ontario Athletics Association’s (OUA) EDI Committee and the Queen’s Safe Sport Committee.

Dalton was also an adjunct lecturer at The UWI in undergraduate and postgraduate courses examining sport, politics science, sport governance and cultural studies. He is a Co-founder and Lead Consultant at Strategic Sports Consultancy Limited and Director of JAD Professional Management Limited – an athlete management company based in Kingston, Jamaica. Dalton is a former student-athlete, in addition to being involved in numerous sporting activities at both the undergraduate and graduate levels at UWI.

He has also been the Chef de Mission for several national teams including Team Jamaica at the World Junior Para-Athletic Championships, the World University Netball Championship, the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast Australia and the 2019 Pan-American Games in Lima, Peru. Academically, Dalton completed a Bachelor of Science degree in International Relations (Major) and Political Science (Minor) in 2004 at the UWI, Mona Campus. He later attended Graduate School at the UWI, completing a Master of Philosophy in Cultural Studies in 2011, before receiving a Master in Sports Administration from Ohio University in 2014. He is Safe Sport trained and has completed the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Advanced Sport Management Course.

Kelly Kasper

Kelly Kasper (she/her) is the Manager, Program Design & Partnerships at Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities and brings a wealth of knowledge in the areas of sport, recreation and athletics. Leveraging her personal background in sport as an athlete and a coach, and her professional experiences working within a Provincial Sport Organization, in the school system, and for community-based organizations Kelly is responsible for leading Jumpstart’s Ge Kelly’s focus is ensuring that all children and youth have equitable access to sport and recreation so that individuals, communities and society can benefit from the transformative impacts that sport brings. She is responsible for leading the charity’s gender equity and inclusive play portfolio.

Greg Douglas

Greg is a Manager with Deloitte Canada’s Sport Business Advisory Practice. Greg has worked on a variety of strategy, operations, and implementation projects across several industries with a focus on sports and entertainment. Greg has worked on engagements across the national sport system including working with the Canadian Olympic Committee and International Olympic Committee. Prior to Deloitte, Greg was an Olympic athlete competing at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games in the sport of sailing.

Marika Warner

Marika Warner is the Director of Research and Evaluation in MLSE’s Community Engagement and Social Impact department. Her portfolio includes program evaluation, academic research partnerships, and technology and innovation. Marika’s team uses data to enhance practice in Sport For Development, positive youth development, sport equity, and corporate social responsibility in professional sport. Marika is also a retired professional dancer, a former physiotherapist, and proud mom of an awesome 6-year-old boy, living in downtown Toronto.

Minister Carla Qualtrough

The Honourable Carla Qualtrough is a lifelong believer in the power that sport has in changing lives.

As a leader in sport advocacy in Canada, Minister Qualtrough has served on many boards including AthletesCAN, the Canadian Blind Sport Association, the Canadian Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee, 2010 Legacies Now, and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport. Notably, she served as the President of the Canadian Paralympic Committee from 2006 to 2010, the Chair of the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada from 2010 to 2013, and the Vice President of the Americas Paralympics Committee from 2013-2015.

Minister Qualtrough competed in the Seoul 1988 and Barcelona 1992 Paralympics. She is a three-time Paralympic medalist and six-time medalist at the 1990 world championships for swimming. At the 1996 Games, she served as Canada’s first-ever Paralympic athlete-advocate.

First elected in 2015 as the Member of Parliament for Delta, Minister Qualtrough is the first Paralympian to be elected to the
House of Commons. Since 2015, she has served in several portfolios as a federal Cabinet Minister including as Minister of Sport and first ever Minister of Persons with Disabilities from 2015 to 2017, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility from 2017 to 2019, where she passed the Accessible Canada Act, and Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion from 2019 to 2023, when she proudly passed the first ever Canada Disability Benefit Act. Minister Qualtrough now serves as Canada’s Minister of Sport and Physical Activity.

Minister Qualtrough has been legally blind since birth and is a passionate advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities. As a mother, lawyer, dedicated volunteer, and Paralympic swimmer, she is committed to addressing inequality and championing diversity.

Arshay Cooper

Arshay Cooper is a Rower, Bestselling and Award-winning Author, A 2x Golden Oar recipient for his contributions to the sport of rowing, a motivational speaker, activist, and the protagonist of the film, A Most Beautiful Thing. (Executive produced by Academy-Award and Grammy winner Common, NBA stars Grant Hill and Dwyane Wade, the Winklevoss Twins, and Olympian Mary Mazzio). Arshay grew up on the West Side of Chicago in a community surrounded by gangs and drugs. In 1997 he joined (and later became captain of) the country’s first All-Black high school rowing team at Manley High School, an experience that changed his life. He then dedicated two years of his life to AmeriCorps, focusing on DEI, and soon after that attended Le Cordon Bleu, becoming a personal chef for World Wrestling Entertainment, Warner Brothers film sets, and professional athletes.

After years as an entrepreneur in the food service industry, Arshay returned to his true passion: working with young people. He founded the NY East Side Rowing Club and worked as the national youth program guidance counselor for Victory Outreach International. Arshay also helped start several rowing programs for low-income youth across the country, anywhere a puddle of water exists, so that other young people can experience the profound change that can happen on the water. Arshay is the founder of the National Award-Winning Non-Profit, The A Most Beautiful Thing Inclusion Fund, which introduces thousands of under-resourced youth to the sport of rowing. Arshay’s mission has sparked the MLK Day of Service “DAY ON” for collegiate and high school sports teams across the country and community rowing events between local police and community members. Arshay’s message has spread all across the world, speaking for the members of Congress, the NBA and WNBA, the NAACP, the Obama Foundation, the Congressional Black Caucus, and professional sports teams (including the Oakland A’s, the Atlanta Hawks, the Miami Dolphins, the Atlanta Falcons, and the Chicago Bulls). The British, New Zealand, Australian, German, Dutch, Italian, French, Egyptian, Turkish, Canadian, and other Olympic teams are supporting Arshay and the film profoundly, including creating new charitable organizations and initiatives with underserved communities. Universities and athletic directors across the United States (from Morehouse and other HBCU institutions to the University of Washington to Harvard, Yale, and Princeton) are all hosting events with Arshay.

Arshay has spoken at UPS, Bank of America, Target, JP Morgan, Delta Airlines, Starbucks, Microsoft, and many other companies hosting conversations around the film, digging into access and opportunity, and the importance of bringing people together. The book was nominated for an NAACP Image Award and won the 2020 Nautilus Award. The film has won the 2021 Gracie Award, was nominated by the NAACP for an Image Award, was nominated by the Critics’ Choice Association for Best Sports Documentary, was nominated by the International Press Academy for Best Documentary, and was named one of the best films of 2020 by Esquire. A MOST BEAUTIFUL THING (executive produced by Academy-Award and Grammy winner, Common, NBA stars Grant Hill and Dwyane Wade; and directed by Olympian Mary Mazzio) chronicles the first African American high school rowing team in the country, made up of young men, many of whom were in rival gangs from the West Side of Chicago, all coming together to row in the same boat. It is an amazing story based on the memoir by Arshay Cooper.

The film is currently streaming on Peacock and Amazon Prime, and a scripted series is now being developed with Amazon Studios. Arshay and his work have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, LA Times, Today Show, NBC Nightly News, BBC, Men’s Health, Sports Illustrated, Hollywood Reporter, Chicago Tribune, BET, NPR, and many others.

Bryan Heal

Bryan Heal (he/him) is the Social Impact Research Lead at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), leading initiatives such as the Change the Game research program for MLSE Foundation and MLSE LaunchPad to advance access, engagement, equity and positive outcomes for youth through the power of sport. At work, Bryan is passionate about demographic data, storytelling and partnerships that support youth to recognize and reach their potential.

Outside of work, Bryan serves on the Board of Directors of Canada’s Sport Information Resource Centre (SIRC); and of Strides, Toronto’s Lead Agency for Infant, Child and Youth Mental Health. In life, Bryan’s favourite hobbies include travelling, going on long runs and hikes through public trails and parks, and he spends much of his waking life thinking about what to eat for his next meal.

Jean Merrill

Dr. Jean Merrill returned to the NCAA as director of inclusion in June 2022. In this role, Merrill supports diversity, inclusion, and equity issues, with a principal focus on disability and LGBTQ. Before leaving the NCAA to complete her doctoral dissertation in 2021, Merrill spent 13 years at the NCAA in academic and membership affairs and, most recently, in the office of inclusion.

Merrill holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Hanover College, where she was a softball student-athlete. She also holds a master’s degree and a doctoral degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs from Indiana University. Merrill’s dissertation explores how professionally “out” lesbian, gay, and bisexual head college coaches construct their professional identities, and how those professional identities influence their coaching roles.

Chris Mosier

Chris Mosier (he/him) is a trailblazing athlete, activist, and founder of TransAthlete.com. In 2020 he made history by becoming the first transgender athlete to compete in the Olympic Trials in the gender with which they identify. Before that, in 2015 he became the first openly trans man to make a Men’s US National Team. He was instrumental in getting the International Olympic Committee policy on transgender athletes changed, and was the first trans athlete to compete in a world championship race under the new rules. He has been called “the man who changed the Olympics” by the BBC and New York Magazine. Chris is an eight-time member of Team USA, a four-time Men’s National Champion, and a Men’s All-American.

Chris is also an inductee into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame. He is sponsored by Nike and has been featured in multiple global Nike campaigns.

Chris’s website transathlete.com is the go-to source for information about transgender athletes in sport. Chris has written and advocated for change in policies from the high school level to national governing bodies and professional leagues. He has become one of the leading grassroots organizers against the current wave of anti-trans legislation across the United States. When not fighting the good fight, he mentors transgender and non-binary athletes around the world in hopes that he can live by his motto of “be who you needed when you were younger.”

Danne Diamond

Danne Diamond (they/them) is a DEI strategist and LGBTQI+ sport policy expert. For the past six years, Danne served as the Director of Policy and Programs for Athlete Ally, the leading nonprofit organization working to ensure that everyone – no matter their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression or sex characteristics – has equal opportunity in and access to sport. Over the last fifteen years, Danne has been at the forefront of advancing LGBTQI+ rights and gender equity globally, including leading grantmaking and advocacy efforts in South and Southeast Asia for American Jewish World Service (AJWS) and two years in Thailand on a Fulbright Fellowship conducting research on gender and sexuality in Muay Thai. Previously, Danne worked as a researcher for the Bronx African American History Project (BAAHP) and was awarded a Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Fellowship. Danne holds an M.A. from Columbia University in Human Rights and a B.A. in African and African American Studies and Women’s Studies from Fordham University. A 3x national champion Muay Thai fighter and coach, Danne co-founded USA Muaythai’s Gender Equality Commission. Danne currently lives in Brooklyn, New York with their husband and hound, Harvey Chocolate Milk.

Geneva Coulter

Geneva Coulter (she/her) is the Partnerships & Para Sport Development Coordinator at the Steadward Centre. In her role, Geneva oversees the Steadward Bears para swimming and para athletics programs and para sport education initiatives, specifically Athletes2Coaches and Becoming Para Ready. Geneva has a degree in Kinesiology, majoring in Adapted Physical Activity, from the University of Alberta.

As a retired national team para hockey player, Geneva has transitioned to coaching locally, provincially, and nationally. She is an assistant coach and the equipment manager for the Canadian Women’s Para Hockey Team and is passionate about advocating for gender equity in sport. Her personal experience in para sport as an athlete to coach provides good insight into the work she does with the Steadward Centre.

Geneva believes that all individuals should have access to the quality sporting experiences that they choose.

Morgan Cathart

Morgan Cathcart is a nationally classified para-swimmer from Edmonton Alberta and currently swims with the Steadward Bears Para-Swim Program. She competed in para-swimming for 15 years, and has recently retired to pursue a career in the disability sector. Morgan’s greatest accomplishments during her years of competing included competing in multiple national level meets such as Can Am Para-Swimming Championships, and Rio 2016 Paralypmic Trials and earning a gold medal in the 400 metre freestyle at Ken Demchuk International Invitational swim meet in 2022. Since retiring, she has continued to train in addition to pursuing other roles on her swim team such as volunteer coach, and mentor for the swimmers and the coaches. Outside of the pool, Morgan is finishing her Disability Studies Diploma Program at NorQuest College and working part time as a respite worker and adapted fitness instructor.

Avish Sood

Avish Sood currently works as a Manager of Corporate Partnerships for the National Football League. He is responsible for overlooking branded digital integrations across NFL properties and managing client partners such as PepsiCo, P&G, Visa, Oakley, OLG, Microsoft, Mars Wrigley, FedEx and several others.

He previously worked at The Clorox Company as a Sr. Digital Marketing Manager, eCommerce & Media. Avish Sood graduated from the University of Toronto – Rotman School of Management and completed a postgraduate certificate in sports marketing at George Brown College.

Dale Williams

A Sports Marketing veteran of over 20 years, Dale has worked with sports companies such as Reebok, the Montreal Alouettes, and CCM Hockey. Prior to joining CCM, Dale led strategic brand campaigns with fashion brand RW&CO, working with some of the biggest names in hockey, including PK Subban, Erik Karlsson, Mark Scheifele, and Morgan Reilly. Dale now embarks on his biggest professional challenge in the hockey world, where he is striving to find ways to create more inclusive opportunities for people of all backgrounds to get involved in the sport.

Sherali Najak

Meet Sherali Najak, a Live Multi-Camera Director, Producer, and Executive Producer, celebrated for his exceptional contributions to the world of live entertainment and sports broadcasting.

With an impressive 25-year tenure at Hockey Night in Canada, Sherali has directed and produced captivating live events, earning worldwide acclaim for producing more than 17 Stanley Cup Finals and directing Wayne Gretzky’s final game. Despite his executive producer role, Sherali is from the trenches and is dedicated to the grind of learning something new in every production.

His mastery extends beyond sports, leaving his directing imprint on diverse occasions, from the inaugural Legacy Awards (2022 and 2023) to the HHOF’s induction ceremony, live New Year’s Eve concerts, Battle of the Blades, and the directing the World Feed for the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

Sherali’s expertise lies in seamlessly directing multi-camera entertainment specials, infusing unique artistry into each production. Collaborating with producers, technicians, and choreographers, he elevates the visual and narrative impact, ensuring that the nuance of storytelling through imagery is captured in every frame. Sherali cares about the process, the people, and the outcome.

Beyond the glitz and glamour, Sherali’s commitment to mentoring and empowerment shines brightly. An advocate for nurturing talent, he believes in empowering others to reach their full strut! His dedication to community service, volunteering with the Aga Khan Development Network, an organization dedicated to improving living conditions and opportunities for the poor, with a focus on health, education, culture, rural development, institution-building, and the promotion of economic development. This work reflects his belief in the power of community and social responsibility.

Recognized with multiple Gemini and Screen Awards, Sherali’s ability to orchestrate live multi-camera productions has set a standard for industry excellence. His commitment to delivering seamless and captivating entertainment experiences, combined with his mentorship ethics, has made him a sought-after director in the world of live production.

Drawing inspiration from the rhythms of his musical influences, Sherali holds onto a notion expressed by Prince: “Prince never liked doing the same show twice.”

Sherali Najak stands at the forefront of live multi-camera entertainment. In a world where every event is an opportunity for excellence, Sherali directs with precision, passion, and dedication to creating space for the viewer to feel every moment.

Lori Gagnon

Lori Gagnon is the Manager of Community Granting at Jumpstart, with over 8 years of experience at the organization. Passionate about inclusion and gender equity in sport, Lori implements trust-based philanthropy principles in all community granting opportunities for the Charity. Through collaboration with like-minded individuals, she strives to make sport more accessible for all. Lori’s dedication and expertise have contributed to impactful initiatives that positively impact communities such as; the Jumpstart Sport Relief Fund and Jumpstart’s Play to Lead program. She is a strong leader and advocate for creating equal opportunities in sports.

Kelly-Ann Paul

Passionate about the Canadian sport system, Kelly-Ann first began working in sport with Sport Canada in 2002. Kelly-Ann joined the Canada Games Council (CGC) in 2004 and has worked in multiple capacities for the organization. She was named President and CEO in 2021.

A graduate of Queen’s University with a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Physical and Health Education, Kelly-Ann also earned a Minor in French. She has served on a variety of volunteer committees, including experience at international single-sport events, multi-sport Games, as well as national, community and sport development associations. She was a member of Team Canada’s Mission Staff for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.

A sport enthusiast, her sport background includes athletics and rugby at the varsity level. She hung up her rugby cleats and spikes in 2004 and began officiating rugby matches. Today, she finds herself enjoying kayaking, cross-country and downhill skiing.

Born and raised in Ottawa, Kelly-Ann is fluent in both official languages. She resides in the Ottawa area with her husband Tyler and three children William, Ariel and Ireland.

Mihira Lakshman

Mihira Lakshman is Vice-Chair of The Board of Directors at Athletics, and also chairs the DEI committee. In his ‘day job’, he leads the client services division of The Walrus, based in Toronto. Mihira has been involved in sport as an athlete, coach, volunteer, journalist and governance side. He is also media executive and award-winning journalist with more than a decade of experience at large and small companies in web, mobile, social media, television, radio and print platforms. His expertise includes editorial oversight, sponsor integration, custom content/partnerships, staff management, DEI policy and digital strategy.

Ken Koester

Chief Business Development Officer

National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) and Referee Enterprises

Creates, builds and supports prospect and client relations that promote and support the mission of NASO and Referee; has been with Referee and NASO for 19 years. Works with all sports, all levels, NASO presenter on Sporting Behavior, officiating culture and Say Yes to Officiating initiatives.

High school and NCAA men’s basketball official, having officiated multiple high school basketball state tournaments and postseason collegiate assignments, including the 2010 NCAA D-III Final Four; Big 10 football replay official, including the 2022 Sugar Bowl. Former college men’s basketball coordinator; local association instructional chair.

Candice Maxis

Candice Maxis joined the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) in July 2023 after spending four years with Deloitte Canada, most recently as the Managing Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion co-developing and driving the firm’s DEI strategy and vision. At the COC, Candice is responsible for continuing the evolution of the people and culture strategy for the COC, which ranks among the Best Workplaces™ in Canada. She is a respected HR executive, recognized for her impressive career, her authentic leadership and her strategic sense, and whose personal mission is to inspire others to reach their full potential, while helping under-represented voices to feel seen, heard and supported. Candice has over 15 years of experience in Human Resources with sector leaders such as Deloitte, Coca-Cola and Intact. She sits on several boards including the Afrodescendant Leadership Alliance and Aéroports de Montréal. She received a WXN Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award in 2022 and was nominated as one of the 100 Black Women to Watch in Canada in 2019. Candice holds a bachelor’s degree in human resources management from ESG-UQÀM and is a member of the Human Resources Professional Association of Quebec.

Arash Madani

If it is a major sporting event, chances are Arash Madani has been there to cover it for Sportsnet. From the Super Bowl to the Olympics, the Stanley Cup Final to the World Series, Wimbledon to the Raptors’ championship run, Arash has travelled the world to chronicle some of the biggest moments in sport. He was at The Masters when Tiger Woods made his return to golf, on the play-by-play call for Canada winning the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup to become the world champions of tennis and has handled rinkside reporting on Hockey Night in Canada. Over the years, Arash has also been the host and sideline reporter for Blue Jays broadcasts, ATP and Davis Cup tennis, the FIBA World Cup and was pitch-side when Canada’s men’s national soccer team clinched a spot into the FIFA World Cup.

Arash is a storyteller at heart and has interviewed the biggest names in sports. He’s had in-depth conversations with Roger Federer and Christine Sinclair; insights from Usain Bolt and David Beckham as well as Marie-Philip Poulin, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Mark Cuban. Gaining the trust of start athletes and sports personalities, and allowing them to be unfiltered and vulnerable on-screen, is one of Arash’s strength. The stories that he shares peel back the layers and helps the audience understand what makes an athlete tick.

In addition to his television work, Arash has been a regular co-host on Sportsnet 590 The Fan and is a contributor to the online print content on Sportsnet.ca. In 2017, he was the recipient of the ‘George Gross Award,’ presented annually to Canada’s top sports broadcaster.

Prior to his time at Sportsnet, Arash was with The Score after stints in sports radio, daily newspapers (including his hometown, Truro Daily News) and twice as a media relations director for CFL teams. Arash has become a regular on the speakers’ circuit, travelling the country providing keynote addresses, as well as handling master of ceremonies duties for corporate and charity functions nation-wide. Blending stories from his travels, he provides real-life examples of leadership, teamwork, resiliency and empathy, using an array of ‘lessons from the locker room,’ and unique behind-the-scenes moments that engage audiences. Arash also mentors aspiring broadcasters and works as a broadcast consultant with companies looking to create their own content channels.

John Grant

Hi, I’m John Grant, an AP for CBC Sports. My hobbies include playing soccer, listening to music, and finding the best new documentary or Movie to watch

Jonathan Chang

Jonathan Chang currently leads sports, marketing and communications at CBC Sports, Canada’s Olympic Network. Formerly Director for Events & Basketball Operations at NBA Canada, Jonathan was responsible for Marketing Partnerships, International Exhibition Games, Grassroots Domestic Development, Digital Media and Social Responsibility.

Jonathan previously worked at New Balance, the Walt Disney World Company and the Atlanta Olympics. Jonathan was the Chief Partnership & Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer at WRKOUT Media.

Currently serving as a committee member on Canada Basketball’s Unified 2024 Advisory Council, he is also a mentor for the Canadian Olympic Committee’s Emerging Leader Development Program. He is the founder and co-chair of the Asian Alliance, CBC’s employee resource group.

Dia Syed

Dia Syed has been involved in sports, teaching and business for a large part of her professional career. She is the founder and CEO of Girls In Sports Canada and has extensive experience in program development, implementation, marketing, sales and management. Her prior career was an Account Manager for Northern Alberta for Enterprise Holding and after she returned to school to complete her Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences with a concentration in Kinesiology. She is a trained and certified Performance Volleyball Coach. She is currently the Youth Program Director at the Edmonton Ultimate Players Association where she has taught in over 200 schools to all ages in kindergarten to grade 12.

Through her work with Girls In Sports Canada, Dia has had the opportunity to speak on the disparity within girls sports and solutions to address it. She has spoken at teacher conventions and sport conferences. Dia been a guest speaker in university in education, business and kinesiology classes and has been on multiple podcasts. She has also been featured in interviews with CTV Edmonton and was interviewed, recently, on the radio station 630 Ched in Edmonton. With Girls In Sports Canada, Dia has taught many different sports to youth ages 5-17 and has presented in many classes. Her company was featured in Desjardin’s small business tour and was aired as a commercial during the Amazing Race Canada.

Dia’s vision is to help grow girls’ confidence to be change makers and barrier breakers of the future through physical activity and sport. Girls In Sports Canada wants give girls the knowledge and confidence that they need to carry on into adulthood in order to be champions in their workplace and engage in a healthy and active lifestyle.

Sabrina Razack

While at CBC, I’ve helped use my platform to make sure we use the best voices possible when telling any story, and I plan to continue that as long as I continue to work here.

Gill Orris

Gill Orris, a dynamic Sustainability Consultant, brings extensive experience to the forefront of climate solutions and advocacy for equity, diversity, and inclusion, demonstrating a proven ability to drive positive change across various sectors. With a background in frontline environmental activism at Greenpeace and emergency response with the Canadian Red Cross, Gill showcases her unwavering commitment to fostering inclusive environments in every facet of her work. Equipped with an Advanced Diploma in Sustainable Business Leadership, she seamlessly navigates between profit and non-profit sectors.

Currently serving as the Senior Advisor for Sustainability and Impact at the Canada Games Council, Gill spearheads initiatives, collaborates on impact measurement, policy change, and oversees the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Task Force, leading efforts to promote diversity and equal opportunities within the sports industry.

As the founder of Gillian Orris Consulting, Gill utilizes her expertise to champion EDI principles, providing guidance to esteemed clients such as Cirque du Soleil, Vancity, and the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Committed to creating inclusive spaces and opportunities for all, Gill engages with stakeholders from diverse backgrounds. Through her leadership and advocacy, she aims to enact concrete measures that propel equity, diversity, and inclusion forward across all facets of the Canadian sport industry.

Daria Joquera Palmer

Daria Jorquera Palmer has engaged in sport in multiple ways over the past 20 years, from an athlete on the Canadian National Fencing Team for 12 years, competing in over 25 countries, to transitioning to becoming the head coach of her fencing club and the assistant provincial fencing coach in Manitoba. She graduated with a degree in recreation management and community development from the University of Manitoba and is currently consulting for the Anti-Racism in Sport Campaign as well as the Canadian Fencing Federation on their Gender Equity Project. In her spare time, she volunteers on several boards, as the President of the Provincial Council of Women of Manitoba, Secretary of Trails Manitoba, and as the Chair of the University of Manitoba Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management Advisory Board.

Vittoria Wikston

As one of Niagara’s first Certified Meeting Professionals (CMP); as well as attaining her Certified Meeting Management (CMM) designations, Vittoria is passionate about the events industry with the sole purposes of bringing people together and creating awe-inspiring sensory moments. With over 35 years of experience in sales, marketing and front-line event operations, Vittoria has held the reputation as being a powerful economic driver in the hospitality, tourism, and special events industry.

During her director tenure with Niagara Falls Tourism, event highlights would include destination project management of Rendezvous Canada 2015; Canada’s largest and impactful tourism trade marketplace involving in-bound travel product purchasers from 31 countries. International sporting events would include IIHF U18 Women’s Hockey Tournament – 2016, FIBA U18 Men’s Americas Championship – 2018 and the Canadian Wrestling Trials – 2019. She is currently working on the World Rowing Championships coming to Niagara in August 2024.

Her passion, persistence and determination have not only secured her a successful & rewarding career; but have also driven her to the summit heights of Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Everest Base Camp and through the Peruvian Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

As a member of the Niagara Bid Committee, she was responsible for launching the “Niagara Are You In”campaign that contributed to the Region’s successful win. Just concluding her role as Director, Marketing & Community Development for the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games, Vittoria was committed to inspiring, transforming, and unifying Niagara in its delivery of a phenomenal games experience for all.

As an interwoven Niagara veteran, you’ll continue to find Vittoria leading her spin classes as a Mad Dogg | Johnny G instructor of 25 years; or romancing her grade nine high-school sweetheart husband; playing mom; or yet, being enriched and challenged with her most rewarding role – Nonna; to grand-daughter Sofia.

Vittoria’s professional portfolio highlights include:

  • Director, Marketing & Community Development, 2022 Canada Games Host Society
  • Proprietor, LuvVITT Solutions
  • Director, Business Development, Niagara Falls Tourism
  • VP | Sales & Marketing, White Oaks Conference Resort & Spa & The CLUB at White Oaks
  • Professor – Niagara College; Hospitality & Tourism Management

Judy Joesph Black

Born in Vancouver and raised in Port Alberni, Judy has worked in sport in a myriad of positions over the past four decades. Most recently, she worked for the 55+ BC Games Society and the BC Games Society as an Event Manager, the Provincial Government as a sport consultant, managed the national women’s soccer team, owned her own sport communications company, was the executive director for Badminton BC and the Sports Information Director for the University of Victoria athletic department. She is currently retired, spending her time on various boards of directors. A self admitted Games junkie, she was the Assistant Press Chief for Team Canada at the 2012 and 2008 Paralympic Games; media attaché for the 2000, 2002 and 2004 Paralympic Games; Team BC Communications Manager for several Canada and Western Canada Games and a member of the communications team for both the 1994 and 2006 Commonwealth Games. She has been an advocate for accessibility, inclusion, and equity her entire career and is passionate about using the power sport to move the dial in these areas. She won the 1998 YMCA Women of Distinction Award for public relations and currently sits on the Board of Directors for the Canada Games Council, BC Wheelchair Sports Association, and the Canadian Paralympic Committee. Away from work, she loves walking the trails of Gabriola Island with her dog, Hooper, and enjoys playing rounds of golf with her old soccer cronies throughout the spring and summer (she’s a fair- weather golfer!).

Jo Chu

Jo Chu, a dynamic and accomplished sports management professional brings over two decades of experience and a relentless passion for creating positive change within the sporting landscape. Jo’s career path has consistently demonstrated exceptional leadership skills, strategic thinking, and a commitment to fostering inclusive environments.

In 2022, Jo was named the General Manager of Technical Officials on Basketball Victoria’s Executive Team. She made history as the first woman to hold this position and continues to be the only female representative in all state bodies across the nation. In this pivotal role, Jo oversees the education, development, operations, and wellbeing of 10,000 officials across Victoria.

Jo Chu’s remarkable career reflects her dedication to advancing the sporting industry, empowering individuals, and championing the cause of diversity and inclusion. As a speaker, Jo brings a wealth of experience, insights, and inspiration to any audience, making her a sought-after voice in the sports management arena.

Sarah Smith

After completing her undergrad and post-secondary basketball career, Sarah went onto working with Action for Healthy Communities as a youth facilitator for newcomer youth in Edmonton. Due to her experiences with impacted communities and sport organizations, she was brought on as a community connector to create stakeholder relationships for the AHC Participating in Arts, Sport, and Society research and grant project. Upon completing that project, she continues to work as a stakeholder engagement specialist for AHC youth department and is currently supporting AHC and Coaching Association of Canada’s newest project: Coach Mentorship for Newcomers program. Sarah also has helped to support, create, and facilitate Anti-Racism in Sport workshops for athletes and administrations in Alberta and across Canada.

Craig Brown

Craig Brown – Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Craig began his career in the financial sector where he spent 11 years working in a variety of positions related to customer service and human resources. Although he previously completed degrees in psychology (B.Sc.) and business administration (M.B.A), in 2017, Craig moved with his wife (Kay-Dene) to Winnipeg to pursue an M.A. in Kinesiology and Recreation Management with a focus in Sport Psychology, which he completed in 2020.

Craig’s professional endeavours since moving to Winnipeg include various research projects related to the experiences of newcomers in sport in Manitoba, anti-racism in sport in Winnipeg, and an organizational equity, diversity, and inclusion review. Craig has also worked with various athletes and sports teams as a Mental Performance Consultant. Craig’s mantra is to be the change that he wishes to see in others, one interaction at a time.

Aisulu Abdykadyrova

Aisulu Abdykadyrova, PhD in Sports and Recreation, is a project coordinator at Action for Healthy Communities. She works on initiatives that support and address barriers for BPOC youth in sport participation. Through her personal experience of being a newcomer, parent of a high-performance athlete, volunteer, researcher, and administrator, she is familiar with all the issues of newcomers in sport participation. Using this experience and knowledge, she raises awareness of these issues in order to lower barriers through research and recommendations to policy makers.

Alia Atkinson

Alia Atkinson is a 5 x Jamaican Olympic swimmer, double world record holder and 10 x world champion. Throughout her 26+ years in swimming, she has inspired a nation to pursue learn to swim programs, water safety initiatives and drowning prevention education.

Being a person of colour in swimming gave Alia a unique viewpoint of the world around her and in the sporting arena. She realized at an early age that if she wanted to accomplish anything, the drive and passion would have to come from within her. She created her own support team that aided her throughout her years and gave back to her country, community and other minority athletes while swimming.

With degrees in Psychology & Creative Writing, certifications in Sport nutrition,coaching and corrective exercise, Alia continues to accomplish many feats in swimming, both as an athlete and as the athlete representative within the Aquatic Olympic movement. As a retired athlete she has developed a Performance and Wellness program that assists mentees in bringing out their best self everyday by releasing their greatness within.

Join her session to not only hear her story, but rediscover your path with clear steps forward. You will gain tips to push through obstacles and realize that the only limits are the ones you place on your dreams and on yourself.