The governing body for Indigenous athletics in Ontario has a new name and some new partnerships.
At a news conference in Ottawa on Monday it was announced that the Aboriginal Sport and Wellness Council of Ontario (ASWCO) was officially rebranding itself. The new name is Indigenous Sport & Wellness Ontario (ISWO).
The name change was necessary not only to keep up with the times but also to better reflect the organization which includes services for those who are Metis and Inuit.
“Aboriginal seems to be a word of the past,” said Marc Laliberte, who has been president of the provincial governing body since it was revived in 2009. “We are excited we have a new logo and a new look.”
Laliberte said a name change and rebranding had been in the works for about a year, partly necessitated because Indigenous leaders had voiced their concern the organization’s name was no longer reflective of all those it was serving.
“All the heavy work was done in the last few months,” Laliberte said. “It was a board decision. We considered a few names and decided this was the best one.”
Though he approves of the name change, Laliberte is not entirely satisfied.
“To me there is no perfect word to describe us as Indigenous people,” he said. “Not in English there’s not.”
But it’s a change he can live with.
“I’m starting to get used to it,” he said. “It will start to roll off the tongue more easily soon.”
ISWO’s mission is to provide opportunities for the 350,000 Indigenous people in Ontario. These opportunities include not only sporting competitions but wellness programs as well for all ages.
As part of its rebranding, ISWO also has a new logo, featuring a red, black and grey feather. The feather has three distinct parts to it, signifying the diversity within the First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities.
The feather is also intended to represent ISWO’s three pillars of sport, leadership and community.
The Jensen Group, an Indigenous creative agency, was chosen to develop a new brand for ISWO. The Jensen Group had previously worked on the brand platform for both the 2017 North American Indigenous Games and this year’s Masters Indigenous Games. Both of these events, run by the then named ASWCO, were staged in Toronto.
Peter Jensen, the co-founder and CEO of The Jensen Group, is proud of the rebranding work that was done for ISWO.
“This new brand will instill a sense of pride and strength, while symbolizing unity through sport among all Indigenous people,” he said.
The current governing body for Indigenous athletics in Ontario has been around since 2009
That’s when Laliberte and his wife Gloria started ASWCO. During its inception it was basically a two-person operation, as the couple ran it primarily from the basement in their Thunder Bay home.
There’s been tremendous growth since then and ISWO now employs several dozen people throughout the province.
A couple of other organizations, which governed Indigenous athletics in Ontario, also existed during the 1990s and the first decade of this century.
Monday’s news conference detailing ISWO’s rebranding was held at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.
The conference included a couple of other major announcements.
For starters, it was revealed that ISWO has agreed to a five-year media partnership with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
This new partnership will in all likelihood boost ISWO’s profile.
“They’ll be highlighting our achievements on a national platform,” Laliberte said of the CBC. “And they’ll be providing live coverage of some of our events.”
This will include three competitions that will be staged in the nation’s capital that were announced on Monday.
ISWO officials announced they have also entered into a partnership agreement with the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation as well as with Ottawa Tourism and the City of Ottawa.
This agreement will see Ottawa host the Masters Indigenous Games, for those aged 20 and up, in both 2021 and ’23. These Games, which were held in Toronto in July, were the inaugural ones.
Ottawa will also host the 2021 Ontario Indigenous Summer Games.
ISWO officials are still seeking a host community for the 2019 Ontario Indigenous Summer Games.
The Six Nations community of Ohsweken last hosted these Games in 2016.
Laliberte said he couldn’t state the most noteworthy news from Monday.
“They’re all quite large in their own way,” he said of ISWO’s rebranding and new partnership agreements.”