Rugby Ontario Build Belonging Project Update

January 30, 2023


Build Belonging Project Update

January 30th, 2023

(WHITBY, ON) - In November 2022, Rugby Ontario (RO) introduced the Build Belonging Project, funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s Resilient Communities Fund. The goal of the Build Belonging Project is to increase rugby participation amongst underrepresented and equity-deserving groups in Ontario through a community-driven approach to enhancing inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility practices (IDEA) across the organization and throughout rugby clubs across the province.

The key project objectives are as follows:

1. Provide IDEA training and education to RO board members, employees, and club-nominated leaders (Phase 1)

2. Explore barriers to participation and retention among underrepresented groups and communities served by RO clubs (Phase 1)

3. Adapt or create rugby programming and recruitment practices to better meet the needs of communities (Phase 2)

4. Adapt operational policies and governance practices to eliminate barriers to participation and instill inclusive practices in our rugby community (Phase 2)

5. Develop a “Rugby for All” marketing strategy, complete with ‘how-to’ guides/toolkits to support sustainable implementation of club led community-based interventions (Phase 2/3)

6. Evaluate the utility of training and working groups in adapting RO practices and enhancing overall IDEA (Phase 3)

Our Project Team has been busy preparing to launch Phase 1 of the project. At this time, we would like to introduce some of the important stakeholders contributing to this effort. Members of the Build Belonging Advisory Committee (below) are supporting the project by providing guidance and feedback on each of the phases. The Committee consists of subject matter experts within grassroots and community sport related to development and programming; inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility;  

community and values-based initiatives; policy development; and sport marketing. It is our pleasure to introduce the following members of our Build Belonging Advisory Committee:

Lauren Wolman (Chair)

Amanda Neale-Robinson

Asya Bartley

Brownwyn Corrigan

Bryan Heal

Jamie Lourenco

LeeAnn Napiorkowski

Malak Aiad

Steph Buryk-Iggers

Watch our social media for more in-depth introductions to each of these members.

Also providing support across the project, Rugby Ontario has contracted Rainbow Diversity Institute (RDI) as IDEA Consultants, providing in-person IDEA training (Phase 1) and virtual working group sessions (Phase 2) to representatives from participating clubs. In addition to this, RDI will be conducting a review of relevant internal documents and providing recommendations to RO to adapt and improve operational policies and governance practices, aimed at eliminating barriers to participation and instilling inclusive practices across our rugby community.

Phase 1 Update:

With Phase 1 of the project currently underway, we are pleased to share that the following 11 clubs will be represented at IDEA training sessions. The first session took place this past weekend (January 28th-29th) and the next session will take place over the February 4th-5th weekend.

Ottawa Osprey RFC

Ottawa Wolves RFC

Kingston Panthers RFC

Peterborough Pagans RFC

Muddy York RFC

Scarborough RFC

Guelph RFC

Fergus Highland RFC

Brantford Harlequins RFC

Bruce County RFC

Middlesex-Huron RFC

We look forward to highlighting each of these club project teams further as they progress along this journey and begin work on their community-based, IDEA-inspired, club rugby initiatives (Phase 2). 

Please direct any questions about the Build Belonging Project to Project Manager, Meghan Harlow, at

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Rugby Ontario is the provincial sports governing body responsible for the organization of rugby in Ontario. Our mission is to lead, support and promote Rugby for All from communities to clubs to province. This mission signals a movement toward creating a more cohesive, supportive and progressive sporting environment that is responsive to the needs of all members.

To learn more, visit


Dalton Finkbeiner

Communications and Marketing Coordinator - Rugby Ontario

    647-560-4790 x 1006


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