It’s our honour to recognize an exemplary leader whose contributions to Niagara’s corporate community have been nothing short of outstanding. The Corporate Leadership Award acknowledges the exceptional leadership, integrity, business acumen, and commitment to the community displayed by remarkable women in our region. It is with great pleasure that we announce Cassandra Ogunniyi as the recipient of this award.
Cassie Ogunniyi serves as the Manager of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Indigenous Relations in the Growth, Strategy, and Economic Development Department at Niagara Region. In this pivotal role, Cassie has not only led the development but also the implementation of the Region’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan for 2023-2027.
Cassie’s journey to this position has been marked by a remarkable dedication to her field and a relentless pursuit of excellence. Prior to her role at Niagara Region, she spent a decade overseas, working and studying in six countries across four continents. Her international experiences led her to earn a Ph.D. in Sport Management from the University of Johannesburg, a Master of Social Science in Practical Anthropology from the University of Cape Town, and a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in International Development Studies from the University of Toronto.
But Cassie’s contributions extend far beyond her impressive educational background and the diverse experiences that have shaped her. Her impact in the Niagara corporate community is marked by significant accomplishments in the fields of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
While working in Public Health and Emergency Services, Cassie led a series of health equity-related projects, including the development of the Public Health and Emergency Services Health Equity Strategy. She further engaged in a project with Public Health Ontario, focusing on the vital role of Public Health Units in sharing data with local community organizations to advance health equity. This work resulted in a peer-reviewed journal article in the Canadian Journal of Public Health and a chapter in the Evidence-Informed Decision Making Casebook, authored by the National Collaboration Centre for Methods and Tools.
In addition to her work on health equity, Cassie initiated a Regional Council priority project known as “Health Equity Informed Planning.” This project incorporated Health Impact Assessments into the capital budgeting process for Niagara Region, ensuring that health and health equity considerations are integrated into non-health-based projects.
During the challenging period of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cassie was instrumental in coordinating the first Indigenous COVID Immunization clinics in Niagara. Over 4,000 immunizations were administered to Indigenous individuals in this significant effort, reflecting her dedication to public health and community welfare.
One of Cassie’s notable achievements is her role in developing and implementing the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan. This comprehensive plan involved conducting a needs assessment, collecting data from staff and the community through focus groups and surveys, with more than 3,000 participants from across the region. The DEI Action Plan was approved by Regional Council in September 2022.
Cassie’s leadership extends to education as well, where she created and delivered training programs addressing discrimination and bias for People Leaders and Human Resource employees. Her impact in this area is tangible, as she facilitated education for over 4,700 staff in Indigenous learning and over 1,300 staff in foundational DEI learning.
In her various projects, Cassie has successfully navigated the challenge of engaging with diverse community members, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic when virtual interactions became the norm. Her innovative approaches included using networks and contacts to shift to virtual focus groups and creatively reach out to community members through services they were using.
Cassie has recognized the importance of collaborating with networks of individuals and organizations throughout Niagara to amplify messages and collaborate on initiatives. Diversity, equity, and inclusion require consideration of many perspectives and experiences, and Cassie’s relationships with community organizations ensure that the work produced by the Region is culturally appropriate, relevant, and accessible for everyone in Niagara.
Cassie’s commitment to effecting change extends beyond her role at the Region. She spearheaded the Niagara Region Seat at the Table project, a collaborative initiative with multiple organizations aimed at increasing the representation of women and gender-diverse individuals in local politics. The project engaged over 220 participants, resulting in seventeen individuals running in the 2022 municipal elections, with eight successfully elected.
Furthermore, Cassie has consistently made efforts to include diverse community voices in decision-making processes. She has actively participated in creating the DEI Action Plan, established the DEI Advisory Committee, and played a role in the upcoming Niagara DEI Community of Practice, open to any organization in Niagara interested in DEI work.
Outside of her role at the Region, Cassie remains an active member of her community, teaching children at her church and volunteering as a referee evaluator for ringette. Her commitment to mentorship is evident, as she provides support through formal channels at the Region and with Workforce Collective.
Cassandra Ogunniyi’s unwavering dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion has made a significant impact on Niagara’s corporate community. Her leadership, passion, and commitment to driving positive change in the region are commendable.
Today, we honor Cassie’s contributions, celebrating her exceptional achievements and the transformative impact she has had on the community. Her dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion has made Niagara a more inclusive and equitable place for all.
Congratulations, Cassandra Ogunniyi, on receiving the Corporate Leadership Award. Thank you for your exceptional leadership and your unwavering commitment to the betterment of our community. Your contributions inspire us all.