Our Story

Black lives have faced many challenges that have rendered our voices silent.

We have been excluded from the tables of decision-making about the things that impact our lives. We have been put on the sidelines and overlooked. Empirical evidence speaks of our discrimination in all spheres of life over the ages and still, no significant change is seen. In 2020, an increase in brutality against Black lives in the US ignited an uprise of response across the world. Amidst this upheaval, Canadians were confronted with the ever existing reality that Black lives were experiencing deep and prevailing racism in all sectors of society.

A call to action required that a group of nurses needed to take a stand for the unheard voices of Black Nurses in Canada. Within the healthcare sector, Black Nurses historically have been discriminated against, devalued, passed over, not given credit for their contributions in nursing history and underrepresented at leadership tables. With a feeling that the unique needs of Black nurses were not being met in July 2020, Ovie Onagbeboma birthed the vision of the Canadian Black Nurses Alliance (CBNA) and aligned with five nursing leaders to begin the process of organizing Black Nurses across Canada. The first national organization for Black Nurses in Canada CBNA was born from the overwhelming and long-standing need for the voices of Black nurses to be heard.

CBNA established its first affiliate in the form of an academic club at McMaster University in August 2020. The club caters to McMaster University Black nursing undergraduate students under the leadership of Ezwina Egoi and Abena Owusu.

Federally Incorporated in September of 2020, the Canadian Black Nurses Alliance (CBNA) is a non-profit organization that serves to advance Canadian Black Nurses through empowerment, mentorship, and advocacy.
The founding leaders of CBNA are Ovie Onagbeboma, Karen Pingal, Shaunattonie Henry, Ava Onwudegwu. Additional foundational contribution credit is given to Nadine Smith and Sarah Musabimana.

Although a membership organization, the CBNA’s programs and activities are for the benefit of Black Nurses, nursing students, licensed/practical registered nurses, and retired nurses in Canada. We operate as a platform for Canadian Black Nurses. The leaders of the Canadian Black Nurses Alliance recognized that in order to make a difference in the experience and outcome of Canadian Black Nurses, that Black Nurses had to take the lead.

We are financed by member subscriptions, donations, and fundraising activities.

Leadership Team

Ovie Onagbeboma

Ovie Onagbeboma is the Founder of the Canadian Black Nurses Alliance (CBNA). She has 14+ years of critical care experience with 5 of those years in the forefront of Nursing Leadership as a Patient Care Coordinator inclusive of 1 year as a Senior Business Analyst. She is pursuing an MBA and is Lean Six Sigma trained and certified.

Ovie’s academic and technical experience cumulated with her harrowing nursing leadership experience at one of the top hospitals in Canada never restricted her from knowing that she was created to empower.

Now a Clinical Manager in Complex Continuing Care and the Executive Director of CBNA, Ovie’s goal is to create a hub and visible community that provides tangible support to Canadian Black Nurses and nursing students.

While on a overseas trip she was approached to write a reflective practice article. You can read her story “A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS: Unpacking racial biases in the Canadian nursing profession” HERE.

 HER WHY: Ovie feels a moral obligation to share her experience, story, abilities and influences to ensure other Canadian Black Nurses gain from her experiences. CBNA is a place to learn the lessons and not pay for them in their own journey.

Ava Onwudegwu

My name is Ava Onwudegwu and I grew up on the beautiful Island of Jamaica, before migrating to Canada at the age of 18. I am currently an Assistant Patient Care Manager in the Medicine Department at St. Joseph’s Health Centre – Unity Health Toronto. I have held various positions at Unity Health Toronto, from staff nurse on the Resource Team and in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU); as well as, eCare Support, Professional Practice Leader for Nursing Practice and Education, Manager of Nursing Practice and Education, and Clinical Educator – Nursing. I have also had the opportunity to work in academia as a Clinical Instructor and Clinical Advisor. I am also currently an Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Toronto.

In all my leadership experiences I was always the only Black person on the team. I didn’t see Black representation or mentors. As the Academic Coordinator at CBNA, I am motivated by my desire to empower and build another generation of leaders who will forge the way for the generations to come. I am passionate about seeing Black nurses and Black nursing students reach their highest heights. I believe we have so much to offer. We must all leave a legacy!

Outside of the world of Health Care, I am passionate about working with young adults, travelling and dancing. I have been part of different planning committees for conferences geared to empower Women and Young Adults. I have also been featured as a speaker and guest performer at many of these events.

Not only do I give back to my immediate community but on a larger scale, I have travelled to Israel, the Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago, and other areas within Canada doing humanitarian work.

Karen Pingal 

Karen Pingal is a Registered Nurse, and medical policy analyst. Karen has had the privilege of working in a variety of health care settings including acute mental health, street outreach and long-term care.

The Director of Quality at CBNA headquaters, Karen not only seeks to empower Black Nurses to let their excellence shine, but also to advocate for patients, specifically black patients who are often overlooked and dismissed. Outside of her nursing career, Karen enjoys spending time with her husband and daughters, working on DIY projects and traveling.

Jennifer Philogène

Jennifer Philogène is a Registered Nurse who has 6+ years of critical care experience and 3+ years of clinical teaching experience. She completed her Bachelor’s at McGill University. She recently left the bedside in the public system and is advocating for Quebec nurses. She also offers tutoring and mentoring services. Jennifer is now doing travel nursing around the country.

Ezinwa Agokei 

Co-Founder and President of CBNA-McMaster. Now the newly appointed Academic support for CBNA. As the academic support of CBNA, I aspire to equip and enable black nursing students in various universities and colleges to establish a positive space in their school community. As a former student nurse, I benefited from the events and network provided by CBNA-McMaster, in return as navigating my role in CBNA my mainstay is to always give back to students. As I begin my professional career as a nurse, I hope to grow in nursing leadership from the bedside to education and even policy.

I want to inspire nurses to take up space regardless of background, race, or disability, and strive to achieve the things they truly want even when it seems impossible.

Abi Olayinka

Hello! My name is Abi Olayinka, and I am the graphic designer for CBNA. I study Global Business and Digital Arts at the University of Waterloo and I serve as the graphic designer for the Black Association for Student Expression at the university.

The world of digital art has provided me with a safe space to express my ideas in an endless possibility of ways. When I am not designing, I like to play basketball, spend time with my family, and indulge in my favourite dish and its many variations, pasta. I love experiencing the joys of life with friends and family around me!

Canadian Black Nurses Alliance
Canadian Black Nurses Alliance
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