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Di Stasio, Church honoured with Indigenous Awards

September 28, 2023

OTTAWA– Two Canadian wrestlers have been honoured with Indigenous awards. Burnaby, B.C.’s  Justina Di Stasio (Burnaby Mountain Wrestling Club) was named a recipient of the 2023 Bitove Indigenous Awards, while Winnipeg’s Connor Church (Montreal – NTC) was named a recipient of  a 2023 Tom Longboat Award.

Bitove Indigenous Awards

The Bitove Indigenous Awards are awarded through the Canadian Olympic Foundation and recognized six athletes in 2023.

Each year, Indigenous athletes are awarded the Bitove Indigenous Award and receive $5,000 each to help with the financial costs of training and competing, or to support initiatives that athletes are contributing to within their Indigenous communities.

Among the 2023 award recipients was Di Stasio, who is a past World champion, Pan Am Games champion and Commonwealth Games champion. Di Stasio has also won multiple national championships and additional international events.

Di Stasio plans to use award funding to offset medical expenses, such as physio and massage therapy, that help speed up recovery time between training and matches.

The Canadian Olympic Committee is committed to acting on Calls to Action #87-91 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. And last year, the COC unveiled the Team Canada Impact Agenda, a commitment to making sport safe, inclusive and barrier-free so more young people can play and stay in sport. These awards are part of this commitment, recognizing the need to lead a more diverse and inclusive Team Canada to podium success.

The Canadian Olympic Foundation thanks the Bitove Family for their investment in supporting Indigenous athletes in Canada through the Bitove Indigenous Awards, established in 2022.

2023 Tom Longboat Awards

The Aboriginal Sport Circle is pleased to announce the winners of the 2023 Tom Longboat Awards Trina Ross and Connor Church, both of Manitoba. “It is an honour for the Aboriginal Sport Circle to celebrate the achievements of these outstanding athletes through the Tom Longboat Awards. Connor and Trina are recognized within their sport and are inspirational role models for Indigenous athletes across the country,” states Rob Newman, ASC President.

Church is Metis from Winnipeg, and is chasing his dreams of representing Canada at the Olympics in the sport of Wrestling. He has been wrestling for 13 years, and still has passion for the sport – usually being the first to arrive to practice and last to leave, often being told to “go home” by his coaches. Connor’s dedication is obvious through his accomplishments. He holds many first and second place titles in National Championships in Junior and Senior age categories, he took first place in the U Sports Wrestling Championships, has been named the 2022-2023 Rookie of the Year. He also placed first, taking home gold medals at the Canada Summer Games, as well as the 25th Copa Sparta Tournament in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Connor’s successes and dedication to the sport, his community and his holistic health are evident in the fact that this is the second year in a row that he has been awarded the Tom Longboat Award.

“I am absolutely thrilled and deeply honored to accept the Tom Longboat Award. Thank you so much for this incredible recognition. I am truly grateful, and I look forward to being a part of the event,” Connor gratefully stated.

In 1951, the Indian Affairs branch of the Canadian federal government created the Tom Longboat Awards to encourage Indigenous assimilation through organized sports. The awards were named after Tom Longboat, the famed Onondaga distance runner who passed away in 1949. Through the years, responsibility for the Tom Longboat Awards changed hands several times, eventually moving from government to Indigenous control, where it now stands as a proud emblem of Indigenous self- determination. The Aboriginal Sport Circle has managed and presented the award since 1999.

“This is the kind of legacy Tom Longboat would have been proud of. Now in its 72nd year, the Tom Longboat Awards stand as a testament to the long history of Indigenous excellence in sport. Much like Tom Longboat who competed more than a century ago, Connor and Trina are role models not only because they are outstanding athletes but also because they represent their cultures with pride.” states Dr. Janice Forsyth, Vice President of the Aboriginal Sport Circle and author of “Reclaiming Tom Longboat: Indigenous Self-Determination in Canadian Sport”.

The 2023 Tom Longboat Awards winners, Trina Ross and Connor Church, will formally receive their awards at the 2023 Canada’s Sport Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, which will be held on October 19, 2023, in Gatineau, QC.


Via – Canadian Olympic Committee and Aboriginal Sport Circle.