Message from the DBA

Update from the Board

On June 10, the Board of Directors of the DBA accepted the resignation of its Executive Director, Ian O’Donnell. His letter of resignation is reproduced below, and will be available on our web-site for the next month. The DBA board and staff thank Mr. O’Donnell for his prior service to the DBA and his commitment to the downtown.

The Board expects to commence a search process in the near future, and to announce arrangements for the interim management of the DBA. In the meantime, questions about the DBA’s marketing and communications programs can be directed to Tracy Hyatt, Marketing and Communications Manager, and questions about the DBA’s other programs and committees can be directed to Office Manager Mary Davies. The DBA remains fully committed to implementing the actions announced on June 4, in support of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour in our community.

Letter of Resignation

June 9, 2020

Dear DBA Board,

Last week, I made comments on social media that I deeply regret.

I fully and completely apologize for using ‘ALM’, a term that is associated with hate and racism. I was wrong to use it and am sorry for the hurt that it has caused.

I plan on educating myself more about this and other issues around injustice, unconscious bias and systemic racism.

I have dedicated much of my life to community building and this comment has undone much of that work. I am disappointed that I have let others down, and I have let myself down.

While I am committed to re-earning the trust of our community partners, that work will take time, and I would not want my personal situation to compromise the DBA’s ability to meet its mandate during the remainder of my term.

With that in mind, I am submitting my resignation as Executive Director effective immediately. I remain a passionate advocate for Edmonton’s downtown, and will look to contribute to that vision in other ways.


Ian O’Donnell

June 4, 2020

Statement by the Executive Committee of the Downtown Business Association Board of Directors 

The DBA’s mission is to support, connect and enrich Edmonton’s Downtown. We are committed to creating a Downtown that is diverse, inclusive and safe – and to advancing that vision in everything we do.

For that reason, we were deeply disappointed and offended by comments made yesterday by our executive director. In particular, using the phrase “all lives matter” was insensitive, disrespectful, and not reflective of our values. We thank all those who spoke up and raised their concerns.

As an organization, and as individuals, we stand with all those who are protesting systemic racism and injustice, and who are demanding justice, equality and true inclusion for the black community. Black Lives Matter.

We welcome Edmontonians to Downtown for Friday’s march, and encourage everyone to make their voices heard while also keeping each other safe from the threat of COVID-19. Many of us will be marching with you.

As we reflect on the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement, and the experience of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) in our community, we are also committing our organization to additional actions, including:

  • Education for our executive director, including unconscious bias training;
  • Support for current BIPOC staff and the inclusion of more BIPOC volunteers in our committees and leadership roles;
  • Expanding the mandate and membership of our Business Recruitment Committee, with focus and funding to remove barriers to creating and growing successful black and other minority-owned businesses in our Downtown;
  • Continuing and expanding our financial support for organizations that highlight and share black culture, heritage and artistic expression through our festival grants program;
  • Increasing representation from the BIPOC community within our multi-stakeholder Operations Committee, whose work focuses on creating a Downtown that is safe and inclusive.

We are committed to denouncing and dismantling racism, and advancing the agenda of systemic change. We welcome continued dialogue on how best the DBA can contribute to creating an inclusive and welcoming Downtown.

Robert Bothwell, Chair

Martin Kennedy, Vice Chair

Zarina Bhambhani, Treasurer

Jeremy Hayward

J. Robert Black Q.C