By ALI RAZA, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Elected representatives from every level of government have publicly denounced the repeated acts of racism that occurred at a construction site at Michael Garron Hospital in East York over the last four months.
In a jointly-signed letter to EllisDon CEO Geoff Smith and Michael Garron Hospital President and CEO Sarah Downey, political representatives from Toronto-Danforth and Beaches-East York made it clear they want “more comprehensive measures” to combat racism at the workplace and in the community.
The letter was signed by Toronto-Danforth representatives: Councillor Paula Fletcher, MPP Peter Tabuns, MP Julie Dabrusin, TDSB trustee Jennifer Story, and TCDSB trustee Angela Kennedy; and Beaches-East York representatives: Councillor Brad Bradford, MPP Rima Berns-McGown, MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, and TDSB trustee Michelle Aarts.
“It is upsetting for the entire community that our new hospital extension, which is being built as a place of healing, has been repeatedly tarnished by hate,” the letter reads.
EllisDon oversees the construction of the extension at MGH. In June, employees found two nooses at the site. On Sept. 24, another alleged incident involving a noose occurred. And shortly after on Oct. 2, a racist graffiti message was found.
“These ongoing instances of hate have been deeply hurtful and traumatizing for our community,” the representatives’ letter said.
While acknowledging the “superb medical and community care” at MGH, they stressed it’s important for the hospital and job site to be “safe for all workers.”
EllisDon, responding to the Sept. 24 incident, released a list of actions and initiatives it is taking to combat racism in its company and the industry.
The construction company is working with law enforcement, offering a reward for identifying the suspect(s), increasing site security, and offering employees, subcontractors, and unions diversity and inclusion education.
EllisDon’s CEO thinks it’s “the handiwork of one or two racist criminals.”
“These individuals are unfortunately comfortable in the knowledge that on a heavily populated and constantly changing construction site, they will be hard to identify,” Smith said. “But I want to send a clear message: We will not stop until you are found, charged, and permanently evicted from our industry.”
After the racist graffiti was found, Downey sent an open letter to Smith imploring more action be taken in response to racist acts. She appreciated EllisDon’s response, but added “it is clear, however, that this disturbing trend requires a stronger and louder response.”
East Toronto’s elected officials agree.
“We know you both abhor racism,” the letter reads. “But statements are not enough to eradicate it.”
They offer a list of actions they suggest EllisDon and MGH follow. It includes following up on a Ministry of Labour investigation and providing the details of the site inspections and plan proposals to the public.
They ask what “comprehensive internal tracking” and other security measures have been taken, and ask that EllisDon and MGH share that information.
Toronto Police Services deemed the Sept. 24 incident as “not being treated as hate-motivated.” Elected officials are asking what information police were given by MGH and EllisDon regarding a rope found on site that led police to that conclusion.
“We look forward to you sharing the information they were provided with about the two noose-like ropes found onsite at the time,” the letter reads.
In addition to requesting what steps the construction company is taking with subcontractors and unions to “guarantee a safe and harassment-free workplace,” the representatives request an urgent meeting to discuss the matter.
- Ali Raza is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.