Dear Partners, Community Members and Clients,
In recent weeks, ignited by the anger and heartbreak following the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, millions of people around the world have united in protest against anti-Black and systemic racism.
At the East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP) leadership table, we have reflected on this issue and discussed how we – a united collective of partners that represent diverse sectors of our health system – can address systemic racism in our community; one that prides itself on its diversity.
Our reflection started with an acknowledgement of our own privilege. We understand that as leaders in this community, we have a responsibility to recognize how we are contributing to the inequities. We acknowledge that our leadership team is not reflective of the communities we serve and we will work hard to address this.
As the Canadian Human Rights Commission states “The roots of anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination in Canada run deep. They are historically embedded in our society, in our culture, in our laws and in our attitudes. They are built into our institutions and perpetuate the social and economic disparities that exist in everything from education, to healthcare, to housing and employment.”
The recognition that systemic racism is a public health crisis has become even more apparent with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has impacted racial and ethnic minorities at far greater rates. In East Toronto, we know there were already significant health and social disparities among our 300,000 residents and 21 different neighbourhoods. We now see the link between high coronavirus rates and neighbourhoods with lower incomes, higher numbers of visible minorities, dense housing conditions, lower levels of education, and where front-line service jobs are the primary source of employment. We know that systemic racism exists in East Toronto and were recently devastated by a despicable symbol of racism that was found at the EllisDon construction site for Michael Garron Hospital, and several other construction sites in Toronto.
As a network of organizations founded on the principle of delivering culturally safe, inclusive and equitable care to our diverse community, the East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP) have made improvements to reduce gaps in health equity. However, we also know that we must take stronger steps to address systemic racism, particularly for members of our Black and Indigenous communities. We recognize that the time for change is now and as a partnership we must take meaningful action.
As we move forward, we want to highlight the principles that will guide our thinking and action, including listening to our clients, patients, partners and colleagues; take an active role in this change to confront racial inequities and consistently identify, describe and dismantle racism.
We will not allow racial inequities to persevere. We will not avoid the tough conversations nor script them, but rather lean in and seek education and understanding.
As a start, the ETHP will adopt the recommendations in the Reports from the Black Experiences in Health Care Symposia* held in March 2017 and January 2020, which include:
Collecting and applying race-based data to improve and publicly report on care and outcomes, as well as working with local communities to communicate about data collection
Including Black leadership at all levels including governance, senior and middle management, and advisory committees
Implementing mandatory education on anti-Black racism, anti-oppression, and decolonization training for all our staff
Creating accessible and culturally competent mental health services
Developing community engagement opportunities in health care and engagement practices and methods that reflect the diversity of our communities.
(*a full list of the recommendations can be found by clicking on the links to the two reports)
We know that we have much work to do to develop a full strategy for implementation that will identify priorities, timelines, resources and roles. We will also need to be accountable to our community members for this strategy and for taking the actions that will create positive change.
Developing a larger strategy will require us to partner with local community members and leaders, as well as organizations across East Toronto. As we walk with our whole community down this path, we believe it is important to start immediately with some commitments:
Within our existing community engagement and partnership efforts we will conduct targeted outreach to Black and Indigenous communities; including reaching out to people and organizations already leading existing work to partner and advance their current efforts;
We will review the existing year one plan activities for our Ontario Health Team to determine how to incorporate actions to address systemic racism and oppression; and,
We will engage Black and Indigenous leaders from our organizations to inform and lead our work.
We believe that together we can make a difference. We are one East Toronto.
On behalf of the ETHP leadership team,
Carol Annett, VHA Home HealthCare
Anne Babcock, WoodGreen Community Services
Jennifer Bowman, Providence Healthcare (Unity Health Toronto)
Jason Altenberg, South Riverdale Community Health Centre
Sarah Downey, Michael Garron Hospital
Dr. Catherine Yu, East Toronto Family Practice Network
Patricia Maurice, Patient and Family Advisor
Martina W., Patient and Family Advisor
For more information, please contact Anne Wojtak, Lead, East Toronto Health Partners, at email@example.com.