- In light of a cluster of racist incidents that have occurred on the renovation project of the Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto, the facility's CEO has called on contractor EllisDon to step up its actions to find the perpetrators and prevent any more acts of hatred.
- Last week, racist graffiti was discovered in a bathroom stall on the site, which is in the East York neighborhood of the city. This follows other episodes involving nooses on the site: Two were found this summer and two in late September, according to the Ontario, Canada-based contractor.
- "Despite your best efforts to call out these insidious hateful acts and heal with our community, it is not enough. More action is needed," Sarah Downey wrote to EllisDon CEO Geoff Smtih. "We are looking at you to be a leader in dismantling systemic racism on this construction site, in your industry and as a partner in this community."
The graffiti at the hospital project, which reads, "This site needs a N-word purge," was found last Thursday, an EllisDon spokesperson told the CBC. The contractor said it is taking several steps to ensure the security of the jobsite, in light of the new incident.
"Upon learning of this incident we immediately boarded up the area and removed the graffiti. We have initiated an investigation and have already begun to upgrade the security and surveillance on the site, both to catch these criminals and to ensure that every worker is safe from discrimination, hate and bigotry," the Ontario, Canada-based firm said.
EllisDon is also is offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the identification of those involved.
"We will not stop until the perpetrators are found and permanently evicted from our industry," the company said.
Since the first nooses appeared on the construction site four months ago, the contractor said it has been proactive in addressing the issue through its cooperation in the Toronto Police investigation, conducting safety stand downs and offering employees, subcontractors and unions diversity and inclusion education.
Nevertheless, the hospital's CEO demanded more this week, asking for the contractor to share publicly the actions it is taking "to dismantle anti-Black racism and to ensure the safety of the construction workers who work on this site."
In addition, unionized health-care workers at the hospital have also asked for more action. They staged an anti-racism protest at the site earlier this week.
"We need more than statements," union member Ainsworth Spence told the CBC. "We've been calling for equity and inclusion, fairness and equality forever. Clearly nothing has been done, so sure, thank you for your statements ... but also there needs to be concrete action."
Downey said the incidents indicate a systemic problem in the construction industry.
"Although we have been reassured by the efforts made by EllisDon and others to address racism in the construction industry, it is clear that they need to do better," she said in a statement Sept. 24. "I am committed to addressing systemic and overt racism within our organization and the health sector and will hold EllisDon and all of our partners accountable to do the same."
EllisDon said it acknowledges that systemic racism is real and that it has initiated measures to eliminate it. In late August, EllisDon announced the formation of its Alliance of Black Employee Experience and Leadership (ABEEL). According to the group's leader, Samuel Ajobo, an estimator with the firm, the alliance will work to:
- Develop metrics to ensure all marginalized groups are fairly treated in area of wage, promotions and mentorships.
- Enhance the awareness of social injustice through project site visits, town hall meetings and workshops.
- Ensure that there is a platform for all of the voices at EllisDon to be heard across the company.
- Empower institutions such as schools and marginalized neighborhoods.
"This will take time and sustained effort by many people, but we have already begun, and we will succeed," the company said.