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Dear colleagues,

Today is Orange Shirt Day and we pause to recognize the Indigenous children who endured physical, psychological and emotional harm through Canada’s residential school system. In the spirit of truth, justice and healing, we observe this day across the country by remembering stories including Phyllis Webstad’s, who was 6-years-old when she was put in a residential school in 1973 and had her clothes removed, including her orange shirt.

This morning at 11:30 a.m., I hope you will join me at our Orange Shirt Day Virtual Ceremony to honour survivors of Canada’s residential school system and the lives lost. See full details here. This virtual ceremony is led by Women’s College Hospital and UHN is a proud supporting partner, alongside numerous other community organizations. This ceremony is an opportunity for us to reflect on the work we are doing to help repair the historical damage caused by our country’s treatment of Indigenous peoples and communities.  

Earlier this year on National Indigenous Peoples Day (June 21), we humbly asked our colleagues in the Indigenous community to trust that UHN’s reconciliation journey would come with meaningful action. I would like to take this opportunity to share an update on those actions. I will start by announcing the formation of a small circle of Indigenous advisors, which will be co-chaired by Dr. Lisa Richardson and Dr. Bernice Downey. It is important that our Indigenous Health work be Indigenous-led, and that we follow the guidance of Lisa, Bernice and Indigenous partners. They kindly share this statement with all of TeamUHN:

“On this day of remembrance, we join others in our network of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous colleagues, friends and community members in honouring all survivors and their families. Orange Shirt Day and the legacy expressed by Phyllis Webstad provides us with both a reminder of our shared history and a beacon to guide the change that is required. The road ahead to address barriers including racism, inequality and social injustice is a long one. We need the ongoing commitment and action of institutional and individual Allies to achieve true systemic change. We look forward to working alongside our colleagues and advisors as we undertake this collective and strategic endeavour.”

Another recent action we have taken is directly connecting my office – UHN’s Office of the President & CEO – to this circle of Indigenous advisors. This means Lisa and Bernice report directly to myself and I am honoured they have agreed, so we can work in close partnership.

Here are some additional actions we are taking and areas we are working on toward establishing an Indigenous Program at UHN: 

  • Funding: Darlene Dasent (Chief Financial Officer) is working with our Foundations – Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation and The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation – to secure the necessary funds, with the help of our remarkable and passionate donor community.
  • Program sponsors: Andrew Boozary (Executive Director, Social Medicine and Population Health) and Cynthia Whitehead (Director and Scientist at The Wilson Centre for Research in Education) will serve as program sponsors and support Indigenous advisors in integrating Indigenous Health across care, research and education at UHN.  
  • Staffing: Diana Elder (Interim Vice President, Human Resources) is working with Indigenous advisors on hiring staff.
  • Organizational alignment: Brian Hodges (Chief Medical Officer; Executive Vice President, Education) and Jacqueline Silvera (Diversity Mediation Services) are ensuring that UHN is honouring its commitment to truth and reconciliation – all in service of A Healthier World.

We all benefit from living in this country and must acknowledge our shared obligation towards reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. On behalf of UHN’s Board of Trustees and Senior Management Forum, we thank the advocates on TeamUHN and our Indigenous partners for their work towards the Calls to Action in the Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s report. We look forward to building on the foundation you created and continuing our advancement of a powerful and long-lived partnership.  

Kevin

President & CEO
University Health Network

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