Black History Month
"The important thing is to remain open to learning while actively working towards dismantling racism within and across UHN – not just for one month, but every single day," Kevin Smith says in his message to the organization. (Image: UHN)

Dr. Kevin Smith, UHN's President and CEO, sent out this message to the UHN community today:

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dear Colleagues,

Today, we mark the beginning of Black History Month and reiterate our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion at UHN. As someone who stands in solidarity with Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC), I open this statement with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and reflect on their meaning, mindful of my own privilege as a white male CEO.

I acknowledge that anti-Black racism exists at UHN, ranging from casual racism and harmful microaggressions to acts of hatred. I urge us to open our minds and reflect on our own fragility and privilege. We all have learning to do, even when we consider ourselves to be well-intentioned. The important thing is to remain open to learning while actively working towards dismantling racism within and across UHN – not just for one month, but every single day.

We're privileged to have the Black Legacy Committee as an Employee Resource Group at UHN; they've been instrumental in creating a safe space for Black members of TeamUHN, and have provided leadership through this 20-year journey towards the launch of the Anti-Black Racism / Anti-Racism Policy and Strategy. The Black Legacy Committee co-chairs, Dianne Barham, Talent Management, Human Resources, and Sylvia Welsh, Manager & Architect, Digital Telecom, share this statement on behalf of the Committee: 

"The year 2020 made visible the impact of anti-Black racism around the world. COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted Black communities, and has highlighted the significant health, and socio-economic disparities amid the unprecedented tragedy and harm. As we collectively celebrate Black History Month, we acknowledge and uplift the numerous Black healthcare workers, clinicians, researchers and educators at UHN.

We see you and stand with you as you continue to make strides in creating A Healthier World during these extraordinary times. We urge team UHN to reaffirm their commitment to dismantling anti-Black racism, not only through words, but also through sustainable action."

Last year, we publicly denounced anti-Black racism, racism and all forms of discrimination at UHN. Guided by Jacqueline Silvera, Diversity and Mediation Services, Diana Elder, Vice President, Human Resources, and I had the privilege of meeting privately with members of the Black Legacy Committee under the mutual agreement of safety and confidentiality. This meeting caused me to reflect on our institutional commitment to empowering and investing in a more diverse TeamUHN.

Here are some of the actions we have taken thus far: 

  • Approved UHN's Anti-Racism and Anti-Black Racism Policy in January 2021. We are preparing to roll it out across UHN over the coming months. Diana Elder, Brian Hodges, Executive Vice President, Education; Chief Medical Officer, Joy Richards, Vice President, Patient Experience; Chief Health Professions, and Brad Wouters, Executive Vice President, Research, are the policy sponsors. We look forward to supporting the Anti-Racism and Anti-Black Racism Advisory Group as they lead the way, guided by Jacqueline Silvera. Sheila O'Brien, our new Executive Vice President of People, Culture and Community, has fully committed to building a safe and inclusive culture at UHN. We look forward to developing our anti-Black racism strategy in alignment with UHN's broader diversity and inclusion work. 
  • Partnered with Urban Alliance on Race Relations (UARR) to prepare comprehensive and relevant training for TeamUHN to dismantle institutional racism. In 2020, UHN partnered with UARR, a Canadian non-profit organization that works with public and private sectors to develop education programs and research for addressing racism in society. The mandatory anti-Black racism and anti-oppression education has been piloted at UHN and is in the early stages of being launched.
  • Establish a mechanism to routinely monitor and assess diversity across TeamUHN including leadership. In September 2021, we will be launching a self-identification and inclusion survey. This will enable UHN to do a workforce analysis to ensure opportunity for leadership at all levels.   

I look forward to further engagement with the Black Legacy Committee soon. On behalf of UHN's Board of Trustees and Senior Management Forum, we wish everyone a meaningful Black History Month. 


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