June 24, 2020
By Joanna Lavoie, Toronto.com
East-end residents are coming together to show they’re united against hate following an act of anti-Black racism at Michael Garron Hospital (MGH).
On Wednesday, June 10, two Black workers reportedly discovered two nooses at a construction site on the Coxwell Avenue property, which is in the midst of a major redevelopment. Contractor EllisDon immediately reported the incident to the police, who are now investigating.
Wanting to show solidarity, restore justice, reject acts of violent hatred, and ensure those responsible are held accountable, people in the community have decided to take action to ensure this hate crime is dealt with in a meaningful way.
One of the first things they’re doing is some “art activism” called United Against Hate Artivism.
All are invited to create messages and banners and install them along the hospital’s construction site fence this weekend as a way to publicly inform the community, Michel Garron Hospital, EllisDon, and those who live and work in the area that anti-Black hatred will not be tolerated here.
Other efforts in the works include a healing ceremony by Black and Indigenous Elders to cleanse the site, anti-racism/anti-Black hatred training for workers and the community, and permanent art Installations at the site that celebrate Black lives.
A group of east enders are also in the process of penning an open letter to EllisDon to let the construction company know the community wants to be directly involved in the repair of the harm that’s been done because of this hate crime.
Community members are also calling on the police to make a commitment that hate crime charges will be laid in this case.
East York’s Old’s Cool General Store, a community hub known for its social justice and anti-racism work, is helping to facilitate this effort and working to connect dozens of like-minded people who want to get involved.
“The community will not stand for this kind of hate. We’re taking it upon ourselves to make sure the people who perpetrate hatred will be the ones that get seen,” said Zahra Dhanani, who co-owns the shop with her partner Mariko Nguyen-Dhanani.
“It’s outrageous people feel emboldened enough to continue to spread really horrific acts of hate.”
Local politicians are also advocating for concrete and immediate steps to combat anti-Black racism at Michael Garron Hospital and prioritize the health, well-being, and safety of racialized workers there.
In a June 17 letter to Toronto police, MGH, and EllisDon, east Toronto MPPs Rima Berns-McGown and Peter Tabuns acknowledged the hospital and the construction company’s prompt denouncement of the hateful act as well as EllisDon’s efforts to help police identify the perpetrators, but also pushed them to do more to support Black and racialized construction workers at the site by listening to and addressing their concerns, offering mental health supports and protection, and taking actions to ensure their workplace is safe from hate and that anti-Black racism is being addressed in a “serious and ongoing manner.”
Tabuns and Berns-McGown said they also want to know police are “following through on their investigation with haste and purpose.”
“We will be monitoring the investigation with interest and reporting back to our constituents on its progress,” they wrote.
“We are writing to you and making this letter public because we believe that the public needs to know that elected officials, police, health care leaders and industry leaders support vigorous action to stamp out racism and hate crimes.”
Toronto-Danforth Coun. Paula Fletcher has also written to the police, the hospital, and the construction company to express and reflect the “deep concern” she and constituents have about this “terrifying act of racism.”
“it is hard to believe this happened in a hospital setting and in our community that strives for inclusion,” she wrote in a June 16 letter, adding “actions speak louder than words” and demanded they accompany MGH and EllisDon decries of this hateful act.
Fletcher said many community members have contacted her to express shock, but also to seek information on the police investigation, and find out more about what EllisDon and MGH are doing to support Black and racialized workers and confront systemic anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism.
In an email to toronto.com, Beaches-East York Coun. Brad Bradford said he’s been in touch with Downey as well as 55 Division about this incident and will share any updates with the community when they’re available.
“I’m adding my voice in solidarity to all of us feeling hurt, anger and so much more right now. This is shocking. We have to condemn any kind of hate in our community, but the threatening, racialized nature of this crime, and all of the echoes of a horrific past, make it even more disturbing,” he said.
On Tuesday, June 30, local politicians will be hosting a public forum online where people in the community can discuss the hate crime at MGH and what meaningful steps will be taken to address it.