This is likely the most uncomfortable piece I've ever written.
In my day-to-day work, I pride myself in being focused on the task at hand, while also keeping the overall vision of the organization paramount.
In working with our partners, funders and community to ensure Ontario Shores is relevant, important and essential in the eyes of our government, the focus has almost always been on innovation, delivering exemplary mental health care and creating the best possible environment for our patients and staff.
Being singularly concentrated on those areas has served our hospital well. The best politics, in my opinion, is consistently showing value through the day-to-day delivery of critical services to a traditionally marginalized population.
In other words; work hard, stay in your lane and do your job to the best of your abilities each and every day.
However, I realize there are times when we must step outside of that lane.
Like the rest of the world, I was shocked and horrified watching the death of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement through cellphone video footage on the streets of Minneapolis. There are no adequate adjectives that aptly describe my emotions seeing his lifeless body being placed on a stretcher and removed from the scene.
Equally jarring has been the protests carried out in cities across the U.S., Canada and Europe. It is clear, the world is in pain. George Floyd is not one black man who lost his life unjustly, he is a symbol of inequality that has plagued the earth for centuries.
George Floyd didn't deserve that ending to his life. Society knows this as does law enforcement around the globe. In our own community, great partners such as the Durham Region Police Service (DRPS) have stepped up and denounced racism, oppression and have committed to change and pledged to pursue equality.
On the surface, we look at this issue and question how it connects to a government-funded mental health hospital?
Given some more thought, and the connection is clearer. If people around the world are hurting because of the death of George Floyd and what this tragedy represents, then people at Ontario Shores are hurting too.
Racism, oppression and violence hurts people and has no place in a recovery-oriented environment. Racism, oppression and violence has no place at Ontario Shores!
Our work in the areas of diversity, inclusion and human rights is not new to our hospital. We committed to being leaders in these areas years ago and that work will continue. It will continue for no other reason than it is the right thing to do.
That being said, as leaders in our community, our job right now is to listen. Can we do better? I'm sure we can. The one thing which has become clear since tragedy struck in Minnesota is that we don't fully understand each other or the breadth of our personal experiences. As people, we draw conclusions, make assumptions and project societal norms. There is no longer a place for that type of behaviour in our society.
Personally, I hope to grow from being a witness to this time in history. I plan to listen to the pain and experiences of others and intend to move forward with a greater understanding of the perspectives of my friends, neighbours and colleagues.
As an organization, I want the same thing for Ontario Shores. We recently celebrated the hospital's 100th anniversary and spent months combing through old photos and documents that chronicled its century-long journey.
We have come a long way, but more must be done. Regardless of your race, religion or creed, I urge you to also be active in listening and shaping conversations that bring racism and oppression to light. We can no longer afford to miss opportunities to enhance understanding and empathy for others.
Our diversity, inclusion and human rights work welcomes your voice to help move the needle in support of change and to ensure equality.