Jun 18, 2020

Our Response to MPP’s Rima Berns-McGown and Peter Tabuns

Members of Provincial Parliament Rima Berns-McGown (Beaches-East York) and Peter Tabuns (Toronto- Danforth) reached out to us in a letter regarding the racist hate crime that occurred last week at our Michael Garron Hospital site.

This is our response from President & CEO, Geoff Smith:

Peter Tabuns
MPP Toronto – Danforth
923 Danforth Avenue
Toronto, ON M4J 1L8

Rima Berns-McGown
MPP Beaches – East York
1821 Danforth Avenue
M4C 1J2

Chief Mark Saunders
Toronto Police Service
40 College Street
Toronto, ON M5G 2J3

June 18, 2020

Dear MPP Tabuns and MPP Berns-McGown,

I want to sincerely thank you for your letter and for your leadership on this matter. This incident is heartbreaking, and to see one of our contractors targeted in such a revolting way has shaken us to our core.

I want you to know I am in complete agreement with your letter. Our people are not just our employees – they are our family and we care deeply about their happiness, growth, progression, and safety. We truly believe that every EllisDon project site should be more than a workplace for them – it should be a place where they can feel empowered to be themselves, no matter their skin colour, gender, sexuality, age, abilities or background.

Racism is a systemic and endemic problem across our society, amplified by the tragic death of George Floyd. It is clear that our job sites are not immune, and we have work to do. As the President of EllisDon, I know that we need to do better, and today I hope to outline some of the steps we are taking to try to fix this problem.

First, I want you to know that we are giving our full support to the police investigation to ensure we can hold the perpetrators accountable. We are committing every resource we can muster to identify the guilty individual, or individuals, and ensure they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. It is our hope that we can ensure these perpetrators can be caught, and never have the opportunity to work in our industry again.

We have also hired Rubin Thomlinson to conduct a full and independent investigation which they have already begun. As part of their investigation we have asked them to provide us with recommendations on additional steps we can take to support our employees and address anti-Black racism.

We have an Employee Assistance Program available to all employees, including those at the affected project site, to provide immediate mental health support and guidance. We have also engaged Ron Sparrow, a clinical expert that assists individuals and families in cases of trauma, to work with the employees and their families directly involved. Ron has extensive experience with building respectful workplaces, preventing violence in the workplace and supporting organizational mental health. Mental health has been a key focus of mine for some time. Last year we put in place a mental health training program which is mandatory for all new employees.

We have also developed an Inclusive Diversity training program that all employees must also undertake on identity, perspective, language and inclusive environments before beginning their work with us. Inclusive leadership is a key performance indicator through our Performance Review process to ensure we are empowering the right talent at our company.

In addition to this, we have created an internal anti-racism group to discuss next steps for developing a company-wide action plan that will make our job sites safer and more inclusive for our Black and racialized employees. As part of that work, we are exploring partnerships with organizations who support the Black community and are in the process of reviewing potential partners as we speak. I have also engaged in conversations about combatting racism at our Board level to ensure this is the highest priority for our leadership team.

To reinforce the importance of anti-racism within our organization we have posted a company-wide portal message to all employees and additional communication has been had with senior leaders at EllisDon. For the last two years, we have run an Employee Education and Awareness Campaign on inclusion and diversity and this month we have focused explicitly on racism, privilege, mental health, allyship and bias. Approximately twenty educational resources have been shared with our employees this month and we have another thirty slated for release over the coming days and weeks.

We know that we also need to be holding ourselves accountable for diversity as a company. That is why we have committed to regularly measuring and being transparent about the progress made on our demographics through a confidential collection of how our employees identify in factors like ethnicity, Indigenous status, sexual orientation, veteran status, and physical ability. We are also currently improving our strategies for attracting a more diverse and inclusive candidate pool by partnering with organizations and debiasing our job descriptions.

Finally, we also understand how incredibly important it is to hear directly from our employees to make improvements that are responsive to their needs and concerns. We are in close contact with our employees and will continue to communicate openly and transparently with them to find ways we can make our job sites even safer.

I want to assure you that we meant what we said in our public statement – to say we are shocked and disgusted by what happened is an understatement. The reality is that leadership comes from the top down and I am completely committed to doing everything I can to support people of colour within our company.

I would also ask that you maintain open lines of communication with me. Your experience and knowledge are significant, and I would greatly appreciate any feedback or advice you might have on how we can further improve our operations.

I thank you again for your leadership on this matter and look forward to working with you in the future.

Sincerely,

Geoff Smith
President and Chief Executive Officer
EllisDon

 

Click HERE for the PDF version.