Get to know the African, Black and Caribbean Employee Resource Group (ABC ERG)

As part of our commitment to creating psychologically safe spaces through the establishment of engagement processes, we created our first Employee Resource Group through the Corporate Equity Committee in November 2022. Established for persons who identify as African, Black and Caribbean, the group is intentionally designed to:

  1. Build psychological safety and sense of belonging.
  2. Empower employees and support staff retention
  3. Act as a resource, which can be leveraged by leadership in strategic decision-making

To help introduce members of the African, Black and Caribbean Employee Resource Group (ABC ERG), we asked them why they chose to participate. Here’s what they had to say:

Allan Smart, Addiction Outreach Worker, Substance Use Services/Addictions Medicine

First, let me quickly introduce myself for those who do not know me. My name is Allan Smart and I have worked at WCH in the Substance Use Department for over four years- working and helping people with mental health and addictions is something I have a very strong passion for.  I really love and enjoy my job. This is the same passion that I have for safety, equity and inclusion for all, regardless of colour, social status in the organization, sexual orientation, culture, political or religious beliefs.

That is why I joined the CEC (Corporate Equity Committee) and, when given the opportunity to be a part of the African, Black and Caribbean Employee Resource Group (ABC ERG), I jumped at it. This was, in my mind, an extension of a platform that is aimed to create safe spaces. I joined also because this was fully endorsed by upper Management, which I think is serious in their efforts to achieve parity here at Women’s. I know this statement might be met with some cynicism, and maybe rightly so. I do strongly believe though, that the ERG could be a platform to help address or alleviate some of this cynicism. This I think, can be done through information sharing, gathering and actions taken. I make this statement because as a CEC member, I am privy to relevant updates through our meetings, that I believe are communicated to all staff through various mediums, but might need innovative ways to bring more awareness to staff that might not have access.

This idea to create an ERG, specific to Black Employees, here at Women’s, was from the innovative mind of our Director of Anti Racism, Equity and Social Accountability, Suzanne Charles Watson.

The idea was to create a safe space for Black Employees to come together, get to know each other, bring ideas and innovation, bring forth and discuss issues or concerns they might be facing in their respective departments where they otherwise do not feel like they have a platform to share and get support safely. In my assessment it was not meant to be a space for negative conversation/actions or plotting or even bad talking peers, supervisors or managers or to put down the organization. This also encouraged and strengthened my immediate interest in becoming a member.

This is a new initiative for this organization and I am fully aware that this could be met with some skepticism and resistance. I have come to learn that you don’t “tear down walls and build bridges out of fear.” My hope is that the creation of the ERG will be a part of an effort to eradicate fears, eliminate barriers, address biases and build bridges through communication, education, collaboration and allyship.

Sandra Tahal, Medical Secretary, Surgical Clinics

I am truly honored for the opportunity to become a member of the first ever African, Black and Caribbean Employee Resource Group (ABC ERG) at Women’s College Hospital. This is amazing!

I joined this group because, as a person of color, it is somewhat difficult to navigate through the healthcare system as an employee or as a patient. The organization has provided us with the opportunity to push forward in making impactful changes to facilitate an even more diverse place to work. I am looking forward to making positive change here at WCH as a member of the ABC ERG!

Angella Lakhan, Surgical Services Secretary

I was asked to join the ABC ERG to help support my peers who identify as Black. However I can with whatever resources we have available here at WCH, we are all excited by this opportunity and I think it will be rewarding for all of us that are involved. I’m looking forward to this exciting new chapter at WCH!

Leonie Wizzard, Administrative Patient Flow Supervisor, Toronto Academic Pain Medicine Institute (TAPMI)/Crossroads Refugee Clinic

I joined the African Black Caribbean Employee Resource Group (ABC ERG) to support, create, and implement cultural change within the organization. As a member of the inaugural ABC ERG at Women’s College Hospital it is significant for me to be one of the voices for those individuals who identify as Black and who consider themselves to be unheard – I want to give them the opportunity to be heard. This platform provides an opportunity for black individuals throughout the organization to feel free and open to discuss any challenges, barriers, suggestions, or recommendations they might face or have on an ongoing basis. Having the knowledge, awareness, and lens to visibly identify with the ABC ERG enables empowerment and transparency for Black employees to connect confidently while securing and building indelible relationships.

I am elated, humbled, and honored to be a part of this wonderful journey, removing barriers, and fostering the importance of valuable and essential connectedness, collaboration, partnership, trust, fulfillment, and a sense of immediate purpose ensuring there is a place and a space for all Black employees to articulate freely, respectfully and without feeling judged or dismissed.

This direction has been a long-time awaited and is welcome as a clear indicator that the organization is fully onboard to support ongoing growth, allyship and advancement for the ABC ERG and Black individuals within the organization going forward presently and futuristically.

Janelle Noel, Service Coordinator, Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Care Centre (SA/DVCC), Coordinator, Infant CPR Program

I joined the ERG because I realized that the Black employees at WCH need a voice. After 25 years at WCH, I see the changes happening for Black employees and Black healthcare provision.  I wanted to be the liaison for the employees that have something to say but do not know where to start.

To read more about the ABC ERG, visit our Black History and Futures Month page.