TORONTO, ON – Concern is mounting among hospital staff – the great majority of whom are women and many of whom are racialized- working in Toronto’s downtown hospitals that their safety and that of people seeking hospital care is uncertain with truckers heading to protest this weekend.

Tens of thousands of hospital staff represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) look to Premier Ford to take a strong stand against any harassment, racism or violence directed at them and especially against people coming to hospitals for acute care, says Michael Hurley president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE).

Violence – verbal, racially directed, sexual and physical – aimed at health care staff in the workplace, always a very serious problem, has skyrocketed as the pandemic has continued, CUPE’s membership polling shows. As the pandemic grinds on, frustration by the public over a system burdened by years of cuts to staff and capacity is often taken out directly against health care staff.

Menacing behaviour and bullying by some Ottawa protestors against staff going to work in a downtown hospital and hospice for the dying because they were in uniform and masked; stone throwing at ambulances and racially directed verbal attacks against Asian paramedics; and the cancellation of hundreds of hospital visits and medical appointments by fearful patients are recent examples of why hospital staff are concerned, for themselves and for the public. The acceptance at the Ottawa protest of symbols of white supremacy is profoundly disturbing.

“We urge the Premier to give the people who need care at Toronto hospitals and the staff who look after them his unequivocable commitment to defend them.” says Hurley.

CUPE fully supports the right to freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration. However, the Ottawa protest is an occupation which has gone on for a full week, paralyzing the downtown, Hurley says. “In Toronto many acute hospitals are downtown and patients have the right and urgent need to access medical treatment at these hospitals unimpeded and unthreatened. They and the hospital workers who are exhausted from relentless work during the pandemic should not be the targets of harassment, violence or racism,” says Hurley.

“It’s a problem that the Premier appeared ambivalent about this protest and set out no standard for the protestors on what kind of behaviour will be accepted until they were well on their way to Toronto. Hostility and/or racism directed against the sick and the hospital workers who care for them is completely unacceptable,” Hurley says.


Stella Yeadon CUPE Communications 416-559-9300