Black Nurses Challenge Systemic Racism

In 1990, seven Black and one Filipina nurse filed complaints of systemic racism against Toronto’s Northwestern Hospital at the Ontario Human Rights Commission. They stated they were subjected to ongoing racial harassment and discrimination at work which could be seen in their lack of access to professional development, the types of assignments and shifts they got, and their opportunities for promotion. They also experienced more and more severe disciplinary action than white nurses. 

It took four years, but in 1994, the OHRC ruled in the nurses’ favour. As the first OHRC case won on the grounds of systemic racial discrimination, it was a landmark victory. 

June Veecock, then Director of Human Rights at the Ontario Federation of Labour, played a pivotal role in this case. In this interview, she describes how she got involved and about the support of other Black anti-racist and feminist activists including Dr. Akua Benjamin, and Zanana Akande, as well as groups like the Congress of Black Women. She also highlights the devastating personal toll on the nurses who brought the case forward.

June also talks about some of the other ways she “shook up” the white labour establishment.

with June Veecock
interviewed by Margaret McPhail

Thank you…

This project has been made possible in part by Library and Archives Canada’s Documentary Heritage Communities Program.