Posted: February 5, 2024

KITCHENER, ON – February 2, 2024 – Thursday marked more than one first at Grand River Hospital. February 1 was also the first time the Pan-African flag was raised at both the Kitchener-Waterloo and Freeport campuses.

“Today was a monumental day for me to attend both flag ceremonies for the Pan-African flag at Freeport and the KW campus,” says Raquel Watkis, a Social Worker and co-leader of the Collective. “I appreciate all the staff who took time out of their busy schedules to share this moment with the Grand River Black Health Professional Collective and the Black community. When I see the Pan-African flag I feel a sense of comfort and empowerment knowing that I am connected to Black liberation and the African Diasporas and continent around the world. As a first generation Afro-Caribbean Canadian with Jamaican heritage, I also feel a sense of pride to know the Pan-African flag was founded by a Jamaican activist Marcus Garvey.”

Team members from across the Hospital’s campuses attended the flag raisings, which included a moment of sharing about Pan-African flag’s meaning, as well as a performance of Lift Every Voice and Sing, by Tuzee Arndt, award-winning vocalist, Grand River Hospital nurse, and Collective member.

“Today at Grand River Hospital I was honoured to sing ‘ Lift Every Voice and Sing’ for the raising of the first Pan African Flag,” says Arndt, nurse and Collation member. ”When I first came to Canada years ago even before I started my nursing studies I knew I would work at Grand River Hospital. There was something very special about Grand River and I wanted to be a part of it and seeing the Pan African Flag go up today tells me I made the right choice! Today is truly a memorable, proud and inspiring day for us all.”

“I’m excited to have been a part of the raising of the Pan-African flag at Grand River Hospital,” says Leslie Davis, education practice lead in the medicine program, and co-leader of the Collective. “It’s a historic event that holds immense importance, not just for me, but for our entire community – especially for those who have faced marginalization. Starting Black History Month with this symbolic act is incredibly meaningful, and I couldn’t be happier to witness and be involved in such a significant moment.”

The Pan-African flag will be flown for the entirety of February. This is one of a number of initiatives at the Hospital geared towards becoming more inclusive and welcoming. “Being able to work with various groups within our Hospital and among our communities is important as we all continue to learn more about one another, our unique heritage and culture, and the systemic barriers to healthcare and health care practice faced by many in our communities,” says Ron Gagnon, president and CEO. “I’m proud to see the Pan-African flag at our Hospital entrances, and hope that it also symbolizes our commitment to be a safe and welcoming space for all.”

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Media Contact

Victoria Ott

Director, Integrated Communications Team, Grand River Hospital

VP Strategy & Brand, Grand River Hospital Foundation


About Grand River Hospital

One of Ontario’s largest community teaching hospitals, we’re delivering exceptional, patient-focused quality care by a team of dedicated health care workers and volunteers. Located in one of the province’s most diverse and rapidly growing regions, we provide services and support to more than 840,000 residents of Waterloo Region and Guelph Wellington at our two campuses (KW and Freeport) and satellite locations. Driven by innovation, we’re proud of our partnerships and collaborations with health system partners, our region’s academic and innovation communities, and diverse community stakeholders. | Twitter and Instagram @GRHospitalKW | YouTube: griverhosp | Facebook and Linkedin: Grand River Hospital