A Toronto hospital denies that it's minimizing its Catholic identity after adopting a new logo that omits a once-prominent cross.
St. Joseph's Health Centre unveiled the new logo earlier this month as part of what it described as a "renewal" of its brand and the launch of a new fundraising campaign. It features bold capital letters, but no cross.
A petition sprang up online after the change was announced and quickly garnered more than 3,000 signatures. Many were angry about what they perceived as the institution distancing itself from its religious history. The petition wrongly assumed, though, that the large cross on the hospital building would also be removed, which is not the case, according to the hospital administration.
"We've never had any plans to remove the crosses or any other Catholic artifacts from the building," said Mike Heenan, a vice-president at St. Joseph's. "We have never [and] never would de-emphasize our Catholic heritage."
The new logo is intended to highlight St. Joseph's connection to the city of Toronto, Mr. Heenan said, and was selected by a working group of physicians, management and board representatives.
"We've had logos in the past that didn't include a cross," Mr. Heenan said. "We've moved to a text-based font that emphasizes the Saint and the Joseph's with a linking to the city of Toronto and the communities we serve."
Changing a visual identity can often be fraught, perhaps more so in the case of a religious institution in a public realm such as health care. Many Ontario hospitals have religious identities that date back to their founding; St. Joseph's was opened by the Sisters of St. Joseph nearly a century ago. Although it treats patients of all faiths, the health centre describes itself as a Catholic community teaching hospital whose care practices reflect the gospel values of respect, dignity and compassion, and the belief that "life is sacred from the moment of conception until death."
Many of those who signed the petition expressed their fear that the hospital's Catholic history and symbols were being painted over in the name of a "political correctness" that discriminates against Christians.
Eugene Melnyk, a prominent St. Joseph's donor and the owner the Ottawa Senators of the NHL, said he met with the hospital CEO Elizabeth Buller Monday to discuss the situation. He said he told her he was disappointed by the new logo.
"I said to her, I don't care if you put other religious logos up there, you have a diverse clientele, go ahead. That wouldn't bother me. It bothers me that you're dropping something instead of building on something," Mr. Melnyk said. "They say they've done research and talked to communities and all this other stuff. I walked away wanting to be convinced and I wasn't. I told her that – I said I don't see the reason."
Mr. Melnyk, who was born at St. Joseph's and whose father was a physician at the hospital, expressed his hope that the administration will guarantee that the religious symbols in its exterior signage would stay put in future. He's concerned that, without firm promises, the logo change may be a first step on a slippery slope to dilute the hospital's Catholic identity.
"I told her the next thing is going to be we shouldn't have St. Joseph's as a name. Why don't we call it Lakeshore View Hospital? And then why don't you just erase history? I said the poor nuns are probably rolling in the grave," Mr. Melnyk said.
A petition that said "shame on all those responsible" for removing the cross was launched on the change.org website and elicited hundreds of angry comments. Mr. Heenan said that the hospital met with some of the main promoters of the petition to discuss their concerns, and that they seemed satisfied by the answers they received.
The new logo, which replaces the version first used in 2005, was revealed on March 8 in a letter to staff and volunteers. It said, "Much has changed at St. Joe's and it's important that how we express and communicate the important role we play in our community is relevant and meaningful to those we serve. This is very important when it comes to ensuring that we can continue to attract and retain talent, create better opportunities for collaboration or partnerships, and attract fundraising support from corporate and individual donors."
The letter described the new brand as a reflection of how the community sees the health centre: "bold, trustworthy, inclusive and familiar."