Death of Joyce Echaquan: an anger shared by caregivers

“We’re angry. We are sad. We are shocked. »Since 2015, Mathieu Pelletier, general practitioner, has been working with the Attikameks of Manawan. To treat them, of course, but also and above all to build confidence. “This week for us is 10 steps back. “

Five years ago, the Faculty of Medicine at Laval University forged a partnership with the Attikamek community of Manawan. “We are working to improve cultural security in care and reduce mistrust of non-native caregivers. “

Because the scars are there, very deep, but also so easily revived. “Non-native people who come forward saying ‘we’re going to help you’, there have been some in history. And many times it ended badly. “

This week, another story, that of Joyce Echaquan, ended in a tragic way. And the team from the Université Laval University Family Medicine Group (GMF), affiliated with Laval University – which provides medical follow-up to some 2,000 Attikameks from the Manawan reserve – was severely shaken. “What happened would be unacceptable to non-native citizens. But for aboriginal people who are already suspicious of health care, this is even more than unacceptable, it makes us back down. “

The mistrust of Aboriginals in the health care system was documented in the report of the Commission of Inquiry into Relations between Aboriginals and Certain Public Services in Quebec. A mistrust fueled by systemic discrimination experienced across the province.

“We can see it,” says Mathieu Pelletier, assistant medical director of the clinic based in Joliette, next to the hospital. When we approach aboriginal communities, these people carry wounds from generation to generation. We treat people who have gone to residential schools, who have been sexually assaulted, who have suffered violence. These are state injuries. “

What happened would be unacceptable to non-native citizens. But for aboriginal people who are already suspicious of health care, this is even more than unacceptable, it makes us back down.

The GMF has 25 resident medical interns who stay in Manawan with one or the other of the 7 doctors who are experts in indigenous care attached to the clinic. They are also on call to support the nurses who provide daily care at the Manawan dispensary.

Aboriginal care is first and foremost attention to cultural safety. “It’s the same drugs, the same diseases. But it’s the attitude, the behaviors [qui sont différents]. “This is more of a skill to be acquired than knowledge to be learned, notes Mathieu Pelletier. A skill that is now part of the curriculum of several medical schools. But that seems to have been sorely lacking on Monday at the Joliette hospital.

A dark day

On site Thursday, hospital workers spoke of a “dark day”, a “heavy” and “sad” atmosphere when referring to the death of Joyce Echaquan. On Monday, the mother of seven was killed after shouting in Attikamek her dismay at healthcare workers who hounded her with racist slurs.

“It was free and so violent,” sighs Martine, an employee of the hospital. We must do everything to make that change. I think this event, as sad as it is, lit a light, to remind us that this racism still exists and that we must intervene. I, if I heard a coworker talk like that, I would tell her to take a break and think about what she just said. “

A little further on, Danny, a nurse who prefers to keep his last name silent, also finds it “unacceptable” that his colleagues may have acted in this way. “Everyone in the hospital has empathy for the victim,” he said, glancing at the small monument erected in memory of Joyce Echaquan in front of the hospital.

“We are all very ashamed,” said another nurse, on condition of anonymity.

We treat people who have gone to residential schools, who have been sexually assaulted, who have suffered violence.

“It’s inconceivable what happened,” laments Josée Sabourin, an administrative officer at the hospital. It was, she said, the first time she had heard such racist remarks at the Joliette hospital. “The majority of people agree with the removal of this person,” she said. On Tuesday, it became known that one of the nurses involved in the incident had been fired. At the end of Thursday afternoon, the CISSS de Lanaudière indicated that a beneficiary attendant was also dismissed.

On Thursday, Prime Minister François Legault spoke with Joyce Echaquan’s husband Carol Dubé. “I promised Mr. Dubé that we would do everything to ensure that a situation like this never happens again,” he wrote afterwards. His government recognized, through a motion, that “the majority” of the calls to action of the Viens report of the Commission of Inquiry on Relations between Native Peoples and Certain Public Services in Quebec “remain to be completed” . Elected officials from all opposition parties observed a minute’s silence in the Blue Room, where they once again expressed their outrage.

In September 2018 during the hearings of the Viens commission, the management of the CISSS de Lanaudière undertook to take concrete steps to correct what had been described as “generalized dissatisfaction of the Attikameks with regard to the hospital of Joliette ”.

Caught in a real storm, the CISSS said in a statement Thursday that “it is essential to continue and to put in place concrete actions in collaboration with the Attikamek community”. The CEO. of the CISSS, Daniel Castonguay, met Paul-Émile Ottawa, head of the Manawan Attikamek Council.

Since 1er April 2019, The duty has learned that five complaints for discrimination or racism have been lodged with establishments of the CISSS de Lanaudière, including two aimed at the Joliette hospital – many or very few in light of the reports of racism affecting this establishment which have been increasing in recent days .

The North Lanaudière Users’ Committee, which supports citizens in the complaint process, says it has not been contacted in recent years by Aboriginals wishing to report a situation. “This event made us realize that people did not come to us. We therefore contacted the community of Manawan to tell them that we are there, that we can accompany the Attikameks who are afraid to come to the hospital to secure them ”, explains the president, Noëlla Goyet, who says to herself. now determined to “take special care of this community”.

With Marie-Michèle Sioui

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