Died under the racist insults of a nurse: the fate of Joyce Echaquan

The tragic death of Joyce Echaquan, who lost his life on Monday in Joliette hospital to insults and racist comments by members of the health care staff, raises many questions about other similar cases that may have occurred in the past.

“Since Monday, we have received a lot of information and questions from members who share their doubts and concerns about what happened to members of their families,” said Constant Awashish, Grand Chief of the Attikamek Nation.

On Tuesday, the coroner’s office announced that an inquest was launched to shed light on the death of the Attikamek mother of seven. A usual procedure “as in all cases where the cause is obscure,” says the coroner’s office.

The death of Joyce Echaquan, which created a stir among the population, came shortly after the 37-year-old woman from Manawan posted a live video on Facebook. Joyce Echaquan was at the time on a stretcher at the Joliette hospital. We hear and see her screaming, calling for help and claiming in Attikamek that she has been over-medicated. Nursing staff are then heard entering his room and calling him names.

“Thick tabarnak ostia […] That’s better off dead, ”said one person. “Are you done fooling around.” Are you done, cuddle? You’re thick, ”adds another. “It’s better for stuffing more than anything else,” we hear through the cries.

At a press briefing Tuesday afternoon, the Prime Minister, François Legault, offered his condolences to the family of the deceased. “The nurse, what she said, is totally unacceptable and racist, and she was fired. The Prime Minister, however, refused to acknowledge that this is a manifestation of systemic racism. For its part, the CISSS de Lanaudière indicated that it had opened an internal investigation “as soon as we were informed of the situation and of the video in circulation”.

In Joliette, hundreds of people – the vast majority of Attikameks – paid a warm tribute to Joyce Echaquan on Tuesday evening. After a short walk down a city street, protesters converged outside the hospital, where speeches and chants echoed in a giant amphitheater.

Until recently, Premier François Legault “refused to recognize the existence of systemic racism in Quebec,” said Paul-Émile Ottawa, the leader of the Manawan Attikameks. He has concrete proof before his eyes! “

Earlier in the afternoon, members of the bereaved community were already starting to gather in front of the Lanaudière Native Friendship Center, near the Joliette hospital. Around a picnic table were the family of Joyce Echaquan, who had traveled from Manawan.

The deceased’s husband, Carol Dubé, was in shock and did not want to comment too much on the situation. “Later, after the coroner’s report,” he simply replied. Children were holding a sign near him that read: “Justice for Mum”.

“We have always had trouble with the Joliette hospital,” reports Réginald Echaquan, cousin of Mme Echaquan. “A lot of families have had stories. There have been complaints before, but it never ended up anywhere. It was never considered. […] Hopefully this will turn out to be something good for everyone, not just the native people. “

Rooted racism

For Tanya Sirois, executive director of the Regroupement des centers d’amitié autochtones du Québec, it is clear that this is not an isolated event. “It’s a racism that is entrenched. The people who work in these institutions carry a lot of baggage in the face of situations involving Aboriginals and it becomes an organizational culture. “

For caregivers to feel comfortable making degrading and condescending comments about the victim, such words must necessarily be tolerated by staff, and even by leaders, he believes. -she.

A year ago, the Viens report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Relations between Aboriginals and Certain Public Services in Quebec pointed out several manifestations of systemic racism experienced by First Nations in the health system. In Joliette, for one of the rare times, the event was filmed.

It is a racism that is deeply rooted. The people who work in these institutions have a lot of baggage to deal with situations involving Aboriginals and it becomes an organizational culture.

“In this case, it’s documented. But this is not the case for several other events like yesterday’s, which are happening elsewhere in other hospitals, “said Ghislain Picard, head of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador.

He also recalls that a recent poll revealed that 92% of non-Native Quebecers recognize that First Nations are the object of racism or discrimination in Quebec. “This event calls us to order to tell us that we have to get down to business. “

The political class in shock

In Quebec City, the Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs, Sylvie D’Amours, shared her dismay. “We cannot accept that in Quebec, ever. Liberal Gregory Kelley called on the government to launch a criminal investigation. However, this type of exercise is more the responsibility of the police, and the Sûreté du Québec confirmed to the Duty that no investigation has yet been initiated. The PQ leader, Pascal Bérubé, called for “strong measures”. “I ask myself the question about the employees who have such prejudices: should they continue to operate in the Quebec health network? “The elected representative Manon Massé saw in this” horrible “event an illustration of systemic racism. “Will the Prime Minister admit that Joyce’s death is not an isolated case? She asked.

In Ottawa, the federal ministers responsible for aboriginal affairs were both shocked. According to the Minister of Native Services, Marc Miller, the death of Joyce Echaquan “in unacceptable, horrible conditions” constitutes at least a racist act, but could also represent a criminal act, he ruled. “This is not an incident that is isolated. That we know. “

Her colleague Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Carolyn Bennett, was struggling to hold back tears. This racism is found “in all our institutions”, she lamented. “But it has to stop. And there must be consequences. “

With Marie-Michèle Sioui and Marie Vastel

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