A nurse who made disparaging and degrading remarks towards an indigenous woman, Joyce Echaquan, shortly before her death, was fired, Prime Minister François Legault announced on Tuesday.
The mother of the family died in Joliette hospital Monday evening in disturbing circumstances.
The Prime Minister called the situation “totally unacceptable”. He also confirmed, during his daily press briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic, that two investigations are underway, that of the coroner and another conducted by the CIUSSS de Lanaudière, which has the hospital under its aegis.
Before her death, she filmed herself from her stretcher. She gasps and screams, obviously agitated. Towards the end of the approximately seven-minute video, hospital staff – nurses or attendants – can be seen entering her room.
They can be heard, without seeing their faces when they speak, uttering insulting and degrading words towards the Attikamek woman. “I think you have a hard time taking care of yourself, we’ll do it for you,” said one of them. “You’re thick,” adds another.
As the patient protests, the first one tells her, “Well, you made some bad choices, honey. What would they think, your children, to see you like this? “
“It’s better for stuffing than anything else,” says the other. “Especially since we are the ones paying for it. “
The video, which circulated widely on social media, sparked shock and outrage.
The Coroner’s Office confirmed on Tuesday that it had opened an investigation into the causes and circumstances of the death. Coroner André Cantin will be responsible. This is the normal procedure when a death occurs in unclear circumstances.
But such an investigation is not enough to eradicate racism, believes Ghislain Picard, the leader of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL).
“A coroner’s inquest should not be an opportunity for the government to shirk its responsibilities. A coroner’s report will not change anything about the racism displayed by nurses. It’s a question of attitude and a question of culture, ”he said on Tuesday during the unveiling of the AFNQL Action Plan on Racism and Discrimination against the First Nations of Quebec.
Mr. Picard wants the government to do more.
The CIUSSS de Lanaudière also announces that an internal investigation is underway. “Management has been informed [lundi] at the end of the day of the situation and if what has been reported to us is true, it is unacceptable, “he wrote in a statement sent to the media. “We will take the necessary action, depending on the results of the investigation. “
Enough, says the Atikamekw Nation
The Council of the Atikamekw Nation (CNA) has had enough. Discrimination against Aboriginals in public services is unfortunately still far too prevalent, he laments.
As the video posted by the deceased, in distress and calling for help, “reveals disturbing condescension and racist remarks on the part of the nursing staff”, the CNA calls for an independent investigation to be carried out, and that the application of the recommendations of the Viens report be accelerated.
“It is unfortunate that in 2020 such behaviors can still occur. It is everyone’s responsibility to denounce them, especially in the context of health services and whose ethics should protect us from the discomfort of racism, “said Constant Awashish, Grand Vhef of the Atikamekw nation, in a statement.
Verna Polson, the leader of the Anoshnabeg Nation, speaks of “anger”. “I feel great anger this morning, and all of Quebec should feel it. “
“I am also sad that her children this morning no longer have a mother. This systemic racism that exists in Quebec today, we, Aboriginal women, experience it every day. We are living it on the part of the government authorities, ”she added, also present at the unveiling of the AFNQL action plan.
The Minister responsible for Native Affairs, Sylvie D’Amours, wanted to react to the situation which she described as “alarming”. “We want to know what happened. An investigation is underway to shed light on this tragedy. Whatever the results of this investigation, the words heard are unacceptable and intolerable. The citizens are shocked and want to know it.
At least three events have already been organized to denounce and support Joyce Echaquan’s relatives and indigenous communities.
Two demonstrations are scheduled for Tuesday: one in Pikogan, in Abitibi, and the other in Lac-Simon, in Outaouais. A vigil has been organized and is due to take place Tuesday evening in front of the Joliette hospital in Lanaudière.