Lawyers’ report on Joyce Echaquan’s death adds pressure on Quebec’s prime minister to recognize systemic racism

Experts from within and outside indigenous communities say the forensic report on Joyce Echaquan’s death confirms what they have been saying for years: that systemic racism in Quebec healthcare needs to be recognized and addressed.

Doctor Géhane Kamel top recommendation in her report is that the province recognizes that racism exists and takes concrete actions to eliminate it.

The report, released on Friday, also says that racism and prejudice contributed to the death of the Atikamekw woman, although the cause of death – pulmonary edema – was certainly unintentional.

Echaquan died in September last year at a hospital north of Montreal, minutes after she had recorded footage of herself at the hospital when health workers threw racist remarks at her.

Prime Minister François Legault has repeatedly denied the existence of systemic racism in Quebec.

Senator Michèle Audette, a former commissioner for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, said she was pleased the report made recognizing the existence of systemic racism a priority.

Senator Michèle Audette, a former commissioner of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls, says she welcomed the recommendations in forensic report on Joyce Echaquan’s death. (John Woods / The Canadian Press)

“I was hoping to read something like that,” she said. “These words resonate in my heart, in my spirit. They are very important.”

She says recognition will ensure that racist policies are not recreated in new programs or laws. “I think it’s a legal necessity that we should say it exists here, and it exists elsewhere here in Canada,” Audette said.

Innu surgeon Dr. Stanley Vollant, who works at Montreal Notre-Dame hospital and who testified at the Echaquan investigation, said the report’s recommendations give indigenous peoples more tools to convince the Quebec government to recognize the existence of systemic racism.

He urged Legault to stop denying that there is a problem.

“Just do it,” he said. “You want to be stronger.”

Vollant said he is optimistic that changes will take place, although he noted that Come postponement about Quebec’s treatment of indigenous peoples came up with similar recommendations almost four years ago.

Dr. Stanley Vollant says he is sad that the Quebec government has continually denied the existence of systemic racism in the province. (CBC)

Dr. Samir Shaheen-Hussain, a pediatric emergency doctor who also testified at the inquiry, says the Legault government should adopt Joyce’s principle, a series of measures prepared by Echaquan’s Atikamekw community after her death.

Its recommendations include improving what is taught in the education system about indigenous peoples, in order to eliminate racist bias and prejudice.

By adopting Joyce’s principle, the government will be able to take concrete steps to ensure that what happened to Echaquan never happens again, said Shaheen-Hussain, who is also an assistant professor at McGill University, where he studies colonialism and racism. in medicine.

“The government needs to show a little maturity and a little leadership instead of dividing the people on this issue,” he said.

The forensic report adds credibility to the growing number of voices urging Legault to back up its earlier comments, said Richard Budgell, an Inuk professor of Inuit practice and northern health promotion in the Department of Family Medicine at McGill.

Dr. Samir Shaheen-Hussain is a Montreal Pediatric Emergency Physician and Assistant Professor at McGill University School of Medicine. (Submitted by MUHC)

“I think it would be a very good sign if the Prime Minister has the humility and humanity to say that he has made a mistake on this issue,” he said.

Budgell highlighted several other recommendations in the report – such as educating health professionals about indigenous peoples and culture – would lead to a “higher level of cultural security for native patients in the system.”

“This is a systemic issue. It is not easy to change systems, but it requires consistent work and a consistent commitment and commitment to make the kind of changes necessary to ensure that indigenous peoples and communities in this province are treated as equal, “he said.

‘Do everything possible’

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Geneviève Guilbault, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Security, said her government had always acknowledged the existence of racist people in Quebec but failed to acknowledge the existence of systemic racism.

“What we want to do, and what we are actually doing, is to fight racism as concretely as possible through actions, through communication,” she said.

“We are doing everything possible to ensure that what happened to Mrs Echaquan, to take this very dramatic example, will not happen again.”

Health Minister Christian Dubé said the province had taken steps to remedy the situation, but he declined to comment further until he had time to read them.

Legault has declined to comment until Tuesday, when Kamel will hold a press conference to present his report.

Echaquan’s family and community and the health authority in Lanaudière also declined to comment until then.

Richard Budgell is an Inuk professor of practice in the Department of Family Medicine at McGill University. (Submitted by Richard Budgell)

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