Members of an Atikamekw community northeast of Montreal are slowly regaining their trust in Quebec’s healthcare system, a year after Joyce Echaquan died in a hospital northeast of Montreal, according to Chief Paul-Emile Ottawa.
“Confidence is slowly returning,” Ottawa, the head of Manawan’s Atikamekw Council, told reporters Thursday at a joint press conference with the regional health authority that runs the hospital where Echaquan died in September 2020.
He said he is “very happy and particularly proud” of the steps taken by the regional health board to improve its relationship with the Atikamekw community.
“We are taking our first steps, but there has never been such collaboration in the past,” Ottawa said. “There have been changes, but there are definitely still things to improve. Therefore, we are working very hard to ensure that our reconciliation goals are met. “
Joyce Echaquan’s death is ‘unacceptable’, says Quebec coroner when addressing investigation findings
Earlier this week, coroner Géhane Kamel said that Echaquan, an Atikamekw mother of seven, would likely still be alive if she were a white woman and that systemic racism contributed “undeniably” to her death. Kamel’s report found that his passing was accidental, but preventable.
The coroner concluded that Echaquan’s initial diagnosis was based on bias and she was not adequately monitored before she was eventually transferred to intensive care. Echaquan died of pulmonary edema that was linked to a rare heart condition.
Maryse Poupart, who was appointed executive director of the regional health authority in March, said she appreciated the coroner’s recommendations for her agency, adding that all eight recommendations had been implemented or were part of existing plans.
Kamel also recommended that the Quebec government recognize the existence of systemic racism and remove it from the institutions. Quebec Prime Minister François Legault has denied that there is systemic racism in Quebec.
Quebec Prime Minister Says He Wasn’t a Leader During Raucous Joyce Echaquan Anniversary Debate
When asked if he acknowledges the existence of systemic racism, Poupart said he appreciated that things had to change at the health board, but said he would not enter into a debate on semantics.
The health agency has hired several staff members to help improve relationships with Atikamekw patients and a Manawan woman has been appointed to the authority’s board, Poupart said. Thirty percent of employees have completed a sensitivity training session, he said, adding that a more in-depth training program will be implemented later this fall.
The meaning of truth and reconciliation in Manawan
A designated staff member will soon be hired to receive complaints from members of indigenous communities, Poupart said. Steps are also being taken to improve the patient-to-staff ratio, another issue that was raised in the coroner’s report.
Poupart said the process of improving relations with the Atikamekw people is ongoing and reconciliation takes time.
“We cannot think that it will be done quickly, that would be a monumental mistake in terms of cultural security,” he said.
© 2021 The Canadian Press