Vigil held in Montreal to mark 2-year anniversary of Joyce Echaquan’s death – Montreal | Canadian

Wednesday marks two years since Joyce Echaquan –an Atikamekw mother of seven– died in a Joliette hospital.

Echaquan used her cellphone to record herself moments before dying, as racial slurs were used by hospital staff, prompting calls to tackle racism in Quebec hospitals.

To mark the somber date, a group of people gathered in Montreal’s Place du Canada.

“There’s a host of issues which I think that, if we look at it holistically, the death of Joyce Echaquan has brought up. So it’s really important that we remember her and the sacrifices that she made because there are other Joyce’s out there,” said Ellen Gabriel, a member of the Mohawk community of Kanesatake and speaker at the event.

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Coroner’s report into Joyce Echaquan death urges Quebec to recognize systemic racism

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Gabriel says that since Echaquan’s death, there has been very little improvement in Quebec’s health-care system.

“I don’t think there’s been enough changes as far as the political will is concerned, I think people are more sensitized and aware that this is a problem that happens,” Gabriel explained.

Gabriel also condemned the attitude of François Legault. Following the first leader’s debate, the Atikamekw community and Echaquan’s family criticized the outgoing premier for saying the issue of racism at Joliette hospital was solved.

Read more:

Quebec election: Legault criticized for saying Quebec hospital’s racism problem fixed

Some changes have been implemented such as hiring community liaisons and sensitivity training, which were some of the recommendations made by Quebec coroner Géhane Kamel, who looked into the circumstances surrounding Echaquan’s death.

But Legault has consistently denied the existence of systemic racism, which Gabriel says is part of the problem and why things haven’t progressed as much.

“As long as we have people who are in decision-making powers who are denying the existence of systemic racism, it will be perpetuated,” Gabriel said.

Click to play video: 'Joyce Echaquan would still be alive if she were white, says coroner'

Joyce Echaquan would still be alive if she were white, says coroner

Joyce Echaquan would still be alive if she were white, says coroner – Oct 5, 2021

Dr. Stanley Vollant, an Innu surgeon at Notre-Dame hospital says that as a physician, he had heard about stories of mistreatment in other hospitals in different regions of Quebec.

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“Often I said, it’s probably just miscommunication and maybe misunderstanding issues and I never truly believed those people. And when I saw the video of Joyce Echaquan die, it was a shock for me. I said ‘I’m a traitor for my own people,’” Vollant confessed.

The surgeon added that Echaquan’s death is a good example of systemic racism. “Because this is invisible, we don’t see it. It’s inside institutions, inside values, inside principles, inside of ways of life.”

READ MORE: Atikamekw groups call for equitable access to health care following Joyce Echaquan’s death

Vollant says that two years later, Indigenous people are still wary of going to hospital because they fear they will be mistreated.

Although he applauds some of the steps taken by the province, such as implementing anti-racism training for health-care workers, he says efforts need to remain consistent.

“One day it’s going to change, but we have to build it step by step,” Vollant said. “It will take years, maybe decades to build the trust between Indigenous people and the health-care system.”

One of the things Vollant believes would help is for hospitals to appoint an ombudsman and a process to place complaints that is culturally safe for Indigenous people.

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The community has also been pushing for Quebec to adopt Joyce’s principle, a set of measures to ensure Indigenous people have equitable and dignified access to health care and treatment.

But one of the founding principles of the document is accepting there is systemic racism.

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