Experts: Joyce Echaquan’s death: Racism in the healthcare system

Published: 2 October 2020

Quebec’s coroner’s office will be looking into the death of Joyce Echaquan, an Indigenous woman from the Atikamekw Nation of Manawan and a mother of seven children, who passed away amid troubling circumstances in a Joliette hospital on Monday, September 28. Before her death, Echaquan took a cellphone video from her hospital bed and livestreamed it on Facebook. Near the end of the video, which lasts around seven minutes, hospital personnel enter the room. The staff members can be heard insulting Echaquan and making derogatory comments about her. (Global News)

Here are some from McGill University who can provide comment on this issue:

Wanda Gabriel, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work

“We need to acknowledge the systemic racism that is prevalent in the Quebec healthcare system. The Viens Commission [Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Québec: listening, reconciliation and progress] from 2019 has identified numerous calls to action. We must move to action to stop this cruelty.

Wanda Gabriel is an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work and a member of the Kanieke’ha:ke nation. She has worked closely with the National, Regional Indigenous agencies and Indigenous communities across Canada dealing with crisis intervention and issues of sexual abuse, lateral violence, internalized oppression, drug and alcohol addiction, domestic violence and residential school issues.

wanda.gabriel [at] (English, French)

Samir Shaheen-Hussain, Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics

Joyce Echaquan was not the first Indigenous person to suffer a brutal death because of discrimination rampant on multiple levels in our healthcare system, but the provincial government has the power to make sure that she is the last. Tangible actions, including the implementation of anti-racist legislation, policies, and practices must be put in place to end medical colonialism and anti-Indigenous systemic racism in healthcare immediately. Otherwise, it is only a matter of time before another Indigenous person's wholly avoidable suffering makes headlines."

Samir Shaheen-Hussain is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics and an emergency pediatric physician at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. He spearheaded the advocacy campaign #aHand2Hold, which brought about a change in government policy and ensured that hundreds of Indigenous children in Quebec can now be accompanied by their parents when they are flown south for care rather than being transferred alone. He is the author of Fighting for A Hand to Hold: Confronting Medical Colonialism against Indigenous Children in Canada.

Saleem Razack, Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics

We now know that the individuals who performed these acts of overt racism have been held accountable and that an investigation is in progress. However, this approach only goes so far. There are clear systemic racism factors that have permitted such behaviours towards Indigenous peoples and which create systems whereby individuals are rarely held accountable. Nothing would have happened had there not been recorded evidence. We must therefore name the systemic racism in this occurrence and commit to deep and enduring structural change, in the spirit of truth and reconciliation.”

Saleem Razack is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics and the Director Social Accountability and Community Engagement Office at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. He is also a pediatric critical care medicine physician at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. His scholarly works focuses on medical education including assessment, equity issues, and social accountability in health professions education.

saleem.razack [at] (English, French)

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