On September 28, 2020, we learned that Joyce Echaquan of the Atikamekw Nation of Manawan, died in a Joliette hospital under tragic circumstances involving racist treatment by healthcare staff, including nurses. Just 13 days later, Georges-Hervé Awashish, an Atikamekw man from Obedjiwan, died in a Chicoutimi hospital, after telling family members he had heard nurses making racist remarks about him. The deplorable treatment of these individuals during their most vulnerable and final moments is indicative of the insidious systemic racism that permeates our society, including our healthcare institutions. We offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and communities of Joyce Echaquan and Georges-Hervé Awashish.
We, as a School, have been diligently teaching our students about community nursing—particularly with more underserved populations—for many years. We continue to be committed to providing nursing education that incorporates the lived experiences of diverse groups with an approach of cultural humility and safety. We openly and clearly denounce racism in all of its forms, and we continue to espouse zero-tolerance toward racism of any kind within our School.
As a School, we have been reflecting on the issue of systemic racism in healthcare, particularly relating to Indigenous peoples, for some time. In 2015, ISoN formally named Global and Indigenous Health Nursing (GAIHN) with the mandate of recognizing the health disparities that exist for Indigenous peoples and other marginalized and underserved populations, alongside many other social justice issues, activities and initiatives.
In addition to the work of GAIHN, the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had a profound effect on ISoN, motivating us to:
- make a commitment to integrating Indigenous health as an important feature of our undergraduate and graduate curricula with the guidance of an Indigenous Nurse Advisor
- formalize our commitment to the Task Force on Indigenous Studies & Indigenous Education by way of making an official position statement, now available on our website
Moving forward, we are actively working to:
- hire an Indigenous scholar into a tenure-track position
- incorporate the issue of systemic racism into our annual Nursing Professionalism Ceremony as we did this year, on October 15, when we specifically addressed the treatment of Joyce Echaquan and Georges-Hervé Awashish by nurses to the nearly 300 nursing students in attendance via YouTube
- openly address and discuss systemic racism in the healthcare system with our students
We commit ourselves anew to empowering our students as future nurses and nurse leaders to advocate for their patients, and to speak out when they witness racism in our healthcare settings.
We reiterate our students’ pledge to exercise their future professions as nurses with conscientiousness, dignity, compassion, openness, and a commitment to lifelong learning.