Wednesday, December 1

“Killed because she was indigenous”: Québec coroner says Atikemekw’s wife is a victim of systemic racism | Indigenous people

An indigenous woman who was teased by nursing staff while dying in a Quebec hospital would likely be alive today if she were white, a coroner concluded.

Joyce Echaquan’s death was an “undeniable” example of systematic racism in the province, Québec coroner Géhane Kamel told reporters on Tuesday.

“From the first minute she was admitted to the hospital, a tag was placed on Ms. Echaquan,” he said.

In September 2021, Echaquan, 37, was admitted to a hospital in Joliette, where he told staff he had a heart condition. As her grief intensified and staff seemed indifferent to her pleas for help, Echaquan began livestreaming her experience on Facebook.

In the pictures, she winced when the nurses called her “stupid as hell.” “Are you done acting stupid? Are you done yet? “Asked a nurse in French as Echaquan groaned in pain.

“You made some bad choices, my dear,” said another nurse. “What are your children going to think seeing you like this?”

Echaquan, an Atikemekw mother of seven, died of pulmonary edema related to a rare heart disease.

“Without the video, Ms. Echaquan would never have been heard. This observation sends shivers down your spine, ”Kamel said.

The coroner determined that medical personnel assumed that Echaquan was experiencing opioid withdrawal and therefore did not adequately evaluate the medications he was taking. They also ignored the symptoms he described, including heart palpitations.

Kamel concluded that Echaquan’s initial diagnosis was based on bias and that she was not adequately monitored before staff transferred her to intensive care.

Kamel told reporters that he believed Echaquan would be alive today if he were white, adding that “large sections of our society deny such a well-documented reality” that systemic racism is pervasive.

Despite Kamel’s recommendation that the provincial government recognize systemic racism, Prime Minister François Legault strongly denied that there is systemic racism in the province. Legault said he was “shocked” by Echaquan’s “unacceptable” treatment, but denied that it was an example of systemic racism.

“Is the entire education system or the health system racist? I think the answer is no, ”Legault said. “But it is possible that in certain places, there are employees, groups of them, who have discriminatory approaches. But to say that the whole system is racist, I cannot accept it ”.

Echaquan’s family has said they intend to file a lawsuit against the hospital.

“She was tried and not listened to and treated accordingly,” the family’s attorney, Patrick Martin-Ménard, told reporters. “It is clear to us that we have all the evidence.”

Details of the lawsuit are expected in the coming days.

Carol Dubé, Echaquan’s husband, said he was committed to changing a system that discriminates against indigenous families, and that he believes he judged his wife for having multiple children.

“Joyce is dead because she was indigenous,” he said. “A woman with seven wonderful children: what she had that was most beautiful was used against her in a system that still allows this kind of tragic situation to happen.”

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