Two days after a dying Indigenous woman broadcast a Facebook Live video appearing to show her being insulted and sworn at by hospital staff in a Quebec regional hospital, the provincial order of nurses has come out with a statement denouncing the racism of “certain health professionals.”
Joyce Echaquan’s death at the Lanaudière Hospital Centre, about 75 kilometres northeast of Montreal, on Monday has prompted an outcry from Indigenous communities in Quebec and across Canada and calls for the province to deal with systemic racism facing Indigenous Quebecers in the provincial health system.
The Quebec order of nurses, known in French as Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec (OIIQ), said Wednesday it joins its voice in support of groups fighting to stop racism and discrimination against First Nations in the province.
“The OIIQ shares the general indignation related to the behavior and comments of certain health professionals, including a member of the nursing profession, reported in the media,” the order said in a statement.
“The facts are disturbing and deplorable. All Quebecers, without exception, have the right to receive safe and quality health care and services, imbued with respect and humanity.”
The Quebec coroner’s office said it will investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of the 37-year-old mother of seven who had gone to the hospital complaining of stomach pains.
Before the Atikamekw woman’s death, she filmed herself from her hospital bed while she was in clear distress and pleaded for help.
Toward the end of the video, two female hospital staff can be seen entering her room and are heard making insulting comments, saying she’s “stupid as hell,” that she’s only good for sex and better off dead.
A staff member is heard telling her she made poor choices and asks what her children would think to see her in that state.
“That’s why I came here,” Echaquan can be heard replying quietly.
‘It is a question of attitude’
Quebec chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Ghislain Picard, called on the provincial government to address the culture of racism.
“A coroner’s inquest should not be an opportunity for the government to shirk its responsibilities,” Picard told reporters during a virtual news conference, where he presented his organization’s plan to address racism and discrimination in the province.
“A coroner’s report will not change anything about the racism displayed by nurses. It is a question of attitude and a question of culture.”
At a news conference about COVID-19 on Tuesday afternoon, Quebec Premier François Legault said the situation was “not acceptable” and that one of the nurses involved had been fired.
However, Legault denied that there is systemic racism in Quebec.
“I really don’t think that we have this kind of way of dealing with First Nations people in our hospitals in Quebec. Yes, there is some racism in Quebec. We’re working on that,” Legault said.
In the meantime, the order of nurses said it will follow diligently the coroner’s inquest and any recommendations it makes.
With files from The Canadian Press and CBC News