The federal government is allocating $2 million to two Indigenous organizations in Quebec to help them in their fight against systemic racism faced by First Nation communities in the provincial health system, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller announced Wednesday.
The money will go to the Council of the Atikamekw Nation and the Atikamekw Council of Manawan to help them with their advocacy for the implementation of Joyce’s Principle, named after Joyce Echaquan.
The Atikamekw mother of seven died in a Quebec hospital last September after she filmed herself from her hospital bed pleading for help and getting derogatory remarks from hospital staff.
The video sent shockwaves through Quebec and Canada, underlining the systemic racism faced by many Indigenous people in the healthcare system.
Developed by the Council of the Atikamekw Nation and the Atikamekw Council of Manawan following Echaquan’s death, Joyce’s Principle demands that all Indigenous people have an equal right to the highest standard of physical and mental health.
It also calls on the government to recognize the right of Indigenous Peoples to traditional medicines and the conservation of their vital medicinal plants, animals and minerals. It also urges the government to recognize Indigenous rights to autonomy and self-determination in matters of health and social services.
“Anti-Indigenous racism has been embedded in our healthcare systems for far too long,” Miller said in a statement.
The funding to support the work and advocacy of the implementation of Joyce’s Principle is an important step along the path to eliminating anti-Indigenous racism in healthcare systems, the minister added.
“First Nations, Inuit and Métis have the right to be served by a first-class healthcare system without fear of discrimination or maltreatment, no matter where they live,” Miller said. “We must all continue to stand up and speak up against the racism and discrimination faced by Indigenous Peoples across the country.”
Grand Chief Constant Awashish of the Council of the Atikamekw Nation said the federal funding was very encouraging.
“The efforts undertaken from the beginning for Joyce’s Principle must not be in vain,” Awashish said in a statement. “The sad events surrounding the death of Joyce Echaquan have created a shockwave in Canada and it is the responsibility of all to ensure that such an event does not happen again.”
Since Echaquan’s tragic death, federal officials have convened two meetings with her family and Atikamekw leadership, Indigenous health practitioners and medical students, First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation leaders, federal, provincial and territorial government representatives, health system partners and Indigenous experts, officials at Indigenous Services said.
A third dialogue is planned for spring 2021. The objective of these meetings is to discuss concrete measures to eliminate anti-Indigenous racism in Canadian healthcare, federal officials added.