Tag Archives: Echaquan’s

Quebec promises diversity training for health-care workers in wake of Joyce Echaquan’s death

A little less than a month after taking over as Quebec’s Indigenous affairs minister, Ian Lafrenière has announced a $ 15-million plan to teach health-care workers how to better provide services to members of Indigenous communities — with an emphasis on cultural safety.

That means providing care in accordance with Indigenous norms and traditions.

The announcement is a direct response to the death this fall of a 37-year-old Atikamekw woman at a hospital in Joliette, Que., a town about an hour north of Montreal.

In late September, Joyce Echaquan did a Facebook live of her treament in her hospital room shortly before her death. Viewers could hear her pleas and the staff’s response: degrading and racist insults.

The exact cause of her death is still not known.

Lafrenière was accompanied by Health Minister Christian Dubé as he told reporters the government wants to remove barriers for Indigenous communities in the health and social services network. 

“We would like to regain trust from different nations,” Lafrenière said.

Echaquan’s death sparked protests, a public inquiry and a public apology from Quebec Premier François Legault at the National Assembly.

WATCH | Lafrenière says Quebec’s efforts are not just about ‘image making’:

Ian Lafrenière, Quebec’s new minister of Indigenous affairs, says the province is “talking about facts” and not just concerned with “image making.” 0:49

Cultural safety was a key component in the Viens Commission’s 142 recommendations, which documented the discrimination Indigenous people face when receiving public services.

The cultural-safety training is expected to be rolled out gradually, starting with hospitals that take in more Indigenous patients — such as Joliette Hospital where Echaquan died  — before eventually being implemented across the province.

A team at l’Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue developed the training guide, and Indigenous community leaders will have a chance to weigh in on its contents.

“There are many subtleties that we need to have in the training and this is the reason we want to involve them,” Dubé said.

The province will also hire liaison agents and health-care “navigators” who will serve as go-betweens for hospitals and members of Indigenous communities, with the navigators expected to come from Indigenous communities.

“Today, this is not image making, this is facts,” said Lafrenière. “We’re not telling you it’s going to be done within a week. It’s going to be a long process.”

Joyce Echaquan’s mother is seen at a vigil after hear death at the Joliette, Que., hospital. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

‘This is one announcement, this is not the last one’

The $ 15-million investment is part of a $ 200-million envelope set aside by the CAQ government in its latest budget.

It’s also Lafrenière’s first major move since replacing Sylvie D’Amours as the Indigenous affairs minister.

“This is one announcement, this is not the last one,” he said. “Let’s hope for the future, work for the future.”

His appointment last month raised eyebrows and drew criticism, due to his history as a high-ranking Montreal police officer. Indigenous communities have said their relationship with Montreal police is a tense one.

Lafrenière promised swift action, and claimed his experience with the SPVM was an asset in his new role, not a liability.

Following Echaquan’s death, voices calling for the CAQ government to recognize systemic racism grew louder, but Legault and Lafrenière, have both denied it exists in the province.

WATCH | Legault apologizes following Joyce Echaquan’s death

François Legault said the Quebec government has a duty to treat everyone with dignity and respect. He said Quebec failed that duty by allowing Joyce Echaquan to die amid racist taunts. 1:05

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Indigenous-led clinic to help Quebec community still shaken by Joyce Echaquan’s death

The idea is simple, says Jennifer Brazeau, executive director of the Native Friendship Centre in Quebec’s Lanaudière region: provide “a culturally secure space” where Indigenous people can get health care without feeling afraid.

Brazeau said a reluctance to seek health services in Joliette, Que., has grown over the past month after an Atikamekw mother of seven died in a local hospital after filming staff hurling racial slurs at her.

Joyce Echaquan’s Sept. 28 death has shaken the province, raising questions about systemic racism in health care and leading to calls for the provincial government to both recognize the problem and take concrete action to stop it.

In Joliette, where about two per cent of the city’s 47,000 residents identifies as Indigenous, Brazeau said the long-standing need for a clinic where members of the community feel safe is more pressing than ever.

The proximity clinic, called Mirerimowin, will welcome its first patients Tuesday afternoon in a room at the Native Friendship Centre in the city about 75 kilometres northeast of Montreal.

“When we launched this, we even had pregnant women wanting to know if they could have their babies here, because they don’t want to go to the hospital,” Brazeau said in a recent interview.

Making sure patients are comfortable

The clinic will operate two afternoons per month, serving patients who are Indigenous and do not already have access to a doctor.

Patients need to make appointments, and if the clinic cannot accommodate their needs, staff will try to guide and accompany them to other services, Brazeau said.

Dr. Samuel Boudreault, a Université Laval professor and a physician in a family medicine group that is affiliated with the regional health agency, is one of two doctors volunteering at the clinic.

He said the doctors as well as medical residents will collaborate with social workers at the Native Friendship Centre to make sure patients are comfortable and get medical follow-ups after their treatment.

Carol Dubé, left, says his wife Joyce Echaquan was admitted into hospital with stomach pains in September and died two days later. (Facebook)

“There is part of the population — and I think Indigenous people are clearly part of that _ that does not have as easy access to the health system as the average person,” Boudreault said in an interview Monday.

Joliette’s proximity clinic is not the first of its kind in Quebec. Native Friendship Centres opened similar facilities in recent years in Val d’Or, over 500 kilometres north of Montreal in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, and in La Tuque in central Quebec.

The model works because it allows Indigenous people to feel more at ease accessing care, said Sebastien Brodeur-Girard, professor in the Indigenous studies department at Universite du Quebec en Abitibi-Temiscamingue.

“People are scared,” said Brodeur-Girard, who was on the research team of a provincial inquiry known as the Viens Commission, which concluded last year that systemic discrimination against Indigenous peoples exists in Quebec’s public services.

He said several people testified during the Viens Commission hearings about being discriminated against when seeking health care in Joliette, and complaints had been filed long before Echaquan’s death.

“Joliette’s case is not exceptional,” Brodeur-Girard said in an interview, adding that similar issues exist across Quebec and Canada.

Knowing they will be poorly received, that they will be pushed aside, that they won’t be believed, that they will be subjected to discriminatory comments, some (Indigenous) people will avoid going to the hospital until it’s too late,” he said.

That’s something Brazeau hopes the proximity clinic will help tackle, but the project has limited resources and for now it will only be able to see eight patients per month.

No help from public health

Brazeau said she participated in a meeting in June with the local health agency and asked for material resources and medical personnel to be able to keep the clinic open one full day per week.

“So far they haven’t mobilized to get any of those resources, and so we’re making do with what we have,” she said. “We got a massage table as an exam table, and the doctor will bring his equipment with him.”

In an email, a spokeswoman for the regional health agency, Helene Gaboury, said the agency is aiding the clinic because doctors from the family medicine group are involved, and they are technically agency employees.

Gaboury said the doctors who offer services at the clinic will bring the equipment they need with them, “like when they provide at-home support.”

Asked what the regional health agency is doing to make sure Indigenous people feel safe accessing services, she said it held a workshop for staff over two days in mid-October to raise awareness on the realities Indigenous people face.

It is also working with the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue “to offer mandatory training for all staff and physicians” beginning at the end of November, Gaboury added.

Brazeau said the Native Friendship Centre needs more support from the health agency, however, if it wants to expand the clinic to meet the community’s needs.

Quebec also needs to recognize that systemic racism exists against Indigenous people if it wants to fix the problem, she said: “It would be important for them to listen to us. That’s the first step.”

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Quebec faces pressure to act against anti-Indigenous racism after Joyce Echaquan’s death

Pressure is mounting on the Quebec government to address the racism evidenced in a disturbing video Joyce Echaquan recorded just before dying in a Joliette hospital, but the provincial minister handling the file has kept a low profile over the last few days.

Sylvie D’Amours, the provincial minister responsible for Indigenous affairs, has faced repeated criticism for her inaction since the Viens report, which documented discrimination Indigenous people face when receiving public services, was made public a year ago.

Echaquan, a mother of seven from the Atikamekw community of Manawan, died on Monday. 

Opposition parties at the National Assembly criticized D’Amours for not speaking out about the death, other than issuing a press release.

Today, she gave an interview to Radio-Canada’s afternoon radio show Le 15-18. Host Isabelle Craig questioned why D’Amours hadn’t spoken to media directly since the death on Monday.

“You probably weren’t looking at social media,” D’Amours told Craig, noting she’d been at the vigil held Tuesday, offered her condolences to the family and had a meeting with Health Minister Christian Dubé and Manawan Chief Paul-Émile Ottawa.

“It might be a way of working that is different than others, but I made my presence with the family known more discreetly.”

On Twitter, Dubé confirmed the meeting between him, D’Amours and Chief Ottawa, concerning the recommendations made in the Viens report specific to health care.

“We must take the necessary actions to ensure that a situation like Joyce Echaquan’s never happens again,” Dubé wrote.

An orderly who was attending to Echaquan was fired on Thursday, the second health-care worker to be dismissed since the video surfaced. A nurse was fired on Tuesday.

Echaquan’s death is the subject of three investigations: two by the local health authority and a coroner’s inquest.

Quebec Premier François Legault said Thursday he too had been in touch with Echaquan’s partner, Carol Dubé, the father of their seven children, and had expressed his condolences.

WATCH | Carol Dubé, Joyce Echaquan’s partner, calls for change:

Carol Dubé pleads for accountability after his wife’s death in troubling circumstances. 0:55

Pandemic has slowed progress, Legault says

Legault said Echaquan’s partner wants to make sure something like this never happens again. On that front, Legault said, his government is making progress.

But he said the pandemic delayed the government’s ability to act on the recommendations in the Viens report.

“It’s not that easy. We first want to have an agreement with the First Nations because they don’t want us to apply recommendations without their consent, so it wasn’t possible in the past seven months to continue having those meetings,” he said.

Echaquan’s death has prompted outcry far beyond the borders of her home community of Manawan, and has become the focus of opposition politicians in Quebec City.

One of Joyce Echaquan’s children attended the vigil earlier this week near the Joliette hospital where her mother died. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade has called on D’Amours to resign, while Québec Solidaire tabled a motion calling on the province to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, one of the key recommendations in the Viens report.

Veronique Hivon, a Parti Quebecois MNA representing Joliette, said she is hopeful Echaquan’s death will lead to swift change.

She wants the government to follow through on recommendations in the Viens report that might have helped Echaquan, including ensuring health authorities “set up services and programs based on cultural safeguard principles developed for Indigenous peoples and in co-operation with them.”

“I think today it’s really important to send a signal that actions must be taken,” she said.

Jennifer Brazeau, the executive director of the Native Friendship Centre in Lanaudière, said she has heard dozens of stories of wrongdoing by medical staff in Joliette. She said Indigenous people living elsewhere have similar stories.

“As an Indigenous person, you often feel that you’re not going to be believed or that people are looking to see what your fault is in this,” she said.

In a statement earlier this week, D’Amours condemned racism against Indigenous people and said she has a plan in place to follow through on 51 of the 142 calls to action in the Viens report.

Legault, for his part, said his government’s action plan on racism will be tabled in the coming weeks, and said his government will act on those recommendations.

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