Video of Hospital Staff Abusing Dying Indigenous Woman Sparks Outrage in Canada
Indigenous leaders and activists say this was far from an isolated case of racism in health care.
Footage showing hospital staff insulting a dying Indigenous woman has sparked outrage and renewed demands for racial justice across Canada.
Joyce Echaquan, 37, died on Monday after being admitted to a Joliette, Quebec hospital because of stomach cramps. The mother of seven died shortly after sharing a Facebook livestream in which hospital staff can be heard uttering racist slurs against her, Global News reported.
In the footage, Echaquan expressed distress and cried for help from her hospital bed, while two nurses called her stupid and stated that she was "only good for sex."
"Are you done messing around? You’re dumb as hell," one nurse asked in French. "You made some bad choices, my dear. What do think your children would think, seeing you like this?" another added.
One of Echaquan’s relatives, Pamela Dubé Ketish, told Radio-Canada her cousin had expressed concerns about being drugged during her stay at the hospital.
"Joyce had heart problems," she stated. "She said she had been given a lot of morphine."
The mistreatment of Echaquan has sent shockwaves throughout the province and the country, with Indigenous leaders and activists highlighting that this was far from an isolated incident.
Canada’s Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller echoed these concerns, adding that the events were indicative of the systemic nature of anti-Indigenous racism in Canada.
"This traumatizing event was an expression of the worst face of racism," he tweeted.
I want to express my condolences to the family of Joyce Echaquan and the people in Manawan during this unbearably difficult time.— Marc Miller (@MarcMillerVM) September 30, 2020
This traumatizing event was an expression of the worst face of racism. #cdnpoli
Meanwhile, Quebec Premier François Legault said the way Echaquan was treated was unacceptable — but that systemic racism in health care was far from being the norm in the province.
"I really don’t think we have this kind of way of dealing with First Nations people in our hospitals in Quebec," he said.
However, 142 calls to action to address systemic racism in Quebec — including in hospitals — were issued by the Viens Commission in 2019 alone, according to a report.
Research also shows that Indigenous people are dying unnecessarily in Canada because of systemic racism in health care systems. Experts recently found that decolonizing public health has helped Indigenous communities in Canada get COVID-19 under control; but much more remains to be done to ensure equality of treatment across all levels of society.
This video surfaced just days before the country marked Orange Shirt Day, which raises awareness about the residential school system and its impact on Canada’s Indigenous communities.