Family of Atikamekw woman who died in hospital after being taunted considering legal options

THE CANADIAN PRESS Paul Chiasson

MONTREAL -- The family of the Atikamekw woman who died in the Joliette Hospital after being mocked and verbally assaulted will meet with the media Friday to speak about potential legal action.

Joyce Echaquan's family as well as Manawan Chief Paul-Emile Ottawa and other members of the Atikamekw community will speak with the media at 3 p.m. Friday at the Lanaudiere Native Friendship Centre to speak about potential legal action following Echaquan's death on Sept. 28.

"Because of the circumstances surrounding Madame Echaquan's death combined with the racist and degrading treatment that she has suffered unjustly and sadly, the family of the latter wishes to obtain a fair and appropriate redress in addition to ensuring that such discriminatory and repeated acts of inconceivable violence against native people finally cease," a release from the family's lawyer Jean-Francois Bertrand reads.

"In 2020, simply denouncing systemic racism is insufficient. One year after the filing of the Report of the Viens Commission, the sad story of Ms. Echaquan shows once again that nothing has changed, Indigenous people are victims of unjustified prejudice and discrimination. Times must change," added Bertrand.

Echaquan, a 37-year-old mother of seven, went to the hospital complaining of stomach pains over the weekend. A self-filmed video surfaced on social media showing a deeply distressed Echaquan and racist hospital staff who accused her of fooling around and called her stupid. Echaquan's family says she was having a bad reaction to morphine.

Two people thus far have been fired at the hospital.

Leaders at the Atikamekw community of Manawan are calling on Premier Francois Legault to hold a nation-to-nation meeting immediately.

"We are asking Premier Legault to immediately take concrete and real measures so that such an event never happens again," said Ottawa.

Echaquan's death has sparked vigils, criticism and multiple calls to action.

Legault has stood behind his Minister responsible for Indigenous Affairs Sylvie D'Amours despite calls for her resignation from official opposition critic Gregory Kelley.

Joliette Parti Quebecois MNA Veronique Hivon also responded to the video.

"I was totally shaken," said Hivon. "It's almost unbearable... I couldn't understand how this could be possible when you see somebody suffering like that and you would just insult them more. It's just unbearable." 

 

Daniel J. Rowe
CTV News Montreal Digital Reporter

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