Joyce Echaquan's husband thanks public for support

In the wake of his wife Joyce Echaquan's death, Carol Dube has taken to social media to thank the public for the support.

“In the name of my seven kids and myself, I am thanking everyone,” he said. “All of the prayers you sent, all of your condolences, all that you have done for my family and my wife…” 

The circumstances under which Echaquan died – in hospital after she was berated with racist remarks by staff – sparked outrage in Quebec and beyond. Echaquan was a 37-year-old Atikamekw woman from Manawan and a mother of seven who visited the hospital for stomach pains. There, she livestreamed her distress and the racist behaviour she was met with from staff – including a nurse and an orderly who have since been fired. 

Politicians, activists, and the public are demanding “Justice for Joyce” and for Premier Francois Legault to acknowledge the existence of systemic racism in the province.

Legault was not permitted to participate in Echaquan’s funeral on Tuesday. The Atikamekw Council of Manawan made the decision because of his refusal to admit that there is systemic racism in Quebec.

In a statement at the National Assembly on Tuesday, Legault apologized for the circumstances under which Echaquan died and admitted that what happened at the Joliette Hospital wasn't an isolated occurrence.

"There continues to be acts of racism against Indigenous peoples in Quebec, and this isn't by accident," he said. "For decades, Indigenous people were faced with discrimination by different levels of government."

But he wouldn’t use the word "systemic."

"It's not time to divide ourselves over a concept, it's time to act to fight against racism," he said. "We all agree that members of First Nations are faced with racism; it exists within police, it exists in the justice system, but it also exists outside of governmental institutions, notably in terms of employment and housing."

In light of what occurred, as well as rising cases of COVID-19 in Indigenous communities, federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Marc Miller said he plans to hold an emergency meeting with several groups to address systemic racism in the health-care system nationwide.

He offered his condolences to Echaquan’s family as he called for change.

“There are many instances across Canada where this continues to occur. It is systemic, it is racist in nature and it’s unfair. And it is not limited by and provincial or territorial borders. There’s a role for the federal government to play here. There’s a role for all governments and there’s a role for every Canadian in addressing systemic racism in our society,” he said.

Miller said Indigenous people have become used to just being treated "like garbage" when they go to hospital, which he said was unacceptable. 

In his message to the public, posted on YouTube, Dube said he believes there is a positive way forward. 

“I haven’t yet checked the Internet, but I’ve been told its worldwide, it’s sad that it had to happen this way, but I know that there’s good on this planet,” he said. 

He said his gratitude is “as big as your being,” and ended the video with a fist in the air. 

“All brothers and sisters,” he said. 

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