Second person fired after Indigenous woman taunted before dying in Quebec hospital

THE LATEST ON THIS STORY HERE: Family of Atikamekw woman who died in hospital after being taunted considering legal options


A second person has been fired from the Joliette Hospital where an Indigenous woman was insulted by hospital staff moments before she died. 

Joyce 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. 

The first person who was fired for the mistreatment of Echaquan was a nurse, and the second, an orderly who was also heard uttering insults in the video. 

"Today, Oct. 1, 2020, the orderly who was also at the bedside of Mrs. Echaquan when the video was filmed on Sept. 28 has been dismissed," reads an emailed statement by the Lanaudiere region's integrated health and social service centre (CISSS). 

The CISSS said it's organizing a meeting with its general director and Paul-Emile Ottawa, the chief of the Manawan Atikamekw council. 

A coroner is investigating the death as the situation becomes yet another example of why many Indigenous people fear going to hospitals -- because of the racist treatment many say they have faced. 

Premier Francois Legault defended his Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Sylvie D'Amours, on Thursday after the opposition called her unfit for her role. Legault said she has accomplished a lot over the past year since a report by the Viens Commission was tabled. 

The commission devoted an entire week to testimonies from Echaquan's Atikamekw community of Manawan about the intolerance people from the community face at the Joliette Hospital. 

The report recommended legislation to provide "cultural security," a recommendation that "has been sleeping on the minister's desk for a year," according to Parti Quebecois (PQ) MNA from Joliette, Veronique Hivon.

Today in the National Assembly, the Liberal party's Indigenous affairs critic, Gregory Kelley, told D'Amours she's done little to improve the lives of Indigenous people during her two years with the CAQ government. D'Amours said she has met with Indigenous people but has been hampered in her movements because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Other politicians were asked to share their reactions to Echaquan's video. 

"I was totally shaken, it's almost unbearable -- I was in a state like what you see now," Hivon told reporters through tears on Thursday. "Because I couldn't understand how this can be possible, when you see somebody suffering like that and you would just insult them more, it's just unbearable." 

Even though the Viens Commission report identified systemic racism as a problem in Quebec, the government refuses to acknowledge its existence. 

Several other politicians and advocacy groups are calling for action in the wake of Echaquan's death. 

With files from The Canadian Press

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