Joyce Echaquan: training on indigenous realities denounced

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Joyce Echaquan: training on Indigenous realities denounced

Joyce Echaquan died at the Joliette Hospital on September 28, 2020.

“Colonialist” “harmful” “dated”… Voices are raised against the mandatory training on Indigenous realities deployed by the government of François Legault in response to the death of Atikamekw Joyce Echaquan, September 28, 2020, in Joliette Hospital.

The Government of Quebec wanted to raise awareness among health network personnel with this training available online since June 1, 2021. The objective is to ensure cultural security, i.e. care provided with respect for the patient's culture.

Radio-Canada has learned that two letters have been sent to the Board of Directors of the McGill University Health Center (MUHC) to express concerns about this training, and propose to replace it with a more comprehensive program specific to Mrs. Echaquan's case. The 37-year-old mother was the target of racist insults by nursing staff at the hospital in Lanaudière before she died there.

The training, which Radio-Canada was able to consult after requesting it from the Ministry of Health and Social Services, was developed before the death of Ms. Echaquan. It has five modules, three of which (introduction, history and settlement, practice to adopt) are compulsory. In particular, it teaches certain basic legal and historical notions, or how to greet and thank in the indigenous languages.

But the training doesn't go far enough, says Dr. Kaberi Dasgupta, director of the Center for Outcome Research in Health at the Research Institute of the MUHC and associate professor in the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University.


There is no discussion or reflection on the death of Joyce Echaquan. There is no description of her appalling treatment or the humiliation by the nurses who were supposed to help her, she wrote in her letter.

No mention either, she adds, of Joyce's Principle, which aims to guarantee all Indigenous people the right of equitable access, without any discrimination, to all social and health services. The adoption of this principle is demanded by the family of Joyce Echaquan and by the Atikamekw nation, but the government of the Coalition avenir Québec has stated that it does not intend to adopt it or enshrine it in the law since it involves recognize systemic racism, which he refuses to do.

Nothing either, by way of context, she writes, on the disappearance of Aboriginal children in Quebec hospitals, or even on the forced sterilization of Aboriginal women.

The letter, which Radio-Canada was able to consult, was sent on September 8 to the Action Committee on Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (C-AIDE), formed by the MUHC Board of Directors.

These omissions give the impression that, yes, we have problems, but these problems remain vague. There are much deeper problems that we must discuss to change the way we treat our fellow citizens, says Dr. Dasgupta in an interview with Radio-Canada.

Cree family physician Darlene Kitty, an authority on Indigenous health, also wrote to C-AIDE in mid-September, in a separate letter. She denounces the absence of reference to the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to the report of the Viens commission, to the calls for justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls . The training barely touches on the history of residential schools and intergenerational trauma, as well as the very notion of cultural safety, she adds.

The doctor, who works at the Chisasibi Hospital in James Bay, also deplores the absence of real consultations with the Cree communities, whose opinion would have been solicited, but ultimately not taken into account, as well as the number limited number of indigenous people involved in the different modules.

This mandatory training could harm relations with indigenous communities due to the lack of information developed by indigenous people, says the doctor cries in an interview with Radio-Canada.

Emergency pediatrician and assistant professor at McGill University's Faculty of Medicine, Samir Shaheen-Hussain, agrees. The training has a colonialist approach, with some aspects bordering on propaganda, he says.

With no analysis of medical colonialism or discussion of systemic anti-Indigenous racism in health care, and without mention of cultural safety or Joyce's Principle, how then can we understand Indigenous realities in Quebec in 2022?, asks the author of the book No more Indigenous children torn away : To end Canadian medical colonialism .

This is basically a video that might have been avant-garde in the 1980s or 1990s, but derails a lot of things. #x27;significant efforts led by Aboriginal peoples in recent years in the field of health, he adds.

As of September 21, 2022, 184,844 employees in the health and social services network (58%) have taken the training.

During an election debate hosted by the Assembly of First Nations Quebec Labrador (AFNQL) last week, outgoing Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafrenière touted the progress his party has made with the formation. We didn't wait, we didn't sit on our hands. We have made several on-the-ground changes to the cultural safety guide that was written with First Nations, he said.

In a memo written to Radio-Canada and to CBC, the Ministry of Health and Social Services did not comment specifically on the criticisms of the mandatory training, but believes that the work of the designers of the training was supported by several organizations and Aboriginal bodies. /p>

The MUHC says that these two letters will be discussed internally and that the ministry will be informed.

Manawan Chief Sipi Flamand believes that an update of the training is necessary, to include the tragic death of Joyce Echaquan, as well as the Principle of Joyce. He himself was interviewed as part of the preparation for the training, in 2019, before being appointed chief. His interview is found in one of the modules that are not compulsory.

Chief of the Atikamekw community of Manawan, Sipi Flamand.

In 2019, it was a different context. Since September 28, 2020, it's a whole different story. I remember that I was talking about governance, Aboriginal politics, in this interview, specifies the Atikamekw chief.

Initially sponsored by the Secretariat for Native Affairs and the Quebec Ministry of Justice , the training was developed in 2018 by Abenaki sociologist Nicole O'Bomsawin and professor in the Department of Geography at UQAM Laurie Guimond. Ms. O'Bomsawin claims not to have had access to the final version of the training.

Obviously we do not answer more specific questions arrived after Joyce. Our work stopped two and a half years ago, Nicole O'Bomsawin told Radio-Canada last spring.

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