Death of Joyce Echaquan: officials unknown to experts

Death of Joyce Echaquan: officials unknown to experts
Death of Joyce Echaquan: officials unknown to experts

The director of indigenous affairs at the Ministry of Health, Julie Gauthier, came to present Monday the role of the “persons in charge of indigenous files” of health establishments in Quebec, to the astonishment of experts who had never heard of these. posts.

“We are coming to the end of the hearings, and this is the first time that I have heard of this,” said coroner Géhane Kamel, at 11e day of its investigation into the death of Joyce Echaquan. This Atikamekw woman died on September 28 under racist insults from staff members of the Lanaudière Hospital Center, commonly known as the Joliette hospital.

“I’m learning that this morning,” also declared the lawyer representing the Atikamekw of Manawan, Jean François Arteau. He mentioned in passing that he had worked with aboriginal people for 25 years.

To (re) see: our interview with Dr. Stanley Vollant

Julie Gauthier, in post since 2019, then appointed Éric Salois as the “person in charge of indigenous files” at the CISSS de Lanaudière. Mr. Salois has been retired for two months, the CISSS later confirmed in an email to Duty.

Quebec recently announced that Mr. Salois’ former position would be filled by a representative of the Atikamekw community, in an effort to rebuild bridges with members of that community.

“Variable” positions

Before the coroner, Mme Gauthier acknowledged that these managers occupy “variable” positions in the organization chart, but stressed that some are “quite high” in the hierarchy. Others, she added, “combine other functions” than that of responsible for indigenous files. In some regions, contact with indigenous populations is moreover limited, while elsewhere it is much more frequent, she said.

Mme Gauthier recalled that Quebec intended to make public, shortly, “guides” intended for managers and senior management of health establishments. As a reminder, Quebec made a commitment in March to integrate, “soon”, the notion of cultural security in the Act respecting health services and social services. This is one of the recommendations of the Viens report, submitted at the end of the Commission of Inquiry on Relations between Aboriginals and Certain Public Services in Quebec.

According to Mme Gauthier, above all, the network must not be satisfied with the three-hour training courses currently given to health workers. Except that we should not deny the importance of these either, she argued. For some caregivers, the “basic information” contained in this training is “a first step”, “a first contact” with indigenous realities, she said.

Fear of getting treatment

Just before Mme Gauthier, Innu surgeon Stanley Vollant said Indigenous people were afraid to seek treatment. An investigation by Duty recently demonstrated that this fear crosses communities and territories.

Citing the devastating consequences for his own family, Dr Vollant recalled that Indigenous people have a mistrust of the health system and that this is particularly rooted in the history of sanatoriums and residential schools. He added that Echaquan had fueled this suspicion even more. “I have several native friends recently who were hospitalized and who said to me: can you check if I was treated well? “, he said.

The surgeon also said he was “tired of commissions of inquiry”. “We know the solutions,” he said, pleading for a move to action. In his opinion, the refusal of the Legault government to recognize systemic racism amounts to calling “the elephant in the room” a “big-eared pachyderm”. Remains that the Dr Vollant said he was ready to make a “semantic sacrifice” to encourage action.

” Nothing new “

In the afternoon, the chief of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador, Ghislain Picard, also showed signs of weariness. “There is nothing new”, he said: neither in the testimony heard in the hearings (because similar cases have already been documented) nor in the recommendations to be made (because he repeats them. For years).

Among other requests, Chief Picard therefore once again urged Quebec to adopt the Joyce principle, which aims “to guarantee all Aboriginals a right of equitable access, without any discrimination, to all social and health services”.

Dr. Vollant, meanwhile, said he hoped that the professional orders would encourage the education of their members so that they know how to treat Aboriginals while reassuring them. He also insisted on the training of liaison officers and recommended that the directorates be responsible for the proper functioning of these posts and report thereon.

At the Joliette hospital, the officer on duty on the day of Joyce Echaquan’s death was denied access to the emergency room and had no support from the administration in order to be able to fully exercise her role. .

With The Canadian Press

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