Quebec premier to apologize to family of Joyce Echaquan

Quebec Premier François Legault will issue a public apology today to the family of Joyce Echaquan, the Atikamekw woman who died in a Joliette hospital last week.

Echaquan, a 37-year-old woman from Manawan, died shortly after filming staff insulting her in a video she shared on Facebook live.

Hospital staff are heard making degrading comments, including calling her stupid and saying she would be better off dead.

The statement, expected this afternoon at the National Assembly, comes just over a year after Legault issued another apology to Indigenous people following the release of the final report from the Viens Commission.

The report concluded Indigenous people were the subject of “systemic discrimination” in Quebec.

“I offer Quebec’s First Nations and Inuit people the most sincere apology from the entire state of Quebec,” Legault said on Oct. 2, 2019.  

“The state of Quebec has failed in its duty to you.”

Those words were seen as a hopeful sign the government was committed to addressing the issues laid out in the report, which included 142 recommendations.

But Indigenous leaders and advocates say not enough has been done in the year since, and that Echaquan’s death is another reminder of the challenges Indigenous people face in getting public services.

Carol Dubé says his wife was a kind, generous person who paid attention to the littlest of things. Now, he says, her seven children are left without a mother and he has lost his friend and spouse. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Legault has continued to insist systemic racism does not exist in Quebec.

“When we talk about systemic racism, for me it’s in relation with the Black people in the United States,” he said last Friday.

“For me I don’t see that in Quebec. But there is for sure some racism against the First Nations in Quebec, and I want to fight it.

Legault met with Atikamekw leaders on Monday, who left the meeting cautiously optimistic the provincial government would address their call to action. 

“We had a debate about it and we didn’t agree, but I think we speak the same language, just differently,” said Constant Awashish, grand chief of the Atikamekw Nation.

Quebec’s coroner’s office has launched a public inquiry into the circumstances leading to Echaquan’s death. A nurse and an orderly at the hospital have been fired.

Echaquan’s funeral will be held this afternoon in Manawan.

WATCH | Carol Dubé pleads for justice for his wife, Joyce Echaquan: 

Echaquan’s husband, Carol Dubé, tearfully asks that her death not be in vain and calls for recognition that systemic racism exists. 2:01

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