Montreal

Atikamekw leaders press Quebec premier for changes in wake of Joyce Echaquan's death

Constant Awashish, grand chief of the Atikamekw Nation, said Monday he is hopeful Quebec Premier François Legault is committed to ending the kind of racism on display in a video that captured hospital staff hurling insults at Joyce Echaquan in the hours before her death.

Premier says he is willing to issue an apology to Echaquan's family for the way she was treated in hospital

Constant Awashish, centre, the grand chief of the Atikamekw Nation, met with the premier Monday, a week after the death of Joyce Echaquan. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Constant Awashish, grand chief of the Atikamekw Nation, said Monday he is hopeful Quebec Premier François Legault is committed to ending the kind of racism on display in a video that captured hospital staff hurling insults at Joyce Echaquan in the hours before her death.

"I'm optimistic but I'm still waiting for results," he told reporters after meeting with Legault.

"He was listening. I don't know if he [understood] everything, but I know he was listening."

Awashish attended the meeting with Legault alongside Paul-Émile Ottawa, chief of the Manawan community, Jean-Claude Méquish, chief of the Opitciwan community and François Neashit, leader of the Wemotaci community.

He said Legault told him "call me personally" if things don't move quickly, and that Atikamekw leaders will meet with provincial officials steadily in the coming months.

WATCH l Constant Awashish says change has to come

Atikamekw Grand Chief cautiously optimistic racism will be addressed after meeting with Premier François Legault

Montreal

2 months agoVideo
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Grand Chief Constant Awashish of the Atikamekw Nation says there's disagreement on the definition of systemic racism, but they agree there's a problem. 0:28

Later Monday, Legault told a news conference he felt an apology to Echaquan's family was appropriate.

"We will find the proper way to do so," Legault said.

"What happened to Madame Echaquan is totally unacceptable. It is embarrassing. And the government is — I am — prepared to apologize to her family."

The death of Echaquan, a 37-year-old Atikamekw woman from Manawan, at the hospital in Joliette has renewed calls for the province to act on the Viens report.

The report, released a year ago, included detailed recommendations for the province, including several related to accessing health services.

Quebec has ordered a public coroner's inquest into her death, and a nurse and orderly have been fired.

Residents in Manawan say what happened to Echaquan is part of a pattern of discrimination seen at the Joliette hospital.

On Saturday, protests were held in Montreal and Quebec City to demand "Justice for Joyce." A funeral is planned for Echaquan Tuesday afternoon in Manawan.

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