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Quebec premier's apology did not win the trust of Joyce Echaquan's family, says Atikamekw grand chief

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

Legault was not welcome at Echaquan's funeral service because he won't acknowledge systemic racism

Constant Awashish, Grand Chief of the Atikamekw Nation. (Daniel Ricard/Radio-Canada)

The grand chief of the Atikamekw Nation says Quebec Premier François Legault did not win the trust of the family of Joyce Echaquan with his public apology.

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

"Those apologies, I cannot say that the family took it in a way that [they felt] Premier Legault was totally sincere in his acknowledgment," said Constant Awashish.

Legault made his apology at the National Assembly on Tuesday, after Echaquan's funeral took place in Manawan, her home community 250 kilometres north of Montreal. 

Legault said he is committed to making changes in the province to avoid another tragedy like the one that befell Echaquan — whose name he mispronounced, which her family noticed, Awashish said. 

WATCH | Premier Legault says all Quebecers deserve dignity, respect:

Quebec premier apologizes to Joyce Echaquan's loved ones

2 years ago
Duration 1:05
François Legault said the Quebec government has a duty to treat everyone with dignity and respect. He said Quebec failed that duty by allowing Joyce Echaquan to die amid racist taunts.

In a news release, the Atikamekw council of Manawan said the family and community members would not welcome Legault to the service because he will not acknowledge that systemic racism exists in Quebec. 

Although the apology is a step in the right direction, Awashish said, the province has a lot of work to do in terms of its relationship with Indigenous people. 

"We've been saying since the beginning: no one was saying all Quebecers are racist — just saying that how it was built, the policies in place — it was to minimize or put us aside," Awashish said. 

He said the Viens Commission's report is clear: Indigenous people are the subject of "systemic discrimination" in Quebec. 

"We are at a disadvantage with systemic discrimination," Awashish said. "We need the head of the state to recognize this." 

Quebec surgeon says cultural safety training is vital for health-care workers

2 years ago
Duration 4:48
Dr. Stanley Vollant, an Innu surgeon at Montreal's Notre-Dame hospital, said increasing training and cultural understanding is essential in the wake of the death of Joyce Echaquan.

This is the first step toward reconciliation, he said.

Quebec has ordered a public coroner's inquest into Echaquan's death, and a nurse and an orderly at the hospital have been fired.

In a statement Wednesday, the coroner's office said its mission would not be to determine criminal or civil responsibility, but instead to determine the "causes and circumstances" of Echaquan's death and to "formulate, if necessary, recommendations in order to avoid other similar deaths."

Hearings are expected to begin in 2021.

WATCH | Quebec surgeon says cultural safety training is vital for health-care workers:

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak

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