Joyce Echaquan 'had bruises everywhere,' family tells coroner as inquest continues
WARNING: This article contains details that may be disturbing to some readers
When Stéphane Echaquan saw his sister cry out for help in a Facebook video, he rushed to the Joliette, Que., hospital as quickly as he could. But when he got there, it was already too late.
"I never thought I'd see her like that — restrained like an animal," Echaquan said Friday.
Joyce Echaquan was 37 when she died at the Centre hospitalier régional de Lanaudière in Joliette, just days after being admitted there for stomach pains. She filmed her final moments in a Facebook video, as hospital staff hurled racist insults at her.
Her brother was the first to testify Friday, as the coroner's inquest into her death continued.
Quebec Coroner Géhane Kamel also heard testimony from Echaquan's daughter, sister-in-law, her cousin and a close friend.
Echaquan's daughter, Wasianna Echaquan Dubé, who testified Thursday, was asked to do so again Friday, following a special request by the family's lawyer, Patrick Martin-Ménard.
A video shot by the daughter was shown to the courtroom, the contents of which is under a publication ban.
Relatives describe bruising, restraints
When Stéphane Echaquan arrived at the hospital on Sept. 28, he was told his sister Joyce was already dead.
"They told me to leave immediately," he said. "When I entered the room she was in, I saw her lying down — restrained. … She had bruises."
Echaquan said he took photos of the bruises which will be shown to the coroner later on in the inquest.
Joyce Echaquan's sister-in-law, Jemima Dubé, also testified to seeing the bruises.
Dubé said Echaquan called her in the early hours of Sept. 28 and begged her to come and get her because she was scared.
Eventually, Dubé found a lift and rushed there.
"I entered the hospital and I looked for Joyce," she said. "No one would help me. It was like I was invisible."
Finally, she was told to wait in a room reserved for families, where she was met by a translator.
She said a doctor told her that, although they had tried for 45 minutes to resuscitate her, Joyce Echaquan was dead.
In shock, Dubé stumbled her way out.
"It was like I was blinded. My breathing was weak. When I got outside, I cried, without knowing I was crying."
Dubé then re-entered the hospital and saw Echaquan's body, "still restrained by her wrists, her feet, and her waist," said Dubé.
"She had bruises everywhere. When I tried holding her hand, it was still warm. But it became cold later."
At several points throughout the testimony Thursday, the coroner called on those listening to have compassion.
When Dubé shared her testimony, Kamel expressed emotion.
"I need to catch my breath because what you just shared was really touching," she told Dubé.
Brother describes issues of racism in health-care system
Stéphane Echaquan said that in the years leading up to his sister's death, she often spoke of issues she had at the hospital in Joliette.
"She would say she wouldn't get treated the same," said Echaquan. "That every time she would go there, they would give her sedatives."
Echaquan had his own distrust of the medical establishment, to the point where he put off seeking treatment for his kidney issues.
He said his father, and other Manawan community members, prefer the hospital in Trois-Rivières. He said their distrust in the medical system only grew after his sister's death.
Echaquan called the situation unacceptable and says no one should be treated differently because of their nationality of their cultural background.
"We are all of the same flesh and bone," he said. "There is no reason why we should die in circumstances like that of Joyce." And the issues of racism go far beyond the walls of the Joliette hospital, he said.
He said his children have suffered from bullying at their Trois-Rivières school in the aftermath of his sister's death.
"They will kill you like they did your aunt," Echaquan said one of his children was told.