Indigenous

2 years after death of Joyce Echaquan, Quebec Health Ministry vows to improve Indigenous-awareness training

Quebec government representatives say discussions will occur about improving the province's mandatory Indigenous awareness training that was deployed to health-care workers following the death of Joyce Echaquan.

Mandatory training was deployed in the wake of Echaquan's death in 2020

Dozens of people marched to commemorate the two-year anniversary of Joyce Echaquan's death in Manawan, Que., Wednesday. (Marie-Laure Josselin/Radio-Canada)

Quebec government representatives say discussions will occur about improving the province's mandatory Indigenous awareness training that was deployed to health-care workers following the death of Joyce Echaquan.

The 37-year-old Atikamekw mother of seven died in a Joliette, Que., hospital in 2020 after filming herself being subjected to insulting comments from staff.

Quebec's Ministry of Health and Social Services (MSSS) developed compulsory training for all its health-care workers after a coroner's report found racism and discrimination contributed to Echaquan's death.

Indigenous health-care workers feel the 90-minute online training is inadequate, as it lacks concepts of cultural safety and references to Echaquan.

"We fully understand the criticisms that are made in connection with training," said Marie-Helene Émond, media relations officer with the MSSS.

"In the interests of continuous improvement, the MSSS will continue discussions and work to improve existing training."

Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafrenière also said in a statement to Radio-Canada that the training is just one of the measures taken to address how Echaquan was treated.

"If communities believe that it is not adequate, it must be improved," he said.

"We will leave the experts, the Ministry of Health and the communities to make these decisions, together."

Minister Responsible for Indigenous Affairs Ian Lafrenière and Minister of Public Security Geneviève Guilbault arrive for a memorial marking the first anniversary of the death of Joyce Echaquan in Joliette, Que., on Sept. 28, 2021. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Lafrenière said the Coalition Avenir Québec government, which is looking to be re-elected next week, has also invested $27 million to support clinical projects for Indigenous people in urban areas, such as at the Val-d'Or Native Friendship Centre, and has added navigators to better adapt services to Indigenous people.

Native Women's Association of Canada writes to health minister

Several First Nations advocates added their voices to the calls for reforming the training, as well as additional measures that respond to the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Quebec's Viens Commission, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and Joyce's Principle — a call by the leadership in Echaquan's Atikamekw community to guarantee Indigenous people the right to equitable access to social and health services.

"Effective training must recognize the history of colonialism so that it can be corrected," said Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) president Carol McBride.

"It's just very upsetting when you find out that people that have gone through this so-called training are not satisfied with it."

Short-haired individual wearing glasses and a blue and black shawl, looking upwards.
Carol McBride is president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada. (Lindsey Gibeau)

McBride, who is from Timiskaming First Nation in western Quebec, wrote a letter to provincial Health Minister Christian Dubé, urging him to meet with Indigenous experts to co-create an Indigenous-led training program and to employ other measures recommended by key reports for ending discrimination in the health-care system.

"Receiving health care in a non-racist, non-discriminatory, culturally safe environment is a human right," said McBride.

Training needs to be 'scrapped'

Nakuset, executive director of the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal, said the "current training needs to be scrapped."

"A new one needs to be created," she told CBC Radio's The Current on Wednesday.

"But what you need is for it to be compulsory and you need to have an exam … because sometimes it feels like training is sort of voluntary, you don't really have to pay attention, you can be on your phone while it's going on. It needs to be as serious as a first aid course."

Nakuset is the executive director of the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal. She says new training should be developed. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC)

Dr. Stanley Vollant, an Innu surgeon at Notre-Dame Hospital in Montreal, told CBC Montreal's Daybreak this week that he's looking forward to seeing more action.

"We have to build a culturally safe system but that is going to take a lot of time," he said.

"We put a brick, but to build this building we have to make the time to make it safe and much better."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ka’nhehsí:io Deer is a Kanien’kehá:ka journalist from Kahnawà:ke, Que. She is currently a reporter with CBC Indigenous covering communities across Quebec.

with files from Radio-Canada's Laurence Niosi, CBC Montreal's Daybreak, and the Current.

now