Ottawa hosting meeting on healthcare racism amid outrage over Joyce Echaquan death

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett will host a meeting with provincial counterparts, healthcare workers and Indigenous leaders on Friday aimed at starting the work to fight systemic racism in Canadian healthcare.

The plan comes after outrage over the way Joyce Echaquan, an Indigenous mother of seven from Quebec, was treated by nurses at a Joliette hospital shortly before her death last month.

“The healthcare system failed Joyce Echaquan. It failed Indigenous people. It was a failure of all levels of government,” said Miller at a press conference on Thursday.

“This is not a new concern but it is an urgent one.”

Three separate investigations are underway in Quebec into the treatment that Echaquan, 37, received when she sought help for stomach pains late last month.

While in hospital, Echaquan livestreamed a video from her hospital bed which showed hospital staff making derogatory comments about her.

“I think you have trouble taking care of yourself, so we’re going to do it for you,” one of the women in the video said in French.

“Are you done messing around? You’re dumb as hell,” another said.

“You made bad choices, my dear. What do you think your children would think, seeing you like this? Think of them,” said the first woman again.

“She’s only good for sex. And we’re paying for this,” added the second woman.

Miller had pledged last week to convene an urgent meeting in light of the matter, which has prompted outrage across the country including in the House of Commons and the streets of Montreal.

Indigenous advocates have pointed to the fact this is not the first time an Indigenous person has died after receiving poor treatment by staff at a hospital, with some pointing back to the death of Winnipeg man Brian Sinclair more than a decade ago.

The meeting on Friday will include roughly 200 people from healthcare associations, federal and provincial governments and Indigenous leaders in an effort to map out a better way forward.

Miller said although healthcare is a jurisdiction “jealously guarded” by the provinces, the federal government has a “moral obligation” to do what it can when problems like systemic racism are not being adequately addressed.

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