“One day they are going to kill me”: Joyce Echaquan killed by Canada’s racist Healthcare system

37 year old Joyce Echaquan, a member of the Atikamekw Nation died in a Joliette hospital shortly after posting a Facebook livestream video detailing degrading, racist treatment at the hands of her nurses. 

By Starla Myers

JOLIETTE, QC – Joyce Echaquan’s harrowing video recording of mistreatment in a Canadian hospital is a painful reminder of just how deadly Canada’s racism is for Indigenous people. 

Echaquan’s 72km trip from her home on the Manawan Indian reservation to the Centre Hospitalier de Lanaudière in Joliette, Quebec resulted in her death. 

Echaquan’s health had been affected by ailments caused by colonial encroachment on her people’s lifeways. In a phone interview held on Thursday with Real People’s Media, family friend Chantal Chartrand reported that Echaquan attended the Emergency department on Saturday, Sept. 26th to seek treatment for stomach pains, and that by Monday, Sept. 28th, she was dead.

While in the hospital, Echaquan made a Facebook livestream video of her treatment. As Echaquan writhed in pain, the hospital staff could be heard saying in French… “You’re stupid as hell…” “You made some bad choices, my dear,” while another nurse says, “What are your children going to think, seeing you like this?” “She’s good at having sex, more than anything else,” the first nurse responded. Shortly after recording the video, Echaquan passed away. Her family awaits the results of the autopsy and is preparing for legal action

Speaking to the CBC, Amir Attaran, a professor in the Faculty of Law and School of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Ottawa, stated that the medical staff “Acted callously; they acted in a way they knew was unsafe; they acted with hatred; they acted with negligence.” 

Standards and procedures

There are standard practices within each hospital in Canada that are meant to ensure the best possible outcomes for the patient, and Quebec is no different. The staff are responsible for their actions to their employer and the governing bodies which grant them their licenses as health professionals. 

Joyce had a documented medical history stemming from a serious heart condition at the Hospitalier de Lanaudière and she visited there as recently as August of 2020. This medical history listed allergies and sensitivities, diagnoses, required interventions, next of kin, and even how many children she had. Gathering this information is standard for every hospital in Canada to avoid adverse events and make the best possible medical decisions by her multi-disciplinary team. Her medical team should have known that the risks outweigh the benefits of administering certain opiates in patients like Joyce who have cardiac issues. 

This was not the first time Joyce endured racist treatment at the Joliette Hospital. Joyce’s friend Chantal Chartran told Real People’s Media that, “Joyce said one day they are going to kill me.” Chartrand added, “I know that the people at this hospital tried to convince her to have an abortion when she was pregnant with her last child. Joyce said “absolutely not, I do not believe in abortion.” Echaquan was already a mother to six children at the time. 

In her livestream video, Joyce had been restrained, and her presentation was consistent with respiratory distress and delirium which are both medical emergencies. Her live stream video, which lasted over seven minutes, is quite telling and reveals specific examples of racism faced by indigenous people in Canada. 

What it did not capture is the treatment that she had been receiving until that point, which demonstrates the escalation of abuse by these nurses and potentially the entire medical team. 

Certain racial and cultural dynamics had to be present to allow and accommodate the nurses racist behaviour in a professional environment. These nurses would have had the perception they have worked hard and earned the dominance afforded to them by their privilege, and blamed the victim in her vulnerable state for “leeching” off the system. They exert their racist behaviour by speaking freely and loudly in a room that did not meet privacy and dignity standards; they knew that no one would question their actions, and did not care who heard their racist words. 

As Echaquan’s friend Chartrand wondered out loud, “What if she didn’t record this, what would they have said, that she just died?”

Canada’s health care discrimination rooted in Colonialism

The thought that Indigenous people are benefiting from “free handouts” is a direct result of Canada’s colonial foundations. Such thinking suggests that the original people could not care for themselves and subsequently, that the “savages” required state-sponsored rescuing.  

When Premiers or Ministers deny the existence of systemic racism, they validate the behaviour of abusive medical staff by not holding them and the system itself accountable for racist outcomes. 

Canada prides itself as being a leader in medical technology, in eradicating certain illnesses and increasing people’s life span from chronic disease – unless you’re Native! The average Canadian can expect to live until they’re 82 and half years old. The average Indigenous person living in Canada has a life expectancy 15 years shorter then that. 

Echaquan’s death reminds us of the true cost of Canada’s racism towards Indigenous people. As Carol Dube, Joyce’s husband said in an interview with Global TV:

“How many more people need to die so that finally we recognize that there is systemic racism against us Indigenous people? I am convinced that my wife died because systemic racism contaminated the Joliette hospital.”

Real People’s Media is aware that Onkwehon:we people have faced racism and discrimination at many Canadian health institutions. If you have a story to tell about your experiences you can reach us at realpeoplesmedia@gmail.com

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3 Responses

  1. linda says:

    Unless I miss my mark, seems to me that Prime Minister is smirking while speaking, all the way to his eyes. It`s funny, is it. A joke of sorts. An inquiry. They`re fired. Oh. Well. Praise the Lord for huge sacrifices and smirking jokers. I was going to say, Québecers will understand these behaviors are going to stop where the perpetrators are concerned. However only at a specific location by specific guilty individuals (being fired by current employer). I read on the site of “Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec” that they number 76 000 members (nurses).
    And as soon as they state that they have activated mecanisms for public safety regarding this case and yes death, they go onto stating that they will be waiting for a coroner`s inquest, and the doubts of wrong doing regarding the lodging of a formal complaint to the highest level which is the “Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec” depends on the results of a coroner???!!? I don`t think so. I don`t even close to think so. You had better get ready to make A LOT of noise if this doesn`t make it to the Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec`s Disciplinary Counsel, of your own accord folks. And the time is now.
    To the Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec, you are there as a large Organization, to protect the public. Do your job. This is your idea of responsibility? Code de déontologie, section 3.1 * L`infirmier ou l`infirmière doit prendre les moyens nécessaires pour assurer le respect de la dignité et de l`intégrité du client*, section 2 * L`infirmière ou l`infirmier ne peut refuser de fournir des services professionnels à une personne en raison de la race, la couleur, le sexe, la grossesse, (..), l`état civil, l`âge, la condition sociale, (…)”.
    We`re gonna keep it on the hush hush until we get the coroner`s results. I don`t think so. Sounds to me like it`s already being swept under the rug. Do not leave this in their field to play with, in the coroner`s inquest results for them to determine whether Mrs. Achaquan`s death and mistreatment are worthy of a reprimand beyond termination of current employment, which is found and founded within a formal Complaint presented to the Disciplinary Counsel of the Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec by a member-s of the public.
    All of Canada has knowledge of Mrs. Achaquan`s treatment in Lanaudière`s hospital. We are watching. We will be watching to see what their professional reprimand`s will be for the racism and abuse they delivered to an Indigenous woman who did not receive a basic level of CARE. How freggen dare you Quebec. Treat Indigenous women this way in 2020. Where are your principles? Maybe that`s why there is RACISM in your circles??!! There are no if`s about Disciplinary actions within the Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec in relation to these respective licenses to practice nursing. Get out of the 1900`s and join the real world with a level of EXPECTED care. Reprimand from the highest level of one`s occupation, is a whole other sphere than being fired by one`s employer and having the option and reputation to move along. Yes they kick their lunch boxes down the street from the hospital and pack their little lockers. However, YOU ARE NOT OFF THE HOOK as a professional, REGARDLESS of the coroner`s inquest. By virtue of PROOF, you are found to be guilty of breaching the trust and responsibility entrusted to you by THE PUBLIC, as a member of the Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec. Get out of the dark ages Québec. Their behavior is abhorent. Family and the PUBLIC can launch this complaint. And you WILL accept it, receive it, deal with it and deliver a just decision.
    Do not let this get brushed under the carpet and silently, waiting on a coroner`s inquest to determine and depict the victim in a certain light and say she died of her own natural causes and effect. That does nothing to address a formal complaint lodged against the nurses, to the Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec.
    “La démarche devient publique seulement s`il y a dépôt d`une plainte devant le Conseil de discipline”. Excuse me?? There`s no if`s here for a complaint, to the Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec. This complaint needs to come from whoever has that video (sister? cousin?) plus everyone who supports a Disciplinary complaint based on what they`ve seen. Because what you`re asking/ demanding is accountability. From them. Not just the job site (the hospital). Their governing bodies of employment. And that`s the Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec. Teachers have these too. You get your ass canned quite possibly if you find yourself there, in a situation (Revocation of license to practice). If not, a Reprimand, a Suspension with additional obligatory training at your own expense, your name and case published are possibilities. Push this like it`s a birth. That`s why there`s racism. “They`ve been fired”. Ya, end? It`s expected. You havn`t announced a birth here. Québec`s behind. Use this as the vehicle for demanded, long coming and lasting change.
    And one more thing. Women against women, is that you Quebec? Bitter towards Indigenous women? I smell a protest for that hospital. With a wide population of Indigenous women leading, who can relate told and shared experiences at said hospital and surrounding hospitals. Bare it. Bare it right down to the bone. To show where discrimination got its roots and how it is on going, has not been brought to light/truth. There has not been improvement. Therefore there is no healing. The disrespect continues. Air that crap out. To breathe new life in. You can`t change what you don`t /won`t/ can`t / aren`t permitted to acknowledge. Too bad. Bust through. Anyone in leadership that then denies, plays it down, brushes it off, smiles in the face of it, will with time, be lead to the exit door.
    Si tu témoignes de la discrimination, sois une voix qui affirme tes convictions. Bouche leur la yeule avec une dose d`humilité qui voit le jour avec l`action de remettre en question l`acte d`un autre qui ose tenter de mal agir à l`égard d`un autre. C`est ça dénoncer, s`affirmer et être un être humain digne et intègre.

  2. linda says:

    *I misspelled her name I apologize. In a comment I wrote

  1. November 3, 2020

    […] relationship.Perhaps the perpetrators directly involved in deaths of Onkwehon:we people such as Joyce Echaquan, Tyson McKay, Ina Mapawat, Tracy Okemow and Debra Chrisjohn had an understanding that these people […]

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