VAL D'OR -- Quebec will invest $27.4 million into Indigenous health-care services in the province, announced Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafreniere at a Friday news conference in Val-d'Or.

Of that amount, $12 million will go to the Minowe clinic, an initiative of the Val-d'Or Native Friendship Center (CAAVD) in operation since 2011, which plans to use the funds to provide perinatal health services for Indigenous women.

The Director General of CAAVD, Edith Cloutier, described the announcement as a “historic milestone” towards “harmony, reconciliation and reciprocity.”

This clinic will offer care services in an environment “designed and created for, by, and with Indigenous people,” said Cloutier, for an experience that is “culturally relevant, safe and meaningful.”

In partnership with the CISSS de l'Abitibi-Temiscamingue, Minowe offers medical, cultural care and healing services, explained Cloutier.


The remaining $15 million will be used to create similar clinics elsewhere in Quebec, although the funds have not yet been allocated to a specific project.

The general director of the Native Friendship Centres of Quebec, Tanya Sirois, affirmed she’s working with regional health boards and Indigenous friendship centres to develop “projects that have a local specificity.”

The 2019 Viens Commission, which examined the delivery of Quebec’s public services to Indigenous peoples, “recommended reproducing the example” given by the Minowe clinic, explained Lafreniere.

Also present at the meeting, Health Minister Christian Dube drew attention to the ongoing Joyce Echequan inquiry, stating that “the death of Ms. Echaquan has deeply shaken us all,” and that initiatives like Minowe allow “interventions and practices to be respectful and free from prejudice.”

Joyce Echaquan, an Atikamekw woman, died last fall in Joliette hospital after enduring racist slurs from staff members.

The coroner's inquest, which is underway, revealed that Echaquan was left unattended while sedated. What’s more, the cultural security liaison officer present at the scene had not been informed of the situation.

In response to the incident, the Atikamekw Nation, situated in the upper Saint-Maurice River Valley of Quebec, submitted an action plan called “Joyce's Principle” to various levels of government.

Premier Francois Legault’s administration, however, refused to adopt it.

In November 2020, the Quebec government granted $15 million to train hospital staff to better serve Indigenous patients.

-- This article was first published by the Canadian Press in French on May 28, 2021 with assistance from the Facebook and The Canadian Press News Exchanges.