Atikamekw nation criticizes Quebec report on racism as fragmented and lacking Indigenous consultation
MONTREAL -- The Atikamekw nation says the 25 recommendations to counter racism in Quebec announced Monday raises more questions than answers.
In a statement from four Atikamekw councils, leaders in the nation say they received the recommendations with a "dose of uncertainty."
“It looks like the core issues have yet to be addressed," said Manawan Chief Paul-Emile Ottawa. "Concrete proposals were offered in the brief for Joyce's Principle to achieve changes with an impact on all health and social services. However, these do not seem to have been taken into account in the recommendations offered. We hope that the awakening linked to Joyce's death will lead to some groundwork.”
The report made several recommendations including reforming the province's ethics and religious culture courses to make young students aware of the fight against racism.
The second part of Quebec's "Strong Measures for a Society Without Racism" report deals with the Indigenous reality in the province (See all the recommendations related to Indigenous people below).
The Atikamekw release says that leaders welcome the structure of the CAQ's plan, and that the recommendations consider Indigenous people's realities in the province, but that the nature of the recommendations is fragmented and that Indigenous people are not seen as "active agents of change."
There is also, the release reads, a "lack of clear mechanisms" so the 11 nations of Quebec can take part in the changes.
“Indigenous people are represented as users of services, but our contribution as dynamic actors, part of solutions, is unfortunately not fully represented here," said Wemotaci Chief Francois Neashit. "We believe this is how real changes in relationships can take place."
Opitciwan Chief Jean-Claude Mequish said the recommendations do not seem to come from the Indigenous nations in the province.
“They seem disconnected from our reality," he said. "The report is very simplistic on the Indigenous issue."
The Atikamekw nation compiled a report title "Joyce's Principle," named after Joyce Echaquan, who died in Joliette Hospital after being mocked and taunted by hospital staff.
The CAQ government refused to adopt the report because it implies recognition of systemic racism in Quebec.
Premier Francois Legault has repeated that he denies there is systemic racism in the province, and wants to focus on actions and not labels.
"I prefer to have a debate about actions than a debate about words," Legault told CTV News anchor Mutsumi Takahashi Monday.
The Atikamekw nation, which has drawn attention to racism in the province, would have liked to have been involved in the report's creation.
“We have received the report. We were not invited to take part in its development. We have been in action since Joyce's tragic death, we want to work together and we want our skills to be recognized. For the moment, upon reading these recommendations, one wonders how all this will take shape, how the work will be articulated in this direction and how the dialogue from Nation to Nation will be able to materialize," said Atikamekw Nation Grand Chief Constant Awashish.
The following recommendations are those that pertain to Indigenous people in Quebec's report:
14 - Include in the national anti-racism awareness campaign a specific component on the realities of Indigenous peoples, to continually inform the public about the racism and discrimination experienced by First Nations and Inuit people.
15 - Make the professional orders aware of the importance of training their members on Indigenous realities.
16 - Make the history and current realities of Indigenous people in Québec a mandatory part of initial teacher training programs.
17 - Change the academic curriculum at the primary and secondary levels to update concepts related to the history, cultures, heritage and current realities of Indigenous peoples in Québec and Canada and their impact on society.
18 - Introduce continual, mandatory training on Indigenous realities for government employees.
19 - End the informal practice of prohibiting people from speaking Indigenous languages while receiving public services.
20 - Make the ban on random police stops mandatory.
21 - Add Indigenous social services workers to some police services to create mixed patrol teams.
22 - Increase the resources of Indigenous community organizations that promote access to justice for First Nations and Inuit people.
23 - Improve the capacity of the justice system to address the heritage and life trajectory of Indigenous offenders by granting more resources for the use of the Gladue principle specific to First Nations and Inuit people.
24 - Improve the quality and availability of interpretation services in Indigenous languages for better access to justice.
25 - Increase resources allocated to off-reserve housing.