Enough reports! Group calls on action on systemic racism and Indigenous empowerment
People take part in a protest called ‘Justice for Joyce’ in Montreal, Saturday, October 3, 2020, where they demanded Justice for Joyce Echaquan and an end to all systemic racism. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
MONTREAL -- The signatories of this letter are the members of the Board of Directors and management of Puamun Meshkenu, an organization founded and chaired by Dr. Stanley Vollant whose mission is to inspire and support Indigenous students to chart their own path of a thousand dreams ("Puamun Meshkenu" in Innu). The organization encourages Indigenous youth to contribute to collective well-being with the support of their communities, and acts to promote healthy lifestyles, encourage school perseverance and promote reconciliation.
The last few weeks have been marked by mourning, denunciation, indignation, and political rifts.
With good reason, thousands of people have denounced the tragic end of Joyce Echaquan and demanded justice for her. There are also many voices demanding profound changes to combat systemic racism. We would like to echo these demands, while remembering that the first victims of this tragedy are her family, the community of Manawan and the Atikamekw Nation, to whom we offer our deepest condolences.
However, as Indigenous people heal their wounds and demand justice, Canadian society must mobilize to offer hope to Indigenous youth and ways to take control of their destiny, with a positive message.
Today, we call on governments and on Canadian society as a whole to turn Joyce Echaquan's nightmare into a dream for First Nations youth. We are calling on political leaders to attend an emergency meeting convened by Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller on Friday to discuss issues of racism in Canada's healthcare systems.
Besides the necessary debates on the recognition of systemic racism, we have another message: we must give young people in our communities the opportunity to project themselves into a future where they are in full possession of their means. It is essential to convince them that they are not condemned in advance to become excluded from society, or to become victims like Joyce Echaquan.
From our grief is born an even stronger will to continue our mission with Puamun Meshkenu (The Path of a Thousand Dreams): to give hope to Indigenous youth, convincing them that they must dream of a better future for themselves. And our dream: that Indigenous peoples be able to develop their full potential and contribute to the collective well-being.
However, our dream for Indigenous youth cannot be realized without the full recognition by the governments of the social issues that are detrimental to the development of Indigenous peoples.
Numerous commissions were established to report on the discrimination, racism and injustices experienced by the Indigenous people of this country (Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, National Enquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and the Public Inquiry Commission on Relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Quebec).
Solutions are already identified to begin a real process of collective healing.
Political leaders, both Canadian and Indigenous, must listen and observe what is currently happening in civil society. This is not about reinventing the wheel: several organizations like ours are already at work and mobilizing on the ground.
Ten years ago, the founder of Puamun Meshkenu, Dr. Stanley Vollant, began a 6,000-kilometer walk through Indigenous communities and territories to inspire its youth. In the wake of this project, the Mini School of Health was created with a dual purpose: to enable non-Indigenous medical students to enrich their education by going to meet our students; and on the other hand, to introduce Indigenous youth to the health professions and stimulate their interest in such a career path.
We have also initiated a Young Ambassadors program, a leadership program aimed at helping young Indigenous women to develop their ambitions, for themselves and their communities. These are just two examples of many other initiatives by organizations like ours.
More than ever, the sad events at Joliette Hospital make us believe that Indigenous youth must professionally integrate and contribute to the healthcare system for the benefit of all. However, all must contribute, so the future of our young people can be more positive.
We are convinced that the future lies in working together towards a common goal, for Indigenous students and by Indigenous students, and in partnership with Quebec and Canadian society.
We are convinced that constructive collaborations filled with respect, honesty, transparency, and a will for reconciliation, are key to creating a society in which everyone will have an equal chance to achieve their dreams. This is what we wish for Joyce Echaquan’s children and extended family.
Woliwon komac! Malécite
- Dr. Stanley Vollant, Surgeon, President of Puamun Meshkenu, Innu
- Suzy Basile, Board member, Professor
- Denis Bouchard, Author, director and actor, Quebecer
- Sarah Bourque,Ph.D, Board Member, Puamun Meshkenu
- Eric Cardinal, Vice-President of Acosys and Lecturer (Canadian Law and Indigneous Peoples) at the University of Montreal
- Ricky Fontaine, Board Member, Puamun Meshkenu
- Sabryna Godbout, Secretary-Treasurer and Youth Representative, Puamun Meshkenu
- Victoria LaBillois, MBA, President of Wejuseg Construction
- Thierry Leblond, Board Member, Puamun Meshkenu
- Véronique Rankin, Executive Director, Anicinape