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March organized in honour of Joyce Echaquan 3 years after her death at Quebec hospital

Three years to the day after Joyce Echaquan died in a hail of racist insults at the Centre hospitalier régional de Lanaudière in Joliette, her memory will be honoured at a march in the city on Thursday evening.

Participants in the memorial march will gather at 6 p.m. in front of the Lanaudiere Native Friendship Centre. Echaquan's spouse, Carol Dubé, and the Chief of the Manawan Atikamekw Council, Sipi Flamand, will be taking part in the event.

On Sept. 28, 2020, Echaquan, a 37-year-old Atikamekw woman, broadcast to Quebec and beyond the treatment she was receiving at the hospital in Joliette through a Facebook live video in which she was heard being insulted by hospital employees shortly before her tragic death.

Coroner Géhane Kamel ruled in her report on the causes and circumstances of Echaquan's death, filed in September 2021, that "the racism and prejudice Ms. Echaquan faced were certainly contributory factors in her death."

The report concludes, however, that the death was accidental.

"The death of the mother of eight from Manawan must not be forgotten," said Jennifer Petiquay-Dufresne, executive director of the Joyce Principle Office, which helped to organize the march.

"It's important to remember the woman she was, what she did in the community, who she was as a woman, as a mother, as a person in general, and to say: how can we join together to make things change from now on," says Petiquay-Dufresene in an interview. "In the community, it's still very striking. These are situations that were happening before Joyce (and) have continued to happen since Joyce."

Petiquay-Dufresne pointed out that incidents of discrimination against Indigenous people in the health-care system are reported to the Joyce Principle Office weekly.

The office opened its doors last July in Manawan. The aim of the organization is to apply the Joyce Principle, which is designed to "guarantee all Indigenous people the right of equitable access, without discrimination, to all health and social services, as well as the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health," as stated on the office's website.

"We have a number of projects underway, which we hope to be able to talk about more fully towards the end of autumn, early winter," said Petiquay-Dufresne.

She added that these projects "will have concrete repercussions for the safety and equity of access to health care for Indigenous people."

The office is also pursuing its mission to promote and adopt the Joyce Principle with various partners in the fields of health, education and the various levels of government.

The Quebec government does not recognize systemic racism and has not adopted the Principle.

For Petiquay-Dufresne, in order to tackle discrimination, "we have to recognize the problem, and we have to be able to move forward with it."

Joyce's Principle Office is nevertheless hopeful, she said.

"We are hopeful that the rights of Indigenous people can be respected in the short and medium term."

Musical performances by Laura Niquay and Mikon Niquay Ottawa will be presented at the event in honour of Echaquan, which aims to "honour her life."

With files from Ugo Giguère

- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Sept. 28, 2023. Top Stories


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