Opinion: We call on Quebec to adopt Joyce's Principle in Quebec health care
Published Tuesday, February 2, 2021 4:44PM EST
A picture of Joyce Echaquan is seen during a vigil in front of the hospital where she died in Joliette, Que. on Tuesday, September 29, 2020. A nurse has been fired after Echaquan, an Indigenous woman, who was dying Monday night in hospital was subjected to degrading remarks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
MONTREAL -- style="padding: 5px;"> The Quebec Nurses' Association has published a statement, calling on Quebec and Canada to adopt Joyce's Principle. The letter is below.
A year before the death of Joyce Echaquan, which occurred on Sept. 28, 2020, the Viens Commission declared that the Indigenous peoples of Quebec were victims of systemic discrimination:
“Whether it is on the basis of physical health, mental health, justice, life expectancy, parenthood, housing or income, the difficulties experienced by the Indigenous peoples of Quebec clearly demonstrate the failure of the public system to meet their needs. For this, we are collectively responsible. " - Jacques Viens (2019), commissioner of the inquiry on the relations between Indigenous peoples and certain public services in Quebec
To date, the actions taken following the recommendations of Viens Commission are insufficient. In order to express solidarity with all First Nations, Inuit and Métis people across the province, the Quebec Nurses’ Association (QNA) is joining the collective effort to have Joyce's Principle adopted in all our health and education institutions and workplaces. The QNA, whose mandate is to represent the political voice of nurses, recognizes the problem of systemic racism within institutional structures in Quebec and calls on professional groups, such as all health, education, and labour organizations/institutions, to take a strong stand and condemn systemic racism within their organizations.
Systemic racism is an insidious form of discrimination established in our public institutions. A legacy that was formed during the European colonization that was never questioned. Systemic racism does not automatically equate to individual racism, but rather reflects our institutional culture. Stating that our structures are built on racist ideologies opens up discussion and reflection on our own culture. Understanding others without discrimination will promote a humane, non-discriminatory care practice. Without explicit confirmation of the presence of such problems, little changes or actions will lead to positive results.
Joyce Echaquan's death is a demonstration of the systemic racism that has long endured in our public services. This is not an isolated case. For decades, health-care workers have been used to support racist health policies, but also as a colonizing force. In November 2020, the Council of the Atikamekw of Manawan and the Council of the Atikamekw Nation presented a brief to the governments of Quebec and Canada calling for the adoption of the "Joyce’s Principle." The Legault government refused to do so, in part because it persists in denying the existence of systemic racism. Joyce's Principle is a call to action and a formal commitment from governments, in response to the death of Joyce Echaquan, an Atikamekw woman, at the hands of racist medical professionals. Joyce's Principle includes six concrete recommendations, so that the intolerable and unacceptable situation, which led to the death of this courageous mother, ceases. It aims to guarantee all Indigenous peoples’ right to equitable access, without any discrimination, to all social and health services. It contains several concrete examples that ensure that Indigenous communities have the right to enjoy the best possible standard of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
Joyce's Principle is applicable in all health organizations, professional orders, health establishments, and educational settings; this includes the QNA, who initiated the calls to action of Joyce's Principle. Committed to ensuring better representation of Indigenous communities, the QNA has formally adopted Joyce Principle and started adapting its application to our functioning. Faithful to statement number 3 of Joyce's Principle, the QNA strongly affirms that in order to reduce stigma and prejudice towards Indigenous peoples with regard to health, we have a duty, collectively and individually, to educate ourselves and to reflect upon our actions as well as to confront racist acts and injustices when we witness them.
The QNA, as a politically informed body, is committed to continuing its efforts, towards its members and the nursing community in general, to develop concrete and lasting solutions, and invites all health, education, and labour organizations / institutions to do the same. Finally, the QNA urges municipal governments, the Government of Quebec and the Government of Canada to adopt Joyce's Principle and to apply its recommendations.
- Position statement by the Quebec Nurses' Association