MONTREAL -- Opposition parties at the National Assembly are calling out Quebec’s new Indigenous affairs minister after the CAQ government refused to table a motion to adopt Joyce’s Principle.

Named after Joyce Echaquan, an Atikamekw woman who was harassed and berated by nursing staff as she lay dying at the Joliette Hospital, Joyce’s Principle is a call to action, aiming to ensure Indigenous people have equal access to "the highest standard" of government-run health services. Drawn up by the Atikamekw nation, it calls for Indigenous care without discrimination to all health and social services and the recognition of Indigenous traditions.

The CAQ refused to consider the motion because it implies recognition of systemic racism in Quebec, the existence of which the government has repeatedly denied. 

Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafreniere said the government it doesn’t agree on the “definition of systemic racism" in Quebec. Though he agrees with the concrete measures of the principle, with some exceptions. he said that rejecting it is "not going to fight us stopping racism.”

Jacques-Cartier MNA Gregory Kelley said Lafreniere should play a role in convincing the CAQ caucus to change course and recognize systemic racism.

“He’s made some positive announcements, and I’m looking forward to working with him going forward. But on this one, I’m really asking him to step up to fight within, inside his own party to push them towards accepting these two words and moving forward as a society,” said Kelley, who pointed to Lafreniere's former role as a police office in Montreal. “He just has to look no further than his former police force, the SPVM, who has recognized there is systemic discrimination, racial profiling within their own organisation.”

Kelley’s opinion was supported by Quebec Solidaire spokesperson Manon Massé.

“If you do not recognize the systemic racism, how can you have systemic solutions? It’s impossible,” she said.