A group created in memory of Joyce Echequan says Quebec’s cultural safety bill doesn’t go far enough, in part because of the government’s persistent refusal to acknowledge the existence of systemic racism.
The group, Joyce’s Principe Office, spoke during the second and final day of consultations on Bill 32 in the National Assembly.
The legislation aims to implement cultural safety practices in the health system for Indigenous patients.
But Jennifer Petiquay-Dufresne, executive director of the Office of the Joyce Principle, says the Atikamekw community was not adequately consulted during the drafting of the bill.
She said Bill 32 doesn’t go far enough and won’t make any changes unless it is amended to include the Joyce Principle – a series of measures the community proposed after Echequan’s death three years ago.
“We were deeply uncomfortable seeing Minister Lafrenière repeatedly use Joyce’s memory, objectifying her cause, for his own political gain,” Petiquay-Dufresne told reporters Wednesday.
“If he wants to use Joyce’s memory in this way, we need to see concrete results.”
Echequan died at a hospital in Joliette, Quebec, just moments after filming nurses hurling insults at her.
As it stands, Echequan is mentioned in the preamble to Bill 32, but there is no mention of the Joyce Principle in the bill itself, an aspect criticized by many.
Innu surgeon Dr. Stanley Vollant, who also spoke at the hearing, believes that the addition of Joyce’s principle, as well as the recognition of systemic racism in the bill, are necessary steps to establish the trust with Indigenous patients.
He says many patients in Manawan and the province’s indigenous communities are still hesitant to see a doctor, leading to higher mortality rates.
“They are afraid of being mistreated, of not being treated equally and of having more complications, more chances of dying,” Vollant said.
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Quebec’s Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Ian Lafrenière, refused Thursday to add the words “systemic racism” to the bill.
“The reason we disagree with this is that every time we use [the word], people tend to close themselves off and my job is to fight against racism. This is what we do,” he said.
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