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Joyce Echaquan: protest in Canada for treatment of dying indigenous woman

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A nurse was fired from a Canadian hospital after a video surfaced showing a dying indigenous woman screaming in distress and being insulted by staff.

Quebec Prime Minister Francois Legault said the nurse̵

7;s remarks were “unacceptable” and “racist”.

He said Joyce Echaquan’s death would be thoroughly investigated.

It is the latest in a series of incidents that have raised questions about the systemic racism faced by indigenous citizens of Canada.

In 2015, a report found that racism against indigenous people in the Canadian health system contributed to their overall poorer health outcomes, compared to non-indigenous Canadians.

What happened?

Ms. Echaquan, a 37-year-old Atikamekw woman, went to Joliette hospital about 70 km (45 miles) from Montreal suffering from stomach pains.

The mother of seven has filmed herself in her hospital bed screaming and asking for urgent help.

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A staff member can be heard saying to her, in French: “You’re a fool as hell.” Another says that Ms. Echaquan has made bad choices in life and asks what her children would think of her behavior.

Ms Echaquan died shortly after. Her relatives told Radio Canada that she had a history of heart problems and was concerned that she had been given too much morphine.

What was the reaction?

“The nurse, what she said, is totally unacceptable, she is racist and she was fired,” Premier Legault said at a press conference. “We have to fight this racism”.

He announced two investigations. One will be conducted by regional health authorities and the other by a forensic pathologist tasked with investigating deaths in suspicious circumstances or through negligence.

In a tweet, Canadian First Nations lawyer and politician Perry Bellegarde said the incident showed that discrimination against indigenous peoples in the Canadian health system remained prevalent.

Manawan’s Atikamekw council said the remarks “clearly demonstrate racism against the First Nations”.

Ghislain Picard, Grand Chief of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, said that racism is “very often the result of government policies that lead to systemic discrimination”.

Mary Hannaburg, vice president of Quebec Native Women, said the video is “a very difficult thing to hear and listen to,” broadcaster CBC reported.

“The statements that are made will not be tolerated. Those are racist in nature,” he said.

A vigil was held for Ms. Echaquan outside Joliette hospital on Tuesday evening and an online fundraising campaign was organized to support her children.

What is the background?

In recent years, Canada has come to terms with the racial injustice suffered by its natives.

A government investigation last year found that Canada was complicit in a “race-based genocide” against indigenous women.

The report says indigenous women are 12 times more likely to be killed or disappeared than other women in Canada. The investigation said the cause was entrenched colonialism and state inaction.

In June this year, video of indigenous leader Allan Adam being repeatedly punched by police while being arrested shocked the country.

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Multimedia captionPolice dashcam footage captures Allan Adam’s violent arrest

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada has a systemic racism problem “in all of our institutions, including all of our police forces.”

Also in June, health authorities in the province of British Columbia launched an investigation, claiming that some hospital staff were betting on indigenous patients’ blood alcohol levels.

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