Joyce Echaquan, a 37-year-old Atikamekw woman and mother of seven, shared a video of hospital staff taunting her before she died on Monday, September 28. Echaquan was admitted to a hospital in Joliette, a city 30 miles northeast of Montreal in the southwest of Quebec, Canada, two days before her death. She had been experiencing stomach pain, CBC reported.
Echaquan is from Manawan, an Atikamekw community about 100 miles northeast of Montreal. Her family told the outlet that Echaquan had a history of heart trouble and they believe she was given too much morphine by hospital staff, which contributed to her death. The video streamed to Facebook Live by Echaquan prior to her death sparked a massive public outcry as she can be heard yelling and in pain while hospital staff insult and taunt her.
The Quebec government announced on Tuesday that in addition to an investigation by the coroner into Echaquan’s death, the government will launch an investigation of its own into the incident, according to a statement provided to La Presse.
The Video Streamed to Facebook Live by Echaquan Shows Her Calling out in Distress as Hospital Employees Insult Her
Echaquan started a Facebook Live video shortly before her death Monday. In the 7-minute video, which is available here (in French), hospital staff can be heard insulting the woman. Viewers should be advised that the video may disturb them. A shorter version with English subtitles provided by CBC News is available below:
In the video, the mother of seven can be heard pleading: “Come get me, someone, come get me.” She said she was receiving too much morphine. Later in the video, other voices from nurses or attendants can be heard insulting her, saying she’s “stupid as hell” and asking her, “Are you done acting stupid? Are you done?”
One hospital employee says, “You made some bad choices, my dear. What are your children going to think, seeing you like this?” Another replied, “She’s good at having sex, more than anything else.”
Echaquan’s husband, Carol Dubé, shared an emotional interview with Radio-Canada. He said, “It’s 2020. I don’t understand how something like this can still happen. My wife went to the hospital on Saturday for a stomach ache. Two days later, she’s dead. We saw her calling for help on Facebook,” he added, overcome with emotion. “We saw the degrading hospital staff. I have seven children who no longer have a mother. I am so sad.”
‘Justice for Joyce’ Vigils Are Taking Place Across the Country & First Nations Communities Are Calling for Action
Since Echaquan’s death, “Justice for Joyce” vigils have taken place near the hospital in Joliette and across First Nations communities in Quebec before spreading across Canada. The video sparked outrage, with many pointing to issues with systemic racism toward Indigenous communities in Canada.
As Global News reported, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged the video, offering his condolences to Echaquan’s family and saying, “All Canadians were shocked to see that video. It was the worst form of racism when she needed the most help. This is yet another example of systemic racism. It is quite simply unacceptable in Canada.”
The president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, Lorraine Whitman, told Global News she was horrified when she saw the video:
It was with disgust that we heard a nurse, a woman who was supposed to care for her, utter racial slurs rather than come to her aid. It makes us wonder how many other Indigenous women are being subjected to this sort of abuse in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada but did not have the courage or ability to film their own distress.
Ghislain Picard, the head of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador, said in a statement to CBC that this incident is just part of “too long of a series of dramas experienced by Indigenous women in public services.” Picard added:
I don’t know if she was a victim of abuse, but I do know that she was a victim of racism by the nurses who had to care for her. We know this because there is a video of this tragedy, and you can clearly hear the nurses insulting Joyce because she is Atikamekw, because she is Indigenous.
The Quebec premier, François Legault, condemned the actions of the hospital staff but denied the presence of systemic racism in the province. He said, “I really don’t think that we have this kind of way of dealing with First Nations people in our hospitals in Quebec. Yes, there is some racism in Quebec. We’re working on that.” He added that one of the nurses involved in this incident had been fired.