An Atikamekw woman in a Quebec hospital recorded staff hurling insults and racial slurs at her just moments before she died. According to CBC Canada, Joyce Echaquan went to the hospital with a stomach ache on Saturday (Sept. 27).
“Two days later, she died,” her husband, Carol Dubé, told the outlet.
As she lay in the hospital bed, the mother of seven began a Facebook Live video broadcast that captured the hospital staff aggressively dismissing her cries for help. Echaquan’s relatives told Radio-Canada that she had a history of heart issues. They believe staff gave her too much morphine.
In the disturbing video, Echaquan can be heard yelling in distress. In response, staff call her “stupid,” “better off dead” and accuse her of just “fooling around.” One staff member tells her, “You’re stupid as hell,” while others cast racial slurs and say she made bad life choices.
After watching the video, Echaquan’s husband said it’s clear the hospital staff were refusing to help her and questioned how these racist actions were allowed in the hospital.
“I have seven children who find themselves without a mother,” he said. “I am sad. I am so sad.”
The 37-year-old’s death has prompted outcry from her home community of Manawan, a First Nations reserve in Quebec, Canada. One nurse who was involved in treating her has been fired from the hospital and an administrative investigation has been launched.
“The statements that are made are not going to be tolerated. Those are of a racist nature,” the Vice President of Quebec Native Women, Mary Hannaburg, told CBC. “We will not tolerate racism in any given form toward Indigenous women.”
During a press conference, Quebec Premier François Legault said Echaquan’s treatment was “not acceptable,” but denied it was a result of systemic racism. Protesters and Indigenous activists have said the opposite.
“I really don’t think that we have this kind of way of dealing with First Nations people in our hospitals in Quebec,” he said. “Yes, there is some racism in Quebec. We’re working on that.”
According to CBC, Echaquan’s death happened just days away from the anniversary of the Viens report — a 2019 study that found Indigenous people in Quebec are often victims of “systematic discrimination” in accessing public services, which includes healthcare.
“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,” Ghislain Picard, the head of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador, said. Picard added that Echaquan’s hospital treatment adds to a “long of a series of dramas experienced by Indigenous women in public services.”
“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.”
Watch the video at your discretion below.