Allison Hanes: A year after Joyce’s death, systemic racism decays

Legault’s refusal to consider the systemic nature of discrimination or racism has a seeping effect.

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For her seven children, husband, family, friends and community, Joyce Echaquan’s horrific death a year ago this week is a raw and painful wound.

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But for the Quebec community, it remains a violent wound that will refuse to heal as long as our government, institutions, and some members of the public in general refuse to acknowledge how systemic discrimination contributed to her tragic death.

Echaquan is the 37-year-old Atikamekw woman who bravely took to Facebook Live to post her shocking last-minute moments at a Joliette hospital when staff teased her with insults and scorn.

It was our George Floyd moment.

Just as the spectator video of Floyd’s murder in the hands of the Minneapolis police – undoubtedly and unequivocally showed the extent of racism in American law enforcement, Echaquan’s recording – undoubtedly and unequivocally – demonstrated the prevalence of systemic discrimination in Quebec’s health care system.

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With her latest action, she put a human face on report after report documenting abuses against indigenous peoples in the past and present, from the six volumes of Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the Cultural Genocide in the Housing School System to the 488-page Viens survey that used three years to investigate the shortcomings of public services in Quebec.

Just a year before Echaquan died – gruesome, almost to this day – retired Quebec Super Court Justice Jacques Viens said: “It seems impossible to deny that members of the First Nations and the Inuit are victims of systemic discrimination in their relationship with the public services. , which is the subject of this study. ”

And yet, here we are.

Despite these indisputable conclusions, despite Echaquan’s death symbolizing the concept itself, Quebec Prime Minister François Legault has not been able to recognize anything systemic about this very obvious example of racism and discrimination in this province.

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There is racism, yes, he admits, and he has offered excuses. But Legault has repeatedly insisted that “there is no system.” Recognizing as such would somehow hurt the feelings of too many Quebecers who see this as a dirty word, a sloppiness against the nation, a personal relief to the “awake” who seem to “see discrimination everywhere.”

Quebec is no more or less racist than elsewhere, but this particular narrative is as unhelpful as it is ridiculous.

More than being symbolic or semantic, this defensiveness hampers the implementation of the Viens report’s 142 recommendations, which in many ways predicted the context in which Echaquan’s death took place.

The rejection at the top of considering the systemic nature of discrimination or racism has a trickle-down effect. If the starting point of any discussion is that it simply does not exist, it rejects similar experiences, claims, and events. It fails to connect the dots in a meaningful way that would remedy past injustices or prevent future tragedies. It passes the buck, maintains bureaucratic inertia and gives rise to institutional indifference.

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An example of this: Native Women’s Shelter in Montreal has encountered this kind of “roadblock” with the CIUSS Center-Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, which operates Batshaw Youth and Family Services. A report presented in 2019 found examples of discrimination, both overt and systemic, against native children in care, from refusing to let families speak in their mother tongue during supervised visits to outrageous comments about parents to removing native children from their homes for unjustified reasons .

But according to Nakuset, the executive director of the Native Women’s Shelter, the answer has been “crickets.” For two years now.

Nakuset said that to her knowledge, the National Board of Health has not implemented a single one of Vienna’s recommendations nor shown any inclination to do so. The organization announced in a letter in August that it was severing ties with CIUSSS, which it had advised on original issues.

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“If the government does not want to hold them accountable, then they will get away with it,” Nakuset said of the tone given by the prime minister’s own ambiguity.

Similarly, this position will in advance prevent any impending findings from forensic examination that examined the particular circumstances of her abuse.

It has already resulted in the rejection of guidelines proposed by the Atikamekw Council in Manawan to ensure that health and social services are provided to indigenous peoples with respect – and that Echaquan did not die in vain. The reason Joyce’s principles do not start is because they contain the loaded words “systemic discrimination”.

“It’s not helpful at all,” Quebec’s Home Affairs Minister Ian Lafrenière said of the offensive terminology.

But what is really not helpful is political stubbornness that stands in the way of reconciliation by putting Quebecers discomfort before original life.

ahanes@postmedia.com

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