Granthshala editorial: The wrong argument over what killed Joyce Echaquan

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It should have been a moment for reflection. Instead, it descended into a debate about semantics.

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A coroner was issued on Friday much awaited report In the case of an indigenous woman who, just two hours before her death in a Quebec hospital in 2020, posted a live Facebook video of a nurse and a systematically racist comment.

The coroner has ruled that the racial prejudices displayed in the video directly contributed to the death of Joyce Aquan, a mother of seven children from the Atticamak nation. This is an extraordinary allegation, but the coroner found that the evidence could only lead to that conclusion.


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Ms Ichquan was admitted to the Center Hospitalier de Lanaudire in Juliet, Ky., late on the night of September 26, 2020, with abdominal pain. He was kept for observation throughout the night.

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The next morning, he showed signs of agitation. Hospital staff assumed without evidence that it was caused by cannabis and opioid withdrawal.

In fact, agitation was not related to substance withdrawal; Ms. Echaquan’s system contained only drugs that were prescribed by doctors, and at levels associated with therapeutic use.

But as a result of this false diagnosis—in which her caregivers jumped because she was a First Nations woman—her condition was repeatedly misunderstood and mistreated. A doctor gave him medicines to calm him down and ordered bed restrictions if that didn’t work.

The infamous video was shot on the morning of September 28, 2020, when Ms. Ichakan fell from the bed. The nurse and orderly who put her back on the bed are heard calling her an idiot and telling her that the only thing that was good for indigenous women was sex. They amputated her limbs, placed another restraint on her abdomen and left her in the care of a nurse trainee, without connecting her to a heart monitor.

But Ms. Ichquan did not suffer from substance abuse. He had a history of heart disease, and was having a heart attack.

If she was agitated, it was possible because her lungs were filling with fluid and she was slowly drowning – the situation was made worse by the fact that her back was bandaged. Within an hour of recording her video, her vital signs were weak. An hour later, she was dead. Cause of Death: Pulmonary edema due to cardiogenic shock.

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It is safe to say that, if Ms. Ichquan had not been indigenous, the hospital staff would have been far less likely to conclude that she was undergoing drug withdrawal, and to treat her as anything other than a nuisance. Chances were high.

Instead, she was humiliated by staff at a hospital that members of the Atticmake Nation complained about in 2018 during a hearing at Quebec institutions treating indigenous peoples that discrimination was widespread.

The coroner explicitly stated that Ms Ichquan’s “boycott” was the result of “systemic racism”. And that’s when things went downhill.

Quebec Premier François Legault has repeatedly rejected the idea that systemic racism, whatever its definition, exists in his province. So last week he spent September 28, the anniversary of Ms Ichquan’s death, and then the coroner’s report was released that day, arguing that point.

on Monday, Mr Legault apologizes. He said he should show more compassion during a gloomy week and not get into heated arguments about word choices.

The fact is that no one should be on either side of the debate.

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The Premier of Quebec called the problem “racism” and dismissed it; His political enemies say he should call it “systemic racism”, or they are failing to downplay it.

Is the debate over the label really necessary? Ms Ichakan’s death is a reminder of how prejudice in public institutions can dehumanize Indigenous people. And it’s not just Quebec. Last week in British Columbia, the government announced a anti-discrimination task force It stemmed from an ugly situation in 2020, when B.C. health care workers were accused of betting on the level of alcohol indigenous patients.

It is clear that Canadian history has included abuses against indigenous people born out of racism. Let’s skip the semantics and instead find the compassion that Joyce Aquan was so tragically lacking at the end of life, and fix things.

Editor’s Note: This editorial has been updated to clarify that it was alleged that BC Health Works was betting on the alcohol levels of Indigenous patients. An investigation found no evidence to substantiate the allegation of an organized sport, but rather anecdotal and relevant evidence of a number of activities in the health care system that resembled these allegations.

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