Joyce Echaquan

By: The Hon. Michèle Audette

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Hon. Michèle Audette: Kuei.

[Editor’s Note: Senator Audette spoke in innu.]

Colleagues, I would like to acknowledge, thank and give hope to all nations, but especially the one that is hosting us today on their unceded territory, the Anishinabe nation. Tshinashkumitnau.

Today, I stand before you to honour the memory of a gentle warrior named Joyce Echaquan.

Two years ago, she left us in a very tragic manner. This Atikamekw woman tragically died at the Joliette hospital under a slew of racist insults from the staff. The horrific video of this incident outraged the world and raised the public’s awareness about systemic racism and discrimination.

Faced with this intolerable and unacceptable situation, the Conseil des Atikamekw de Manawan and the Conseil de la Nation Atikamekw proposed Joyce’s Principle, a principle the draws inspiration from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This principle also seeks to ensure that all Indigenous people have the right to equitable access to health and social services without discrimination, as well as the right to enjoy the best possible physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. In fact, colleagues, if you have not already done so, I encourage you to read Joyce’s Principle and support it.

Coroner Kamel’s report also called on the Government of Quebec to acknowledge the existence of systemic racism within our institutions and commit to helping eliminate it. I would like to quote from Ms. Kamel’s report:

It is clear that the road to reconciliation is a long and arduous one. Efforts are all the more necessary, as the findings of this enquiry indicate that Mrs. Echaquan was indeed ostracised, and that her death was directly related to the care that she received during her hospitalisation in September of 2020, and that her death could have been avoided.

The courage in the words aiming at pacifying our relationships with others is crucial. We must have a firm will to name, but without having a cosmetic intent regarding a principle that is so clear: The right of all to goodwill and to living in a free and democratic society, in the hope that every human being deserves the same services with dignity and respect and who above all, deserves to live.

I made a commitment to Joyce, to her husband Carol, to her late father Michel, who is now with his daughter, and to her whole family and the entire Atikamekw community to walk by their side, to walk with them. We have a responsibility and a duty to work together to change things.

Carol, Jemima, the children, Diane, Solange and Chief Flamand, you are always in my thoughts.

Joyce, you inspired us with your courage. I am hopeful, and I will carry on.

Iame.

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