People take part in a protest called ‘Justice for Joyce’ in Montreal, Saturday, October 3, 2020, where they demanded Justice for Joyce Echaquan and an end to all systemic racism. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Quebec coroner’s office to launch public inquest into Joyce Echaquan’s death

Echaquan died after she filmed herself from her hospital bed while she was in distress, pleading for help

A public inquest into the death of an Indigenous woman who filmed herself being insulted by Quebec hospital staff hours before she died will be launched as soon as possible, the province’s chief coroner announced.

Pascale Descary said the late-Saturday decision came as the result of a formal request filed hours earlier from Quebec’s Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault.

Descary’s office pledged to launch the inquiry soon, but offered no specific dates.

Joyce Echaquan, a 37-year-old Atikamekw mother of seven, died shortly after she filmed herself from her hospital bed in Joliette, Que., about 70km north of Montreal, last Monday while she was in clear distress and pleading for help.

Hospital staff can be heard in the video making disparaging comments about Echaquan, including calling her stupid and saying she’d be better off dead.

The video created widespread indignation, touched off several inquiries and prompted Echaquan’s family to launch a lawsuit against the hospital where she died.

Echaquan’s relatives and members of the Atikamekw community of Manawan, Que., about 200km north of Joliette, welcomed the pending coroner’s inquest.

“Every day in Quebec and Canada, Indigenous men, women and children are victims of contempt and racism in the health care system,” family and community members said in a statement released hours after Descary’s announcement. “Joyce Echaquan’s case at Joliette Hospital is certainly not unique, but rather the tip of the iceberg.”

“The public inquest must provide answers that will initiate change in how health care services are delivered to Indigenous people.”

Similar calls for reform rang through the streets of Montreal on Saturday as crowds of protesters held a rally to both express support for Echaquan’s family and voice concerns about systemic racism in the health-care system.

The coroner’s office said the public inquest will seek to examine the cause and circumstances surrounding her death, and make recommendations to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault referenced Echaquan’s death in a Sunday statement marking the annual day commemorating missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.

“It falls only a few days after an event that profoundly shocked us all: the death of Joyce Echaquan and the racism that she was subjected to,” Legault wrote in a post on Facebook. “We have asked the coroner for a public inquest to shed light on this tragedy.”

Legault has been criticised for failing to acknowledge the existence of systemic racism in the province.

READ MORE: Joyce Echaquan’s death highlights systemic racism in health care, experts say

Jillian Kestler-D’Amours, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

HealthcareIndigenousRacial injusticeracism

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Saanich police are warning residents that rutting season has begun and deer may get their antlers tangled in items left in yards. (Saanich Police Department/Twitter)
Deer with items tangled in antlers spotted in Saanich as rutting season begins

Police, B.C. Conservation Service warn of possibly aggressive bucks through fall

Police will be diverting traffic between Island View Road and Amity Drive from 12 to 1 p.m. Oct. 23. (Google Maps)
Section of Pat Bay Highway closes for Mi’kmaq fishing rights demonstration

Police will be diverting traffic Oct. 23 from noon to 1 p.m between Island View Road and Amity Drive

Oulette the Great Horned owl was spotted alive just days after her mate, Ollie, was found dead from suspected rat poisoning on Oct. 17. (Photo by Cheryl Redhead)
Great Horned owl mate found alive in Cuthbert Holmes Park

Oulette spotted in tree above where male Ollie died of suspected poisoning

Saanich firefighters were called out to Hartland Road on Oct. 21 to help transport a mountain biker with neck and back injuries out of the woods. (Black Press Media file photo)
Patient with neck, back injuries rescued from Saanich bike trails

Saanich firefighters called in to help paramedics with transportation off Mount Work

Saanich South Liberal candidate Rishi Sharma commits to addressing issues at the five-way intersection of Interurban and Wilkinson roads in partnership with the municipality if elected. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich South Liberal candidate commits to improving Interurban/Wilkinson intersection

‘Confusing five-way intersection,’ needs attention, Rishi Sharma says

Advance polls are open from Oct. 15 to 21 with election day on Oct. 24. (Black Press Media file photo)
Our Home on 8th, the Port Alberni Shelter that opened in March 2019, has 27 extra ‘extreme weather’ spaces for people who need a place to get out of the cold. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
BC VOTES 2020: Mid-Island candidate plans occupation of shelter to protest homelessness

Graham Hughes says homeless situation a ‘crisis’ in Port Alberni

Parksville’s Jared Huggan won $75,000 playing BC/49. (BCLC/Photo submitted)
Vancouver Island man $75K richer after purchasing winning lottery ticket at Nanaimo Walmart

Parksville’s Huggan plans to purchase electric bike for partner

Actor Ryan Reynolds surprised a Shuswap family with a special birthday message to their son who was worried he’d be alone on his 9th birthday on Nov. 24. (Tiffanie Trudell/Facebook)
Ryan Reynolds text almost gives away Shuswap boy’s birthday surprise

Deadpool actor helps remind eight-year-old Canoe resident he’s not alone

Environment Canada has issued a snowfall advisory for parts of Vancouver Island for Thursday and Friday.(File photo)
Snowfall expected in parts of Vancouver Island this week

Environment Canada has issued a snowfall advisory for north, east and inland Vancouver Island

More and more electric cars are on the road, but one Chevy Bolt owner was shocked to see how much his BC Hydro bill skyrocketed once he started charging the vehicle. (Black Press file photo)
Lower Mainland man sees significant spike in BC Hydro bill after buying electrical vehicle

An increase should be expected, but Brian Chwiendacz experienced a 200-plus per cent hike

Jordan Jay Ward is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant for two counts of manslaughter. Photo supplied
Wanted man from Calgary may be on Vancouver Island

Jordan Jay Ward is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant for two counts of manslaughter

FILE – A voting package for the 2018 electoral reform referendum. Vote-by-mail packages for the 2020 provincial election will look similar, according to information provided by Elections BC. (Katya Slepian - Black Press Media)
POLL: Have you voted yet?

As election day quickly approaches, hundreds of thousands of British Columbians have… Continue reading

Most Read