The agony of Joyce Echaquan under the rain of racist insults, last words which were addressed to him, one cannot forget it. A live death. Let us recall that the complementary report of theNational Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls notes that “certain groups of the population, such as Aboriginals, would be affected by social inequalities in health in an alarming manner”. It underlines the marked differences in chronic diseases (obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases) and that “socio-health data show that in comparison with the Canadian population, the First Nations of Quebec have a life expectancy of 6 to 7 years more. short (p. 25).
Last week, coroner Géhane Kamel made public her report following the tragic death of Joyce Echaquan. The coroner emphasizes that without the “video capture, it’s a safe bet that this event would never have been brought to the attention of the public” (p. 12), which is reminiscent of the capture of the video. death of George Floyd.
Her investigation shed light on the extent of racial prejudice as well as systemic racism faced by Indigenous women. Thus, the coroner noted that “upon his arrival at the Center hospitalier de Lanaudière, Mr.me Echaquan is quickly labeled as drug addict and, based on this prejudice, it follows that her pleas for help will unfortunately not be taken seriously ”(p. 7).
In her report, she takes note of the testimony of a neighbor in the stretcher of Mr.me Echaquan who noted “the lack of humanity of certain attendants and nurses, while Mr.me Echaquan would have screamed to be afraid of dying. A nurse would have said: “There, you’re going to stop screaming by yourself, there, you’re disturbing everyone here. We are not in a daycare here, we do not manage babies ”” (p. 9). During her testimony, one of the nurses stated that she was not racially prejudiced and would have reacted the same with “a welfare woman who has plenty of children” (p. 11), which also demonstrates the existence of prejudices against socioeconomically disadvantaged people, i.e. social assistance recipients.
Racist behavior and comments punctuated Mr.me Echaquan at the Hospital Center. While her death was declared, the coroner reports that “civilian witnesses hear the medical staff expressing relief that this patient is no longer an inconvenience. They will say they have heard: “Indian women like it to complain about nothing, get screwed and have children. Worse, it is us who pay for it. Finally, she’s dead. ” ”(P. 12).
The dehumanization of Mme Echaquan, a member of the First Nations, is a key element of the racism she experienced within the public health system to which she appealed.
Coroner Kamel recommends that the government recognize systemic racism. However, as a nation, Quebec cannot ignore the definition of systemic racism given by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). In a report published in June 2021 *, OHCHR defines systemic racism as a “complex and interdependent system of laws, policies, practices and attitudes, in state institutions, the private sector and societal structures. which together produce forms, direct or indirect, intentional or not, in law or in fact, of discrimination, differentiation, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent or national or ethnic origin ”. The definition is completed with the following explanation: “Systemic racism is often manifested by widely held racial stereotypes, prejudices and biases and often finds its origin in the history and the aftermath of slavery, of the transatlantic slave trade. Africans enslaved and colonialism. ”
Today, some criticize Coroner Géhane Kamel for having exceeded her mandate by recommending the recognition of systemic racism. However, as coroner, she had to take note of the circumstances surrounding the death of Ms.me Echaquan. In other words, she had to take note of the context (including the social context) surrounding the latter’s death.
Taking into account the social context makes it possible to define the backdrop necessary for the interpretation and application of the law. This is precisely what the Supreme Court recognized in its 1997 decision in R. v. S. (RD). In this case, McLachlin and L’Heureux-Dubé JJ. Emphasized that the decision-maker “is expected to know the local population and their racial dynamics, including their history of widespread and systemic discrimination against blacks and Aboriginal people. […] It follows that the judge can take judicial notice of racism the existence of which is known to exist in a given society ”(para. 47).
Systemic racism is therefore an element of the social context that Coroner Kamel had to take into account and it is difficult to imagine that, without naming things, we can resolve them. Thus, the response must be systemic. Moreover, the file of Mme Isn’t Echaquan a convincing example of the consequences of a bad diagnosis?
* The report in question is A / HRC / 47/53 – Promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms of Africans and people of African descent in the face of the excessive use of force and other human rights violations committed by members of the forces of the order.
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