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

A health-care worker prepares to swab a man at a walk-in COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal North, Sunday, May 10, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)
Interior Health records 21 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend

Thirty-six cases remain active; two people are in the hospital, one of whom is in intensive care

Siblings Ash Patterson and Kaimarra Patterson (left) take to the skies with Ursula Hart on Oct. 1. (Photo submitted)
Youth take to the skies with 100 Mile Flying Club

The grand Junior Kids Fly Day was grounded, but students still got a chance to get up in the air.

A bed table donated to 100 Mile District General Hospital Palliative Care Society in fond memory of Deka Lake’s Ruth Allan. (Diana Forster photo)
Bed table donated in memory of Deka’s Ruth Allan

Deka Lake column by Diana Forster

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Prohibited driver from Surrey apprehended after getting stuck in shallow swamp

The suspect went on to assault several officers during booking inflicting minor injuries

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry answers questions during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. sees record-breaking daily COVID infections with 499 new cases over weekend

Two people, both in the Lower Mainland, died due to the virus over the weekend

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

A B.C. man decided to create a website to help people find family doctors accepting patients. Because Victoria is considered high-demand, clinic openings can’t be posted publicly. (Unsplash)
Vancouver Island man starts website that connects B.C. residents with doctors

Nanaimo man started project to help people find family physicians accepting patients

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Most Read