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Who was Joyce Echaquan? Indigenous woman records racist nurses calling her 'stupid as hell' before painful death

'What are your children going to think, seeing you like this? She’s good at having sex, more than anything else,' the first nurse said
Joyce Echaquan (GoFundMe)
Joyce Echaquan (GoFundMe)

'Racism' has been a root cause of most of the problems that the country is facing right now, and adding to that, another horrific incident of racism happened in Quebec. A shocking video went viral on social media, showing hospital staff in Canada taunting a dying Indigenous woman. 

37-year-old Atikamekw woman, Joyce Echaquan arrived at a hospital in the Quebec city of Joliette on Monday, September 28 complaining of stomach pain. According to a BBC report, the mother of seven had previously suffered similar issues and told staff she had a heart condition. Echaquan started live-streaming her experience on the social networking website, Facebook, as her pain escalated, and staff at the hospital appeared indifferent towards her. 

In the footage, Echaquan is seen grimacing as nurses call her “stupid as hell”. “Are you done acting stupid? Are you done?” asked one nurse in French as Echaquan moaned in pain. “You made some bad choices, my dear,” another nurse said. “What are your children going to think, seeing you like this?” “She’s good at having sex, more than anything else,” the first nurse said. “Discrimination against First Nations people remains prevalent in the healthcare system and this needs to stop,” the Assembly of First Nations national chief, Perry Bellegarde, said in a statement. A nurse has since been fired over the incident, and three investigations — two by the regional health authority and one by the Quebec coroner’s office — have been launched.

As soon as the news of her death circulated on social media people started reacting to it, as one Internet user wrote, "Unforgivable! #JoyceEchaquan deserves justice. May she Rest In Peace. The firing of the nurse is not enough. Racism and contempt negatively affected her care. Indigenous woman in Quebec records hospital staff uttering slurs before her death." While one sad Twitterati wrote, "#JoyceEchaquan It’s always sorry. For the system being this fuckedup. For the choices made. For being robbed until your last breath from your freedom. from your land. from your will. from your life."



One angry person slamming racism in the country wrote "the systemic racism against indigenous peoples in canada is inexcusable. joyce echaquan, an indigenous woman, died at the hands of racist hospital staff members. racism is so deeply embedded into the canadian health care system there needs to be change and justice for joyce." And another one said, "Evil is everywhere. May Joyce Echaquan's soul be at peace & her family have the strength to endure this tragedy. #JusticeforJoyce."



On September 29, 2020, a GoFundMe Fundraiser page was set up for her which said, "she was given morphine even if she refused. She knows that she has a pacemaker in her heart. It is in a live video on Facebook, she can be heard screaming for help in Attikamek. She died a few minutes later, amidst racist caregivers." The fundraiser page has collected $ 149,383 of $ 100,000 goal.

Who was Joyce Echaquan?

Echaquan was a 37-year-old Atikamekw woman, who went to the Joliette hospital, which is about 70km (45 miles) from Montreal, as she was suffering from a very serious stomach ache. She was a mother of seven children. Echaquan's relatives told Radio-Canada she had a history of heart problems and felt she was being given too much morphine. Echaquan's husband, Carol Dube's voice trembled with emotion as he told Radio-Canada his wife went to the hospital with a stomach ache on Saturday and "two days later, she died."

According to a Global News report, her family pointed out, that in the video, Joyce was speaking in the Atikamekw language, complaining of being overmedicated and in pain. Her family friend, Chantal Chartrand, claims it wasn’t the first time Echaquan experienced racism when accessing medical services at the Joliette hospital and had grown fearful.