MONTRÉAL, Québec (CU)_A group of Indigenous peoples in the Canadian province of Quebec is calling on the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to visit the North American nation and conduct an investigation regarding systemic racism in government services.
Leaders of the Atikamekw of Manawan community wrote a letter to Francisco Cali Tzay on Monday (8 March) requesting him to pressure Ottawa to guarantee equitable access to healthcare and other essential services for Indigenous peoples.
The letter was issued months after the death of Joyce Echaquan, an Atikamekw mother who died in a hospital in Quebec last September, after she filmed the staff making racist comments towards her.
“Ms. Echaquan’s death is the result of Canada’s failure to respect its international obligations and commitments towards Indigenous peoples,” the letter read.
Echaquan’s death sparked fury, widespread protests and calls on the government to address systemic racism against Indigenous peoples, particularly in the healthcare sector.
The Quebec government admitted the circumstances of Echaquan’s death were unacceptable, and in November last year, the provincial government allocated CA$15 million ($11.8m) in order to help increase the safety of Indigenous people in the healthcare industry.
According to Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafreniere, the move was “the first in a long series of measures that ought to contribute to advancing in the fight against racism”.
Nevertheless, François Legault, the Premier of Quebec, has refused to acknowledge that systemic racism exists in the province.
Moreover, Quebec refused to sign on a plan put forward by the Atikamekw of Manawan community, known as “Joyce’s Principle”, which intends to address systemic racism in healthcare and social services in the province and all across Canada.
In the letter issued on Monday, the community leaders urged the UN special rapporteur to do all he can to get the provincial and federal government to honour the memory of Echaquan, and to respect their human rights obligations towards Indigenous peoples.
“If real equality for Indigenous peoples is not considered an immediate political objective in health services, Canada’s colonialist policies will once again have predictable and fatal consequences,” they said.