Innu surgeon pleads for reforms at coroner’s inquest into the death of Joyce Echaquan
Innu surgeon Dr Stanley Vollant even says he didn’t believe some indigenous people who told him they were afraid to go to hospital and didn’t think they would receive equal care. , despite the racism itself during his medical studies.
This is how much he said that systemic racism is pervasive in Quebec’s health and education systems.
Vollant testified at a coroner’s inquest into the death of Joyce Echaquan, 37, before giving a number of recommendations on how the system could be improved.
Vollant, who is a surgeon at Notre-Dame Hospital in Montreal, said she was ashamed to see the video posted by Echaquan before her death on September 28, 2020, in which she had to endure racist taunts from medical staff from Joliette hospital. .
“There can’t be another Joyce, but unfortunately there will be.– Dr Stanley Vollant
“It really shook me, as an indigenous person,” Vollant said. He said he felt guilty for not following up on complaints he had heard in previous years, including during a 6,000-kilometer journey that took him through the 11 Indigenous communities of Quebec during several years.
“I was passive. But now my mission is to talk about it, to make sure it never happens again in Joyce’s memory.”
“There can’t be another Joyce, but unfortunately there will be,” Vollant said.
All staff working in Quebec’s health care system, from doctors to janitors, should be trained to provide culturally safe spaces for Indigenous patients.
“You have to start with the person sweeping the floor in the hallway. It is important to look at healthcare around the world to ensure that it is a safe space for indigenous peoples.
Racism’s “ watchdog ”
Vollant delved into the rampant racism he experienced growing up and during his medical school studies.
Originally from Pessamit, on the North Shore of Quebec, Vollant was raised by his grandparents. It was his grandfather who encouraged him to pursue higher education.
“He told me that you have to learn their laws and their science in order to be able to defend yourself and your territory,” Vollant said.
He was regularly harassed and beaten in high school, and other students told him he was not smart enough to graduate. “It became a motivation to show them that I could,” he said.
Even during his residency at Notre Dame Hospital in Montreal, where he believed “educated people” would not be so racist, he said he was insulted every day as the Oka crisis unfolded. .
“I was called a kawish, a savage, a road blocker,” Vollant said. “To me it was like a slap in the face – racism exists in the medical world, and systemic racism is integral and invisible in the health care process.
The Quebec government has so far refused to recognize the existence of systemic racism in Quebec. Vollant said that with Echaquan’s video as proof, this can no longer be undone.
“Denying the evidence is symptomatic of the fact that systemic racism is even more ingrained,” Vollant said.
Still, he’d rather go ahead and see solutions put in place, rather than being blocked by semantics.
He said these solutions have been presented time and time again by various government commissions, including the provincial inquiry into government relations with indigenous peoples, the Viens Commission.
“I’m tired of the commissions, we already know the answers,” Vollant said. “We need to act.”
Dr. Samir Shaheen-Hussain, professor in the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University, also made his recommendations on Monday. He said the government should recognize the problem of systemic racism as soon as possible.
“With each passing day that we don’t recognize medical colonialism, or systemic racism, as existing, we let people suffer because we don’t address the underlying issues,” he said.
Shaheen-Hussain said several professional orders, including the Collège des médecins du Québec, have taken steps to recognize the impact of racism in hospital rooms and doctors’ offices.
In his long testimony, Shaheen-Hussain described his shock to hear health workers at Joliette hospital insult Echaquan with “racist and misogynistic” remarks.
“I cannot describe these words as anything other than hateful,” he said.
Shaheen-Hussain compared Echaquan’s death to that of Brian Sinclair, who died in a Winnipeg hospital emergency room after being ignored by staff for 34 hours because they believed he was homeless, in a state of health. drunk or had previously been seen and was waiting for a ride.
“Joyce was not ignored to death, rather she was despised to death.”
Certain measures being implemented
During Monday’s hearings, the director of indigenous affairs at the Quebec health ministry, Julie Gauthier, outlined some of the measures taken by the province.
Liaison officers are hired in different regions to support Indigenous patients, Gauthier said.
the $ 15 million investment announced by the Minister of Native Affairs of Quebec, Ian Lafrenière, last November, also allows the deployment of training on cultural safety throughout the province, said Mr. Gauthier.
“Cultural safety is clearly a government priority now,” she said.
Last week, the province also announced a $ 27 million investment to help urban Indigenous communities tailor health and social services to the people they serve.
Coroner Géhane Kamel said she was encouraged to see the actual measurements on paper.
But Dr Jacques Ramsay, who is co-chairing the investigation, asked if the ministry itself is lacking in credibility, since it does not have a single Indigenous staff member.
Gauthier said she tried to recruit Indigenous staff and couldn’t find any candidates in the government’s recruitment system.
Partners in Indigenous communities, however, are now at the heart of policy creation, said Gauthier, and are called upon to put in place new programs.
“All our projects must be carried out with our partners in the field,” said Gauthier.