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

Drive up voting is popular with Victoria-Swan Lake voters at the Craigflower elementary polling station. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Drive up voting popular at Craigflower polling station in Victoria-Swan Lake

Nearly 13,000 mail-in ballots were requested in the Victoria-Swan Lake riding

Oak Bay High voting station was slow and steady for the provincial election day, Oct. 24, 2020. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Early voting reduces election day turnout in Oak Bay-Gordon Head

An estimated 15,918 mail-in ballots requested in Oak Bay-Gordon Head

This was the line-up outside Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre at around 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The short-up line speaks to the high number of votes, which have already been cast against the backdrop of COVID-19 by mail or in advanced voting. Voters, however, unanimously praised the safety measures in place, as well the convenience of the polling stations. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
‘Slow’ turnout at polls across Saanich North and the Islands

Peter Mason, district electoral officer, expects about 10,000 ballots to be cast

Polls close at 8 p.m. in the Esquimalt-Metchosin riding. (Katherine Engqvist/News Staff)
VIDEO: Esquimalt-Metchosin candidates reflect on campaign as polls close

An estimated 12,000 mail-in ballots were requested in the Esquimalt-Metchosin riding

Barb Wright and Cynthia Vance at the District Electoral Office for the Langford-Juan de Fuca (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
Polls now closed in Langford-Juan de Fuca

An estimated 12,120 mail-in ballots were requested in the Langford-Juan de Fuca riding

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson,  BC NDP leader John Horgan and BC Green leader Sonia Furstenau. (File)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Climate change and sustainability promises from the parties

Snap election has led to a short campaign; here’s the lowdown on the platforms

Most Read