“As a country, we must work together to eliminate all forms of systemic racism in our institutions. Working together with Indigenous partners, provinces and territories, we need to support culturally safe and inclusive health systems. The circumstances surrounding Joyce Echaquan’s death cannot and should not be forgotten.
One year ago today, Joyce Echaquan sought treatment at a medical centre in Joliette, Quebec. After recording a Facebook Live video depicting racist treatment, Joyce died without receiving the medical care she needed. First Nations, Inuit and Métis have the right to first-class health care without discrimination or racism, no matter their circumstances or where they live, as outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Following her death, the Atikamekw Nation created Joyce’s Principle, which aims to guarantee all Indigenous Peoples the right of equitable access, without any discrimination, to all social and health services, as well as the right to enjoy the best possible physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
In January 2021, with the supportive leadership of Indigenous physicians, nurses, midwives and other health professionals, we announced our commitment to co-developing distinctions-based health legislation informed by the spirit and elements of Joyce’s Principle.
A series of National Dialogues convened by federal ministers were held in October 2020, January 2021 and June 2021 with National Indigenous Organization representatives, Indigenous health professionals, health systems partners, and provincial and territorial representatives. These were important steps to discuss forms and experiences of anti-Indigenous racism in Canada’s health systems.
In August 2021, we released our federal response to the National Dialogues on anti-Indigenous Racism in Health Care Systems. This includes committing $126.7 million over three years, as announced in Budget 2021, to take action to foster health systems free from racism and discrimination where Indigenous Peoples are respected and safe. In addition, this investment aligns with the federal response to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Calls for Justice, in recognition of the fact that Indigenous women and other marginalized groups, such as 2SLGBTQQIA+ people, are disproportionately impacted by anti-Indigenous racism in Canada’s health systems.
Part of this funding will also provide federal leadership to support the capacity of Indigenous partners to participate in regional roundtables to address anti-Indigenous racism in Canada’s health systems, and lead by example by evaluating and improving Indigenous Services Canada’s programs and practices to ensure more culturally responsive and safe services.
Every day-and today on the anniversary of her passing-Joyce is remembered. Her courage in sharing her experience with the nation is honoured. We will continue to work diligently with our partners to address anti-Indigenous racism in all forms, and notably in health systems. While important initial steps have been taken to address racism in Canada’s health systems, it is well understood that more work is needed. We remain committed to working with provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous partners and health system partners to increase safety and respect for Indigenous Peoples in Canada’s health systems.”