First Nation Calls on United Nations Expert to Investigate Systemic Racism in Canada | Indigenous rights news

The request follows the death of an Indigenous woman at the Quebec hospital last year after staff hurled racist slurs at her.

A First Nation in the Canadian province of Quebec asks the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples to come to Canada to investigate systemic racism in government services.

In a letter Monday, Atikamekw leaders from Manawan, a community about 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Montreal, called on Francisco Cali Tzay to lobby Canada to ensure equitable access to health care. and other social services for indigenous peoples.

The letter, published on International Women’s Day, comes months after the death of Joyce Echaquan, an Atikamekw mother of seven who died in a Quebec hospital in September after filming staff work. 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,” reads the letter signed by Chief Atikamekw of Manawan Paul-Emile Ottawa and six advisers. .

Cali Tzay’s office did not immediately respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment on Monday.

A woman smears during a march to demand justice and raise awareness of Joyce Echaquan, in Montreal, Quebec, October 3, 2020 [File: Christinne Muschi/Reuters]

Echaquan’s death sparked widespread anger, protests and calls tackling systemic racism against Indigenous peoples across Canada, particularly in the health care sector – a longstanding problem that has been widely documented.

In October, Echaquan’s partner Joyce Dube said systemic racism killed her.

“I don’t want his death to be in vain. How many human lives will we have to lose before we can recognize that systemic racism exists against us as indigenous peoples? Dube told reporters.

While the government of Quebec declared the circumstances of Echaquan’s death unacceptable and offered condolences to his family, Premier François Legault refused to acknowledge the existence of systemic racism in the province.

In November, Quebec provided $ 15 million Canadian ($ 11.8 million) to help increase cultural security for Indigenous peoples who navigate the health care system.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafreniere said the investment was “the first in a long series of measures that should help advance the fight against racism.”

The Quebec government refused to recognize the existence of systemic racism in the province [File: Christinne Muschi/Reuters]

But Quebec refused to adhere to the “Joyce Principle,” a plan proposed by Atikamekw of Manawan after Echaquan’s death to fight systemic racism in health care and social services in Quebec and Canada.

Community demands include better training of health workers, public awareness campaigns on Aboriginal realities, increased funding for services and the creation of an ombudsman office for Aboriginal health care.

On March 1, the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) unanimously voted to adopt the “Joyce principle”.

The Chief of the AFNQL, Ghislain Picard, declared in a press release that the document “is a unifying guide for all governments, institutions and individuals who have the duty and responsibility to provide services to the First Nations population”.

In their letter on Monday, the Atikamekw leaders called on the UN special rapporteur to do all he can to ensure that Canada and Quebec respect their human rights obligations, “to honor the memory” of ‘Echaquan.

“If substantive equality for indigenous peoples is not seen as an immediate political goal in health services, Canada’s colonialist policies will once again have predictable and fatal consequences,” they said.

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