Joyce Echaquan, 37, died on Monday, after video-recording some of her last moments in a Joliette, Que., hospital. (Facebook)
Criminal investigation needed into death of Joyce Echaquan, say 2 legal experts
Lawyer says police should investigate whether medical staff's actions were negligent and motivated by racism
By Jorge Barrera · CBC News · Posted: Oct 01, 2020
The Quebec medical staff captured in an online video uttering racist insults while treating Atikamekw woman Joyce Echaquan shortly before her death should be investigated by police to determine whether their actions were criminally negligent and motivated by hate, say two legal experts.
Echaquan, 37, a mother of seven, died Monday in a hospital in Joliette, Que., about 74 kilometres north of Montreal after filming some of the last moments of her life on a Facebook video. The video captured Echaquan screaming in distress, along with the voices of staff members insulting her.
"They acted callously; they acted in a way they knew was unsafe; they acted with hatred; they acted with negligence," said Amir Attaran, a professor in the Faculty of Law and School of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Ottawa.
Attaran said that based on Echaquan's anguished complaints that she was being overmedicated, along with statements by family members that she was allergic to morphine and had heart problems, the medical staff should be investigated for criminal negligence causing death for negligently administering her drugs.
Calls for 'Justice for Joyce' after Indigenous woman's death in Quebec hospital
In addition, he said, their insults — calling her "stupid," saying that she was "only good for sex" and lamenting that their tax dollars were "paying for" her health care — show racism played a role in how medical staff treated Echaquan, which opens up the possibility this was also a hate crime.
"This was motivated by prejudice against Indigenous people, and that is clear from their comments," said Attaran, who is also a practising lawyer.
"You have those two aggravating factors: an abuse of the position of trust and the motivation driven by prejudice or racism."
One nurse has been fired
On Tuesday, Quebec Premier François Legault said one of the nurses who treated Echaquan has been fired. The province said Echaquan's death is being investigated by the coroner and the health unit.
Amir Attaran, a professor in the Faculty of Law and the School of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Ottawa, said the medical staff who treated Echaquan should be investigated for criminal negligence causing death. (CBC)
Quebec's provincial police, the Sûreté du Québec, said it hasn't yet opened a criminal investigation into the death but that it is collaborating with the coroner's office. The Quebec police said that a criminal investigation may hinge on the results of the autopsy.
The province's nursing body, L'Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec, said in a statement it was also looking into the case and denounced "the racism suffered" by Echaquan. The organization said it couldn't provide details of its actions for confidentiality reasons.
Alisa Lombard, a partner with the law firm Semaganis Worme Lombard, which is representing two Indigenous women in an ongoing lawsuit against Ottawa and Saskatchewan over coerced sterilization, said police should have immediately opened a criminal investigation.
"There needs to be a thorough police investigation, and that investigation has to be full and professional and must include a full investigation of any criminal misconduct, whether partly or fully motivated by a hate crime," said Lombard.
"Not undertaking this kind of investigation would be further demonstrative of the contempt held by the health-care providers for Indigenous people. Joyce, when she was dying, was met with contempt. Their remarks show … hate and really clear racism."...