The Canadian Library
Stort of Joyce Echaquan
Joyce Echaquan was a 37-year-old Atikamekw woman who died on September 28, 2020 in the Centre hospitalier de Lanaudière in Saint-Charles-Borromée, Quebec. Before her death, she recorded a Facebook Live video that showed her screaming in distress and healthcare workers abusing her.
Echaquan, a mother of seven from Manawan, had been frequently visiting the hospital since 2014. She had prior heart complications that required a pacemaker.
Due to Echaquan distrusting medical staff and not being fluent in French, she would record Facebook Live videos during her hospital visits and have a cousin translate for her. Another cousin said that Echaquan would often talk about medical staff seeming “fed up” with her and would only make sure she was not in pain, rather than actually treating her.
Echaquan was admitted to the hospital on September 26, 2020 for stomach pains. She was restrained to her bed and given morphine on September 28, despite her concerns that she would have an adverse reaction to it.
Echaquan live-streamed for seven minutes on September 28. During the Livestream, at least two hospital employees are heard insulting her in French. While Echaquan was moaning in pain, an employee asked her if she is “done acting stupid.” Another employee told Echaquan that she “made some bad choices” and asked what her children would be thinking if they saw her, where she quietly responded with: “That’s why I came here.” Echaquan was also told that she is only “good for sex,” the employees were the ones “paying for this,” and that she was “stupid as hell.”Echaquan died later that day. According to her family, she was allergic to morphine.
One employee, a nurse, was dismissed from the hospital on September 29. A second employee, an orderly, was dismissed on October 1.
Another incident where Echaquan was mistreated by hospital staff happened in late August 2020.
33-year-old Jennifer Mac Donald, a patient attendant at a local Alzheimer’s centre who was at the hospital to support her father, overheard Echaquan screaming in a nearby cubicle and expressing concerns about her treatment. Mac Donald described Echaquan’s medical attendants as “indifferent” and ``verbally aggressive,” said they were ignoring her pleas, and overheard a nurse ask: “will she ever shut up?” She approached Echaquan at one point to see if she could help, but was told by staff to “mind her own business.”
Mac Donald did not know the woman being mistreated in August was Echaquan until she saw the Facebook Live video and recognized her.
The Quebec premier, François Legault, condemned the medical staff’s comments to Echaquan and called them “racist”. However, he denied systemic racism in Quebec nor having any involvement in her death.
The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, called the incident “the worst form of racism.”
Marc Miller, the Canadian federal Minister of Indigenous Services, met Echaquan’s son, Thomas-James, and apologized to her family for the incident.