Last Thursday, Carol Dube travelled almost 400 kilometres (249 miles) from his home in Manawan First Nation to address federal government officials in Canada’s capital, Ottawa. Three days earlier, his 37-year-old wife, Joyce Echaquan, had died at the Centre Hospitalier de Lanaudiere in Joliette in Quebec.
She had live-streamed some of her last moments on Facebook – a video that shows Echaquan writhing and shouting in pain while hospital staff taunt and degrade her, calling her a “f***ing idiot” and telling her she is only good for sex.
With a trembling voice, Dube told Canada’s Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett and Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller he was there to say justice for his wife.
“I’m asking you to offer me some answers. Because all I’ve gotten are questions and condolences, but no answers,” said Dube, breaking down in tears because the couple’s son consoled him. The meeting was streamed via the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.
“I need to know what happened. It’s my children that have lost the most. I wasn’t even able to tell her I love her nor hold her hand until the end,” he added.
‘A kind, generous person’
The Atikamekw of Manawan community is found approximately 183km (114 miles) north of Joliette and is reached via an extended stretch of unpaved forest road. it’s one among the sole Indigenous communities in Canada where all nation members speak their language . Nestled on the southwestern shores of Lake Metabeskega, Manawan features a population of roughly 2,400 members living on the reserve. Many residents practice traditional ways of living like fishing, hunting and trapping. But access to healthcare services is restricted and most visit central Quebec to be seen by doctors.
Dube described Echaquan as a sort , generous one that “paid attention to the tiniest things”. the 2 had an honest life together, raising their children in Manawan. But that life is now destroyed, and therefore the way forward for his children is uncertain, he said.
The Atikamekw mother of seven – the youngest just seven months old – had travelled from Manawan to Joliette on Saturday seeking treatment for severe stomach pain and was admitted to the hospital. consistent with relations Echaquan suffered from a heart disease and had a pacemaker. By Monday, her pain had worsened, and she or he began live-streaming on Facebook as she pleaded for help from her single bed .
Speaking in her Atikamekw language Echaquan asked for somebody online to assist and to “come see me”. consistent with relations , Echaquan said she was over medicated and had been administered morphine, despite being allergic thereto . within the seven-minute video, Echaquan are often seen writhing and shouting as a nurse and healthcare aide are heard telling her, in French, that she was “stupid as hell” and would be “better off dead”.
“You made some bad choices, my dear,” one among them says. “What are your children getting to think, seeing you wish this?”
Alluding to the very fact that taxpayers were paying for Echaquan’s treatment, one among the ladies asks: “And who does one think is paying for this?”
Echaquan died soon after.
“I am convinced my wife died because systemic racism contaminated the Joliette hospital,” said Dube. “She spent her final days in agony, surrounded by people that held her in contempt, people that were alleged to protect her.”
Guy Niquay, the varsity director from the Atikamekw Nation, travelled with Dube to Ottawa. He got down on his knees to deal with the ministers.
“Mr Miller, Madame Bennett, i urge you to assist me. I don’t want to attend for one year. i would like action,” pleaded Niquay.
Echaquan’s 16-year-old son Thomas-James Echaquan kneeled beside Niquay, his head lowered.
‘I hear her screams’
Karine Echaquan is Joyce’s cousin. She is additionally Atikamekw of Manawan but lives in Joliette, where she works as a court interpreter.
She told Al Jazeera the entire family is saddened by Echaquan’s death. “They have all lost a spouse, mom, daughter, cousin, niece and friend,” she said.
“Death is extremely hard, it’s sad, but it’s even sadder once we treat one another this manner .
“[In the video] we await the screams, and once I close my eyes, I hear it, and once I awaken , I hear it.”
Karine says she wants justice for her cousin and to make certain people will never be treated in such an inhumane way.
‘The worst face of racism’
At a press conference earlier within the week, Bennett described the video and Echaquan’s death as “heart-wrenching”.
She has been having weekly conversations with Indigenous doctors since April, she added, and had been hearing stories about why their patients are reluctant to travel to hospitals.