The federal government announced Wednesday morning that it is allotting $2 million dollars to help the Atikamekw Nation begin implementation of Joyce’s Principle.
The document was written by Indigenous leaders calling for equitable access to health care following Joyce Echaquan’s tragic death.
Thirty-seven-year-old Echaquan filmed herself lying in a Joliette Hospital in September as staff uttered racial slurs towards her, the last words she would hear before her death.
“It’s important for all people and instances of leadership to acknowledge the existence of systemic racism within the health-care system and to start making the concrete gestures and actions that are needed,” said Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller.
With the federal government’s help, her community and family are hoping the principle named in her honour will give other Indigenous people access to fair and equal health care, that she did not receive.
“We all have the right to dignity; we are all human. Moreover, I think that Joyce’s Principle should also apply to all minorities in Canada,” said her Echaquan’s husband, Carol Dubé.
Both Echaquan and her husband are from the Atikamekw Nation, whose leaders will implement Joyce’s Principle through concrete actions.
“We have to work on awareness, education and we need to make people understand that they don’t need to be scared of us, that they don’t need to think bad things about us,” said Council of the Atikamekw Nation Grand Chief Constant Awashish.
He said members did not feel safe when they needed medical attention after Echaquan’s death. So along with mental health services, they are looking into increasing services offered in the community such as a birthing centre and a place where members can do dialysis.
In a statement to Global News, the Quebec government said Joyce’s Principle will become a guiding force in implementing equal access to health care for all Indigenous people in Quebec.
Awashish says the council is open to collaborating with the provincial government, as they work towards their goal of a stronger society by defending First Nations rights, in Echaquan’s name.