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Quebec makes progress on less than half of Viens Commission’s 142 recommendations

Click to play video: 'Quebec Indigenous Affairs minister claims nearly half of Viens Commission recommendations respected' Quebec Indigenous Affairs minister claims nearly half of Viens Commission recommendations respected
Watch: Two years ago, the Viens Commission issued recommendations to address violence and discrimination against Indigenous people in Quebec. On Friday, the government announced it has now put into effect or is actively working on 68 of the 142 calls to action. Global’s Raquel Fletcher reports. – Sep 17, 2021

Two years ago, the Viens Commission laid out recommendations to address violence and discrimination against Indigenous people in Quebec. The provincial government said it has now put into effect, or is actively working on 68 of the 142 calls to action.

Quebec’s Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafrenière said the provincial government is working to improve services for Indigenous people, but he concedes it will take a long time.

READ MORE: Quebec earmarks $14M to support justice services in Indigenous communities

Speaking at the First Nations and Inuit exhibit at the Museum of Civilization in Quebec City Friday, Lafreniere told reporters that the government is now working on 68 recommendations, up from 51 a year ago.

Click to play video: 'Addressing the concerns of Quebec’s First Nations' Addressing the concerns of Quebec’s First Nations
Addressing the concerns of Quebec’s First Nations – Mar 19, 2021

He asked the public not to focus on the numbers, because while some recommendations, such as making apologies, were easy, others require legislative change or discussions with the federal government.

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The minister also announced his priorities for the future.

“Those priorities have been established with chiefs and grand chiefs, over my visits that I’ve done over the summer,” said Minister Ian Lafrenière.

READ MORE: Systemic racism still a contentious issue at Quebec-First Nations political roundtable

He said he and leaders from 30 First Nations communities he visited agree priorities are to improve education, youth protection and the well-being of Indigenous women.

To date, the government has spent $125 million of the $200 million set aside for the Viens Commission recommendations.

READ MORE: Treatment of Indigenous woman in Quebec hospital puts focus on systemic racism

Sept. 28 will mark one year since the death of Joyce Echaquan, an Atikamekw woman who died in hospital while staff uttered racial slurs at her.

“This is a duty to remember, a duty to remember what happened a year ago,” Lafrenière said.

Click to play video: 'Calling out problem of racism at Joliette Hospital' Calling out problem of racism at Joliette Hospital
Calling out problem of racism at Joliette Hospital – Oct 7, 2020

But First Nations leaders say it’s also a duty to recognize systemic racism, particularly in the health-care sector.

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“I’ll be extremely honest and transparent with you. When I first got this position, it was in every, every conversation that we had,” the minister said, referring to systemic racism.

Still, the Atikamekw Nation Grand Chief Constant Awashish said the government has always been on the defensive.

“We have to call a dog a dog, a cat a cat,” said Awashish. “For us, First Nations, for the family of Joyce Echaquan, and for the community of Manawan, it’s important to call it the way that it should be called, so we can address it in the proper way,” the grand chief said.

READ MORE: Quebec ‘has failed in its duty,’ premier says in apology to Indigenous peoples

Awashish did commend Minister Lafrenière though for making other efforts.

“They appointed an Atikamekw person at the CISSS de Lanaudière,” the grand chief gave as an example.

However, he said it’s too early to tell if there’s been systemic change.

Quebec’s ombudsman will follow up on future government actions and Lafrenière promises another update in spring 2022.

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