It’s been two years since Joyce Echaquan died at a Joliette hospital. The Atikamekw mother of seven filmed herself moments before dying, as staff made derogatory comments toward her.
Following the coroners report concluding racism and prejudice contributed to the 37-year-olds demise, the Quebec government implemented mandatory sensitivity training for healthcare workers. But, Indigenous professionals say the hour and forty-five minute online course is not nearly enough.
“One hour and 45 minutes is not enough. That’s just a baby step, you know, and unfortunately it’s not very good information,” said Cree family physician Dr. Darlene Kitty.
The exercise’s length is not the only element Dr. Kitty has serious concerns about.
She says Quebec’s health and social services ministry’s mandated training was poorly developed. Focusing on information not relevant to the current issues and realities that Indigenous people living in Quebec face today.
“We really need to focus on the important issues at hand, such as residential schools, systemic racism and culturally unsafe care,” Dr. Kitty told Global News.
While she appreciates the government-funded initiative, Dr. Kitty wants it to be led by First Nations people.
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“The best thing to learn about Indigenous health and social issues and how the communities are impacted, is by the people themselves, not the government teaching us this,” she said.
In a statement to Global News, Quebec’s health and social services ministry wrote, it fully understands the criticisms that are made in connection with training in awareness of Indigenous realities adding in the interests of continuous improvement, the MSSS will continue discussions and work with a view to improve existing training.
The training was made available in June 2021. As of September 21, 183,844 thousand network employees have completed it. That represents 58 per cent of employees, according to the ministry.
Innu surgeon Dr. Stanley Vollant says it’s a good first step, but it’s going to take years or even decades for Indigenous people to trust the health-care system.
“People still don’t go to hospital because they’re afraid to be mistreated, to not be treated equally like the rest of Quebecers,” said Dr. Vollant.
Indigenous professionals want to see the government take further action, including appointing a First Nations ombudsman and improving sensitivity training.