Quebec Solidaire’s motion seeking the government’s recognition of the existence of systemic racism against women and girls and the adoption of Joyce’s Principle was promptly shut down at the National Assembly Thursday morning.
Quebec Solidaire’s co-spokesperson, Manon Manon Massé, paired up with non-profit Femmes Autochtones du Quebec and First Nations leaders to present the motion.
“We know the government has his position about systemic racism but now, all Indigenous communities want change,” said Chief Sipi Flamand, head of the Manawan band council.
At a news conference in Quebec City, First Nations leaders argued that ignoring the existence of systemic racism is preventing the government from finding effective solutions to fight it.
“The problem is the system. The system is racist and to me you look at Joliette, for instance,” remarked Chief Ghislain Picard of the Assembly of First Nations.
In Joliette Hospital, Joyce Echaquan, an Atikamewk woman and mother of seven children, died after recording staff racially taunting her.
Since then, the government has remained steadfast in its refusal to accept there is systemic racism in Quebec.
Following her death, the government put in place cultural sensitivity training but critics say it has fallen short.
“Certainly the situation now is better than … it was in 2020,” said Chief Picard. “But are we in a situation where we can say that for the whole health system? Far from it.”
Joyce’s Principle expands on actions that need to be taken to guarantee Indigenous people receive fair and equitable access to health care.
But the government won’t adopt it, because it is based on accepting that systemic racism exists.
“People can be disappointed but they won’t be surprised. From day one we said loud and clear we are not there,” said Ian Lafrenière, Quebec’s minister responsible for Indigenous affairs.
Read more: Quebec fails to deliver on promise to enshrine Indigenous cultural safety principle into law
Minister Lafrenière says not recognizing systemic racism hasn’t prevented the government from taking action against discrimination.
He promised the principle of cultural safety would be included in the upcoming health reform.
The goal of cultural safety is for all people to feel respected and safe when they interact with the health care system.
But Indigenous Peoples say what the government plans to do is not enough.
“There is no policy in Quebec when it comes to First Nations and Inuit. It’s a piece by piece approach by the minister and his government.”
They say it’s time that the government stops imposing their views on Indigenous people and sits down with them as equals.
“We’re far from being in a situation that would foster discussions and dialogue with the Quebec government, and to me, why is our party having to compromise?” said Picard.
“Compromise is part of our history in the last 400 years and that has to change. It has to be fair for our people too.”