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Echaquan inquiry: reform needed to reduce Indigenous patients' fear of health system

MONTREAL — The coroner’s inquiry examining the death Joyce Echaquan is moving to the recommendations phase of its public hearings. 

Dr. Stanley Vollant, an Innu surgeon, is recommending the government create policies to reduce fear among Indigenous patients of seeking treatment at Quebec hospitals.

Echaquan, a 37-year-old Atikamekw mother of seven from Manawan, Que., filmed herself on Facebook Live last September as a nurse and an orderly were heard making derogatory comments toward her at the hospital in Joliette, Que., northeast of Montreal. 

Vollant testified today that medical professional orders must forbid discrimination by their members and create teams, including community liaison officers, to assist Indigenous patients navigate the health-care system.

He says the liaison officers need to feel supported and hospital management must have the political will to follow through on reforms.

Vollant adds that the complaint process should be simplified because it isn’t in the nature of Indigenous patients to file official grievances.

The coroner’s inquest began today’s hearing with a minute of silence in memory of the 215 children whose remains were recently found at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

Coroner Géhane Kamel’s role is to examine the circumstances of Echaquan’s death and issue recommendations on how to avoid them from happening again.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 31, 2021.

The Canadian Press