To members of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences community,
On Monday, September 28, Joyce Echaquan of the Atikamekw Nation of Manawan tragically died in deplorable circumstances while in a hospital’s care. Joyce Echaquan’s death again sounds the loud alarm on the ugly pervasiveness of systemic racism and discrimination in our society. Moreover, the verbal abuse she suffered by those entrusted with her care strikes painfully close to home: the health care system we all belong to devastatingly failed her, just as it has been failing Indigenous peoples for centuries.
McGill’s Indigenous Health Professions Program, under the direction of Dr. Kent Saylor, published this statement on Friday condemning the appalling behaviour of those involved and calling on institutions and others to act in the ongoing fight against systemic racism. The Faculty fully endorses the Program’s message, and expresses with a very heavy heart and humility its condolences to Joyce Echaquan’s family and to her community.
Choosing to become a health professional comes with great responsibility. It is our duty to treat patients with empathy, dignity and respect. Our mission is to improve the health of individuals and societies. We are socially accountable. There is irrefutable evidence that systemic racism and discrimination lead to poor health outcomes. As is true in our efforts to address anti-Black racism, we have an enormous amount of work to do with respect to systemic racism against Indigenous peoples. And just as they face racism and discrimination in the health care system, Indigenous peoples also encounter barriers to studies and careers in the health professions and sciences, creating a cycle that exacerbates the issue.
The Indigenous Health Professions Program, the Social Accountability and Community Engagement Office and many impassioned members of our community are working hard to remove barriers, increase awareness of unconscious biases and improve health outcomes for Indigenous and Black, lower socioeconomic and other disadvantaged peoples. As we mentioned following the tragic death of George Floyd, we are committed to do better. The Faculty will very shortly share its framework to address anti-Black racism for consultation in our community, and we will build on all efforts to accelerate our work addressing systemic anti-Indigenous racism and discrimination as well.
Let’s work together to help ensure that Indigenous and all disadvantaged peoples may feel welcomed and safe in our institutions.
Vice-Principal (Health Affairs)
Dean of the Faculty of Medicine
and Health Sciences
Indigenous Health Professions Program
October 5 2020