Joyce Echaquan died two months ago this past Saturday. It was announced this weekend that a benefit concert in her honour took place last week and will be available to stream for free online starting Thursday December 3 at Waskapitan.org where you can also donate to the Lanaudiere Native Friendship Centre, expected to open in 2022 in Quebec. The Centre will offer an early childhood program, culturally safe healthcare, affordable housing for families and Elders, and a living and culturally immersive gathering place for Indigenous clients. The concert will include performances by Elisapie, Ariane Moffatt, Florent Vollant, Patrick Watson, Natasha Kanapé Fontaine, Richard Séguin, Dominique Fils-Aimé, Richard Desjardins, Boucar Diouf, and Patrice Robitaille.
Joyce was an Atikamekw woman who died in hospital in Joliette just a few hours after livestreaming her experience with hospital staff who, instead of treating her with medical expertise and kindness, either downplayed her struggles, ignored her, or insulted her with racist comments. Her experienced was covered by international media – the Guardian and the BBC in the UK, PEOPLE.com and TIME, among others, in the US. And that’s not typically the reputation that Canada has on the world stage. But maybe Canada, and Canadians like me, need to be shamed in order to do something.
It’s been two months and while a public inquest is underway, results could take months, if not over a year, and many in the Atikamekw community are “skeptical about the process”. It’s the system that failed Joyce so can the system be relied upon to criticise itself? But also, for years there have been inquests and research and they all say the same thing: Indigenous people in Canada continue to be racialised and abused. And Joyce’s experience was not unique. The Canadian healthcare system fails Indigenous people all the time and the only reason why Joyce’s situation made headlines is because after suffering so many indignities, she decided to document the last moments of her life. This is what I try to keep top of mind because I want to stay angry: the fact that in her final moments she was busy showing the world how low she felt, when she was already in so much pain. So what’s going to happen when Joyce’s inquest basically confirms what we saw in her video?
This is why the concert is important – not only to heal and to bring people together, but also as a follow-up, so that story remains a story, so that the follow-up questions keep being asked, and with urgency.
Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday, a Global Day of Giving and people around the world are being encouraged to make charitable donations to the causes of their choice. I will be donating to Waskapitan.org in memory of Joyce Echaquan.
Yours in gossip,