A shocking video showing hospital staff in Canada berating and verbally abusing an Indigenous woman while she cried in pain in the final moments leading up to her death has sparked outrage across the country and renewed calls to bring an end to systemic racism.
Joyce Echaquan, a 37-year-old member of the Atikamekw Indigenous tribe, arrived at a hospital in the Quebec city of Joliette on Monday, complaining of stomach pain.
The mother of seven had previously suffered similar issues and told staff she had a heart condition. Echaquan started live-streaming her experience on Facebook as her pain escalated, and staff at the hospital appeared indifferent to her pleas for help.
Staff Called Her 'Stupid,' Said She's Better Off Dead
Near the end of the seven-minute video, hospital staff are recorded talking in her room. Two women can be heard calling Echaquan "stupid as hell," and a "dumbf*ck," questioning her life choices and saying that she would be better off dead.
"You made some bad choices, my dear," a nurse says in French at one point, as Echaquan moans in pain. "What are your children going to think, seeing you like this?"
"She's good at having sex, more than anything else," another nurse says. "Who do you think is paying for this?" they also ask.
Echaquan died moments later. According to her family, she was given too much morphine and died as a result of an adverse reaction to it.
Quebec's coroner's office is now investigating the circumstances surrounding her death. The local health authority is also probing what happened inside the hospital room, and one of the nurses involved has already been fired.
Outrage Over Systemic Racism Against Indigenous People
The videos sparked a wave of criticism and spurred "Justice for Joyce" protests in a country which has a long history of abuse against its indigenous people.
"Discrimination against First Nations people remains prevalent in the healthcare system and this needs to stop," the Assembly of First Nations national chief, Perry Bellegarde, said in a statement.
Marc Miller, federal Indigenous services minister, called the video "gut-wrenching" and extended his condolences to the indigenous community. "This is the worst face of racism," Miller told reporters. "This is someone who is at their most vulnerable. And they are dying, having heard racist words expressed towards them."
Quebec premier François Legault denounced the staff's actions and said a provincial task force on racism would issue recommendations in the coming weeks. However, he refused to acknowledge that Echaquan's death was representative of a broader problem of racism within Quebec, despite a public inquiry concluding the exact opposite.
"I really don't think we have this kind of way of dealing with First Nations people in our hospitals in Quebec," he said.