Montreal rally calls for ‘justice’ after indigenous woman’s death

MONTREAL (AFP) – Thousands of demonstrators marched on Saturday in Montreal to denounce what they said was systemic racism, after an indigenous woman filmed herself being insulted by nurses before dying in the hospital.

Shouting “Justice for Joyce!” and “Racism is a virus,” the protesters demonstrated peacefully in the city’s downtown against a backdrop of drums and traditional song.

Joyce Echaquan, a 37-year-old Atikamekw woman and mother of seven, died earlier this week at Joliette Hospital in Montreal under controversial circumstances.

In a video lasting several minutes, which she filmed from her hospital bed on her cell phone and posted to Facebook, Echaquan is heard calling for help and screaming in pain, as two hospital staff insult her.

Echaquan, who was hospitalised with stomach pain, died shortly after the video was recorded.

Speakers on Saturday made repeated calls for Quebec Prime Minister Francois Legault’s centrist government to shed light on the event and acknowledge the existence of systemic racism in the French-speaking province.

On Saturday afternoon, Quebec Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault announced that a public inquiry would be conducted.

Echaquan’s family said on Friday it intended to sue the hospital and staff members involved in the incident. Their lawyers also requested a police investigation.

Two other investigations are already underway into the cause of death and possible negligence.

Protesters gather during a demonstration in central Montreal to demand action for the death of Joyce Echaquan, a Canadian indigenous woman subjected to live-streamed racist slurs by hospital staff before her death. PHOTO: AFP