François Legault apologizes for comments on Joyce Echaquan's death

·2 min read
Carol Dubé, Joyce Echaquan's husband, right, says he was shocked by François Legault's comments last week about Echaquan's death. The premier now says he would like apology in person.  (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Carol Dubé, Joyce Echaquan's husband, right, says he was shocked by François Legault's comments last week about Echaquan's death. The premier now says he would like apology in person. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada - image credit)

François Legault says he didn't intend to offend Joyce Echaquan's family when he said the "problem that happened at the Joliette hospital with Mrs. Joyce is now resolved" during last week's debate.

The CAQ leader and incumbent premier was responding to criticism about his refusal to recognize systemic racism.

Legault insisted while campaigning in Orford, Que., Tuesday that he never intended to harm Echaquan's husband, Carol Dubé, and recognized there are still problems to be solved.

"I can only imagine how hard it must be, what you went through," Legault said. "There are racist people in Quebec, particularly toward Indigenous people. We have to fight that. We can't accept that."

The controversy comes almost two years after Echaquan, an Atikamekw mother of seven, died in hospital after filming herself being subjected to insulting comments from staff.

A Quebec coroner later ruled her death was "accidental" because she failed to receive the care she was entitled to.

Last week, Legault said he talked to Dubé and the problems at the hospital had been solved. Patrick Martin-Ménard, the family's lawyer, said this isn't true though the family had been asking to meet him for two years.

Dubé says there was no meeting beyond a chance encounter with Legault during the papal visit. In his apology, Legault said he would like to meet with Dubé after the election.

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Following the debate, Atikamekw leaders emphasized there are still many issues to be addressed.

Their demands include the government acknowledging systemic racism in the province — something Legault has said does not exist — and adopting Joyce's Principle to guarantee all Indigenous people the right to equitable access to health and social services in the province.

On Saturday, Legault said members of the Atikamekw community want to reopen a debate on systemic racism rather than "solve problems on the ground."

The CAQ leader also said his government has been working hard to address racism and to improve relations with Indigenous communities.

Echaquan's family will not make any statements in response to Legault's comments, said the family lawyer.