Quebec invests $15 million to improve cultural security of Indigenous patients

·2 min read

MONTREAL — Quebec is investing $15 million into the province's health-care system to increase cultural security among First Nations and Inuit communities.

The concept of cultural security refers to a way of operating that ensures that health care is provided with respect for the cultural identity of the patient.

Health Minister Christian Dube says the investment spread out over five years will be used to familiarize hospital staff with the concept.

The announcement comes following the death of Joyce Echaquan, a 37-year-old Atikamekw woman and mother of seven who captured on video the insults she was subjected to by staff as she lay dying in a Joliette hospital bed in late September.

The treatment caught on video sparked outrage among the population.

"We are going to concentrate in hospitals where there are Indigenous populations," Dube told a news conference in Montreal, adding he wants the Joliette hospital to be the first to implement the training. 

The money will also be used to hire liaison officers as well as Indigenous employees who will serve as guides for patients navigating the health-care network.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafreniere said the announcement was a direct response to the findings of a public inquiry that looked at the treatment of Indigenous people by police, youth protection, public health and the justice and correctional systems. The Viens commission issued a series of recommendations more than a year ago, many which haven't been met.

"The introduction of an approach that meets their needs as well as their realities in the Quebec health and social services network is the first in a long series of measures that should help advance the fight against racism, as well as the respect for the dignity to which everyone has a right within the public services," Lafreniere said.

The $15 million will come from $200 million set aside to respond to the Viens recommendations.

The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador welcomed the announcement, but also urged that the measures be taken seriously.

In a statement, assembly chief Ghislain Picard urged the government to adopt the "Joyce Principle," in reference to Echaquan, which would aim "to guarantee all Indigenous people the right to have access without any discrimination to all health and social services as well as the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 6, 2020.

Stephane Blais, The Canadian Press