Canadian Medical Association

Over the past few weeks, an important national conversation has been renewed in response to Joyce Echaquan’s inexcusable treatment and death as a patient in the health care system.

On October 16, I was invited to attend an inclusive meeting of Indigenous and non-Indigenous health leaders, various levels of government, and most importantly, Joyce’s family. Together, we mourned her death, and paid tribute to her as a mother, daughter and member of Manawan, Atikamekw Nation. It was also an opportunity to call out systemic racism in Canada.

I want to publicly extend my sincere condolences to Joyce’s family, friends and community. And I also want to thank them for not only finding the strength to share their memories of her, but for so poignantly emphasizing the urgency of improving the treatment of Indigenous patients within the health care system.

During the meeting, several Indigenous health care providers shared their own lived experience within the health care system and shone light on the treatment of Indigenous people across Canada. There’s no question we have an incredibly long way to go to create a culturally safe, equitable and accessible health care system for all First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples. But there’s also no question that we must absolutely make it happen, and urgently.

To achieve change, collaborative measures must ensure what happened to Joyce and her family is not repeated. Systemic racism must be met head on and by name. It is our collective responsibility to put an end to it.

The CMA is committed to working with its Indigenous partners and others to co-design solutions to issues of equitable access, systemic racism and structural inequities within medicine and the medical system. We must listen, learn and take swift, deliberate action to ensure everyone in this country feels safe and respected, within the health care system.

Dr. Ann Collins, President, Canadian Medical Association 

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