A lobby group dedicated to improving the lives of Indigenous women in Quebec said any new legislation, funding or projects dedicated to Indigenous life in the province should come with consideration of the special challenges faced by Indigenous women in the province – and come with the acceptance of the idea that Indigenous Peoples in Quebec are faced with institutional racism at many junctures, the group’s president said earlier this week.
“It is essential that the government recognize the existence of discrimination and systemic racism in Quebec,” Quebec Native Women president Viviane Michel said.
Recent government moves to commit $200 million worth of funding to education in order to bridge the culture gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous women are excellent moves in theory, but QNW has yet to see any funding and Michel said Quebec’s movement on some of the 142 Calls to Action presented by the Viens Commission study is admirable, but QNW has yet to see that cash turned into concrete action.
“QNW is pleased to note that several actions have been taken in response to several recommendations and our organization is fully committed to working with the government to stay on the right track towards reconciliation between Indigenous peoples and the government. But to do so, it is essential,” the government admit to a level of systemic discrimination, Michel continued.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault has resisted any notion of institutional or systemic racism in the Quebec government and its civil service, but the treatment of Atikamekw woman Joyce Echaquan, who died in a Joliette hospital last year after enduring racial slurs and mistreatment at the hands of hospital staff and livestreamed that mistreatment on Facebook Live right before the 37-year-old mother of seven died on a gurney.
QNW said it welcomes the moves Quebec has made to fix the situation in its hospitals but that providing cultural education must be provided by those who best understand it.
‘QNW emphasizes the government's desire to provide ongoing training to all employees of the Joliette hospital and to export this model to all hospitals and the health care sector throughout Quebec. QNW is pleased that the government has decided to train all staff, not just nurses, and to repeat this training on an ongoing basis. However, it is very important that these trainings be developed and given by Indigenous organizations,’ QNW said in a statement. ‘These specific trainings must be done on the realities of Indigenous women in Quebec, which are still different from the realities of men. These trainings must necessarily address systemic racism, the legacy of colonization, cultural security and must adopt an intersectional and feminist approach,’ they wrote.
Quebec Native Women was founded in 1974 and is a non-profit organization that represents First Nations women and is based in Kahnawake.
Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Iori:wase