Indigenous woman dies in Canadian hospital after filming racist taunts  from nurses
via CBC / Radio Canada

A disturbing video out of Quebec has brought attention to the issue of systemic racism against Indigenous people in Canada's healthcare system.

Joyce Echaquan, a 37-year-old Atikamekw woman and mother of seven, was admitted to a hospital in the Quebec city of Joliette for severe stomach pain on September 26. Two days after being admitted, she posted a live video on Facebook of the nurses taunting her with racial jibes.

In the video, nurses can be heard calling her "stupid as hell" in French and asking "What are your children going to think, seeing you like this?"

"She's good at having sex, more than anything else," another nurse says.


The comments are heard while Echaquan moans in pain. She died shortly after posting the live video.

The actions of the staff were condemned by Quebec premier, François Legault. At least one of the nurses has been fired for their behavior and the province has launched an investigation into the circumstances of Echaquan's death.

Marc Miller, federal Indigenous services minister, has called the video "gut-wrenching" and gave his condolences to the victim's family.

"This is the worst face of racism," Miller told reporters. "This is someone who is at their most vulnerable. And they are dying, having heard racist words expressed towards them."

"Discrimination against First Nations people remains prevalent in the healthcare system and this needs to stop," the Assembly of First Nations national chief, Perry Bellegarde, said in a statement.

Lorraine Whitman, the president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, also spoke out against the horrifying incident.

"It was with disgust that we heard a nurse, a woman who was supposed to care for her, utter racial slurs rather than come to her aid," she said. Whitman also wondered whether other Indigenous women have suffered the same treatment but didn't have the "courage or ability to film their own distress."

A study from 2015 called "First Peoples, Second Class Treatment" by the Wellesley Institute found there is a deep-seeded racial bias in Canada's healthcare system and much of it stems from country's colonial past.

The inequity faced by indigenous people is rooted in government policies that encouraged segregation. Further, negative stereotypes about Indigenous people have created an "unconscious, pro-white bias" among healthcare workers.

The study also found that Indigenous people experience racism in healthcare settings so regularly they often strategize about how to deal with it before admitting themselves to the hospital. The prejudice has also forced some to avoid the healthcare system altogether.

via GoFundMe

This isn't the first incident of its kind to make headlines in Canada this year.

Staff at a hospital in British Columbia allegedly bet on the blood alcohol content of the Indigenous people admitted to the hospital.

"The allegation is that a game was being played to investigate the blood alcohol level of patients in the emergency rooms, in particular with Indigenous people and perhaps others," Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a statement.

"And if true, it is intolerable and racist and of course (has) affected profoundly patient care," Dix continued.

Echaquan's death has inspired people to join the Justice Pour Joyce moment which seeks to end systemic racism in Canada's healthcare system.

Nakuset, the executive director of the Native Women's Shelter and organizer of a Justice Pour Joyce march in downtown Montreal, is hopeful that Echaquan's death will inspire systemic change in healthcare.

However, that'll only happen if Canadians from all backgrounds come together to support Indigenous people.

"The only way that we can make changes as a society is to show up," she said, "because actions speak louder than words."

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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via The Walt Disney Company / Flickr

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Of course, there's a healthy way to approach such a potentially dangerous topic.

Telling your partner you find someone else attractive shouldn't be about making them feel jealous. It's probably also best that if you're attracted to a coworker, friend, or their sibling, that you keep it to yourself.

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Courtesy of CeraVe
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"I love being a nurse because I have the honor of connecting with my patients during some of their best and some of their worst days and making a difference in their lives is among the most rewarding things that I can do in my own life" - Tenesia Richards, RN

From ushering new life into the world to holding the hand of a patient as they take their last breath, nurses are everyday heroes that deserve our respect and appreciation.

To give back to this community that is always giving so selflessly to others, CeraVe® put out a call to nurses to share their stories for a chance to be featured in Heroes Behind the Masks, a digital content series shining a light on nurses who go above and beyond to provide safe and quality care to patients and their communities.

First up: Tenesia Richards, a labor and delivery nurse working in New York City who, in addition to her regular job, started a community outreach program in a homeless shelter that houses expectant mothers for up to one year postpartum.

Tenesia | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Upon learning at a conference that black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women's health, Richards decided to take further action to help her community. She, along with a handful of fellow nurses, volunteered to provide antepartum, childbirth and postpartum education to the women living at the shelter. Additionally, they looked for other ways to boost the spirits of the residents, like throwing baby showers and bringing in guest speakers. When COVID-19 hit and in-person gatherings were no longer possible, Richards and her team found creative workarounds and created holiday care packages for the mothers instead.

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