Aboriginal Affairs | A political table to ease tensions

While tensions are high between the state and Indigenous communities, in the wake of the death of Joyce Echaquan in Joliette, the Legault government and the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL) tried on Tuesday to calm things down. A political table will be set up, with the aim of ensuring closer monitoring of files deemed to be priorities.

This announcement comes almost two months after the death of Joyce Echaquan, this mother of Manawan who died under racist insults from the nurses at the Joliette hospital on September 28, whose story caused a wave of shock everywhere in Quebec.

The new table should quickly be brought to work on ongoing litigation, including the tensions surrounding the hunt for the original in La Vérendrye wildlife reserve. It was here that aboriginal people erected dams this fall demanding a five-year moratorium on hunting in order to combat declining populations.

What was experienced this fall, we no longer want to relive it on both sides.

Ian Lafrenière, Minister responsible for Native Affairs

Mr. Lafrenière met on Monday with the great head of the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council, Verna Polson, to prevent new barricades from being erected. Quebec will postpone the drawing of lots for hunting licenses to March 2021, the time to find a solution. Mediator Mario Gibeault was subsequently appointed by the government.

Equal access to the healthcare system will also be a major issue for this new table. “It involves major adjustments in the network, in the way it intervenes when it comes to our populations. What happened in Joliette is unacceptable, as it would be everywhere else, ”lamented the Chief of the AFNQL, Ghislain Picard.

“We know exactly what we want to change in the health system, but we are very open,” said Minister Lafrenière, who aims for the table to hold “weekly” meetings. However, Quebec affirms that this organization will not be “the only way” to resolve problems, intolerance and racism towards the First Nations calling for a “global vision”.

Ghislain Picard, he met Prime Minister François Legault at the start of the day. He promised that this political table will not replace “plural processes involving nations”. “Certain aspects remain to be defined. We have great diversity, a geopolitical reality that is ours, ”he illustrated, saying he hoped that this announcement could“ blow on the embers ”of reconciliation.

A report that makes people talk

Earlier on Monday, the Atikamekw nation unveiled the “Joyce Principle”. The aforementioned document proposes several possible solutions to improve the relationship between the Aboriginals and the government authorities. Among other things, it suggests the creation of an “Aboriginal health ombudsman’s office” as well as a mandatory and recurrent training phase “at all levels” to ensure that First Nations members have equitable and “free access”. no discrimination ”to health services.

The authors also urge Quebec and Ottawa to “recognize the right to autonomy and self-determination of indigenous peoples” in health and social services, in addition to demanding recognition of systemic racism against indigenous peoples.

We really hope that Quebec will react and respond to that. That’s the number one priority for us at this point.

Ghislain Picard, Chief of the AFNQL, on the “Joyce Principle”

Called to react, Ian Lafrenière said he welcomed the approach, without however wishing to advance on the application of certain recommendations in particular. “We welcome this approach. It will help us in the field and we will see how we will apply it, ”he replied.

Stormy relations

At the beginning of October, the stormy relationship between Quebec and the AFNQL made the headlines. Ghislain Picard had indeed canceled his presence at a meeting scheduled with Mr. Legault, saying he feared that this interview was only a government public relations exercise to calm the wave of indignation.

Mr. Picard then asked for a guarantee that a meeting would also take place with the Atikamekw leadership and the Prime Minister, without which “he did not see the usefulness of appearing”.

“I do not understand what Chef Picard is playing”, François Legault quickly retorted, admitting to having a certain “difficulty following him”. “He’s done that twice in a very short time,” said the Prime Minister, nevertheless assuring that the door to his office “remains open”.

Asked about this, Tuesday, Chief Picard was cautious. “There were several skirmishes. And there is some catching up to do, ”he admitted, saying, however, bet on consensus. “There were those two years of emptiness where we probably had to react more often. I explained that very clearly to the Prime Minister, ”he added.


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