WENDAKE, QC, April 1, 2022 /CNW Telbec/ – Le Devoir recently published an article announcing that the Government of Quebec would not be honoring its commitment to include the notion of cultural safety in its Health and Social Services Act, thus feeding the insecurities experienced by First Nations within this system.
Far from being a true understanding of the realities faced by First Nations people who experience racism and discrimination in public services, this earlier commitment by the CAQ was made in response to the tragic death of Joyce Echaquan and the subsequent complaints of other Indigenous patients at the Joliette hospital. This was also one of the recommendations of the Viens commission report (C.E.R.P.).
This legislative measure was but a very small weapon to fight such a great scourge as racism in the health and social services system and now, Quebec is backtracking and refusing to implement this timid measure. Asked by Le Devoir about this change of heart, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Ian Lafrenière, said that despite this setback, his government was still “discussing the idea”.
“Fighting systemic racism against First Nations will take more than words. The CAQ government prefers to isolate itself in its denial of the very existence of systemic racism that threatens the well-being and safety of First Nations people, even though its existence has been denounced in every forum, by the public and by the commissions of inquiry as well as by the opposition parties. Only the CAQ government does not see systemic racism in its public services,” said Ghislain Picard, Chief of the AFNQL.
In the same article published by Le Devoir, we learn that the CAQ has also rejected a proposal to establish a new Protector of Indigenous students position, an idea consistent with recommendations of the Viens Commission. The minister’s argument in support of this decision is that there will be one protector for all students. This reasoning is problematic because the inequalities that exist between Indigenous students and their non-Indigenous counterparts will require adapted measures to eliminate the gap in educational achievement that exists between these populations. Also of note is Minister Carman’s exclusion of the recommendation to establish an Assistant Commissioner position and a team dedicated exclusively to issues impacting Indigenous children with the Commissioner of well-being and the rights of children, proposed in the framework of the Commission Laurent. By insisting on a one size fits all approach, the government is in fact reinforcing the inequities that First Nations students continue to experience within the education system.
Refusal to include cultural safety in legislation, refusal to take specific measures to support First Nations in their pursuit of academic achievement, refusal to recognize systemic racism, etc. The AFNQL Chiefs are saying that the government’s systematic denial of the unique realities experienced by First Nations has gone on for far too long. Faced with a provincial government that prides itself on being proactive and seeking concrete solutions, it is easy to see why First Nations are just not buying the good faith rhetoric being peddled by this government.
SOURCE Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador