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Following their suspension on Monday and a call for an investigation by the Native Women’s Association of Canada, two CLSC nurses in Joliette were fired on Tuesday afternoon due to racist comments and mistreatment of an Indigenous woman last Friday.

According to CBC, 62-year-old Jocelyne Ottawa went to the CLSC to have a bandage changed. Upon seeing her name in a file, one of the nurses said, “We’re going to call you Joyce, for short,” a reference to Joyce Echaquan, the Atikamekw woman who died at a Joliette hospital six months ago following negligence and racist comments captured on video by Echaquan herself. Ottawa’s phone was then confiscated by one of the nurses, and she was asked to sing a song for them in the Atikamekw language.

“The comments made by the two employees showed a disregard for the code of ethics of the nursing profession and the code of ethics of our organization. The CISSS de Lanaudière has a zero-tolerance policy about behaviour that is racist, discriminatory and intimidating. I want that message to be heard loud and clear.”

—Caroline Barbir, interim head of CISSS de Lanaudière

The CLSC nurses who were fired yesterday were among the 4,000+ CISSS employees who took part in a “cultural safety awareness session” in November, a training endeavour implement following Echaquan’s death.

In comments yesterday, Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafrenière repeated the CAQ party line that there is no systemic racism in Quebec. “I’m so sorry. I’m so shocked. I’m so disappointed,” he said. “Can we guarantee that it won’t happen again? The answer is no.”

This incident has prompted renewed calls for the province to adopt Joyce’s Principle, guaranteeing fair, safe treatment of Indigenous Quebecers in the healthcare system.

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