She recalled that when she was pregnant with her daughter, doctors would stereotype her as a drug or an alcohol abuser, asking her five times during the same visit if she had a problem with substance abuse. “When I reply ‘no,’ they then will ask me, ‘Are you sure. Not even a little bit?’”
Disguising her Indigenous identity, she said, “can be the difference between getting or not receiving treatment, between life and death.”
Canada’s Indigenous citizens often live on remote reserves with inadequate access to clean drinking water, medical treatment or emergency services.
Exacerbating the health care challenge, Indigenous leaders say, is the intergenerational trauma suffered by Indigenous people.
Dr. Samir Shaheen-Hussain, an assistant professor of medicine at McGill University in Montreal, who wrote a book on the colonial policies against Indigenous children, said agonizing experiences, including the forced sterilization of Indigenous girls and women between 1920 and the 1970s, had fomented “deep distrust” of the health care system among Indigenous communities.
Manawan, the Atikamekw First Nations reserve, where Ms. Echaquan lived, is at the end of a 50-mile unpaved dirt road on the shores of Lake Métabeskéga.
Ms. Echaquan’s image is ubiquitous on the reserve — on hats, on posters, on paintings — often accompanied by the words, “Justice for Joyce.” Mourners pay homage at her grave, which is marked by a simple wooden cross covered with necklaces and purple ribbons.