No place for anti-Indigenous racism in Nursing

University of Alberta Faculty of Nursing stands with Joyce Echaquan.

13 October 2020

As Joyce Echaquan sought medical treatment, she deserved the support and compassion promised by our public healthcare system. Instead, she died in the presence of racist insults that make a mockery of not only professional standards but of standards of basic human rights. We are shaken, disturbed, and angry about this incident and its particular cruelty, but know it is not an isolated one. Systemic racism is real, and that reality has been experienced acutely by Indigenous people in Canadian systems, including healthcare. The University of Alberta Faculty of Nursing categorically condemns anti-Indigenous racism and stands with Joyce’s family, as well as Indigenous peoples — including our own staff and students — who are processing this trauma. 

We are committed to ensuring all students in our Faculty receive specific education in anti-racist practice and the delivery of culturally safe healthcare. The University of Alberta Faculty of Nursing collaborated with the Health Science faculties to develop an Indigenous Health course, designed with input from Indigenous people, to address the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action related to healthcare education. This course, Indigenous Health in Canada, is mandatory for our undergraduate students, and its objectives include understanding contemporary and historical realities of Indigenous peoples’ health; improving self-awareness of colonialism and personal attitudes and beliefs towards Indigenous culture and history; exploring cultural humility; and traditional knowledge and practices related to health. The themes of cultural safety and health equity are also woven throughout our curriculum and serve as a lens through which students are taught to evaluate all elements of their practice. We at the Faculty of Nursing know that our work in this area is not done. It is an ongoing and continuous process of learning and healing with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities. 

All Canadians — Indigenous and non-Indigenous — live in Treaty relationships, one extension of which is the Crown’s provision of safe, accessible modern healthcare. The Faculty of Nursing exists on Treaty 6 and Métis Homeland territory, and we serve people from Treaties and unceded territories across Canada. Both as an obligation of the Treaty relationship and as a basic tenet of our society, Indigenous patients deserve every expectation of dignity, compassion, and quality care from our healthcare systems and professionals. As we reflect on Joyce Echaquan’s death and its haunting circumstances, we will reinforce our efforts to ensure that the Faculty, Staff and Students in our Faculty live up to this standard.