MONTREAL — Amnesty International released a report Wednesday condemning Canada’s treatment of Indigenous communities, pointing to the case of Joyce Echaquan.
The report also singles out Quebec for the adoption of Bill 21, the province’s ban on wearing religious symbols for some public sector employees like teachers and police officers.
The annual report examines the state of human rights in 149 countries.
FULL REPORT: Amnesty International Report 2020/2021: The State of the World’s Human Rights
“The fact that Quebec stood out of this report and the glaring issues shows very much that we are behind in history,” said Yusuf Fariqi, director of public affairs with The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM).
Amnesty International’s report examined Indigenous rights in Canada, focusing on the death of Echaquan, a 37-year-old Atikamekw mother who died in September at a Joliette hospital north of Montreal.
She live-streamed from her bed as staff hurled racist and derogatory slurs at her.
“The hospitals in Montreal, are they implementing any of the recommendations?” said Nakuset, advocate and director of the Native Women’s Shelter. “Same thing with the police, same thing with the justice system. Whose job is it to make sure it’s read, understood, implemented? Well, it’s pretty much the government.”
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The report says her death triggered a mobilization against racism in the health system and that throughout the years, “Indigenous land defenders were subjected to threats and violence throughout their territories.”
“It seems like nobody is afraid to act inappropriately because unless Indigenous people are almost whistleblowers, this sort of goes under the carpet and it’s business as usual,” said Nakuset.
Some say the solution comes from testing people’s biases to work towards eliminating racism in the province.
“In different institutions, when they have to do sort of like anti-racism workshops and apparently people sit there with their arms crossed and go ‘hum hum,’ they’re not absorbing the information. And I think that in a field where you’re not supposed to do harm, and you choose to do harm, then it’s the culture,” said Nakuset.
Amnesty International also questioned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, stating it disproportionately penalized minority groups.
Canadian authorities did not respond to the request by 300 groups and experts that human rights be monitored more closely during the pandemic, according to the report.
As for the Quebec government’s adoption of a religious symbols ban, the report contends that the law raises “concerns in terms of gender equality, discrimination, freedom of religion and freedom of expression.”
“One of the richest parts of our beautiful society here in Quebec is that we get to have a choice. We have the choice to put on the hijab, we get to have the choice to take off the kippah, we get to have the choice to put the turban, it’s a choice. The fact that they’re forcing us on this choice goes against one of the seminal, fundamental principles of our society in Quebec,” said Fariqi.