CCD Calls for Co-Creation of Solution to Address Anti-Indigenous Oppression in Health Care and Beyond

Media Release

For Immediate Release | October 6, 2020

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) seeks to honour Joyce Echaquan, an Atikamekw woman, by pledging to serve as an ally supporting the long overdue work needed to remedy systemic anti-Indigenous racism and oppression, which is the result of Canadian colonialism and white supremacy.  As an ally, CCD urges all Canadians, and particularly Canadian leaders at all levels, to do their part to address anti-Indigenous oppression.

Like any Canadian, Ms. Echaquan, who had a pacemaker according to media reports, went to a Quebec hospital seeking medical attention for a health problem. While in hospital, Ms. Echaquan’s dignity was harmed by racist and misogynistic slurs, abuse and neglect. Shortly, thereafter Ms. Echaquan succumbed to her illness.

As an Indigenous woman with a disabling health condition, Ms. Echaquan, who already was in the vulnerable position of being hospitalized while critically ill, was put further in harm’s way by the intersecting oppressions of racism, misogyny and ableism.  “We in the disability community know too well from personal experience, that negative biases about personal characteristics can have devastating consequences in a medical setting,” states Heather Walkus, 1st Vice Chair.

Regrettably, the discrimination experienced by Ms. Echaquan is not an isolated incident and it is not just a Quebec problem.  For example, in 2008, Brian Sinclair, an Anishinaabe man living with disability was “ignored to death” for 34 hours at the Winnipeg Health Science Centre and would have lived had he received prompt treatment.

“Canada is failing its international human rights commitments to ensure the right to health of Indigenous Canadians,” states Jewelles Smith, CCD Past Chair. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recognizes “the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”  The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (art. 5) emphasizes that States must prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination and guarantee the right of everyone to public health and medical care.

“Canada’s structural oppression of Indigenous people is well known and the UN has suggested remedies, states Roxana Jahani Aval, CCD Chairperson.  “In the context of disability and indigeneity, both the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities have made recommendations concerning the human rights of Indigenous persons in Canada.” 

In 2017, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in its concluding observations on Canada recommended that Canada, “Adopt measures to ensure universal coverage of health services for all persons with disabilities, including indigenous persons with disabilities, and that services are accessible, affordable and culturally sensitive, and prevent the denial of health-care services, including abortion;”  In 2019, the UN Special Rapporteur on disability visited Canada and following her review recommended that Canada: “92. F. (f) Take measures to ensure that indigenous persons with disabilities have access to culturally-sensitive, quality services and programmes; …100 a. Improve access to health care for indigenous persons with disabilities by making comprehensive rights-based medical care available as close as possible to their homes”.

CCD calls upon Canada’s leaders to co-create with the Indigenous community an improved health care system that affords Indigenous Canadians true access to the right to health.  “There is no excuse for delay. The roadmap for dismantling structural anti-Indigenous racism and oppression is spelled out in various UN reports and recommendations and in the reports of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and, more recently, the Viens Commission in Quebec,” states Heather Walkus, 1st Vice Chair. 

“As an organization, CCD is ensuring that its own house is in order. It is developing an anti-oppression policy and will be providing anti-oppression training to volunteers and staff to build a safe space for everyone,” states Roxana Jahani Aval, CCD Chairperson.


For More Information Contact:

Heather Walkus, 1st Vice Chair, Council of Canadians with Disabilities
Tel: 250-501-1112

Jewelles Smith, Past Chair, Council of Canadians with Disabilities

Background Information

Ignored to Death

Concluding observations on the initial report of Canada

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities

About the Council of Canadians with Disabilities

CCD is a national human rights organization of people with disabilities working for an inclusive and accessible Canada.

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) is a social justice organization of people with all disabilities that champions the voices of people with disabilities, advocating an inclusive and accessible Canada, where people with disabilities have full realization of their human rights, as described in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) unites advocacy organizations of people with disabilities to defend and extend human rights for persons with disabilities through public education, advocacy, intervention in litigation, research, consultation and partnerships.  CCD amplifies the expertise of our partners by acting as a convening body and consensus builder.