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August 30, 2023
GATINEAU, Que. – The President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) says it is completely unacceptable that ambulance service in Témiscamingue, Que., was disrupted over the weekend leaving a stabbed First Nations woman without access to emergency health treatment after she was attacked.
“It is outrageous that Indigenous people and others living in rural Canada should be forced to accept health care that is inferior to the minimum standard provided to the rest of the country,” said Carol McBride who also lives in the Tèmiscamingue Region. “How many Indigenous women have to die before these problems are resolved?”
Mrs. McBride called upon the province of Quebec to give a full explanation for why ambulances were not available when Cindy Pagé, 56, a member of the Lake Temiscaming First Nation, was attacked early Saturday morning. She also demanded assurances that this type of situation will never be allowed to happen again in rural parts of the province, and of the country, many of which are home to Indigenous people.
Ms. Pagé had to be transported to hospital by police because no ambulance services were available. All of the paramedics in the region were off duty because they had worked their maximum number of hours. Police have only basic first-aid material in their cars and are unequipped to deal with major injuries. It is unclear whether Ms. Pagé would have survived had an ambulance arrived, but the police say her chances certainly would have improved.
“This treatment of an Indigenous woman in need of urgent care is more than distressing, it is a violation of human rights,” said Mrs. McBride. “The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) says all Indigenous people have the right to life and to physical security.”
A recent study by the Public Health Agency found that a lack of primary-care providers means off-reserve First Nations, Métis and Inuit women have poorer health overall compared to non-Indigenous women in this country. But the situation in Quebec seems especially dire, said Mrs. McBride.
The horrific inadequacies of the Quebec health-care system that confronted Ms. Pagé call to mind the treatment of Joyce Echaquan, a 37-year-old Atikamekw woman who was subjected to racist taunts by medical staff before she died in a hospital in Saint-Charles-Borromée, Que. in 2020, she said.
“We know the province is currently being sued by Indigenous women who say they underwent forced sterilization. We know the Viens Commission, which investigated the discriminatory treatment of Indigenous people seeking public services in Quebec, called upon the provincial government to enhance health services for Indigenous people,” said Mrs. McBride. “But Quebec has learned nothing from these experiences if it is willing to leave Indigenous people like Cindy Pagé and other rural Canadians without access to emergency health services.”
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+1 (604) 928-3233