Canada has the reputation of being the nice guy of North America but sometimes that mask slips.
Last week, a video of a dying indigenous woman screaming in distress and being insulted by staff showed the “worst form of racism”, according to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the BBC reports.
Joyce Echaquan, a 37-year-old Atikamekw woman, had gone to the Joliette hospital near Montreal suffering from stomach pains.
The mother of seven filmed herself in her hospital bed screaming in distress and begging for help.
A member of the nursing staff can be heard saying to her, in French, “You’re stupid as hell.”
Another says Echaquan had made bad choices in life and asks what her children would think of her behaviour. Echaquan died soon after.
Reaction to the video was swift. Quebec Premier Francois Legault told reporters, “The nurse, what she said, is totally unacceptable, it’s racist and she was fired. We must fight this racism.”
Three investigations are now under way.
It is the latest in a series of incidents that raise questions about the systemic racism faced by Canada’s indigenous citizens.
Canadian First Nations advocate Perry Bellegarde tweeted that the incident showed that discrimination against indigenous people in Canada’s healthcare system remained prevalent.
In June, health authorities in the province of British Columbia launched an investigation into claims that some hospital staff were betting on the blood alcohol level of indigenous patients.
Last year a government inquiry found that indigenous women were 12 times more likely to be killed or to disappear than other women in Canada. The inquiry said the cause was deep-rooted colonialism and state inaction.