First Nations group turns to Quebecers to fight discrimination


“We have realized over the past year that it is directly with Quebecers that we have to work, without waiting for government action,” said Ghislain Picard, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec -Labrador.

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Tired of waiting for the provincial government to act, a leading group of First Nations appealed directly to Quebecers to help fight racism and discrimination in the province.

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Ghislain Picard, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL), held a press conference on Wednesday to mark one year since the group presented its action plan in this area.

Picard said support for the plan had been overwhelming, listing universities, unions and municipalities that have pledged to implement his recommendations. But the same level of commitment must still come from the Government of Quebec.

“We have realized over the past year that it is directly with Quebecers that we have to work, without waiting for government action,” said Picard.

“This human wave (of support) that we have seen over the past year,” he added later, “maybe it’s time for it to turn into a tsunami, so governments finally do what’s needed”.

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The AFNQL represents 43 Chiefs of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador. Its action plan included 141 recommendations on how to tackle racism and discrimination in the province.

The plan coincided with the death of Joyce Echaquan, the 37-year-old Atikamekw mother who died in a Joliette hospital after filming a caregiver and a nurse insulting her.

Picard said he believes Echaquan’s death has been a wake-up call to many in Quebec over the past year, serving as a stark example of the discrimination indigenous peoples continue to face. .

Stressing the need to act, he pointed to a recent Léger poll conducted for the AFNQL which suggests that 41 percent of Quebecers believe that the province has not done enough to fight racism and discrimination in the last year. year.

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More than three-quarters of respondents also said they were ready to act in favor of reconciliation, added Picard, noting the support the cause has won in Quebec.

First, the group invites people to show their commitment by participating in a march in Montreal on Thursday to mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Those who do are welcome to share their photos and videos online using the hashtags #ActAgainstRacism and #FirstNations. The walk will start at Place du Canada at 1 p.m. and will head towards Place des Arts.

The day was named a federal holiday, but was not recognized as such at the provincial level in Quebec.

Asked about the holiday, Picard said it was difficult to understand why the Quebec government chose not to observe it, noting that it could have gone a long way in raising awareness in the province.

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“But that being said, he added, beyond the question of whether it is a public holiday or not, we must not forget that September 30 is above all a day of reflection and commemoration.

When the AFNQL first presented its action plan last year, it had been a year since Prime Minister François Legault officially apologized to Indigenous peoples for the discrimination they had suffered from. of public services in Quebec.

The apology came after the Viens Commission, a three-year investigation into the matter, called the way First Nations and Inuit were treated in Quebec “simply unacceptable” in a developed society.

But since then, Legault and the government of the Coalition Avenir Québec have continued to deny the existence of systemic racism in the province.

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Last November, the government refused to adopt a package of measures to improve health care for Indigenous people – known as the Joyce Principle, in honor of Echaquan – over a reference to racism. systemic in the document.

On Wednesday, the AFNQL said it continued to be disappointed by the government’s refusal to recognize the issue.

Nadia Robertson, co-spokesperson for the council of elected women of the AFNQL, stressed that systemic racism has already been explored by several surveys and denounced by the communities for years.

But even so, she said, it is still important for the government to recognize its existence.

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  1. Ghislain Picard, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador, speaks to the media about a survey on the attitudes of Quebecers towards Indigenous peoples.

    A First Nations group is working on a plan to fight discrimination in Quebec

  2. Sedalia Kawennotas, member of the Mohawk community and Commissioner Jacques Viens at the Viens Commission, a public inquiry into the mistreatment of Indigenous people in Quebec in 2018.

    Report calls discrimination against indigenous peoples ‘unacceptable’

  3. A big screen at the National Arts Center displays a

    Montreal March to mark National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

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