Book Author and Contributors Support Calls to Implement Joyce’s Principle

Newly formed Awacak Association demands reparations, reconciliation and justice

Tio’tia:ke (Montreal), 4 February 2021 – With today’s release of Plus aucun enfant autochtone arraché: Pour en finir avec le colonialisme médical canadien, published by Lux Éditeur (originally published as Fighting for A Hand to Hold: Confronting Medical Colonialism against Indigenous Children in Canada, by McGill-Queen’s University Press), the book’s author and its two contributors publicly and unequivocally support calls to implement Joyce’s Principle immediately.

According to Cindy Blackstock, member of the Gitxsan First Nation and executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, who also wrote the foreword to the book: “The last words that Joyce Echaquan heard before she died were racist rants from healthcare providers who should have been caring for her. In an extraordinary act of kindness and compassion, her family transformed this painful experience into positive change by gifting us all with Joyce’s Principle to end systemic racism in health care. Her death was a tragic story; her legacy is an uplifting act of love. Contact your Member of the National Assembly and demand it be implemented.”

Joyce’s Principle has been rejected by the government of Quebec because of its stubborn refusal to recognize the existence and pernicious impacts of systemic racism. Samir Shaheen-Hussain, pediatric emergency physician and the book’s author states: “Fighting for A Hand to Hold exposes the historical and on-going violence inflicted specifically on Indigenous children and their communities in Quebec and Canada, which has always occurred in the context of the destruction of Indigenous language and culture, and the ongoing dispossession of Indigenous Peoples, their lands and resources. The crimes committed by medical practitioners and healthcare systems against Indigenous Peoples – fomented community-wide smallpox epidemics and avoidable tuberculosis deaths; experiments and abuse in residential schools, Indian Hospitals, reserves, and communities; forced sterilization; abduction and disappearances – constitutes nothing short of genocide.”

Katsi’tsakwas Ellen Gabriel, Kanien’kehá:ka human rights and environmental activist-artist, proposes a path to deal with Canada’s crimes in her afterword to the book: “Reconciliation, a most overused word these days, must be genuine, accompanied by reparations and restitution.” Specifically in Quebec, she calls for an “immediate and comprehensive implementation of Joyce’s Principle as a meaningful first step towards rebuilding the relationship with Indigenous Peoples living in this province so that our children and future generations can live in a more healthy, just and loving world.”

As Fighting for A Hand to Hold reveals, Indigenous children have been directly harmed by medical colonialism in Canada. In Quebec, families of children who were disappeared by the medical system decades ago still don’t know what exactly happened to their loved ones. The recently formed Awacak Association, a coalition of families from the Anishnabe, Atikamekw, Cree and Innu Nations, is demanding reparations, reconciliation and justice. Spokesperson Françoise Ruperthouse is calling for action: “Our tragedies continue. For us, they have gone on for far too long. We seek to restore dignity to these children who were disappeared, stolen or have died, and to our families. We are reclaiming our roles as the protectors of our children. Self-determination begins with us, our families, and our communities.”

For more information or interviews:

Fighting for A Hand to Hold
Fighting for A Hand to Hold
Confronting Medical Colonialism against Indigenous Children in Canada