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Hospital Staff in Canada Caught Berating Indigenous Patient Shortly Before Her Death

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  • An indigenous woman in Canada died Monday shortly after live-streaming a video that showed her hospital nurses calling her “stupid” and slut-shaming her.
  • The death of that woman, Joyce Echaquan, has increased calls to address systemic racism against indigenous people in the country.
  • One nurse in the video has been fired and two investigations are underway, but so far, no criminal investigation has been opened.

Woman Berated by Nurses in Livestream

A Canadian woman has gone viral for live-streaming an incident where she’s seen being berated by two nurses who are supposed to be treating her.

Shortly after filming that seven-minute Facebook Live on Monday, 37-year-old Joyce Echaquan died.

Echaquan, an indigenous mother of seven, originally checked into a Quebec hospital on Monday after experiencing stomach pains.

In the video she captured just before her death, Echaquan’s nurses can be heard making derogatory comments to her in French. Both nurses remain off-camera during the live-stream.

“You’re stupid as hell,” one says. Another nurse tells Echaquan that she’d made bad life choices and asked what her children would think of her behavior. One of the nurses also says that Echquan was “only good for sex” and that they’d have to pay for her medical expenses as taxpayers.

All the while, Echaquen can be seen tied to a hospital bed, where she screams, begging for the nurses to stop.

Nurse Fired, Investigation Launched

On Tuesday, Quebec Premier François Legault, the head of government in the province, announced that one of the nurses heard in the video has since been fired. Legault additionally denounced the nurses’ remarks as “unacceptable” and “racist.” 

When asked if he believes if this was a situation that arose from systemic racism, Legault rejected that notion.

“I really don’t think we have this kind of way of dealing with First Nations people in our hospitals in Quebec,” he said.

While speaking to reporters, Legault said Echaquan’s death is now being investigated by regional health authorities, as well as by a forensic pathologist.

However, so far, no criminal investigation has been opened into her death. In fact, the Quebec police have said that much will hinge on the results of the autopsy.

Despite this, Echaquan’s family has accused the nurses of negligence. They believe those nurses gave Echaquan too much morphine, as Echaquan had a history of heart trouble. 

If it’s found that the two nurses in the video caused Echaquan’s death, the hospital would almost certainly face significant liability damages.

Indigenous People Receive Poorer Healthcare in Canada

Contrary to Legault, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the incident as “another example of systemic racism that is simply unacceptable in Canada.”

In recent years, Canada has grappled with racism directed toward its indigenous population.

In 2015, one report found that racism in Canada’s healthcare system contributed to overall poorer health outcomes for indigenous people.

Last year, a government inquiry found that Canada was complicit in “race-based genocide” against indigenous women. That inquiry determined that indigenous women are 12 times more likely to be killed or to disappear than non-indigenous women in Canada. 

In June, the province of British Columbia opened an investigation after it was found that healthcare staff in at least one hospital were betting on the blood alcohol levels of indigenous patients. 

“There needs to be a thorough police investigation and that investigation has to be full and professional and must include a full investigation of any criminal misconduct, whether partly or fully motivated by a hate crime,” Alisa Lombard, a partner with a law firm that’s currently representing two indigenous women in a forced sterilization lawsuit, said of Echaquan.

“Not undertaking this kind of investigation would be further demonstrative of the contempt held by the health-care providers for Indigenous people” Lombard added in an interview with CBC. “Joyce, when she was dying, was met with contempt. Their remarks show… hate and really clear racism.”

More People Speak Out About the Hospital

In the days since Echaquan’s death, more people have come forward with allegations against the hospital where she died. 

On Wednesday, Echaquan’s cousin, Karine Echaquan, told the Montreal Gazette that this wasn’t the first time Echaquan had experienced similar discrimination. According to Karine, Echaquan checked into the same hospital in August because of her heart condition.  

Karine added that Echaquan frequently live-streamed on Facebook while receiving care at the hospital because she worried about how she would be treated by staff.

“I think it was a sort of protection for her,” Karine said. “She was always suspicious of public health.”

That claim of similar discrimination was later corroborated by another woman, Jennifer Mac Donald.

Also speaking to the Gazette, Mac Donald said that in late August, she had rushed to the hospital to be with her father, who had been admitted following a heart attack. 

While in the hallway, Mac Donald said she could hear a woman screaming and expressing concerns over her care. Mac Donald went on to describe the attendants on duty as indifferent and even verbally aggressive, quoting one as saying of the woman, “Will she ever shut up?”

Mac Donald, an off-duty patient attendant, said she then tried to approach the woman to see if she needed help, but the staff told her to mind her own business. 

One month later, Mac Donald said she recognized Echaquan in her live stream as the same woman from that incident in August.

The full scope of systemic racism against indigenous people in Canadian hospitals extends well beyond just Echaquan’s experiences, though her experiences do seem to capture a microcosm of the inequities at play.

“Every time we have to bring someone to a hospital, we escort them, because we know that there will be racist comments toward them,” Nakuset, executive director of the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal, told the Times Colonist. “We have a form because we anticipate what’s going to happen.” 

See what others are saying: (BBC) (CBC) (Montreal Gazette)

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Treated Radioactive Water From Japanese Nuclear Power Plant Will Be Released Into Ocean

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  • The Japanese government confirmed Tuesday that it will officially move forward with plans to dump millions of gallons of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean.
  • The government spent a decade decontaminating the water, only leaving a naturally occurring isotope in it that scientists recognize as safe for people and the environment.
  • Despite the safety claims, protesters took to the streets in Tokyo to show disapproval of the decision. Local business owners, in particular, have expressed fears that more municipalities worldwide could ban Fukushima products, including fish, because of distrust in the water.
  • Meanwhile, officials have insisted that the dump is necessary as the water takes up a massive amount of space, which is needed to store highly radioactive fuel rods from the remaining cores at the now-defunct nuclear facility.

Editor’s Note: The Japanese government has asked Western outlets to adhere to Japanese naming conventions. To that end, Japanese names will be written as Family Name followed by Given Name.

Radioactive or Bad Publicity?

After years of discussions and debate, the Japanese government announced Tuesday that it will dump radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean.

Government officials consider the move necessary, but it’s facing backlash from local businesses, particularly fisheries, over potential consequences it could have. Many are especially concerned that the decision will create bad press for the region as headlines about it emerge. For instance, a headline from the Guardian on the issue reads, “Japan announces it will dump contaminated water into sea.”

While the water is contaminated and radioactive, it’s not nearly what the headlines make it out to be. The government has spent the last decade decontaminating it, and now it only contains a trace amount of the isotope tritium. That isotope is common in nature and is already found in trace amounts in groundwater throughout the world. Its radiation is so weak that it can’t pierce human skin, meaning one could only possibly get sick by ingesting more than that has ever been recorded.

According to the government, the decontaminated water at Fukushima will be diluted to 1/7 of the WHO’s acceptable radiation levels for drinking water before being released into the ocean over two years.

Something Had To Eventually Be Done

Over the last decade, Japan has proposed this plan and other similar ones, such as evaporating the water, which the International Atomic Energy Agency said last year met global standards.

The water has been sitting in containers for years, so why is there a push to remove it now? Space and leakage seem to be the primary reasons.

The water containers are slowly being filled by groundwater, and the government expects to run out of space relatively soon. Space is sorely needed, as Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide has pointed out in the past that the government wants to use the space to store damaged radioactive fuel rods that still need to be extracted from the plant. Unlike the water, those rods are dangerously radioactive and need proper storage.

Regardless, Suga reportedly recognizes that removing the water is going to end up as a lose-lose situation.

“It is inevitable that there would be reputational damage regardless of how the water will be disposed of, whether into the sea or into the air,” he said at a press conference last week. As expected, the government’s decision did trigger backlash, prompting many demonstrators to take to the streets of Tokyo Tuesday in protest.

To this day, eleven countries and regions still ban many products from the Fukushima prefecture despite massive clean-up efforts that have seen people returning to the area to live.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (KBS World) (NBC News)

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Greta Thunberg To Skip U.N. Climate Change Conference, Citing Vaccine Inequality

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  • Young environmental activist Greta Thunberg will not attend the U.N.’s climate change conference set to take place in Glasgow, Scotland this November.
  • “Inequality and climate injustice is already the heart of the climate crisis. If people can’t be vaccinated and travel to be represented equally that’s undemocratic and would worsen the problem,” the 18-year-old tweeted Friday, adding, “Vaccine nationalism won’t solve the pandemic. Global problems need global solutions.”
  • Since rollouts began late last year, 40% of vaccines have been administered in wealthy and Western countries, according to The Washington Post.
  • Scientists have warned that the longer the virus continues to circulate widely, the more chances it will have to change and potentially develop vaccine resistance.

Thunberg Points To Vaccine Inequality

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has said she is skipping the UN’s climate change conference.

The COP26 summit is set to take place in Glasgow, Scotland in November, but 18-year-old Thunberg told BBC she won’t attend because she’s concerned about the impact COVID-19 will have on attendance.

In a Twitter thread Friday, she responded to a headline about her plans to miss the summit.

“Of course I would love to attend…But not unless everyone can take part on the same terms. Right now many countries are vaccinating healthy young people, often at the expense of risk groups and front line workers (mainly from global south, as usual…),” she wrote.

“Inequality and climate injustice is already the heart of the climate crisis. If people can’t be vaccinated and travel to be represented equally that’s undemocratic and would worsen the problem.”

“Vaccine nationalism won’t solve the pandemic. Global problems need global solutions,” the teen continued.

Thunberg went on to say that if the summit is delayed, it doesn’t mean urgent action should too.

“We don’t have to wait for conferences nor anyone or anything else to dramatically start reducing our emissions. Solidarity and action can start today,” she added before noting that digital alternatives for the conference would also be insufficient.

“High speed internet connection and access to computers is extremely unequal in the world. In that case we would lack representation from those whose voices need to be heard the most when it comes to the climate crisis,” she wrote.

Data on Global Vaccine Distribution Efforts

According to The Washington Post, nearly 20% of people in the United States are now vaccinated, but many other countries are unlikely to hit that same metric by the end of the year, even with international assistance through the Covax program.

Current projections predict it could be years before developing countries distribute enough doses to come close to herd immunity, which scientists say requires inoculating around 70-80% of a population.

Since rollouts began late last year, enough shots have been distributed to fully vaccinate about 5% of the world’s population, but The Post reported that the vast majority have been administered in wealthy and Western countries.

Around 40% of vaccines have been given in 27 wealthy nations that include only 11% of the world’s population, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

That’s pretty concerning because scientists also warn that the longer the virus continues to circulate widely, the more chances it will have to change and potentially develop vaccine resistance.

Thunberg’s comments are a blow for U.K. organizers, who have already postponed the conference once from last November because of the pandemic. Even now, there has been speculation that it could be delayed again this year.

Thunberg would not play a formal role at the conference but her decision not to attend is a significant symbolic moment.

At COP25, the young climate change activist gave a headline speech and she typically attends major climate events of this nature. On top of that, reports say this summit was slated to be one of the most consequential climate conferences since the 2015 Paris accord.

On the agenda for this year’s conference discussions were country-level plans for cutting carbon emissions, along with progress on the Paris agreement and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

See what others are saying: (Insider) (CNBC) (The Washington Post)

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Japan To Explore Plans for Releasing Fukushima Power Plant Water Into Ocean

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  • Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide is reportedly planning to meet with officials and agencies soon to discuss how to dispose of about a million gallons of radioactive water from the Fukushima power plant.
  • The supply of water used to cool down fuel rods is stored on-site, and the government has spent a decade decontaminating it, only leaving a naturally occurring isotope in it that scientists recognize as safe for people and the environment.
  • Local businesses, particularly fisheries, are still concerned about the release of the water because of ensuing headlines that might lead to public distrust in their products, but Suga insists the water needs to go to make way for safely storing the far more dangerous nuclear fuel rods.

Editor’s Note: The Japanese government has asked Western outlets to adhere to Japanese naming conventions. To that end, Japanese names will be written as Family Name followed by Given Name.

Dangerous Water or Scary Headlines?

As early as next week, Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide will hold a ministerial meeting to discuss the likely release of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean.

The decision to release the water isn’t sudden, as the recommendation to do so has been around for over a year by various government agencies. Regardless, the decision has consistently faced backlash from local groups, particularly fisheries, over how the move will affect their livelihoods, not because the water is radioactive but because the headlines would look bad and cause fear that their products aren’t safe.

While the water is radioactive, the government has spent the last decade decontaminating it, and now it only contains a trace amount of the isotope tritium. That isotope is common in nature and is already found in trace amounts in groundwater throughout the world. Some scientists, like geological disposal of nuclear waste expert James Conca, have pointed out that “no harm has ever come to humans or the environment from tritium, no matter what the concentration or the dose.”

Delay, Delay, Delay

The issue of the contaminated water has been kicked down the road for years, and Suga wants to resolve it because space is running out on the grounds of the plant. The water storage facilities house over a million gallons of water, which is constantly being added to as some of the stores have rainwater and groundwater seep into them.

The water is considered safe to people but takes a huge amount of space that the government wants to use to store damaged radioactive fuel rods that still need to be extracted from the plant. Unlike the water, the rods are dangerous if not properly stored.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said the plan to get rid of the water is sound and meets global standards.    Dumping treated water into the sea is completely normal for a nuclear power plant, even in non-emergency situations.

Regardless, Suga reportedly recognizes that it’s a lose-lose situation, with Kishi reporting that he said, “It is inevitable that there would be reputational damage regardless of how the water will be disposed of, whether into the sea or into the air.”

The sentiment that the headlines would hurt local industries is likely right because even to this day, eleven countries and regions still ban many products from the Fukushima prefecture, despite massive clean-up efforts that have seen people returning to live in the area.

See what others are saying: (Kyodo News) (The Mainichi) (Japan Today)

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