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An Inuit family in Nunavik says neglect of health services led to the death of a loved one in their community of Inukjuak in northern Quebec.
The Kasudluak family was testifying before Quebec’s inquiry Thursday in Kuujjuaraapik, Nunavik. The inquiry is examining the relationship between some of the province’s departments and Indigenous Peoples.
In the Summer of 2017, a batch of beluga jerky led to tragic case of botulism in Inukjuak.
Janice Kasudluak said she had two days of escalating symptoms.
“I was still vomiting, and my airway and my breathing was getting very shallow and I didn’t want to look at any bright lights,” Janice Kasudluak testified.
Despite describing these symptoms over the phone to her, her local clinic dismissed her calls for help.
Kasudluak testified that she called the clinic four times as her symptoms intensified, and was told repeatedly that the clinic wasn’t able to help her.
Little did she know that that same day, her mother Eva was also struggling to get help from the same clinic.
“The nurse on call was very young, very new, first time I’d seen her, very young she didn’t know what she was doing she was on the phone with the doctor to get instructions,” testified Jobie Kasudluak, Janice’s father and Eva’s husband.
Jobie Kasudluak went on to describe his wife having difficulty breathing, walking and intense vomiting. She was sent home by the nurse on duty after midnight, about two hours after they arrived.
“My wife, she asked if she could stay for the night in the emergency room with oxygen to help her breath but the nurse said, she refused, she said ‘emergency room is for emergencies only,” he said
Jobie Kasudluak would find his wife’s body in the bathroom the next morning.
“The door was open, so I said ‘hey dear, are you okay’ but there was no answer,” Jobie testified while his daughter Janice silently sobbed beside him. “I was talking to her, she didn’t move she didn’t answer thinking she was just sleeping, not hearing me. I shook her a bit, talked to her.
“I touched her body, it was cool.”
This incident took place in the Nunavik village of Inukjuak, near the eastern shores of Hudson’s Bay, about 1,500 km north of Montreal.
Janice and her two year old daughter only survived their cases of botulism after being medivacked to larger cities for treatment.
“Do you think it would have been different, different treatment if that situation had occurred with a white person going to the clinic?” Edith-Farah Elassal, a prosecutor for the Quebec inquiry asked Jobie Kasudluak.
“That person would have been on a medivac in an hour or so because I’ve seen it with teachers and other white people in town,” replied Jobie.
The Kasudluak family also testified that other Inuit from Inukjuak had been sent home from the clinic only to die the next day, both before and after their incident in the summer of 2017.
After community complaints, Jobie testified that things have improved a little at the clinic.
For him and his daughter Janice, it’s cold comfort.
“I just hope that nobody ever goes thorough that, what we went through,” he said.
The Quebec inquiry will hold a final day of hearings Friday in Kuujjuaraapik before travelling next week to Kuujjuaq for their final week of public hearings.