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Inuk woman’s tell-tale botulism symptoms would have been taken seriously if she’d been white, says her widower

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A man from Inukjuak said the failure of a nurse stationed in the northern Quebec community to recognize the signs of botulism cost his wife her life, and it was only after she died that clinic staff took his adult daughter’s symptoms seriously.

Jobie Kasudluak and his daughter Janice travelled to Kuujjuarapik this week to share their family’s story with Commissioner Jacques Viens, who is leading an inquiry looking into how Indigenous people are treated by Quebec government services.

It was the first time the retired judge and his entourage travelled to Quebec’s Inuit territory of Nunavik since the inquiry began two years ago.

Kasudluak testified that his wife, 54-year-old Eva Kullulak-Ookpik, had been telling the nurse for three days that there was something seriously wrong with her.

He said when he brought her to the clinic on Friday, July 7, 2017, she was struggling to breathe, she was dizzy and vomiting, and she could hardly keep her eyes open.

« The nurse on call was a young, new nurse, » he said. « She didn’t seem to know what she was doing. »

He said the nurse had to be persuaded to do blood tests, and once they were done, she sent the couple home.

« She told us there was nothing they could do, » he said. « We’d have to wait for the results until Monday. »

Begged to stay at clinic

Kasudluak said his wife begged to stay at the clinic overnight, where she’d have access to oxygen to ease her laboured breathing.

« The nurse said, ‘Emergency room is for emergencies only. If somebody comes in, you’d be in the way, » Kasudluak told the commission. He pointed out there were two other rooms at the clinic, with two beds in each of them, but still, « they refused her. »

By then it was well after midnight on Saturday, July 8. The couple returned home.

Kasudluak thought his wife was asleep when he tried to nudge her awake the next morning.

« Hi dear, are you OK? » he asked her.

But Eva Kullulak-Ookpik had died overnight, of botulism poisoning, from having eaten an Inuit delicacy of dried beluga a few days before.

[Had she been white,] she would have been on a medevac in an hour.– Jobie Kasudluak, on the medical care his wife Eva Kullulak-Ookpik received

Health Canada describes botulism as a rare but serious illness that should be treated as a medical emergency. It says anyone with the signs, symptoms or history of botulism should be hospitalized immediately.

Outbreaks of foodborne botulism from traditional foods have occurred often enough in the past that posters describing the symptoms are on public display throughout Nunavik.

Retired Superior Court Justice Jacques Viens and his entourage travelled to Kuujjuarapik in Nunavik to hear about Inuit experiences’ with Quebec government services. (Catou MacKinnon/CBC)

Daughter showing same symptoms

Kasudluak’s daughter, Janice, didn’t know her mother was sick when she and her two-year-old daughter ate some of the same dried beluga.

Janice, too, had been calling the Inukjuak health clinic and describing her symptoms: her vomit was yellow, she was having trouble breathing, and her vision was blurred — all signs of botulism.

She said she called three times before she was eventually counselled on Friday to come to the clinic the next day.

On Saturday, she woke up to a phone call from the health clinic telling her that her mother had died and asking her to come in.

Speaking in Inuktitut, Janie Kasudluak told the inquiry that by the time she got that phone call, she was so sick, the caller’s news didn’t even register.

‘I lost my best friend’

Janice Kasudluak was flown to Montreal, and her father went with her.

« I lost my best friend, and I was about to lose my daughter, » the father of nine and grandfather of 21 told the commission, through tears.

Jobie Kasudluak was at his daughter’s side in hospital when she regained consciousness, two days later. By then, Janice’s two-year-old daughter was also sick. (The latency period for botulism can be longer in children.)

She was flown to the nearest hospital, in the Nunavik community of Puvirnituq (often referred to as POV), about 180 kilometres away, but then she was sent home before she had fully recovered.

« Janice’s doctor from Montreal General [Hospital] actually had to request that this little girl has to be medevaced [back] to POV and kept there until she’s better, » Jobie Kasudluak testified.

Coroner never contacted family

The coroner’s office, whose mandate is to find the cause of death and determine if it could have been prevented, issued a report on Eva Kullulak-Ookpik’s death in April 2018.

Coroner Steeve Poisson wrote that when she consulted the health clinic the two days before she died, food poisoning had been suspected. Her lab results, as well as her daughter and granddaughters’ results, confirmed the presence of Clostridium Botulinum. Poisson confirmed the dried beluga had been the source of the bacterial contamination.

He concluded Kullulak-Ookpik had died « a natural death, » and he made no recommendations.

The coroner’s office never contacted anyone in the Kasudluak family to share its findings.

Asked by the Viens commission’s lawyer, Edith-Farah Elassal, whether he believes he and his wife would have been treated differently had they been white, Kasudluak didn’t hesitate.

« She would have been on a medevac in an hour, » he said, matter of factly. « I’ve seen it with teachers and other white people in town — getting medevaced and coming back on a scheduled flight the next day. »

Kasudluak said before his wife’s sudden illness, he’d seen very ill Inuit people turned away from the clinic, only to die a day or two later, and he’s seen it happen since.

« There’s people still being sent home when they should have been sent to a hospital for observation, » he said.

« I just hope that nobody ever goes through what we went through. »

The Viens commission into the treatment of Indigenous people in Quebec held five days of hearings in Kuujjuarapik this month. (Catou MacKinnon/CBC)



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Anglais

A stunning Water Lantern Festival is coming to Montreal

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What might just be the most magical night ever is coming up for Montreal this year.

The Water Lantern Festival has announced that it will be gracing Mississauga with thousands of floating lanterns later this year, as part of a celebration that spans the entire world.

According to the festival’s official website, the event is a celebration of life with proceeds going towards charities and non-profit organizations within the area.

“Water Lantern Festival brings together individuals from all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life to join in one emotional and memorable night. At the Water Lantern Festival, we cherish these moments and will do our best to help you have a memorable experience that you’ll never forget as you witness the beauty of thousands of lanterns reflecting upon the water,” the website states.

The festival takes place throughout multiple cities around the world, with the Canadian cities of Quebec, Regina, Vancouver, Hamilton, Calgary, Ottawa, Mississauga, and, of course, Montreal taking part.

For the Calgary event, a date has been confirmed and tickets are already rolling out. Montreal shan’t be far behind, and you can click the Notify Me tab on the event’s site to be kept in the loop.

Expect an evening filled with food trucks, music, lantern designing and finally, a magical launch of the lanterns into the water as the sun goes down.

For our pals over in Calgary, their event includes a floating lantern, a commemorative drawstring bag, a marker, and a wristband. Expect something similar, if not the same, when more details float through about Montreal’s event.

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Anglais

Euthanasia order on hold for Montreal dog that attacked children

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A pit bull dog that attacked four children and two adults in August 2018 in Montreal North will not be euthanized in the immediate future.

The euthanasia order has been temporarily suspended pending the appeal of a Quebec Superior Court decision.

On Tuesday, Judge Lukasz Granosik rejected a request to halt the euthanasia order issued by the Montreal North borough, which declared the animal a “dangerous dog.”

The City of Montreal has not changed its mind. This is only a delay before it proceeds with euthanizing the dog, a source told the Canadian Press.

Shotta, the one-year-old dog, was in the care of its owner’s acquaintance in August 2018. The dog attacked four children and two adults, causing serious injuries in separate incidents on the same day.

After the attacks, the dog was taken from the home and entrusted to the SPCA.

WATCH: Dog found dead in Angrignon Park

The Road to Home Rescue Support, an American shelter, asked the court if it could take in the dog. Christa Frineau, the dog’s owner, had also asked that Shotta not be euthanized.

Granosik refused to grant the request.

—With files from Global’s Kalina Laframboise

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Anglais

9 Things To Do In Montreal This Friday, Saturday & Sunday

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Today’s sunny skies have me itching to make weekend plans. I absolutely cannot wait to make the most of this warmer weather. This might be the time to inflate my bike tires and dust off my running shoes…

Whether you want to brush up on your cooking skills, let loose, or fill your stomach with amazing food, there’s an event out there for you. Read on for 9 fun things you can do with friends or a fling this weekend.

TL;DR Read on for 9 fun things you can do in Montreal this weekend.

Let Yourself Go At Dress Up

Where: 185 Avenue Van Horne, Montréal.

When: Friday, March 29, 9:00 p.m.

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