Our personalities of the year 2021: Géhane Kamel, coroner

She often repeats in public hearings that she does not read newspapers, anxious to preserve her impartiality. And yet: the name “Géhane Kamel” brings out more than 7,000 entries in 2021 in the Eureka database, which lists journalistic articles and TV and radio reports.

During the year, the coroner took control of large-scale, high-profile investigations into the tragedies that upset Quebecers. One of them concerned the death of Joyce Echaquan in 2020 under racist insults from the staff of the Saint-Charles-Borromée hospital, commonly known as the Joliette hospital. The other, still in progress, focuses on the causes and circumstances of deaths in living environments for seniors during the first wave of COVID-19.

The first gave rise to intense moments of emotion. At the Trois-Rivières courthouse, where Joyce Echaquan’s husband and members of his family traveled every day, Coroner Kamel retraced the events that led to the last moments of the Atikamekw mother’s life. . Faced with witnesses who denied any form of racism in their care environment, the lawyer was impatient. What undermine his duty of reserve, criticized an ex-coroner. Or was it rather a way of exposing the biases of the professionals who had to treat Mr.me Echaquan? After all, without the video recording, “it’s a safe bet that this event would never have been brought to the attention of the public”, summarized Mr.e Kamel in his final report. “The racism and prejudices to which Mme Echaquan faced were certainly contributory to his death, ”also wrote the one who has been a permanent coroner since 2017. She concluded that the death of Mr.me Echaquan was “accidental”.

Day after day, Géhane Kamel seemed to seek the balance between the search for the truth and the benevolence towards the witnesses. She appealed for calm when nurses received death threats. She collected the testimonies of caregivers consumed by guilt. She defended herself from entering political territory by making the recognition of systemic racism by the government of Quebec the very first recommendation in her report. The fact remains that the Prime Minister, François Legault, declared in the wake that the residential schools were an example of systemic racism, according to the definition of the dictionary. Little Robert, to which he adheres.


The investigation into the tragedy of the CHSLDs also quickly entered political territory. Its national component, on the management of the crisis, fed the opposition parties, so that the slaughter in the CHSLDs took all the place at the Blue Room from the end of November.

Géhane Kamel, a lawyer who made a career at the Center jeunesse de Montréal and then at the Heart Institute in the same city, made the headlines for her usual outspokenness. The organization chart of the Health network still gives it “migraines”, she notably launched nine months after the start of her investigation. His empathetic statements may have received less attention. In the courtroom, however, she often wanted to reassure the witnesses in front of her. “I would not have wanted to be in your shoes”, she notably slipped to the national director of public health, the Dr Horacio Arruda. On several occasions, she has been the voice of families, “in the right to obtain answers” about their deceased loved ones.

For these bereaved people, Géhane Kamel did not wish to grant an interview to the Duty as part of this portrait. “She clearly prefers these families to be highlighted. As she likes to say, she prefers to be in the shadow of these deceased, ”said the Coroner’s Office.

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