December 15, 2017

Solidarity with Delilah Saunders

The Canadian Federation of Students stands with Inuk land protector Delilah Saunders and the call from her supporters to reverse a discriminatory policy of the Trillium Gift of Life Network that prevents her potential life-saving liver transplant.

Delilah Saunders is a 26 year-old Inuk woman who has participated in land and water protection across the country. She has been a fierce advocate for missing and murdered Indigenous women, after her sister, Loretta, was murdered in 2014 in Halifax. Delilah testified at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in October of this year, and was honoured with an award for human rights leadership from Amnesty International earlier this year. Earlier this week, while in Ottawa as a part of a speaking tour on this issue, Delilah suffered acute liver failure as a result of acetaminophen (Tylenol) buildup from the over-the-counter medication she had been taking for jaw pain. Currently, she has been admitted to the Toronto transplant clinic, but is without guarantee of access to a liver.

Despite the long life ahead of Delilah, her doctors in Ottawa have had all requests for a new liver rejected by transplant centres. This is a result of the Trillium Gift of Life Network policy requiring patients with any history of alcohol dependence receiving liver transplants to remain abstinent from alcohol six months prior to receiving a transplant. Delilah, who has spent years working to turn her trauma into strength for Indigenous women, has a history of substance use and has not been completely abstinent from alcohol within this time frame. As a result, healthcare professionals have suggested that, even if a personal live donor match was found, Delilah would not be permitted to receive the transplant as a result of this policy.

This discriminatory policy has not only targeted Delilah, but has previously resulted in the death of Mark Selkirk in 2010. Debra Selkirk, his widow, filed an application with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal to change this policy. Since then, research promoted by Trillium has suggested that patients with alcoholism can have equally positive life outcomes upon receiving a liver transplant. In fact, Trillium announced a three-year pilot project to assess the state of this policy, and whether or not it should be changed. They have even stated that an arbitrary six-month sobriety requirement does not necessarily change patient outcomes.

This policy is institutionalized colonial violence that is nothing short of a death sentence. Delilah, and others like her, cannot live without a functioning liver, and the bureaucracy of the Ontario health system is willing to let her die despite her courage, leadership and assistance in educating Ontarians on Indigenous issues. The Federation is steadfast in its support of Indigenous women, and demands that the Trillium Gift of Life Network not only waive this policy so that Delilah may receive life-saving care, but also create a pathway for others who have been rejected as a result of this policy to receive wavers allowing them to receive care.

We call on our members to visit to learn more about how to support Delilah, sign and share the petition, or contact Members of Provincial Parliament.

We cannot allow one more Indigenous woman to die at the hands of the government. Act now.