Who Receives the Gift of Life?
The Gendered Settler-Colonial Project and the Case of Delilah Saunders
An organ donation is a matter of life and death in the most literal sense, meaning the Trillium Gift of Life Organ Donation Network, the regulatory body for organ donations in Ontario, is aptly named. In December of 2017, Delilah Saunders, an Inuk activist for the rights of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, went into acute liver failure and was refused a spot on their waiting list. What was the reason the Trillium network cited in refusing Ms. Saunders? She had failed to meet the requirement of a prior sixth-month period of sobriety, a sixth month period wherein she had also been called to testify on the 2014 murder of her sister Loretta at the National Inquiry on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls. The refusal gained national media attention and sparked furious debate, especially regarding the larger issue of the discriminatory experiences of Indigenous women in the Canadian health system. This paper argues that the policy that led to the decision to refuse Delilah Saunders a liver transplant, when analyzed through the intersecting lenses of gender and settler-colonialism, displays the continued commitment of Canada to the settler-colonial logic of elimination, especially regarding Indigenous women.
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