Southern Chiefs Organization says it’s ‘appalled’ by what happened to Ojibway woman in Alberta hospital

Southern Chiefs Organiation

Lillian Ashley, 40, died while in the care of a hospital in Hanna, Alta. Photo courtesy: Cory Ashley.


An organization representing 34 Anishinaabe and Dakota communities in Manitoba is speaking out after an APTN News story about how an Alberta hospital cared for Lillian Vanasse (Ashley), a member of the Sandy Bay Ojibway Nation.

The Southern Chiefs Organization (SCO) is appalled by the tragic death of Lillian Vanasse,: said SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels in a release sent out Tuesday. “The message is very clear and simple.”

The release comes after APTN reported on the details of Lillian Ashley’s care at a hospital in Hanna, Alta., over the holidays.

The 40 year old Ashley arrived at the emergency room by ambulance after her husband Cory called 911 because she was having difficulty breathing on Christmas day.

Her husband Cory told APTN that he begged staff at the hospital to give his wife oxygen. Health records reviewed by APTN don’t show any indication that oxygen was used.

“I went up to my wife, put my arm around her and asked, ‘are you okay dear?’ She said, ‘I can’t breathe, I need help breathing, I can’t breathe, I need air.’ And she was shaking, she was scared,”

Cory said Lillian had gone almost two hours without oxygen. Frustrated, he began to record a video on his phone.

In the video, nurses can be heard saying the computers are down and test results are needed before any further treatment is given.

They can also be heard saying Lillian had “admitted to taking too much methadone,” a pain medication prescribed by her family doctor to treat abdominal pain.

Cory said his wife did take too much methadone. She had finished her prescription three days early, one day before arriving in emergency; but in the video Cory can be heard saying “that’s not why she’s here. She can’t breathe.” 

Lillian died the next day.

Alberta Health Services told APTN that the incident is under investigation.


Read the story here: 

Investigation underway into how Ojibway woman died while in care of Alberta hospital


“The message is very clear and simple,” said Daniels. “We are saying enough is enough and that not one more of our Relatives should die of racism. Our condolences and prayers go out to Lillian’s family, friends and all those who knew her.”

The release also refers to the death of Joyce Echaquan, an Atikamekw woman who was taunted with racial slurs by hospital workers moments before her death at a hospital north of Montreal in September.

There is no evidence racism played a part in Ashley’s death.

“How much more are we expected to take,” added Daniels.

Cory Ashley has filed a complaint with the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons asking that the hospital’s policies be reviewed by a third party, and that the physician and staff who treated Lillian be suspended.

Video Journalist / Calgary

Tamara is Métis from Winnipeg, Manitoba. She received a diploma in interactive media arts at Assiniboine Community College in Brandon and has worked as a videographer for CBC in Winnipeg and Iqaluit. Tamara was hired by APTN in 2016 as a camera/editor and is now a video journalist in our Calgary bureau.