CIJA’s Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau on Blood Ban Policy
On September 27th, CIJA wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to urge the Government of Canada and Canadian Blood Services to take immediate steps to end Canada’s discriminatory blood ban policy and adopt screening standards consistent with both science and the growing international consensus.
Dear Prime Minister,
For too long, Canada’s blood donation system has been governed by negative stereotypes that represent bigotry toward the LGBTQ+ community. While other countries have ceased mandating questions that specifically target and stigmatize gay men and trans women, Canadian Blood Services continues to ask prospective donors if they belong to these categories. As all blood donations are already tested, the net result of this pre-screening is not a safer blood supply, but the perpetuation of bias against LGBTQ+ people.
In the last election, you and the Liberal Party of Canada rightly pledged:
We will bring an end to the discriminatory ban that prevents men who have had sex with men from donating blood.
Currently the Canadian Blood Services (CBS) and Héma-Québec (HM-QC) ban men who have been sexually active with men at any point in the previous five years from donating blood, even if it has been entirely safe and monogamous. This policy ignores scientific evidence and must end.
A Liberal government will work with Health Canada, CBS, and HM-QC to end this stigmatizing donor-screening policy and adopt one that is non- discriminatory and based on science.
We welcome and applaud this commitment. Today, we urge you to move forward to fully enacting it.
While the decision by CBS to require LGTBQ+ community members – before donating – be celibate for one year, rather than five, is a step forward, it amounts to little change in practice.
Adding insult to injury, CBS has recently broadened its list of those prohibited from donating blood to include some transgender Canadians, a community that already faces acute discrimination in many forms.
This is neither in keeping with your party’s commitment nor with Canada’s values. In contrast, countries such as Argentina, Israel, Italy, Mexico, and South Africa allow all citizens, including gay men and trans women, to donate blood, while maintaining the integrity of their blood supplies. Canada’s continued discrimination is illogical and unproductive, and it perpetuates negative stereotypes that are damaging and harmful to the LGBTQ+ community.
This policy is also not consistent with current scientific knowledge related to blood testing. CBS notes that all blood is comprehensively tested for several illnesses, including HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. The testing process is vital – and we do not for a moment question the legitimacy of screening every donation, without exception, to prevent contamination.
Canadians deserve to have confidence in the way CBS screens and tests donations, and how they identify possible contamination. But this must be achieved through science, not outdated and
The development of effective testing methods has reduced the window required for the detection of such infections. The scientific knowledge exists that makes CBS’s discriminatory one-year ban on donations from LGBTQ+ Canadians unnecessary. Current science empowers CBS and the Government of Canada to confidently replace their policies with gender-neutral, behaviour- based screening methods. A revised policy would be more precise, accessible, efficient, cost- effective and would empower more Canadians to donate blood, free of judgment and discrimination.
At a time of chronic shortages in Canada’s blood supply, LGBTQ+ Canadians want to help save lives. We call upon the Government of Canada and Canadian Blood Services to take immediate steps to end Canada’s discriminatory blood ban policy and adopt screening standards consistent with both science and the growing international consensus. We look forward to your response.
Chair, CIJA LGBTQ+ Advisory Group,
Shimon Koffler Fogel
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