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Canada inches closer to ending gay blood ban
Canadian Blood Services has formally recommended Health Canada drop the discriminatory ban on blood donations from men who have had sex with men
Canadian Blood Services (CBS) has asked its regulator, Health Canada, to change its plasma and blood donation policies to allow gay and bisexual men to donate, which it may surprise you to learn is still prohibited in 21st century Canada.
Rather than ask prospective male donors whether they’ve had sex with a man in the past three months, as is current practice, CBS wants to ask all donors whether they’ve engaged in certain high-risk sexual activities.
Rachel Aiello of CTV News reports:
Should this submission be approved, when donors are screened before rolling up their sleeves, they’d instead be asked whether they have recently engaged in anal sex in the context of new or multiple sexual partners within a certain time frame. It’s a move Canadian Blood Services says the evidence shows would allow more equity for donors while ensuring a safe supply.
“Sexual behaviour, not sexual orientation, determines the risk of sexual transmission of blood borne pathogens,” Dr. Isra Levy, CBS vice-president of medical affairs, explained at the organization’s Dec. 4 board meeting.
The LGBTQ blood ban was implemented as an absolute ban in 1992 after a tainted blood scandal in the ‘80s and ‘90s resulted in thousands of Canadians getting infected with HIV after receiving blood donations that weren’t adequately screened.
It’s clearly rooted in the homophobic assumption that LGBTQ people are all potential AIDS carriers whose sexual activities deserve unique scrutiny.
Those assumptions have been slowly chipped away over the years. Starting in 2013, men who have had sex with men could donate blood if they were celibate for five years.
By 2016, that mandatory vow of celibacy was reduced to a year, which in 2019 became the status quo of three months.
Though the Liberal federal government has been elected repeatedly on a vow to fully end the ban, it now argues that it’s in CBS’s jurisdiction to make the change, which may sound familiar as the Liberals’ excuse for everything.
In October, CBS began a pilot project allowing donations of plasma — blood without the cells — from gay and bisexual males Calgary and London, Ont., only if they’ve been abstinent for three months and are monogamous.
"We recognize that eligibility criteria for men who have sex with men is a particularly sensitive issue affecting many who have experienced longstanding marginalization and stigma,” the agency said
"We also recognize that the slow pace of changes to donor criteria that still exclude many gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men has been painful and frustrating for many, and we are working to create a more inclusive system."
In other news …
Under the agreement, asylum seekers arriving at the Canada-U.S. border crossings are turned away and forced to apply for refugee status in the country they first arrived in.
From Reuters: Refugee advocates argue the agreement violates asylum-seekers' equality rights and right to life, liberty and security of the person under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They argue the U.S. refugee system is not analogous to Canada's and the agreement results in people being held in detention or deported to potential persecution.
Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, which brought the challenge, said the Supreme Court’s willingness to hear the case sends a “strong message … to the most vulnerable in our society that the judicial system is going to hear their claim.”
The federal government has agreed to pay up to $40 billion to compensate Indigenous kids they’ve been fighting in court, and reform the child welfare system that sees a grossly disproportionate number of Indigenous children taken away from their parents.
“This $40-billion figure should really tell people how deep the discrimination is that was going on,” said Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society. “Not only can First Nations youth and families not afford them to kick this downstream, but the country can’t afford it either, because we’re going to hold them accountable.”
Mel Lastman, the 88-year-old former Toronto mayor who accumulated significant wealth with his commercially-savvy Bad Boy furniture business, died of what his son claimed was a “broken heart.”
Lastman was a six-term mayor of Toronto’s North York suburb who became the first mayor of an amalgamated City of Toronto that was imposed by then-premier Mike Harris in an austerity-induced mania.
His main legacies as megacity mayor were keeping property taxes artificially low and building the Sheppard subway line nobody uses, as well as saying racist shit about Africans and threatening to kill then-journalist Adam Vaughan for reporting on his wife’s shoplifting arrest.
Edited by Scott Schmidt
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