Over the last two years, more than 800 people in Kamloops have come together to call on the Federal Health Minister, Patty Hajdu, for her government to fulfill their election promise to end the blood donation ban for men who have sex with men (MSM). Ending this discriminatory policy was part of the federal government’s election promises in both 2015 and 2019, but they have yet to follow.
In early 2020, the Union requested a meeting with Minister Hajdu to learn about the government’s plan for moving this issue forward and to provide an update to people in Kamloops. At that time the minister declined our request for a meeting and has not provided an update on this issue since that time.
“What we’ve heard from our community is surprise and confusion that this blood donation ban still exists,” said Kole Lawrence, Vice President External of TRUSU. “We think it’s time for the Ministry of Health to provide some answers to the Kamloops community about why they haven’t resolved this issue.”
In 2020/21 the Union focused on meeting with community leaders and organizations in Kamloops to share this ongoing issue. Many leaders in Kamloops have been supportive of the issue including ASK Wellness, Kamloops Immigrant Services, Kamloops United Church, Safe Spaces Kamloops from ICS, the HEU, a majority of Kamloops City Councillors, and leaders at TRU such as deans, faculty, and staff.
“Having the support of leaders in Kamloops such as City Councillors is an exciting moment for this issue,” stated Lawrence. “We hope the minister takes seriously how big of an issue this is for our community.”
Currently, Canada has a blood deferral policy in place of three months for men who have sex with men. This means that, regardless of their relationship status, and regardless of their safe-sex practices, many gay and bisexual men will not be permitted to donate blood for most of their adult lives. An alternative policy that promotes fairness while still ensuring blood safety is one that refuses blood donations based on individual risky behaviors rather than one’s identity.
In spring 2021 we are once again requesting that the Health Minister meet with us to provide an update for the Kamloops community on this issue.
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