Nation Valley News
S-D-SG — As Canadian Blood Services struggles to maintain the country’s blood supply amid the pandemic, the voice of Eric Duncan, MP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry, has risen above the clamour to call for an end to Canada’s ban on blood donated by gay or bisexual men.
Currently, men in Canada who identify as gay or bisexual must abstain from sexual intercourse with other men for three months prior to donating blood. But it hasn’t always been that way. Originally, if a man had been sexually active with another man even once, a lifetime ban would apply, preventing their blood from ever being used. It was a response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which swept across the western world in the ’80s.
Eric Duncan says that, at the time, the ban was justified, given the capabilities of science. That’s not the case anymore though. Scientists now know that HIV/AIDS can also be transmitted between people of the opposite sex.
Duncan, who came out publicly as gay in 2017 and went on to become the Conservative party’s first openly gay MP, took on the blood ban during Question Period on December 9th. In his speech, he criticized the Liberal government’s inaction, despite their promise to end the ban in 2015, and asked the prime minister whether he would keep that promise. In response, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made much of his government’s reduction of the ban from a year to three months.
This comes as the United Kingdom’s Tory government lifted their ban entirely earlier this month, with the changes due to go into effect in the summer of next year. Now, the eligibility of blood donors will be based on sexual behaviour, not orientation. And Eric Duncan hopes Canada will follow suit.
With support from the NDP, the Green Party, Bloc Québécois, and Liberal MP’s, opposition to the ban has been a unifying force. The only obstacle seems to be the upper echelons of Justin Trudeau’s government, and Duncan, like everyone else, doesn’t know why.
“Am I optimistic they’re going to do it? Well, yeah, because the answer is right in front of us, but why haven’t they done it? It bewilders me and I have no idea what’s holding them back,” Duncan said. “The research is already there. Health Canada themselves have said this is outdated, it’s wrong, and it’s actually a danger to the blood supply because it unnecessarily disqualifies people who would be giving otherwise.”
Duncan cited an article on VICE by Justin Ling, who obtained internal documents from Health Canada that called the ban “ineffective”. He said this refutes the Liberal government’s excuse that there isn’t enough research to support repealing the ban. If Health Canada thinks the ban is pointless, then what exactly is stopping the Prime Minister?
Duncan said that he has not received any outreach from Justin Trudeau personally, but that he has received positive feedback from people all across the political spectrum and from all different backgrounds. Perhaps that bodes well for the future, at a time when it’s so rare for people with differing political stances to agree on something. In any case, the local MP’s efforts have been recognized and applauded by the LGBTQ community for championing their issues on Parliament Hill.