Statement: MSM Deferral changes

The Centre would like to acknowledge that today Health Canada and Honourable Minister Philpott have moved forward with approving the proposal from Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec to revise the current policies with regards to blood donation by men who have sex with men (MSM). Today’s announcement means that MSM will have a one-year deferral period before donating blood.

This will officially bring Canada in line with many other countries–including the United States, Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland and France. Moreover this speaks to evidence based decision making practices.

A good step, but not our last

We at the Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity acknowledge that this is not a win. We know that the deferral practice does contribute to a culture of discrimination, oppression, heterosexism & cissexism. We at the Centre completely oppose any deferral period.

In today’s statements the Minister shared that this is not a big change by stating: “I recognize that this 4-year reduction in the deferral period is not a radical change, and will not change the circumstances for many MSM donors who are currently prevented from donating blood. That being said, I would rather see Canada take a step in the right direction than stand still.”

But wait, there’s more

Today’s announcement also came with a $3M contribution to Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec to fund behavioural research to ensure non-discriminator practices; organize an international seminar with health leaders from around the world to discuss blood donor policy; encourage further development of technologies. Finally, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health will study the restrictions on MSM blood donation.

Please note this announcement will not result in any changes for organ donation.

A bit of history

In 2012, the Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity joined dozens of LGBTQ organizations, Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec to found the MSM Deferral Policy Working Group. Over the last few years we have worked together to create dialogue, collaborate on research and raise awareness on this very important issue.

This step is part of a larger plan from the Working Group to move towards a FULL elimination of the deferral policy.

We are not happy

Over the last few years, dozens of LGBTQ organizations from across Canada have been working very hard on the Working Group to understand this issue. Frankly, this discriminatory policy was put into place in 1980s as a result of HIV Stigma and heterosexism–this was reactionary and NOT research based.

Since then Health Canada requires changes to be research based, and the Working Group has been working hard with Canadian Blood Services, Héma-Québec and Health Canada to get that research so that we can remove the deferral.

The commitment of $3M for research is what we need to get that data, so that we can finally put this issue to bed.

How you can help NOW:

We know that many want to take action, as such we encourage you to:

  • Call your Member of Parliament and inform them that you think evidence based decision making is important, and that they should support the House of Commons Standing Health Committee in this work.
  • Encourage friends and family who can currently donate to become donators at either: Héma-Québec or Canadian Blood Services. Upon their completion of donation, fill out the survey and encourage Héma-Québec or Canadian Blood Services that this is an important issues for you.
  • Become an organ donor. Restrictions on organ donation in Canada remain unclear, and are often decided on a case by case basis. Sign up here.
  • Donate to the Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity so that we can continue to put pressure on the federal government and ensure we END the MSM deferral period
  • Volunteer to our team and be part of the Working Group

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