‘I’m not allowed because I’m gay’: Vancouver MLA says looser blood donation rules still discriminatory

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MARTIN MACMAHON

May 8, 2019 at 3:00 pm PDT

Men who have sex with men will now be able to give blood after a deferral period of three months, down from a year

Decision was made at the request of Canadian Blood Services and Hema-Quebec

But one Vancouver MLA says it’s still ‘blatant discrimination’

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A step in the right direction but not far enough. That’s how a local MLA is characterizing new Health Canada blood donation rules shortening the abstinence rules for queer men to three months, down from the previous one year deferral period.

The Health Canada policy makes West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert feel like a second class citizen.

“Every time I see an advertisement, or I hear somebody urging me to donate blood, I want to,” says Chandra Herbert. “But I’m not allowed to, simply because my partner is male. I thought those days were done.”

He doesn’t understand why gay men in committed relationships must abstain from sex for any period at all in order to donate blood.

“Under the Canadian government’s policy, I’m not allowed to because I’m gay,” says Chandra Herbert. “I’ve been with my partner for 19 years, yet a straight person who has multiple partners, doesn’t take too many precautions, can donate right now. And they won’t let me donate.”

Chandra Herbert says this policy is considered hurtful by many in the gay community — arguing it isn’t based on science — but rather stereotypes about queer men.

Health Canada has been slowly shortening what it calls the deferral period for gay men to donate blood — that is, if they abstain from sex.

It was brought down to five years in 2013, then to one year in 2016 and it will now be three months.

Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault, the special adviser to the prime minister on LGBTQ2 issues, called the reduced deferral period a “big win,” adding the government has spent $3.5 million on scientific research to justify the reduction.

Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor says the decision was made at the request of Canadian Blood Services and Hema-Quebec, adding it is a significant step towards eliminating the deferral period all together.

-With files from The Canadian Press