Gay activist upset at Ottawa's attempt to block challenge of blood-donation ban

·1 min read

OTTAWA — A man who is challenging Canada's policy that prohibits sexually active gay men from donating blood wants to know why the Trudeau government is trying to block his case, despite a 2015 Liberal pledge to end the ban.

Christopher Karas brought a human-rights complaint against Health Canada in 2016 and three years later the Canadian Human Rights Commission decided to refer the matter to a tribunal for a more substantial probe.

But the federal government has launched a judicial review to stop the complaint from going further, arguing that it is about a policy not set by Health Canada, but rather by the Canadian Blood Services — an arm's-length agency.

Karas says he is confused and upset Ottawa is challenging his case, especially since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised repeatedly since 2015 his government would end the gay blood ban.

The policy of excluding men who have had recent sex with men from donating blood or plasma — originally a lifetime ban — was implemented in 1992 after thousands of Canadians were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through tainted blood products.

Karas' lawyer, Shakir Rahim, argues Health Canada is the regulator for the country's blood system, and therefore has a role in the Canadian Blood Services' policies, including the ban.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 18, 2021.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

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