Each year, World Blood Donor Day is celebrated on June 14 to raise awareness about the need for safe blood and blood products and to thank voluntary blood donors for their invaluable and life-saving gift.
As Ontario’s largest public sector union, proudly representing more than 1200 members working for Canadian Blood Services, we also give special thanks to the frontline workers who keep the blood system flowing.
Blood is a public resource and access to safe blood is a crucial part of our public health care system. But ensuring a safe blood supply requires a nationally coordinated blood system that’s based on voluntary, non-remunerated blood donations. The World Health Organization agrees. That’s why the WHO continues to call for a ban on paid blood and plasma donations.
Unfortunately, there are strong forces in our province and our country that would like to see blood and plasma privatized – as a commodity to be bought and sold for profit.
As public sector workers, OPSEU members understand the true cost of privatization; it means higher costs and lower quality. We also understand that it’s our moral duty to fight to protect public services and public resources from the greedy hands of corporate profiteers.
It’s why each year on World Blood Donor Day, we take the time to remember and reflect on the tainted blood crisis of the 1980s and 1990s, when 30,000 Canadians were infected with HIV and Hepatitis C. It’s a tragedy we must never forget. Thanks to the Justice Horace Krever and his national inquiry, life-saving rules were put in place to ensure that such a tragedy never happened again.
But as the forces of privatization continue to push, we’ve got to push back harder than ever before.
While Canada is completely self-sufficient when it comes to blood collection and supply for direct-use, we do still rely on paid U.S. markets for plasma, which is used for medical treatments and drugs. Although Canada’s largest provinces – Ontario, BC, Alberta and Quebec – have all banned paid plasma, the federal government continues to allow private plasma clinics to operate in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan. This does not help Canadians, it only undermines our public system.
Now with the elections of right-wing premiers like Doug Ford, Francois Legault and Jason Kenney, we must fight harder than ever to protect our national public system and to demand that these provinces maintain their bans.
Instead of caving to private interests, Canada must do more to collect its own plasma and reduce our dependency on foreign markets.
With a federal election on the horizon, we must continue to demand that all political parties commit to investing in new plasma collection centres and supporting investments to expand our public capacity. We must also demand that discriminatory and homophobic donor screening practices be scrapped entirely and replaced by behaviour-based donor deferral.
This World Blood Donor Day, we must renew our commitment to a national blood and plasma system that is fully public – because public blood is safer blood.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
First Vice-President/Treasurer, OPSEU
Chair, Canadian Blood Services and Diagnostics Sector, OPSEU