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Senator Plett Speaks at Second Reading to the Voluntary Blood Donations Bill (S-252)

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Voluntary Blood Donations Bill

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Wallin, seconded by the Honourable Senator Boniface, for the second reading of Bill S-252, Voluntary Blood Donations Act (An Act to amend the Blood Regulations).

Hon. Donald Neil Plett: I will speak very briefly to this.

Colleagues, I rise to speak in strong support of the voluntary blood donations act, known as Bill S-252.

Just over 30 years ago, colleagues, we experienced one of the most devastating internal medical crises that our country has ever seen. Due to a lack of proper government regulation on our country’s blood collection and distribution systems, the prevalence of HIV and hepatitis C became apparent within our society.

The tainted blood crisis, precipitated by a lack of proper screening of blood donations, caused some of those who received blood donations to become infected with these two aforementioned blood-borne viruses. It is believed that one of the reasons that this crisis occurred was that, during this time, blood donors were compensated for their donations. This medically cataclysmic event shocked our country by infecting an estimated 30,000 Canadians with tainted blood.

In an effort to prevent a medical crisis such as this from ever again occurring in Canada, Judge Horace Krever launched a full investigation of the Canadian blood system, chiefly the methods used for collection and screening. A key recommendation that arose out of the findings of the Krever commission was that blood donors should not be paid.

Justice Krever supported this finding by pointing out an inevitable truth: Individuals who seek compensation for their donation of blood often do so not out of a desire to donate their blood but, instead, out of a desire to obtain compensation.

Today in Canada, it is my opinion we are heading down the road of the 1980s once again. Canadian Plasma Resources is a privately funded plasma collection organization that began offering compensation for plasma donations in Saskatchewan in February 2016. The organization started out small, opening its first clinic in Saskatoon. However, since then, against the advice of Canadian Blood Services, Health Canada has again given CPR the green light to open more facilities across the country.

Becoming a paid donor at CPR is relatively easy. When you arrive, you fill out a brief medical history and are given a physical examination by an on-site physician. You can then sit down, read a magazine, watch a movie or do other things to pass the time while your 90-minute plasma collection takes place. After you’re done, you go to the checkout counter and receive a $25 compensation “for your time,” as CPR claims.

Donors are encouraged to donate often in exchange for Super Hero Rewards. The more donations you make, the higher the value of your membership becomes. Members with silver and gold statuses even qualify for monthly raffles, the prizes of which are valued at over $2,000.

While this may sound appealing in theory, colleagues, it encourages individuals to completely miss the point of donating blood and plasma. An individual should want to donate blood or plasma in order to help fellow citizens, and there is no motivation for an individual to do so through voluntary blood donation clinics if the CPR clinic next door is able to offer such fabulous prizes to their donors.

What’s more, these facilities conduct no screening on the plasma they obtain.

The Saskatoon clinic was not the first CPR clinic to open its doors in Canada. In 2013, CPR attempted to open three of their facilities in Ontario, conveniently located in proximity to places such as methadone clinics and men’s missions. In these cases, CPR was attempting to target less fortunate members of the populations that would likely be more willing to donate plasma in exchange for cash.

This sparked outrage within the province and eventually led to a piece of legislation similar to Bill S-252 being passed in Ontario in December 2014. With this legislation enacted by Queen’s Park, the province effectively banned the collection of paid blood and plasma donations, citing the tainted blood crisis of the 1980s as an event in history that we as Canadians should not allow to be repeated.

Honourable senators, with this bill, we have a chance to make a lasting impact on the health system in Canada. We have a chance to prevent our Canadian blood and plasma supplies from being tainted by insincere donors whose donations do not undergo substantive screening processes. We have a chance to stop history from repeating itself and create a new, lasting and safe blood collection mechanisms within Canada, one that encourages Canadians to help their fellow man in the interest of goodwill and not in that of profit.

As Senator Wallin stated in her second reading speech, the tragedies of Humboldt and the Toronto van attack serve as proof that Canadians are willing and, indeed, want to heed the call to help their fellow citizens, not for compensation but out of the goodness of their hearts.

Colleagues, in passing this bill and preventing private corporations like CPR from paying for plasma donations within Canada, we would be able to ensure that Canadian Blood Services, an organization committed to the safe screening of blood and plasma, would be the main collector of our blood supply. We would ensure that Canadians who donate blood are not doing so for incentive but out of compassion. Finally, we would work toward becoming 100 per cent self-sufficient in our Canadian blood supply, a recommendation from the World Health Organization.

Colleagues, I believe this bill will lead to a better, safer and more sufficient Canada. I will vote in favour of this bill, and I ask that you join me. Thank you.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

(On motion of Senator Omidvar, seconded by Senator Harder, P.C., debate adjourned.)

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