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Canadian Blood Services aiming to make submission in 2021 to remove blood ban

Canadian Blood Services says it is making plans to submit an application to Health Canada by the end of 2021 to replace the blood ban with a sexual behaviour-based screening model for all donors.

“We plan to make a submission to Health Canada by the end of the year and work is underway to build the submission,” said spokesperson Catherine Lewis in an email to

The blood donation organization says it will be recommending that the current three-month deferral period for gay and bisexual men and well as some other folks in the LGBTQ2S+ community be removed. Instead of denying these donors if they have not been abstinent for three months, donors would be asked a series of screening questions based on their behaviour rather than their orientation.

According to the organization, their CEO Graham Sher stated the goal publicly for the first time on Friday at a board meeting, and their online information page on the donor restrictions has been updated to include the target.

The federal government has been under fire for failing to not follow through earlier on their long-stated promise to remove the blood ban, which has widely been described as discriminatory and not based in science.

Key cabinet ministers responsible for the file have dismissed calls for them to intervene and change the rules unilaterally, stating that they were waiting on submissions from Canada’s two blood agencies, Canadian Blood Services (CBS) and Hema-Quebec.

While the blood agencies’ independence is “a cornerstone” in the eyes of the government, since taking office, the Liberals have funded research projects that were aimed at helping bolster the evidence-based decision-making process, including studying donors’ eligibility criteria and alternative screening processes.

There had been an expectation that research would wrap in early 2020 but last month Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) told that research was “ongoing,” with some results expected sometime “in 2021.”

Between 2013 and 2019, Canada’s blood donation policy has changed three times, gradually evolving from a five-year ban on giving blood to the current three-month deferral period. The policy started in 1992 as an outright lifetime ban following the tainted blood scandal that played out in the 1980s and 1990s and saw thousands of Canadians infected with HIV after receiving donor blood.

There is currently a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal inquiry probing the ban and Health Canada’s role in upholding it as the regulator that approves any blood donation screening criteria changes.

In May, CBS made a submission to Health Canada for a “pilot project” to begin using a behaviour-based screening system for plasma donations this fall. Health Canada said it would aim to review the submission within 90 days.

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