Toronto: On World AIDS Day 2010, a renewed commitment to HIV/AIDS education and to aggressively combating the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS must command our attention. This past year, the Ontario Superior Court ruled that Canadian Blood Services’ (CBS) ban on gay male blood donation is not discriminatory. As an intervener in this case, Egale was troubled but not surprised by the Court’s narrow approach to equality rights. Despite acknowledging that the ban is scientifically indefensible, the court held that no discrimination exists and, since giving blood is low on the “hierarchy of putative rights,” that CBS need not change its policy.
Egale believes that the right to full and equal participation in Canadian society is protected by the Charter, regardless of whether others see that activity as important. There is no hierarchy of rights in Canadian law and Courts cannot diminish the value of a claim on the basis that other strides toward equality have been made. The Court’s comments minimize the importance of this issue to the LGBT community as well as the impact that the discrimination caused by the blood donation questionnaire has on gay and bisexual men.
The stigma associated with HIV/AIDS is part of a much more serious societal trend. Between 2007 and 2008, the largest increase in reported hate crimes in Canada were those motivated by sexual orientation, which more than doubled. In 2008, hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation were also the most violent in nature, and 85% of the victims of violent hate crimes were male. The ban on blood donation from gay and bisexual men perpetuates the likening of queer identity to illness and contagion. In the name of fear and ignorance, it excludes gay and bisexual men from an important form of community participation and contribution. This disturbing trend simply cannot continue.