It’s been more than two years since we said goodbye to the staff and donors of Canadian Blood Services’ Thunder Bay plasma collection centre. October 30 we will be returning there again as part of a unique cross-province campaign to keep our blood system safe.
OPSEU is proud to sponsor the upcoming tour of Tainted by playwright Kat Lanteigne. A performed reading of the play will take place in seven Ontario cities October 18-30: Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, London, Windsor, Kingston, and Thunder Bay. All readings will be free to the public, but tickets should be reserved in advance. It will also be performed directly at Queen’s Park and in the center block of the Canadian Parliament to MPPs, MPs and their staff. Those attending the Ontario Health Coalition Action Assembly weekend will also be treated to a performance of the play on the evening of Saturday, October 18.
To secure a seat, please go to http://moyotheatre.com/tainted-tour/
Tour dates and locations are at the end of this post.
Behind the issue
In 2012 CBS said it had a surplus of plasma and no longer needed the Thunder Bay clinic which collected more than 10,000 units per year. We noted at the time that CBS coincidentally was increasing its imports of plasma from the United States by 10,000 units. That includes plasma from individuals who were paid for their donation, a practice that remains controversial.
We were in for another surprise shortly after CBS shuttered its Thunder Bay clinic.
A private for-profit company revealed it had plans to open a series of clinics across the country to pay Canadians for their plasma. One of the first to open in Toronto is located next to a homeless shelter. While Health Canada was deliberating whether or not to license the for-profit clinics proposed by Canadian Plasma Resources, the private company surprised everyone by insisting it didn’t need a license at all, opening its doors earlier this year.
Health Canada eventually made clear the decision whether or not to allow paid donation was up to the provinces – a shocking abdication of responsibility. One of the key recommendations coming out of Canada’s tainted blood crisis in the 1980s – the largest public health disaster in our history — was to prohibit paid donation because of the risks involved. It was, after all, infected imported plasma from paid donation sources in the United States that led to deaths in Canada and the rest of the globe. That included donations from high risk populations such as prison inmates and homeless individuals. Payment gives an incentive for individuals to be less than honest in the screening process that is intended to keep the blood supply safe.
Ontario responded to CPR’s surprise opening by introducing a new bill in the spring that would make it an offence to pay or offer to pay donors for blood, or for blood donors to accept such payments.
Unfortunately, that Bill was lost when the June election was called. Bill 21 has since been reintroduced in the short legislative session over the summer. Second reading of the Bill is scheduled for October 20 when the legislature resumes its fall sitting.
While the Bill will likely have the effect of closing down CPR’s Toronto facilities, it does not end the story.
Without federal intervention, CPR can simply choose to move its facilities to a more accommodating province. Nor has any CBS provincial partner publicly addressed the fact that CBS is paying for blood product on the world market.
Neither CBS or Héma-Québec have any relationship with CPR – yet. That means that any plasma rendered to CPR in Toronto would likely be finding its way to fractionation plants in the United States where it would be manufactured into pharmaceutical products such as intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG).
Canadian Blood Services buys such product from the U.S. and distributes it across Canada.
CBS insists that the manufacturing process renders IVIG safe, yet in 2007 a Chinese pharmaceutical company was found to have spread Hepatitis C through IVIG product. This isn’t supposed to be possible.
Survivors of the first scandal remain skeptical, having heard in the 1980s how the chances of getting infected were one in a million. We were later to learn 30,000 Canadians had been infected.
About the play
Tainted premiered last September at the Aki Studio Theatre in Toronto. It is a compressed telling of the tainted blood crisis as seen through the eyes of a fictional blue-collar family. Lanteigne conducted interviews across Canada with families impacted by the scandal as source material for the play. It has since been performed in its reading form in Vancouver and in the United Kingdom.
Saturday, October 18 / 7 pm (SOLD OUT)
The Foundery, 376 Bathurst Street, Unit #101, Toronto
Tuesday, October 21/ 7:30 pm
The Pearl Company, 16 Steven Street, Hamilton
Wednesday, October 22/ 7:30 pm
Aeolian Hall, 795 Dundas Street E., London
Thursday, October 23/ 7:30 pm
KordaZone Theater, 2520 Seminole Street, Windsor
Monday, October 27/3:30 pm
Queen’s Park (by invitation), Toronto
Monday, October 27/8 pm
Dancemakers Theatre, 55 Mill Street, Toronto
Tuesday, October 28/7:30 pm (SOLD OUT)
Isabel Bader Theatre, 390 King Street W., Kingston
Wednesday, October 29/ 3:30 pm
Parliament Hill (by invitation), Ottawa
Wednesday, October 29/ 7:30 pm
National Arts Centre Studio 4, 53 Elgin Street, Ottawa
Thursday, October 30/ 8 pm
Thunder Bay Art Gallery, 1080 Keewatin Street, Thunder Bay
“Go see Tainted. Yes, it is emotionally difficult but it’s a wonderful play. Take kleenex.” – Mooney on Theatre
Help us spread the word! Download the “Tainted” tour poster (link below) and share this post on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.
The Moyo Theatre tour of Tainted is made possible with support from OPSEU, Actors Equity, The National Union, and the National Arts Centre.