Humber student and LGBTQ+ activist Christopher Karas filed a human rights complaint against blood donation restrictions placed on gay people in Canada.
Health Canada states that gay men who have sex with other men will have to stay abstinent for a whole year before donating blood.
Karas decided to take matters into his own hands after Health Canada lessened the blood donation deferral period in the summer to one year from five years. He argues the ban should either apply to everyone, or no one.
“We started a legal challenge at the federal level at the Canadian Human Rights Commission to challenge the MSM blood ban,” Karas said. “This is to hopefully change the policy in significant ways so gay and queer men can give blood effectively.”
Men who have sex with men accounts for the largest proportion of new HIV infections reported in Canada and the new deferral policy has been implemented based on scientific evidence, according to Canadian Blood Services.
Karas said he strongly disagrees with what Canadian Blood Services has said to justify their new policy.
“This isn’t based on science, it’s not even based on facts,” Karas said. “It shouldn’t be about who you’re sleeping with, it shouldn’t be about your identity at all or who you are as person.”
This June Health Canada approved the application made by the Canadian Blood Services to reduce the waiting period. The new policy went into effect on Aug. 15.
Canadian Human Rights paralegal James Hill has been Karas’ legal representative throughout this complaint process. Hill said the Canadian Blood Services is discriminating those who just want to give blood.
“Christopher isn’t against the one year ban, he’s just saying that if there’s going to be a one year ban it should apply across the board,” Hill said. “Now if it doesn’t apply across the board then get rid of it all together because it’s pure discrimination to label or place a specific demographic group as a threat or fear.”
A main reason why Karas filed his complaint over the new blood ban is simply because gay men can’t do what everyone else can, give blood.
“Other people can give blood and that’s just not right, we should have a right to give our blood,” Karas said.
“So if I want to go and give my blood so that I can use it for a surgery for example I’m not even able to do that,” he said. “I have to use the public blood system, the blood pool that we have rather than using my own blood and now that’s ridiculous.”
As a paralegal student, Karas wouldn’t have been able to fight for what is right without the help of his professors and whole community at Humber.
From being a part of the LGBTQ+ Resource Centre at North campus to receiving the help from Hill, his paralegal, it all comes down to staying humble.
“I feel like I’m getting all the effective tools that I need and a lot of the advice from really great professors that have real experiences with the legal system,” Karas said. “I want to work in the legal system and be a lawyer someday so that I can represent minorities and marginalized people on the issues within our society.”
The Canadian Human Rights Commission approved Karas’ legal challenge on Sept. 3 and possibly taken to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal where the policy can continue being challenged.
Hill says he wants people to speak up and become change makers in order for Karas to continue making a change in the LGBTQ community and in general Canada over the blood ban policy.
“People shouldn’t be afraid to step forward and voice their opinions because this is discriminatory,” Hill said. “Christopher has been courageous in stepping forward and doing this but we need the support of people who believe in what is right in which the blood deferral policy should be eliminated.”