Assistant News Editor
On Jan. 8, the SRA voted to send the “End the Ban” motion, a national campaign to end the lifetime blood ban on gay men, to the Operations Committee for further review.
Initially spearheaded by the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), of which the MSU is not a member, the “End the Ban” campaign seeks to abolish the Canadian Blood Services’ ban on blood donations from men who have had sex with other men, citing that gay men were at a high rate of infection.
As a precautionary measure, the ban was instituted in 1985 during the height of the AIDS epidemic when knowledge and technology in viral detection were not as sensitive as modern techniques.
Although slight grumbles of inequality and discrimination surfaced among fringe humanitarian groups, the 1985 lifetime ban was generally accepted by all, including those in the gay community.
But with time came medical advancements and a breadth of knowledge. Current analytical techniques can detect HIV within a blood donor, public awareness regarding the perils of the immunodeficiency syndrome have expanded, and ‘high-risk’ lifestyles have been minimized with the widespread use of condoms. In fact, the American Red Cross has gone so far to say “the risk of not getting a blood transfusion when it’s needed is infinitely greater than the risk of infection from receiving one.”
After a presentation by Riaz Sayani-Mulji, Operations Commissioner for the SRA, which highlighted these facts, the SRA devolved into debate regarding the support of the ban where both for and against were represented.
Opposition swelled in the Assembly as some of the representatives questioned the merits of the ban itself.
They believed that any endorsement was premature in its inception. The topic of a lifetime blood ban was much more complex than the discrimination policy suggests. Without an actual plan that is detailed and involves all appropriate parties, including the Canadian Blood Services and the MSU, a ban on blood services at McMaster will be entirely fruitless. Rather than prove anything or further a cause, it may simply result in more harm.
Others argued that if the student representatives do not endorse the ban, then they are necessarily acquiescent to a policy that perpetuates discrimination. In a way, the proponents of the ban implicitly suggested that a lack of support by the SRA marginalizes a minority of their constituency.
Simon Granat, Social Science representative, supported such a view, writing an opinion in the Silhouette and saying “if you don’t stand up against discrimination – even if you’re apathetic – you let hate continue.”
Yet such opposing reasons pale into comparison to the greatest precursor of debate: politics. As the MSU is not a member of the CFS, many of its members are participants of other advocacy groups such as the Ontario Undergraduate Student Association (OUSA) which is in turn a sister group of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA). The two, CFS and CASA, are diametrically opposed. While they both are champions of student welfare, the way they go about enacting their demands is entirely different. The CFS has been commonly characterized as a leftist, radical group, while CASA is portrayed more moderate in nature.
“Certain members of the Assembly do not seem to want to endorse or participate in this movement because of the CFS connection,” Sayani-Mulji
All of these issues together have resulted in a standstill within the SRA. The motion has not been endorsed, and now the Operations Committee is faced with trying to house the ban within the MSU, a task that will certainly be met with opposition.
Whether the opposition or support is merited or not remains to be seen. Currently, much of the public awareness has been led by outreach groups such as Occupy McMaster and the School of Social work. On the other hand, the SRA’s debate sired a discussion centralized on a differences of opinions as opposed to anything else.
The SRA plans to meet Jan. 22 to discuss consequent motions.