Commentary | Without policy changes, blood drives threaten campus space

The blood drive debate has burned hot on our campus for the last couple years. Over much dispute, in November 2006 SSMU Council banned blood drives from the Shatner Building based on the belief that Health Canada’s policies for donor qualification were discriminatory.

In 2007, a referendum regarding the ban was brought to the Judicial Board. The ban was upheld and is still in existence to maintain a safer space in Shatner for those students who the blood donation qualifications discriminate against, notably, queer students.

The debate over blood drives in SSMU space is, for the moment, a closed case – that is, until Health Canada’s policies change. The question is, now that we created a safer space for students by banning blood drives within the confines of our Students’ Society, are we prepared to allow them to continue in other spaces on our campus?

This Monday through Thursday, Hema-Québec, the provincial drug agency, held blood drives in the Presbyterian College on University. This still demonstrates a clear threat to the dignity of members of the McGill community.

Health Canada’s policies haven’t changed. They refuse to accept donations by men who have had sex with men since 1977, individuals who have had sex with men who have had sex with men since 1977, and by those who have accepted money or drugs for sex since 1977. These policies clearly alienate individuals’ sexual behaviours by placing an emphasis not on sexual practice and the safeness of the sex engaged in, but instead on sexual partnership. This displays a strong focus on excluding queer individuals and sex workers based on a discriminatory and stereotyped perception of their identities, not the quality of their blood.

These policies result in a hostile environment for those who fall under these categories at McGill, jeopardizing the safe space to which we should all be entitled.

In the advent of the Reclaim Your Campus campaign and other student led initiatives that aim to reinstate a respect for student life and opinion on campus, I believe an examination of the organizations that McGill allows within campus grounds is an inherent part of these movements. After all, our campus should be a safe space for us all.

This is not an attack on blood donation itself, a criticism of the people who can donate blood, or even a criticism of the spirit of Hema-Québec’s presence on campus as a charitable organization. This is a criticism of McGill’s allowance of an organization harbouring unjust policies to occupy campus space and create an unfriendly environment for members of our community.

The presence of blood drives is, of course, not the only threat to a safe space on our campus. After further examination of who our University allows within our spaces, I’m sure we’ll find that visitors are not always accepted with respect in mind for the individual identities and needs of members of the McGill community. This adds yet another list of lessons that we will have to teach our school.

R. Dooley is a U1 Psychology and Women’s Studies student. She can be reached at rdooley12@gmail.com.


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