Gay minister criticises Canada’s organ donation ban

PinkNews logo surrounded by illustrated images including a rainbow, unicorn, PN sign and pride flag.

The Health Minister in the Canadian province of Ontario has said that new federal rules excluding sexually active gay men from being considered as organ donors if offensive.

Men who have sex with men in the last five years of their life will no longer be accepted as organ donors under new rules from Health Canada.

Families will also be interviewed about potential donors’ exposure in increased risk, such as travel or time spent in jail, under new rules that came into force in December.

George Smitherman, the first out gay Ontarian state MP and Cabinet minister, said in an interview yesterday:

“To have these wonky bureaucrats up in Ottawa write that kind of nonsense, based on some long-standing bias within their department, ignoring the front-line people that actually do this stuff, that was the part that was most offensive.”

However, the federal Health Minister’s press secretary rejected the criticism.

“These regulations are formalising a practice that has been ongoing for many years in Canada that has to do with risk assessment,” she said.

Gary Levy, head of Toronto University’s transplant programme, previously told CBC News that he had not been informed about the new rules.

He estimated that seven out of every 100 potential donors could be excluded.

“In the past, the gay community was considered a high-risk community because of perception of high-risk behaviour,” he said.

“We now know it’s not a homogeneous community.

“The fact is, if someone has 62 partners, whether it’s heterosexual or homosexual, there still is a risk. That community was singled out. I think that’s unfortunate.”

Smitherman, Ontario’s first openly gay cabinet minister, is regarded as one of the most powerful politicians in the Canadian province.

He has been Minister of Health since 2003, and is also Deputy Premier.

Smitherman is regarded as one of the most combative politicians in Canada. He earned the nickname Furious George for his dealings with hospital chiefs.

He has had to apologise to opposition politicians on several occasions for using unparliamentary language.

However, he was also pictured crying after seeing photographs of the conditions some patients endured in nursing homes and he defended the right of a gay teenager to take his boyfriend to the prom.

Although a right-winger, he represents a constituency in central Toronto which includes the gay village.

He married his partner, a retail operations manager for chocolatier Lindt Canada, last August.