It is the nature of our organization that every day at Canadian Blood Services, we bear witness to thousands of acts of kindness. Donors give selflessly for strangers they will never meet, to help patients whose lives and experiences may be entirely different from their own. And when they speak of the joy it brings them to lift up others, we are humbled, amazed and more driven than ever to realize our vision: to help every patient, match every need and serve every Canadian.
In those moments we may forget the acts of injustice and cruelty happening daily in the world around us. Yet they persist, along with the acts of kindness. In 2020, the senseless killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks have contributed to the resurgence of a global anti-racism movement. It is a movement born of the frustration, exhaustion and trauma caused by centuries of systemic and institutional racial injustice.
And those wrongs continue. In Canada, we think of Joyce Echaquan, who filmed medical staff uttering racist insults in the hours before she died in hospital. We think of the shocking overrepresentation of Indigenous people in Canada’s federal prisons. We must acknowledge this ongoing injustice in order to grow as a society.
We also acknowledge that inequity and systemic racism exist within our own organization, just as they exist in many places throughout Canada. It is painful to acknowledge that the acts of kindness are not our full story, just as they are not Canada’s full story. But we simply cannot fulfill our mission until we face this honestly.
Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) are under-represented in our organization, including in our leadership ranks. We are responding to that shortcoming with an in-depth survey and assessment of our employees. Our employees will help guide us on our path to a more diverse, equitable and inclusive future.
Unfortunately, diverse groups are under-represented among our donors. Though they are our greatest supporters, they do not reflect the full diversity of our country. This is why we have reached out to Canadians of diverse backgrounds with a survey to hear their voices. We must better understand the barriers they face and how they believe we can do better.
And we do sincerely want to do better. That is why today, we are making this public statement, and asking Canadians to hold us accountable. We know some of our screening practices cause pain to some who seek to give. Our priority is always to ensure the safety and quality of our products at all times for the patients who depend on them. Our policies are based on the science currently available. But we will keep listening to these concerns and we will keep the lines of communication open. Our commitment is to continue making as inclusive a transfusion and transplantation system as possible by evolving with the scientific evidence, by taking into consideration stakeholder concerns and by making changes under Health Canada’s regulatory framework.
Social justice movements like #BlackLivesMatter remind us that the road to equity is long and often difficult. We recognize we will make mistakes along the way. We have struggled even to find the words for this statement. Our senior leaders will keep listening and learning from the experts we have engaged. Our BIPOC employees will also help shape the future of our diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy.
We hope that by sharing our own shortcomings and efforts to improve we can inspire others to do the same. Transparency is as fundamental to an equitable society as it is to the management of our transfusion and transplantation systems. In the months ahead we will share more details of our journey with you.
We don’t have all the answers. But we will be part of the solution. To all of Canada’s diverse communities, this is our commitment to you.