Tory MP fighting gay ‘blood ban’ says Parliament could have worked ‘better’ on C-6
Eric Duncan has spoken more about his sexuality in the past two years than he says he has in his entire 33.
The Conservative member of Parliament has talked openly in the House of Commons about being gay while pushing the Liberal government to fulfil a two-time campaign pledge to end the ban on blood donations from men who have sex with other men.
This session of Parliament has taken on a highly partisan atmosphere that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has recently described as toxic, intensifying speculation that Canadian voters may head to the polls before MPs return from the summer break.
In a recent interview with The Canadian Press, though, Duncan described being able to shine a light on an issue that affects him deeply, with some encouragement from a caucus colleague, as an example of how Parliament can work.
Canada introduced a lifetime ban for gay men in 1992 and in 2013 changed it so blood would be accepted from a man who abstained from sex with another man for at least five years.
The waiting period then dropped to one year, and became three months in 2019.
That year, Duncan became a rookie MP — the first openly gay man to be elected under the Conservative Party of Canada banner.
Duncan is not the first MP who has called for an end to the ban, but he did so in a particularly personal way last November. He repeatedly pressed Health Minister Patty Hajdu at a committee hearing in the House of Commons on whether she would accept his blood, which he said he couldn’t donate despite the need created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hajdu agreed the policy was discriminatory, but ultimately under the control of the independent Canadian Blood Services and Hema-Quebec.
Duncan said afterwards a few Liberal MPs thanked him for raising it.
He credits the idea to do so coming from the person who sat behind him: longtime Conservative MP and health critic Michelle Rempel Garner.
Improving equality for those in the LGBTQ community is something Rempel Garner says she has long worked to do.
“I said to Eric, would you be willing to push (Hajdu) on this? Because I know you feel passionately about it. Would you push her on it and push her hard, like, and I’m talking about asking her if she would take your blood,” she said.
“And he’s like, ‘Wow.”
Duncan says initially he didn’t feel confident, being he was a newbie MP set to go toe-to-toe with a senior cabinet minister. He says he also wasn’t sure he wanted to share his personal story.