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Saturday, November 22, 1997 Published at 14:35 GMT



Despatches

Canada's Red Cross awaits HIV report

The Canadian Red Cross is awaiting the publication of a report expected to heavily criticize the agency for infecting people with tainted blood. Over 13,000 Canadians became infected with the AIDS virus or hepatitis C after receiving contaminated blood from the Canadian Red Cross. As Lee Carter reports from Toronto, the very survival of Canada's second largest charity looks uncertain:

The inquiry, to be made public next week, is expected to cite over 300 acts of misconduct, many of them directed at the Canadian Red Cross. Dozens of people are already estimated to have died as a result of receiving tainted blood; over 3000 victims are expected to die altogether.

The inquiry was originally commissioned by the Canadian government in 1993 and presided over by Justice Horace Creever , who travelled across the country collecting testimony and evidence. He was originally supposed to report his findings in 1994 but was prevented from doing so by a major legal challenge led by the Canadian Red Cross.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled against the challenge, effectively allowing the Creever inquiry to name Red Cross, Canadian government and pharmaceutical company officials and representatives. The beleaguered charity has already been stripped of its role as the country's supplier of blood, a new government-run agency will take over next year.

Although the Canadian Red Cross admits to making mistakes, it argues that government agencies and officials were also to blame, accusing them of suppressing information about AIDS and the HIV virus in the early 1980s. On Thursday the Red Cross held a press conference in Toronto, pleading for blood donations, which are expected to drop dramatically in the wake of even more bad publicity.

The charity, which provides many other services in Canada and is part of the International Red Cross relief efforts around the world, faces a number of civil lawsuits. Some analysts are predicting that without government financial assistance the Canadian Red Cross could collapse.






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