Public Statement Transcript:
Delivered by Dr. Pierre Duplessis, Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Red Cross on May 30, 2005
As you know, about an hour ago, the Canadian Red Cross pleaded guilty in Ontario Superior Court to a regulatory charge relating to the blood tragedy of the 1980s.
As I sat in court today, my thoughts were of those people affected by this tragedy… of their loss, of their heartache, their courage… and even their anger. Blood they had trusted to give life – ended up taking it away. Many died… mothers, fathers, sons and daughters… and thousands continue to suffer the effects today.
I also thought of respected, dedicated, long-serving Red Cross workers who made decisions with the best of intentions.
There will be no way to easily reconcile or satisfy the wide range of emotions and perspectives that will arise today, but they all form part of what impelled Red Cross to enter the plea we did.
This morning, the court played a videotape of an apology created for the court record.
I thought it important that I make that same apology here in public, so that those affected - and others who couldn’t attend would hear it, too.
“The Canadian Red Cross Society is deeply sorry for the injury and death caused to those who were infected by blood or blood products it distributed, and for the suffering caused to families and loved ones of those who were harmed.
We profoundly regret that the Canadian Red Cross Society did not develop and adopt more quickly measures to reduce the risks of infection, and we accept responsibility through our plea for having distributed harmful products to those who relied upon us for their health.”
For Red Cross, today marks another stage in a process that has brought considerable change to our organization in the aftermath of this tragedy.
We have new leadership;
We transferred blood operations to Canadian Blood Services and Hema Quebec;
We used proceeds from the transfer to provide $70 million in compensation to those affected by tainted blood;
And we restructured Red Cross under bankruptcy protection;
What hasn’t changed is that we continue doing the humanitarian work for which Red Cross was created.
And we will keep doing that… more carefully, more diligently and with more determination than ever.
Red Cross will never forget the blood tragedy. And we don’t want Canadians to forget it either. We must learn from it -- and do what we can to assure such a crisis never happens again.
For those reasons, and because we believe that justice is best served when it works in productive ways, Red Cross also announced the following two initiatives today:
The first is a contribution of $750,000 to establish a national endowment scholarship fund intended to provide ongoing financial assistance to students across Canada whose lives or families were affected by the tainted blood.
The second is a $750,000 contribution to establish a National Medical Error Project dedicated to reducing casualties caused by inadequate or improper practices in the health care system.
The University of Ottawa will house the National Medical Error Project and intends to supplement its funding. They will also administer the educational fund, which will allow students obtaining scholarships to attend any post-secondary institution in Canada.
Funding for these initiatives is from monies received by Red Cross through the transfer of our blood operations. Neither will be funded in any way by donations to Red Cross.
In closing, there are two things I’d like to add:
First, I would like to address the many thousands of volunteers and staff who were a part of Red Cross through the 50 years we collected and distributed blood in Canada. These people came to Red Cross for the same reason we all do -- they wanted to help others.
Today’s plea in no way diminishes your remarkable humanitarian efforts. Your commitment and dedication saved the lives of millions of Canadians – people you never knew – and you should always be proud of that.
And finally, I want to say thank you to the individuals and organizations who have continued to show confidence in the work of the Canadian Red Cross during the past two decades. Because of you, Red Cross remains ready today to help wherever and whenever we’re needed.