A Time of Change: 1990-1999

Two adults and seven kids playing in a pool

The 1990s were a momentous decade for the Canadian Red Cross Society, which celebrated its 100th birthday in 1996 and at the same time unofficially re-branded itself as simply “Canadian Red Cross” (CRC).  Many of the CRC’s core programs and relief efforts continued unabated during the 1990s, but new avenues of service also opened up.  For instance, thanks to its principles of neutrality and impartiality, the CRC played an important role delivering food and medical supplies to those behind the barricades, during the 1990 Oka Crisis at Kanesatake and Kahnawake, Quebec. 

One event of the 1990s brought the CRC greater public exposure than it had received in Canada for many decades.  The issue had been simmering in the background for some time:  concerns about blood-borne diseases like HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C and possible contamination of the blood supply began to persistently crop up around the world in the early 1980s.  As was the case for other Red Cross societies in other countries, the CRC’s central role in Canada’s voluntary blood donation system meant it would come under intense scrutiny in any inquiry into the safety of the system.  In 1993 the federal government established the Commission of Inquiry on the Blood System in Canada (known as the Krever Inquiry, for its chair, Justice Horace Krever). Its mandate was to investigate the entire blood system in Canada, in which the CRC took a prominent part.  The commission released its final report in 1997, and in 1997-98 Canada’s blood system was overhauled.  Two independent not-for-profit agencies took over the management of the blood system: Héma-Québec and (for the other provinces and territories) Canadian Blood Services.

The end of the CRC’s role in Canada’s blood system marked another turning point in the organization’s long history, but the CRC would continue to evolve, as it had done many times in the past.  It carried on with its numerous other public health, disaster relief, and international humanitarian aid efforts, and played a major role in rescue and relief in the aftermath of the 1998 Ice Storm which hit Eastern Canada. During the 1990s the CRC also participated in the international campaign to ban the use of anti-personnel landmines, a campaign which successfully culminated in the Mine Ban Treaty effective 1999. 



CRCS.  Annual Reports. 1990-1999.