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In Depth

Tainted Blood

Canada's tainted blood scandal: A timeline

Last Updated Oct. 1, 2007

Oct. 1, 2007:

Ontario Superior court Judge Mary Lou Benotto acquits former Canadian Red Cross director Dr. Roger Perrault of charges of criminal negligence causing bodily harm. He had been accused of giving hemophilia patients an HIV-infected blood-clotting product in the 1980s and early 1990s. The judge also acquitted Dr. John Furesz and Dr. Donald Wark Boucher, formerly of Canada's Health Protection Branch, and Dr. Michael Rodell, a former vice-president of a New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company, of charges relating to their alleged role in the tainted blood scandal.

Perrault faces a second trial on several more criminal charges that allege the Red Cross and senior officials did not take adequate measures to screen blood donors.

Sept. 10, 2007:

After 20 months, the trial of former Red Cross head Dr. Roger Perrault wraps up. Perrault and several other health officials were charged with criminal negligence in connection to the tainted blood scandal. Ontario Superior court Judge Mary Lou Benotto said she would take until Oct. 1, 2007, to render her verdict.

July 25, 2006:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announces a $1 billion compensation package for 5,500 people who contracted hepatitis C before 1986 and after 1990. These self-described "forgotten victims" were excluded from previous tainted blood compensation agreements. Harper says they will receive amounts based on the state of his or her health, and the amount of income lost. He estimated cheques would be distributed in early 2007.

Feb. 21, 2006:

Crown prosecutors say they have enough evidence to go ahead with the criminal negligence trial of Dr. Roger Perrault, the former head of the Canadian Red Cross, and other health officials.

Feb. 6, 2006:

Dr. Roger Perrault goes on trial in Toronto on charges of criminal negligence causing bodily harm and criminal nuisance endangering the public. The trial of the former medical head of the Canadian Red Cross is scheduled to last into 2007.

Aug. 3, 2005:

A judge denies Perrault's request and deems him fit to stand trial for his role in the tainted-blood scandal. The 68-year-old had two heart attacks and open heart surgery, and his lawyer initially argued that the stress of a trial could kill him.

July 18, 2005:

The lawyer for former Red Cross director Dr. Roger Perrault says his client is too sick to stand trial and asks a Toronto court to drop criminal charges against him.

May 30, 2005:

The Canadian Red Cross is fined $5,000 for its role in the tainted blood scandal. The organization agrees to plead guilty to distributing a contaminated drug, a violation of the Food and Drug Regulation Act. The $5,000 fine is the maximum penalty for the charge. Six criminal charges against the Red Cross are dropped.

The organization also agrees to give $1.5 million to the University of Ottawa for a research endowment fund and a scholarship for family members of those affected.

April 20, 2005:

The House of Commons unanimously passes a Conservative motion to extend compensation to another 5,000 Canadians who were excluded from the 1998 compensation package.

Nov. 22, 2004:

The federal government announces it will reopen talks to extend compensation for victims of tainted blood who were infected with hepatitis C before 1986 and after 1990. They were not included in the $1.1 billion compensation package offered in 1998.

Sept. 22, 2004:

The Canadian Standards Association announces Canada's first national standards for handling donated blood "vein to vein."

Nov. 19, 2003:

A court orders Bell Canada to confirm the identity of a Sympatico customer who sent an e-mail to Canadian Blood Services (CBS) claiming to be a gay man who donated blood, against the agency rules that prevent men who have had sex with another man from giving blood.

Sept. 3, 2003:

CBS recalls all blood donated in Saskatchewan in August 2003 because of an "epidemic" of West Nile virus.

June 17, 2003:

CBS announces it will begin testing blood donations for West Nile virus starting in July 2003.

April 11, 2003:

CBS announces precautions to deter the spread of SARS, including a two-week waiting period for donating blood for people who have recently travelled to SARS-infected countries.

Dec. 13, 2002:

CBS orders the recall of three types of frozen blood product because of fears they might be contaminated with West Nile virus.

Nov. 20, 2002:

After concluding a five-year investigation into the findings of the Krever Commission report, the RCMP lays charges against the Canadian Red Cross, a U.S.-based pharmaceutical company and four physicians.

April 19, 2001:

Supreme Court of Canada rules the Canadian Red Cross was negligent in managing the blood system in the early years of the AIDS crisis.

September 1999:

Quebec and Ontario courts approve $1.2-billion federal-provincial compensation plan for victims of tainted blood.

March 26, 1999:

Canadian Red Cross unveils $60 million in compensation for people infected by tainted blood before 1986 and after 1990.

Jan. 28, 1999:

A group of more than 1,000 hemophiliacs launches a $1-billion lawsuit against the government of Canada for using tainted blood obtained from U.S. jails.

Nov. 20, 1998:

Ontario announces it will provide $200 million in compensation for Ontario residents who were infected with hepatitis C before 1986 and after 1990. The province estimated as many as 20,000 would be eligible.

Sept. 28, 1998:

Based on recommendations made in the Krever Commission report, the Canadian Blood Services is established to assume control of the blood system in Canada. The new body replaces the Canadian Red Cross in every region except Quebec. Héma-Québec begins operations the same day to administer the blood system in that province.

As part of the switch-over, the Red Cross receives $133 million in exchange for its assets - money to be used to pay off debts and set up a fund for victims of the tainted blood scandal. Buildings, vehicles, donor lists and the Red Cross's 3,100 employees are transferred to the two new non-profit organizations.

Sept. 17, 1998:

Health Minister Allan Rock reaffirms there will be no federal compensation for victims who received tainted blood before 1986 and after 1990.

April 28, 1998:

The federal Liberal government defeats a Reform Party motion calling for compensation for everyone who had been infected by tainted blood, regardless of when the infection happened. The government declared the file closed.

April 1998:

Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia ask Ottawa to provide compensation for victims who received tainted blood before 1986 and after 1990.

March 27, 1998:

Provincial and federal health ministers announce $1.2 billion in compensation for people who contracted hepatitis C from tainted blood - but only those who were infected between 1986 and 1990. Those who were infected outside those dates - an estimated 20,000 people - are outraged.

Feb. 12, 1998:

RCMP concludes review process and launches criminal investigation into Canada's blood distribution system.

Dec. 22, 1997:

The RCMP announces it will conduct a review of the findings of the Krever Commission to determine whether there are grounds to launch a criminal investigation.

November 1997:

Shortly after the release of the Krever Commission report, the RCMP receives complaints from individuals and organizations alleging criminal wrongdoing within the blood distribution system in Canada.

Horace Krever

November 1997:

Krever Commission report is released. He comes down hard on the Red Cross and the federal and provincial governments for ignoring warnings and acting irresponsibly as HIV and hepatitis C transmissions continued. Krever recommends compensation for "all blood-injured persons." He estimates that 85 per cent of the approximately 28,600 hepatitis C infections from the blood supply from 1986 to 1990 could have been avoided.

June 1996:

Federal court rules the commission can only make findings of misconduct against 14 Red Cross officials and three federal officials.

January 1996:

Nearly all parties named launch a court challenge, saying the Krever Commission does not have the authority to assign blame.

Dec. 21, 1995:

Krever Commission warns the Canadian Red Cross, federal and provincial governments, pharmaceutical companies and individuals, that they may be named for wrongdoing in the tainted blood inquiry.

December 1994:

The Red Cross recommends that anyone who received a blood transfusion in the 1980s be tested for hepatitis C. The move came after the Krever Inquiry raised concerns over the issue. It's later learned that 95 per cent of hemophiliacs who used blood products before 1990 contracted hep-C.

Nov. 22, 1993:

Krever Commission public hearings begin.

Oct. 4, 1993:

Order in Council authorizes the Commission of Inquiry on the Blood System in Canada. Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Horace Krever appointed as commissioner.

1990:

The Canadian Red Cross starts direct screening for the hepatitis C virus. But unscreened plasma in blood products still reaches some patients, possibly for as long as two years.

Dec. 14, 1989:

Ottawa announces $150 million in compensation for 1,250 Canadians who contracted HIV from blood transfusions and tainted blood products.

Earlier that year, scientists identify the hepatitis C virus, allowing them to test blood directly for its antibody. Most of Western Europe starts direct testing.

1986:

The Canadian Red Cross does not follow suit as American blood banking organizations start "surrogate testing" for non-A, non-B hepatitis. American research suggests the tests could drastically reduce transmission of the virus through blood transfusion. The Canadian Red Cross decides tests might prevent a small number of cases at a cost of $20 million.

November 1985:

Canadian Red Cross starts testing blood products for the AIDS virus.

1983:

Compulsory reporting of non-A, non-B hepatitis begins. 134 cases are identified.

1978:

The American Red Cross inform the Canadian Red Cross that non-A, non-B hepatitis is present in four to nine per cent of blood in several centres.

1974:

First cases of what was then called non-A, non-B hepatitis (later identified as hepatitis C) to be transmitted through blood transfusions, are identified.

1971:

A test to detect hepatitis B in donated blood is introduced in Canada. The Red Cross discontinues collecting blood from prisons, where hepatitis rates are higher than in general population.

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