'Story of a broken system:' CBC miniseries to explore tainted blood scandal

Robert C. Cooper, a victim of the tainted blood crisis, is creating Unspeakable, an eight-part miniseries on the crisis for the CBC.

'This is a story I wish I didn't know but I do and I know it well,' says creator Robert C. Cooper

Unspeakable, an eight-part dramatic miniseries exploring Canada's tainted blood scandal, is coming to the CBC. (Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters)

It's been around 30 years since the country's tainted blood scandal infected thousands with HIV and Hepatitis C. But only now is Robert C. Cooper ready to tell his story.

Cooper contracted Hep C from tainted blood back in the 1980s and struggled with the disease for three decades. He was only "cured" three years ago. He has funnelled his experiences into Unspeakable, an eight-part miniseries on the tainted blood scandal he's creating for CBC. The public broadcaster announced the show Saturday, which will also be shown in the U.S. on SundanceTV.

"This is a story I wish I didn't know but I do and I know it well," he said. "This is something that weighs heavily on me and is very important to get right and respect all the people who died and suffered and had lived through this."

Around 2,000 Canadians were infected with HIV in the early 80s, while many thousands more got Hep C, including Cooper.

The scandal resulted in a federal inquiry and compensation for thousands of its victims.

'The story is so big'

Cooper, who will also act as showrunner and executive producer, is about halfway through writing the scripts. The show is based on his experiences and two non-fiction books about the crisis: Bad Blood and The Gift of Death.

It's slated to begin filming in the Spring of 2018 and no air date has been set yet.

Canadian writer and producer Robert C. Cooper is behind the new series. He has executive produced Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency and several of the Stargate serieis. Cooper was infected with Hepatitis C in the mid-80s. (CBC)

Cooper said he will be telling stories of people he knows and who were involved in the crisis; some of the plot points that show up will mimic what Cooper went through growing up with Hep C.

"This is a story of a broken system," he said. "The story is so big. We're struggling with trying to get it all in to eight hours."

The crisis has been depicted in art before — in 2013, the Toronto play Tainted explored the scandal — but Cooper said more needs to be known. He said he meets people who don't know about the crisis at all and are surprised it could happen in Canada.

Cooper calls it a "cautionary tale from our history" that shouldn't be forgotten; he is excited to tell the story but a bit nervous because he wants to do it justice.

"There will never be another story that I can tell that will be as important to me as this one."