MONTREAL - A new blood-donation policy came into effect across Canada on Monday, officially nixing the lifelong ban that prevented men who have had sex with men from giving blood.

Canadian Blood Services and HEMA-Quebec — which oversee Canada's blood system — are now allowing men to donate blood if they have not had homosexual sex in the last five years.

The five-year rule is non-negotiable, even if a potential donor has had their blood screened and is perfectly healthy.

"We can't make exceptions," said Marc Plante, a CBS spokesperson.

"Those policies are there for safety reasons, and unfortunately we can't pick and choose, as much as we'd love to. We can't."

The new policy comes two decades after Canada's tainted-blood scandal.

Transfusions infected over 30,000 Canadians with Hepatitis C or HIV, sparking an inquiry in 1993 that ultimately led to the Red Cross being stripped of its control of the blood system.

The rules in effect from the 1980s until now excluded a man from giving blood, for the rest of his life, if he had ever had sex with another man since 1977 — cited as the date HIV began spreading in developed countries.

While Health Canada approved the latest policy change in late May, there has been a delay in its implementation to allow suppliers of blood products enough time to update their means of determining donor eligibility, and to train employees.

Neither CBS or HEMA-Quebec have any sort of awareness campaign planned to notify Canadians of the new policy.

Plante said no such publicity is warranted because the new eligibility criteria is unlikely to lead to many new donors.

The criteria for blood donors varies around the globe.

In Britain and Australia, the deferral period for men who have had sex with a man is one year.

In the United States, however, men who have had sex with a man are prohibited from ever giving blood. The American Red Cross, America's Blood Centres and the AABB have jointly recommended that the ban be softened to a year-long deferral.

In 2010, the three organizations issued a joint statement that reiterated their 2006 position, and referred to the lifelong ban as "medically and scientifically unwarranted."

Policy-markers said the new five-year timeline was because of lingering concerns.

"The five-year period was decided because there were concerns by transfusion recipients, and some experts in the field of transfusion medicine, that the population of men who are having sex with men could be a risk for future unknown pathogens that would emerge, just like, for example, HIV did emerge, and did struck more specifically certain groups," said HEMA-Quebec VP Medical Affairs Marc Germain.

"That was really the basis for the longer period that was applied."

His organization estimates that the likelihood of transmitting HIV through a blood transfusion is extremely low, and will not be affected by the new policy.

It places the probability at one infection in Quebec per 30 million transfusions.

When applying to become potential donors, candidates must sign a legal form declaring that all information disclosed is true.

While the five-year deferral might be one step removed from a full ban, some critics of the new policy don't think it's an adequate upgrade.

A Canadian students' group is among them.

The Canadian Federation of Students, which represents over half a million students from over 80 post-secondary institutions across the country, has worked alongside the Canadian AIDS Society and gay-rights group EGALE Canada on its "End the Ban" campaign.

The campaign, launched in 2007, says it wants to raise awareness of, and oppose, the discrimination built into the country's blood donation process.

The CFS says that while the policy might have changed, its stance has not.

CFS Internal Coordinator Brent Farrington says the federation has been working to improve equity in blood donation since 1998.

He notes that a large amount of blood is collected on university and college campuses. While the new policy is a step forward, he says, it isn't enough.

"We still see this as a discriminatory policy that unfairly disadvantages and marginalizes men, who have had sex with men, from donating blood," he said.

"We believe there is a safer system that could exist that doesn't marginalize individuals, and also protects the blood supply."

The AIDS Community Centre in Montreal also remains unsatisfied.

"We'd like to see the donor model based on behaviour — rather than sexual orientation or gender," said Puelo Deir, a spokesman at the centre.

"(The new policy) definitely needs improvement," he said. "This is just a small step in the right direction — but there is still much work to do."

While HEMA-Quebec says it's considered this type of approach, they say it simply isn't feasible.

"The vast majority of experts in the field agree that (a behaviour-based approach) would not be a viable option," Germain said, pointing out that HEMA-Quebec collects upwards of 1,000 blood donations every day.

"We would have to add a considerable number of questions at the time of donor evaluation — which might not be practical," he said.

Germain also pointed to other potential flaws in such a system. He said it would require accurate information received, in some cases, second-hand.

"(A behaviour-based) approach would also mean that information would come not only from the prospective donor, but also the current partners of that donor," Germain said.

For safety reasons, he said, HEMA-Quebec opts to rely solely on first-hand information.

Unlike some other advocacy groups, the Canadian AIDS Society supports the new policy.

"We have been pushing for change from the old, outdated, unscientific lifetime ban," said Douglas Elliott, a lawyer for the society.

"But we actually have been advocating that the initial change should be to a five-year period of celibacy."

Elliott said that while the society's position has not been too popular within the gay community, he thinks it's important to approach such a change slowly.

"More so (than other organizations) we have been willing to live with an interim change," he said.

"We recognize that you have to take baby steps, and the most important thing to do is make change in the first place."

Eventually, Elliott says the society would like to see behaviour-based criteria implemented.

"It's important to get a commitment to ongoing reform, and if we have that, we will be moving towards fewer and fewer restrictions and, before long, asking those behavioural-based questions," he said.

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  • Betty Crocker

    The staple of American domesticity is part of the General Mills family of products, which has been <a href="http://www.dumpgeneralmills.com/?REF=EB120625NANT" target="_hplink">boycotted by the National Organization for Marriage</a> for opposing the Minnesota Marriage Amendment. What better way to celebrate the stand against intolerance than Betty Crocker's <a href="http://www.bettycrocker.com/products/supermoist-cakes/products/supermoist cake mix/rainbow-chip" target="_hplink">Rainbow Chip</a> cake? <em>Correction on July 24 at 1:35pm ET: The original version of this slideshow misidentified the name of the Minnesota Marriage Amendment. It has been corrected on this slide and several others throughout the slideshow.</em>

  • Levi's

    In 1992, Levi's found itself at odds with the Boy Scout's 'Three Gs' principle that had guided the Scouts' membership model for more than 80 years -- that everyone is welcome, provided they are not gay, godless, or a girl. San Francisco-based Levi's <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/boy-scouts-battle-on-antigay-policy-levis-the-denim-firm-has-withdrawn-its-sponsorship-over-the-movements-refusal-to-accept-homosexuals-writes-david-usborne-in-washington-1550450.html" target="_hplink">pulled its Boy Scout funding</a>, due to the group's exclusion. In response, Republican Dana Rohrabacher encouraged a 'grassroots' counter-boycott of Levi Strauss and his Texan colleage, Tom DeLay, was even more extreme in his reaction: "When Texans find out that the Levi's they have on go toward attacks on the Boy Scouts of America... they'll take off those Levi's and burn them in the streets."

  • Cheerios

    Not only will this breakfast cereal reduce your family's cholesterol but it will reduce your family's moral integrity as well, according to The National Organization for Marriage. As part of the General Mills family of products, Cheerios is one of the brands that has been <a href="http://www.dumpgeneralmills.com/?REF=EB120625NANT" target="_hplink">boycotted by NOM</a> for opposing the Minnesota Marriage Amendment.

  • American Apparel

    In 2009, <a href="http://www.americanapparel.net/" target="_hplink">American Apparel</a> put its "Legalize Gay" t-shirt in storefront windows in Washinton, D.C. When a group of <a href="http://news.change.org/stories/american-apparel-pushes-back-against-anti-lgbt-vandalism" target="_hplink">anti-LGBT vandals broke the store's windows</a>, the company didn't back down, but rather agreed to send shirts to any group in D.C. that was fighting for gay rights.

  • Disney World

    Although Walt Disney World's <a href="http://www.gaydays.com/" target="_hplink">Gay Days</a> are not officially sanctioned by the theme park, they were the object of a <a href="http://floridafamily.org/full_article.php?article_no=158" target="_hplink">Florida Family Association warning</a>. The anti-LGBT group paid to have two planes fly over the park, with warning banners, to deter unsuspecting families from attending the park during Gay Days.

  • Starbucks

    In January 2012, when Starbucks released a <a href="http://www.dumpstarbucks.com/documents/memo.pdf" target="_hplink">memorandum</a> voicing support of gay marriage, NOM launched <a href="http://www.dumpstarbucks.com/" target="_hplink">DumpStarbucks.com</a> to urge people to boycott the coffee chain.

  • Wheaties

    As part of the General Mills family of products, which has been <a href="http://www.dumpgeneralmills.com/?REF=EB120625NANT" target="_hplink">boycotted by NOM</a> for opposing the Minnesota Marriage Amendment, there are attempts to dethrone Wheaties as the "Breakfast of Champions."

  • Tide Detergent

    In 2004, Procter and Gamble <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2004/09/17/news/fortune500/pg_gay_rights/" target="_hplink">angered conservatives</a> by opposing an anti-gay rights statute that would exempt gays and lesbians from special civil rights protection in its hometown of Cincinnati. In response, the American Family Association <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2004/09/17/news/fortune500/pg_gay_rights/" target="_hplink">issued a boycott</a> of some of P&G's most popular products, including Tide Detergent, and gathered petition signatures from almost 365,000 families urging Procter & Gamble to change its policy.

  • Microsoft

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  • Home Depot

    A May 2012 <a href="http://action.afa.net/Detail.aspx?id=2147521725" target="_hplink">post</a> on the American Family Association web site proclaims, "AFA is promoting a boycott of Home Depot until it agrees to remain neutral in the homosexual culture war. The total number of people who have signed the Home Depot boycott pledge is 719,037." The <a href="http://action.afa.net/item.aspx?id=2147496231" target="_hplink">pledge</a> condemns Home Depot for giving "financial and corporate support to open displays of homosexual activism," because this helps expose "small children to lascivious displays of sexual conduct by homosexuals and cross-dressers." In response to the <a href="http://action.afa.net/item.aspx?id=2147496231" target="_hplink">pledge</a>, which was delivered at Home Depot's annual shareholder meeting, Chairman Blake <a href="http://action.afa.net/Detail.aspx?id=2147521725" target="_hplink">responded</a>, "We are, and will remain, committed to a culture that fosters an inclusive environment for our associates, our customers and communities in which we exist."

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  • PepsiCo Products

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  • Safeway

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  • Crest Toothpaste

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  • Old Navy

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  • Girl Scouts

    In 2011, when The Girl Scouts decided to allow a transgender youth to participate, The American Family Association <a href="http://www.afa.net/Detail.aspx?id=2147513279" target="_hplink">urged members</a> to contact Girl Scout leadership, "expressing your disappointment in their recent decision to allow boys as troop members," and to "let them know you will not support the Girl Scouts as long as it continues down a path of destructive policies."

  • Macy's

    In December 2011, a Macy's dressing room attendant prevented a transgender woman from using a female dressing room, because it violated her religious beliefs. After the woman was fired for refusing to abide by Macy's pro-LGBT policies, the American Family Association <a href="http://www.afa.net/Detail.aspx?id=2147514523" target="_hplink">lamented</a>, "The LGBT agenda has become the theater of the absurd" and <a href="http://www.afa.net/Detail.aspx?id=2147514523" target="_hplink">urged</a> members to contact the Macy's headquarters to "express... outrage at this injustice to female employees and customers."

  • Target

    In May 2012, Target <a href="http://action.afa.net/uploadedImages/Activism/AFA_Action_Alerts/Action_Alert_Related_Items/targetpride.jpg" target="_hplink">announced</a> that 100% of the purchase price of any of its Pride merchandise would be donated to the pro-LGBT <a href="http://www.familyequality.org/" target="_hplink">Family Equality Council</a>. The American Family Association <a href="http://www.afa.net/Detail.aspx?id=2147521799" target="_hplink">lamented</a> that "Target is joining President Obama in ramming same-sex marriage down the throats of the American people" and urged members to contact Target Chairman Gregg Steinhafel, to "let him know that a majority of Americans oppose same-sex marriage and are able to use their pocketbooks to voice their opposition to companies that support it." It should be noted that Target has also come under fire from gay advocates. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/08/lady-gaga-ends-target-lgbt_n_833209.html" target="_hplink">In 2011, Lady Gaga nixed a deal with Target</a> for an exclusive special edition of her "Born This Way" album after it was revealed that the brand had donated $150,000 to MN Forward, a group that was backing Tom Emmer's gubernatorial bid in Minnesota. Emmer was known for being especially conservative and not supporting equal rights for LGBT citizens.

  • J.C. Penney

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  • Pillsbury

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  • Walgreen's

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  • Ford

    In 2005, the American Family Association <a href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8047423/ns/business-us_business/t/another-swing-pocketbook/#.T-x3GCtSTDV" target="_hplink">launched a boycott campaign</a> against Ford for being "the company which has done the most to affirm and promote the homosexual lifestyle." The group criticized Ford for donating money to gay-rights organizations (Ford offered to give up to $1,000 to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation for every Jaguar and Land Rover it sells to a member of GLAAD) and complained that Ford had sponsored Pride celebrations, advertised in gay-oriented publications and was "redefining the definition of the family to include homosexual marriage."

  • Gap

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  • Green Giant

    The frozen vegetable brand is part of the General Mills family of products, which, in June 2012, was <a href="DumpGeneralMills.com " target="_hplink">boycotted by NOM</a> for opposing the Minnesota Marriage Amendment.