Douglas Lindores, Secretary-General and CEO, The Canadian Red Cross Society
THE ROLE OF THE CANADIAN RED CROSS SOCIETY
Chairman: Julie Hannaford, President, The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests
Paul Scargall, Partner, Borden & Elliot and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Steve O'Hearn, Senior Vice-President, Times-Mirror Professional Publishing (Publishers of the Red Cross water-safety and first-aid programmes); The Rev. Canon John Erb, Rector, St. Michael and All Angels Church; John Finley, Senior Partner, Smith Lyons Torrance Stevenson & Mayer; Ann Curran, President, Curran & Associates, President, Lewis Companies and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Hughes Eng, Chairman, The Confederation of The Metropolitan Toronto Chinese-Canadian Organization; and Kroum Pindoff, President, Pindoff Record Sales (Donor to the Bosnian relief efforts of the Red Cross).
Introduction by Julie Hannaford
If you survey the list of speakers who have occupied the podium of The Empire Club from 1903 forward, one overriding element of these speakers unites them: while the speakers are prominent in the history of Canada and often of the world, what our speakers told us about were both triumphs and tragedies.
Why is this important? It's important because history consists of the celebration of that which makes humanity better and the education that arises from being humbled by our mistakes. If we are to continue as a forum for those persons who shall take a place in our history, we must accept and in fact welcome those who have the courage to talk to us about the mistakes of the past as well as the hope for the future.
And so, in bringing our guest, Mr. Lindores, to the podium of The Empire Club, one condition was imposed upon the remarks--that was to address frankly, on behalf of the Canadian Red Cross, in some way, at some point, the events of the past, and more particularly, what some have called the death of the gift of life.
In agreeing to do so, our guest today should be commended, and in bringing Mr. Lindores to you today, I can tell you that he is eminently qualified to take on this task.
By way of background, Mr. Lindores was an Aircrew Officer, Royal Canadian Air Force (1956-1962); Assistant Personnel Manager, Ex-Cell-O-Corp. of Canada Ltd. (1964-1965); Commercial Secretary, Canadian diplomatic missions in Kuala Lumpur, Paris and Kinshasa (1973-1977); First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations, New York (1973-1977); Director, United Nations Programs, CIDA (1977-1979); Vice-President, Multilateral Programs Branch, CIDA (1979-1987); Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Privy Council Office (1987-1988); Senior Vice-President, CIDA (1988-1993); and Secretary-General and Chief Executive Officer, The Canadian Red Cross Society (since April, 1993). That start date is significant for when Mr. Lindores agreed to become Secretary-General of the Canadian Red Cross, he did so knowing that the glamour element to his job might be minimal for at least some period of time.
If you would have asked anyone in 1980 in Canada what the Red Cross meant to them, he or she most likely would have called to mind images of life saving. For those of us who grew up in the fifties, sixties and seventies, the Red Cross served by its actions to remind us that where conflict between nations and peoples resulted in combat, there was an altruistic society that provided assistance and care by embracing the principles of neutrality, humanity, unity and universality.
For those of us embittered by the compounding inhumanities, conflicts of nations, and continuous attempts of mankind to prove our inhumanity, the white flag with the Red Cross reminded us of a still true point of hope in our ever-deteriorating social fabric.
In 1983, Don Francis, speaking to the Centres for Disease Control and the world, asked how many hemophiliacs had to die before someone took seriously the idea that AIDS was transmitted in our blood supply. And so began the sea change in the way we looked at blood, and eventually, the blood delivery system in Canada and the world.
For Canadians, and the Canadian Red Cross, the slow and excruciating denouement of the tainted blood tragedy began on February 14, 1994, when The Hon. Justice Krever opened the hearings on the inquiry into the blood delivery systems in Canada.
For those who are touched by the effects of the mistakes made during the eighties in the supply and delivery of blood to Canadians, one thing is needed--closure.
For those who have died and are dying, there is nothing that can adequately address the suffering they and their families experience except for the acknowledgment of their suffering and the taking of responsibility.
For reasons associated with due process and a respect for ongoing court proceedings, Mr. Lindores cannot on his own behalf or on behalf of the Canadian Red Cross, address in detail the inquiry or the position being taken by the Red Cross with respect to the report.
But Mr. Lindores can (and he has promised he will) address, both the triumphs and the tragedies that now define the Canadian Red Cross. Taking credit is easy. Acknowledging mistakes is very difficult. But it distinguishes people and organisations--and most importantly it helps us to move forward. For taking on this challenge, Mr. Lindores must be commended. Please join me in welcoming to The Empire Club of Canada, Mr. Douglas Lindores.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak, here, during this centennial year of our Canadian Red Cross. I say "our Red Cross" because the Canadian Red Cross is ours. You and other Canadians support it with their time, talents, blood and money. And as the Canadian Red Cross has earned this support in the past, we plan to keep on earning it.
How we plan to do this boils down to an apparent paradox: your Red Cross is changing--and remaining the same. To solve the paradox, you need to shift your point of view.
As a first step, I'd like to point out that the Red Cross is the sum of millions of personal experiences. My first contact occurred just after the Second World War when I took Red Cross swimming lessons. A decade later, in the military, I stepped off a train in the early hours of a cold prairie night to a warm greeting from Red Cross volunteers who handed out coffee and donuts. I wasn't the only young man on that train, that night, who welcomed the knowledge that someone cared. Years later and farther from home, but still in the military, I was well aware I served Canada under Red Cross protection through the Geneva Conventions. In my foreign service and aid agency careers, blood products from the Red Cross protected me from infectious diseases. When I was responsible for Canada's foreign disaster assistance programme I counted on the Red Cross for effective and honest programme delivery.
Nothing I've just said is extraordinary. Few Canadians haven't been touched by the Red Cross. Think about this: in 1945, one in four Canadians were active members of the Canadian Red Cross.
The Red Cross is also a narrative whose main themes are certain ideas.
The Red Cross was born on fields near an Italian town named Solferino. In 1859, an unknown Swiss businessman, Henry Dunant, passed these fields just after 300,000 troops had fought a battle. Some 40,000 dead and wounded had been left behind--without water, medical attention, food, care of any kind. Appalled by the suffering, Dunant rallied the people of Solferino and surrounding villages to minister to the wounded and comfort the dying. Dunant's work at Solferino taught him a lesson that changed history. The lesson--that we have a duty to end suffering--may be expressed in words. But it is meant to be expressed in action. Dunant expressed the lesson by spending the next five years going from one European capital to another asking those in power to create an organisation to deal with the misery of the sick and wounded in war. In 1864 Dunant realised his goal. The governments of 12 nations signed a Geneva Convention declaring that they would alleviate suffering on battlefields and that the Red Cross would have neutral status and use, as its flag of protection and neutrality, the reverse of the Swiss flag.
From this Convention arose the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, which has sheltered first wounded soldiers, then prisoners of war, then civilians in armed conflict and now, without prejudice, all people in times of natural or man-made disaster.
The Red Cross flag first flew in Canada following the Battle of Batoche in 1885. Eleven years later, Dr. George Sterling Ryerson and a group of like-minded citizens gathered in this city to form the Canadian Red Cross.
Since our days of offering assistance in armed conflict, we have grown. In the past century, we have set up community hospitals and outpost nursing stations. We have become involved in emergency disaster response, feeding programmes, international development and humanitarian assistance, first-aid training, home care, water safety and transfusion services. We teach teenagers about dating violence, lend sickroom equipment--and we operate one of Canada's largest biologics manufacturing operations. We sell jelly beans for 50 cents a bag--and negotiate half-billion dollar loans on financial markets to meet Canada's blood-product needs. Our senior policy meetings include representatives from 168 other national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies--plus the governments of all states party to the Geneva Conventions.
From one point of view, a single theme brings unity to our work. This theme is the values of millions of Canadians over the century we have served here. The Red Cross is really about giving you a dependable and worthwhile way to show compassion, a way to act on the lesson Solferino taught Dunant.
From another point of view, what unites our work is our fundamental principles. Humanity: we act to relieve human suffering and save lives. Impartiality: we don't pay attention to race, religion, class or political opinion. Neutrality: we don't take political sides. Independence: we work with governments but not for them; ours is an arms length relationship. Voluntary Service: we aren't motivated by gain. Unity: there is only one Red Cross Society in a nation. Universality: we offer our services to all people.
Thanks to the principles, impartiality, neutrality and independence, we can pursue our strategic goal--to improve the situation of the most vulnerable--on some of the world's toughest stress lines. I speak of times and places afflicted by armed conflict. To visit and protect the vulnerable, we need access. To gain access, we need to be trusted. To be trusted, we must be impartial, neutral, independent--and discrete.
Governments favour practical, pragmatic assistance from a trusted intermediary. This was true during the Second World War, when we worked with Allies and Axis alike to help soldiers, prisoners of war and civilians. It's true today in Colombia, where we are the only international relief agency with access to the vulnerable in areas controlled by the government, rebels and other groups. And it was true in Oka, Quebec, in 1992, when we provided medical supplies and food to people in the community affected during the extended stand-off.
Our actions in Oka were not well understood or appreciated by all involved at the time. This type of reaction is not uncommon. It is true to some extent on the stress line we walk with our Blood Services programme.
We extended this programme from the armed forces to the Canadian public in 1947. Today, the programme collects about one million blood donations from 650,000 Canadian volunteers. It supplies 900 hospitals and clinics with products needed by 600,000 Canadians every year.
I mentioned that Blood Services is one of Canada's largest manufacturers of biologics. It employs 2,000 people across Canada with a budget close to $300 million. It depends on safe, efficient and sophisticated technologies to deliver products recognised by international experts to be as safe as any in the modern industrialised world. The programme is big money and high tech.
So far, then, it is the type of operation with which many of you would be familiar. But Blood Services also operates in a very special environment. An environment incredibly rich and complex in social issues. An extremely litigious environment, as you are all no doubt aware. And an environment in which the primary act, the act of giving blood, is an intensely personal one.
Quite rightly, I believe, Canadians do not see blood as a commodity. It is up to us, then, to reconcile the personal expression of caring for others, which is shown by donating blood, with our need to operate a large and complex manufacturing organisation and also with our need to raise funds for our non-blood activities. Frankly, in my 36-year career I have never faced as tough a challenge as this. But I must also acknowledge that alternatives for operating Blood Services pose even greater contradictions, even greater conceptual and practical difficulties.
To its credit, our Blood Services programme has gathered important allies. We count on many thousands of volunteers in addition to our volunteer donors. Many of our grass-roots supporters have given us money for blood research and other purposes. We have benefited from millions of dollars in free media support for our blood-donor clinics and other activities. Through the Canadian Blood Agency, we have reached important agreements with the provinces.
Of the Blood Services programme of the 1980s, I'd like to say that mistakes were clearly made. I've said before that harsh judgments based on hindsight are unfair. I still think this. Mankind has not yet mastered nature.
The Red Cross supported setting up the Commission of Inquiry on the Blood System in Canada. We co-operated fully with it. And with other parties we have moved to correct deficiencies in the national blood supply system. The Commission was originally scheduled to report in September 1994. Most recently it was scheduled to report in September 1996. Now it appears this date will slip as a result of recent court action by the Red Cross and others. You may have heard or read many things about Red Cross involvement in this court action. I'd like you to know that the Red Cross has never objected to possible negative findings against it. We have been steadfast in learning from mistakes and in acting to strengthen the blood system for the future. But we have also launched a court action against the Commission. We did this because we believe that the types of allegations made in our notice of possible findings, particularly those that imply civil or criminal liability, cannot be made in the light of the Commission's mandate and, perhaps more importantly, in the light of the process the Commission followed. We may be proved right. We may be proved wrong. Honourable people on both sides of the issue have strong and opposing views. We believe in the rule of law and will accept the eventual findings. Deeply disturbing, however, has been the near-universal condemnation of our challenge to the notices. Few people have paused to consider issues such as due process or the role of public inquiries in the modern legal environment. As I say, the matter is before the courts.
Meanwhile, the Red Cross has welcomed federal Health Minister David Dingwall's initiative to review governance of the national blood supply system. It comes at a time of change within the system. With the provinces and territories and the Canadian Blood Agency, the Red Cross has made a great deal of progress in areas like roles and responsibilities, as well as in working arrangements. We have also begun and partly completed a fundamental transformation of our blood-related operations across Canada.
But the national blood supply system is much larger than our Blood Services programme. Beyond the Red Cross, the Canadian Blood Agency and the provinces and territories, it embraces Health Canada, our federal regulator, and many other stakeholders. This suggests a stronger role for the federal government than it has played to date. We believe that broader policy development for the entire system will require federal leadership and co-ordination.
In particular, from Health Minister Dingwall's initiative the Red Cross is looking for some overriding body that will provide clear public-health policy direction to help us to balance difficult safety cost-benefit decisions. To date, we haven't had this direction--and have been left to defend our actions without a national blood policy or clear government direction on a case-by-case basis.
When I turn to the future, I see blood products that will never be entirely risk-free. The raw material for our products is manufactured by individual human bodies. Each unit of blood we collect reflects a portion of a person's life, including everything to. which the person was exposed.
In spite of its small and ever-diminishing risk, I believe blood will continue to be one of the pillars of modern medicine. I believe this because I don't think artificial blood substitutes or alternative blood-utilisation techniques will replace blood products in my lifetime.
Some products and techniques, however, will reduce blood usage--and the Red Cross supports these. The Red Cross also supports the continued, judicious use of blood by physicians. And the Red Cross supports stakeholders who have felt ignored in past discussions about the national blood supply system. I speak in particular of groups whose members use blood products every year and who should be at the table when system-wide policies affecting their interests are discussed.
The future role of the Red Cross in the national blood supply system depends on many factors. We have prepared ourselves to move forward in the role we currently fill as blood programme--not blood system-operator. We've done this through the coast-to-coast transformation of the Blood Services programme I mentioned--and through safety-related, multi-million dollar computer and regulatory compliance projects. At the same time, we have negotiated agreements with our partners to better enable us to deliver increasingly safe blood products to Canadians.
Of course, what matters isn't whether or not the Red Cross would like to remain the operator of this nation's blood-supply programme. What matters is whether this is in the best interest of Canadians. On this question, Canadians and governments will have to reach their own conclusions. Blood Services is an important programme to the Red Cross. But we're much more than our blood programme. As we look forward to our second century of service in Canada our resources are needed as never before. Everywhere governments are hard-pressed to answer these needs--and so the burden falls increasingly on shoulders outside those of government.
Creative approaches will be required. Amongst others, we intend to work together with the private sector where our guiding principles and their corporate objectives intersect.
With Bayer Inc. we've formed a strategic alliance to build and operate the world's most modern plasma fractionation facility. For our risk our rewards are a safe and secure supply of blood products. For governments, the savings on the purchase of plasma products to Canada's health-care system--and taxpayers--will be on the order of $4 million to $5 million a month.
A strategic alliance with Mosby Times-Mirror Publishing has allowed us to introduce the world's foremost tools for teaching first aid. A strategic alliance with the Canadian Tire Child Protection Foundation has allowed us to modernise all of our teaching materials and put water-safety information into the hands of Canadians through the Canadian Tire national network of stores and gas bars. Manulife Financial, chartered banks, Hydro Quebec and many others have all committed to important programmes of blood donor recruitment and service.
These alliances provide significant financial support, as well as technology and expertise, to the Red Cross. Perhaps more important, they marry the managerial and technical skills of the private sector with the social motivation of the non-profit organisation. Many hundreds of thousands of people benefit as a result.
Before I stood up here today, I was asked what the people of Canada can expect from their Red Cross as we approach and pass into the next millennium.
To return to the beginning of my remarks today, from their Red Cross Canadians can expect both more of the same--and change. We will continue to be led by our fundamental principles, our mission and our strategic goal. We will continue to play our part as a member of the world's most respected international humanitarian movement. We will continue to answer the calls of governments and other groups whose vulnerable people need assistance. And we will continue to depend on the generous support of Canadians, who give us their time, talents, blood and money. But, with Canada and the entire world, we will change to meet new realities. Specifically, we plan to continue our work in three areas of fundamental importance to us: speed of response, quality of performance and value for money. Our priorities in these areas are no different from yours. Acting on these priorities will help our major programmes deliver safer products more efficiently and better programmes more cost-effectively.
To put the priorities into action, we have redesigned the Red Cross management structure. Our new regional structure promises stronger local presence, stronger professional programme support and stronger national systems. I believe that this reform of programmes and systems will, when fully implemented, revitalise the Canadian Red Cross.
After you have left this comfortable room and returned to your own activities, I would ask you to take a few moments to think about the work of the Red Cross and about how you could participate in it. If it is relevant to your professional position, please don't overlook the possibility of an alliance. If you have an idea--call us. Give us the opportunity to develop the idea with you. We would work together to find the special way that you and the Canadian Red Cross could co-operate for the good of those who desperately need it. It takes courage and generosity to open your heart to these people. But the reward of service to humanity is a lasting one. And so I would also like to ask you, as individuals, to build into your busy schedules the acts that will allow you to reap the reward of humanitarian service. Become a part of our 100-year-old tradition. Volunteer your services. Volunteer to donate the gift of life, your blood. Write a cheque and send it to the Canadian Red Cross. Or do all three. As do friends for life, let's work together.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Ann Curran, President, Curran & Associates, President, Lewis Companies and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada.