A foreign multinational company can export Canadian blood plasma products for profit abroad, The Breach has learned. That flies in the face of what’s been pledged by Canadian Blood Services and Grifols, the Spanish multinational corporation that is trying to open private plasma collection centres across Ontario and already operates in some other provinces. But the revelation that they can export products for sale overseas is the first window into a secret contract the company signed with Canada’s blood authority in 2022 to allow them to pay for blood plasma.

Grifols hit a roadblock on Monday, as Hamilton’s Public Health Committee unanimously backed a resolution from Mayor Andrea Horwath to reject a planned Grifols collection centre and declare the city a “paid-plasma-free zone.” Horwath said that “anything that preys upon the most vulnerable is hideous and doesn’t belong in Hamilton.”

That deal between Grifols and Canada’s blood authority has accelerated an assault on the voluntarism that has been at the core of blood and plasma collection in Canada for decades, and quickened the country’s shift toward a for-profit system.

Critics have often invoked the example of the United States, where private centres operate in low-income neighbourhoods, paying poor people to sell their plasma so multinational companies can manufacture expensive drugs for large profits.

The privatization of blood and plasma collection goes against the founding principles of Canadian Blood Services, a national charity that manages blood supply outside of Quebec. It was created to keep donations voluntary after the “tainted blood” scandal of the 1980s, which resulted in 8,000 Canadians dying from improperly screened, infected blood from paid donors through a for-profit donation system.

Paying for blood donations remains banned in British Columbia, Quebec, and Ontario. But Doug Ford’s Conservative government quietly gave a green light to Grifols earlier this year, appearing to accept the Canadian blood authority’s argument that the Spanish company is acting as an “agent” of Canadian Blood Services.