Hon. Jane Cordy:
Honourable senators, I rise to recognize World Sickle Cell Day, which takes place on June 19, and which was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2008. For the second year we here in Canada recognize National Sickle Cell Awareness Day on the same day, June 19.
I have spoken many times in this place about sickle cell disease and the effects it has on those living with it and the effect it has on families.
Honourable senators, effective awareness worldwide continues to be crucial in order to eradicate sickle cell disease. Various government organizations, health funding agencies and non-government organizations work to aid those with sickle cell. They also promote testing and national strategies in order to support patients and their families. But still, honourable senators, sickle cell is one of the most common genetic diseases in the world.
Sickle cell disease is caused by an abnormal form of hemoglobin — the molecules and red blood cells which carry oxygen throughout the body. With sickle cell disease, the red blood cells become deformed and the abnormal hemoglobin is not able to work properly. Normal red blood cells are doughnut-shaped and move easily through the body’s blood vessels, delivering oxygen to the organs. In patients with sickle cell disorder, the red cells become stiff and sickle-celled.
With sickle cell, the deformed cell does not flow easily through the blood vessels. This reduces the oxygen getting through the body to the organs, resulting in clogged blood vessels and low blood cell count.
The starvation of oxygen to the body’s systems most commonly manifests itself as severe pain, especially in the bones, but it can also cause damage to shoulder and hip joints or chest pain from acute chest syndrome. Those with sickle cell are born with it and spend a lifetime managing the disease.
Honourable senators, I encourage you to seek out sickle cell organizations in your provinces and territories and to engage with patients and their families about the struggles they face daily.
There are many events happening to mark National Sickle Cell Day. Here in Ottawa, there will be a proclamation by the mayor. In Toronto, both City Hall and the CN Tower will be lit up in red and white.
I would like to thank Lanre Tunji-Ajayi, a former president of the Canadian Sickle Cell Disease Association of Canada and now President of the Ontario Sickle Cell Association, who works tirelessly to promote awareness of sickle cell disease and to promote access to health care for those with the disease.
I would also like to recognize Rugi Jalloh, President of the Nova Scotia Sickle Cell Disease Association; and Biba Tinga, President of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of Canada.
Honourable senators, I have met incredible Canadians in the sickle cell community, some who have the disease and many who are passionate advocates and making a difference for those with sickle cell.
I am very happy to support this incredible sickle cell community and to help to advocate with them. I ask you to join me in celebrating, on June 19, all the strides made toward awareness and, yes, the eradication of sickle cell disease. Thank you.