National Sickle Cell Awareness Day

By: The Hon. Jane Cordy

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Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, today is National Sickle Cell Awareness Day in Canada. Sickle cell disease and thalassemia are the most common genetic diseases in the world. An estimated 6,500 Canadians and their families live with sickle cell. For many, the only treatment is regular blood transfusions.

Sickle cell anemia, or sickle cell disease, is transmitted through parents who each carry the sickle cell gene. It causes red blood cells to become fragile and sickle shaped. These cells transport oxygen throughout the body, and when there is a deficiency in oxygen, serious complications arise and can have devastating consequences on quality of life and health.

Manifestations of the disease include episodes of severe pain and increased risk of serious infection and death. The disease causes damage to the organs and increases the risk of stroke to up to 300 times higher than that of the general population.

Honourable senators, I had the great pleasure of attending the annual Hope Gala & Awards in Toronto this past weekend, hosted by the Sickle Cell Awareness Group of Ontario. At the event, the Honourable Dr. Jean Augustine was awarded the Legislative Award of Excellence. Jean was recognized for her decades of advocacy in raising awareness in her community and here on Parliament Hill.

On November 3, 1997, Jean was the first person to speak about sickle cell in the House of Commons. This conversation continues today. I was also fortunate to attend the second annual Parliamentary Sickle Cell Breakfast on the Hill this morning, hosted by the African Canadian Senate Group.

Honourable senators, on this June 19, I would like to remember a sickle cell warrior and advocate, Angela Ngozi Njoku, who passed away on May 21, 2024, at the age of 53, due to complications from sickle cell. She was known as a strong advocate in Nova Scotia for those living with the disease. Angela was born in Ghana but moved to Halifax with her family in 1976 as a young girl. Anyone who was lucky enough to meet her was greeted with her smile and warm personality.

Honourable senators, I wish to thank Senator Mégie and the African Canadian Senate Group for their continued advocacy for sickle cell awareness. By working together, we can all continue to make a difference in the lives of so many.

Thank you.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

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