National Sickle Cell Awareness Day

By: The Hon. Jane Cordy, The Hon. Jim Munson

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Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, Senator Cordy can’t be here because of COVID restrictions on travel, so she has asked me to deliver a statement on her behalf. If she is listening or watching, I hope she forgives me if I mispronounce the names of some of the persons in the story; it’s an honourable attempt. If you hear the word “I,” it is Senator Jane Cordy speaking.

Honourable senators, this past Friday, on June 19th, was the third year of celebrating National Sickle Cell Awareness Day in Canada. While this year we were unable to meet in person, I do want to acknowledge the special day in the Senate of Canada. Canada was the first country to recognize their own National Sickle Cell Awareness Day.

Honourable senators, Sickle Cell disease affects hemoglobin, the molecule in red blood cells that delivers oxygen to cells throughout the body. This can lead to blood cells becoming sickle shaped and can slow down the rate of oxygen getting to the cells. Sickle cell disease is hereditary and both parents must carry the genetic trait.

I have been blessed over the past number of years to have gotten to know so many people within the Sickle Cell community. They have shared their stories, their struggles, their resilience, and their successes. I have spoken to family members, caregivers, and doctors, who have expressed how they support those with Sickle Cell. Honourable senators, they are Sickle Cell warriors who daily face the challenges of dealing with the disease.

The current health pandemic has affected millions of people worldwide. In fact, the fifth Biennial Canadian Conference on Sickle Cell was to have taken place in Halifax this past weekend. Instead, I had the privilege of participating in a virtual meeting called Voices: A National Sickle Cell Conversation Without Borders. The meeting, which had speakers from around the world, included conversations and sharing about lived experiences and coping strategies.

I want to thank just a few people who work diligently and passionately as advocates. Biba Tinga, is the President/Executive Director of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of Canada, Lanre Tunji-Ajayi, is the interim President/CEO of the Global Alliance of Sickle Cell Disease Associations, and Rugi Jalloh is the President of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of Atlantic Canada.

Honourable senators, the current health crisis has made us all more aware of how vulnerable we are in our daily lives. We know that for those facing health concerns, these challenges are compounded during a pandemic.

As we celebrated National Sickle Cell Awareness Day on June 19th, I would not only like to highlight awareness, but also the need to move forward with more action. We must always support our most vulnerable. Thank you.

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