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Andrew Cumming, a hemophiliac who contracted HIV and Hepatitis C from tainted blood products in the 1980s, has found a unique way to honour the memories of two fellow hemophiliacs who were ardent activists and advocates for those struck down by the tainted blood scandal.
Cumming, who is managing director of Blackheath Fund Management Inc., and his wife, Hillary, are funding two summer internships in the area of health law for students at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University.
The memorial internships honour Osgoode alumni John Plater (LLB ’96) and James Kreppner (LLB ’89), who, in Cumming’s words, “devoted their professional and personal lives to the task of making the Red Cross, the provincial and federal governments, the corporations who manufactured the medicine, and later the Canadian Blood Services accountable and responsible for the safety of our blood supply and blood products derived from it.”
From left, are Karen Plater, Robin Nobleman, Andrew Cumming, Hillary Cumming and Osgoode Hall Law School Dean Lorne Sossin
At the official announcement of the internships at Osgoode on Sept. 24, Cumming spoke with emotion about Plater and Kreppner, both men learned of their HIV infections in late 1985 when they were ages 18 and 23 respectively. “Each had his own style, and each looked to the other as a mentor and inspiration in what was an incredibly long and difficult battle. Both were lion hearted.” Ultimately, he said, the pair secured the Krever Inquiry, compensation for victims, and an apology from the government and the Red Cross.
Robin Nobleman, a second-year student in Osgoode’s Juris Doctor program and former regional service coordinator for Hemophilia Ontario (Toronto and Central Ontario Region), is the inaugural holder of the John Plater ’96 Memorial Internship. She worked this summer at the HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario in immigration and refugee law. She described the experience as “an unparalleled learning opportunity” and thanked Cumming for “providing me with the opportunity to use law as a tool for positive social change.”
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Royal Commission of Inquiry on the Blood System in Canada headed by Justice Horace Krever. The Krever Inquiry, which looked into how the national blood supply came to be contaminated with two infectious viruses, Hepatitis C and HIV, produced a landmark report that was tabled in the House of Commons on Nov. 26, 1997. The report made a number of recommendations, including the creation of Héma-Québec for Quebec and Canadian Blood Services for the rest of the Canada, and recommendations regarding compensation for persons who had received contaminated blood.
The tainted blood scandal and the Krever Inquiry form the backdrop of Tainted a play by Kat Lanteigne. A production of Tainted, directed by Vikki Anderson, is running until Oct. 12 at the Aki Studio Theatre, Daniels Spectrum, 585 Dundas St. E.