Rabbi Reuven Bulka is admired and respected for his leadership and volunteer work in Ottawa.
He has served on many charitable boards and is chair of the Trillium Gift of Life Network, an agency for tissue and organ donations in Ontario. He holds a PhD from the University of Ottawa, and he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Carleton University for his community service. In Feb 2010 he received Ottawa’s highest civic honour, the Key to the City.
Bulka joined the Board of Directors of Canadian Blood Services (CBS) earlier this year.
Bulka also has an antigay past, including working with a group that believes homosexuality can be cured through therapy.
In 2004, Bulka sat on the Scientific Advisory Committee for the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). The association believes that homosexuality is unwanted and can be treated with reparative therapy — known as conversion therapy.
NARTH is seen as the only professional mental health organization that teaches that homosexuality is a disorder that can be changed. It is quoted widely in evangelist and religious-right circles.
In his book One Man, One Woman, One Lifetime: An Argument for Moral Tradition, Bulka writes that homosexuals should not be treated equally and that legitimacy of homosexuality is “potentially damaging to the family.”
According to Ron Vezina, national director, media relations and external communications of CBS, Bulka’s personal views were not considered in the recruitment process. He says the rabbi was selected to the board because he was a strong candidate.
“He was identified as a strong candidate because of his knowledge of the blood system, organ and tissue donation in Canada, not because of religious or personal reasons,” says Vezina.
Candidates for the board undergo an extensive interview process and are ultimately appointed by the provincial and territorial health ministers. The board consists of 13 members — one chair, four representatives from different regions in Canada, six from scientific, business and public health areas and two members representing consumers in the blood system.
Bulka represents consumers’ interests.
“He’s a long-time donor and an advocate for blood and organ donations. He gives platelets every couple of weeks and he has been on a regional liaison committee,” says Vezina. “When you are looking at people who would be advocates for the system, who would know the system, interact with the system, he was identified as a strong candidate to be a representative.”
Vezina also states that Bulka is just one voice on the board and that all members are supposed to put aside any personal views.
“You talk about his views on homosexuality: I would be willing to wager that there are board members at our table who don’t share that perspective. They have to put that aside as well as the rabbi would in deliberating those decisions about Canada’s blood system,” says Vezina.
Gays, led by a passionate group of university students, have been fighting to end the CBS ban on gay blood donors. The court case of Kyle Freeman, a Toronto man who lied about his sexuality in order to give blood, catapulted the issue into the national arena in 2009.
Bulka will serve on the board for four years. His role will be to ensure CBS delivers its mandate to provide a safe, secure and efficient blood system for all Canadians.
Bulka did not return emails from Xtra requesting an interview.