Remembering the life and work of John Plater

Paying tribute to a lawyer and activist who fought for the rights of tainted blood victims

By Todd Harrison

On Thursday August 2nd, 2012

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platerTributes are pouring in to honour the memory of lawyer John Plater. The tireless and forceful advocate for compensation for the victims of Canada’s tainted blood scandal died Saturday at 45 from complications of the Hepatitis C and HIV he contracted through tainted blood.

Michael McCarthy, who also contracted hepatitis C through a blood transfusion and was represented in court by Plater, told the Toronto Star that Plater “accepted his lot in life and decided whatever happened to him, he could turn it into something better for somebody else.” This he did through powerful in-court advocacy for his clients, and later, as president of Hemophilia Ontario.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq released a statement praising Plater for dedicating his “time and energy in the service of others. He will be missed, and will be an inspiration to many for years to come.”

A memorial post on the Canadian AIDS Society website describes Plater as “a lawyer by training and an activist by nature” who “provided dedicated and valiant leadership to improve the health of all of us. With his quiet determination and legal training, John opened many doors and was committed to improving the lives of all of us, particularly the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS, HEP C, Co- infection and Hemophilia. He was a champion for all and opposed the criminalization of HIV.”

Plater learned at age 18 that he had contracted HIV and Hepatitis C. After completing his undergrad at U of T, Plater earned a law degree from Osgoode in 2006 and set up a small practice in his house in Thornbury, Ontario. He was passionate in fighting for patients’ rights, regardless of the circumstances in which they contracted their conditions. His friend and fellow lawyer James Kreppner worked alongside Plater until Kreppner’s death in 2009, also of HIV and Hepatitis C.

Plater’s widow, Karen, sent a moving email about her late husband to CBC News. “We believed in three things: love hard, play hard, work hard,” she wrote, “and tried to do them in that order. We sometimes mixed up the play hard and work hard — I remember many a vacations being delayed as he was finishing work on a case or preparing material for a meeting, but we NEVER mixed up the love hard.”

Visitations for Plater are being held in Thornbury this afternoon and evening, with the funeral tomorrow afternoon. Memorial donations can be made to the Canadian Hemophilia Society, the Beaver Valley Outreach or a charity of your choice.