The XX Factor

Don’t Be Fooled by Justin Trudeau’s Virility—Canada Is in a Sperm Crisis!

Justin can’t do everything.

Photo by CHRIS ROUSSAKIS/AFP/Getty Images

There’s a sperm crisis in Canada! As the Huffington Post Canada reported Monday, less than 10 percent of donated sperm in Canada now originates within the country. Disappointed locavores must procure their supply from overseas, or from what the Toronto Star portentously calls “poorly regulated services south of the border.” “We’ve put ourselves in a really lousy position where we are completely dependent on other countries for our imported gametes,” one aghast fertility lawyer told the Star.

There’s no sign that the raw material itself is in low supply among our neighbors to the north. No one is accusing the home of the world’s smoothest prime minister of being low on virility. The shortage is due instead to a 2004 Canadian law that bans buying sperm, which means sperm banks must rely on altruistic types willing to donate for free.

Good old-fashioned bureaucracy also seems to be a culprit in the shortage. Donors—who, again, are “working” for free—must endure multiple appointments and exams and fill out onerous amounts of paperwork to get approved for donation. Then they must submit invoices and receipts just to get reimbursed for expenses.

How many men are willing to fill out forms in triplicate for the privilege of masturbating in a windowless room for free, in order to father a child they’ll never meet? By the latest count, the answer is about 60 men in Canada’s 3.9 million square miles. All but a handful of those donors live near Toronto, where the country’s only national sperm bank is located. Meanwhile, more than 5,000 Canadians use donor sperm for inseminations every year.

So where do Canucks go to get the good stuff? Canada does allow the importation of all-American seed. And Americans don’t need no stinkin’ sperm regulations. Here, the FDA requires donations be tested for infectious diseases and a few other conditions, but most other screening is done essentially on the honor system.

The less-stringent American standards have made headlines in Canada lately because of a 2015 lawsuit by a lesbian couple in Ontario who selected sperm from an Atlanta-based bank based on the donor’s high IQ, health, and impressive educational credentials. As it turned out, Donor 9623 was actually a college drop-out with a criminal record and schizophrenia. The American clinic had allegedly photoshopped a facial mole out of his picture, too.

Some Canadians still believe in the viability of an altruistic sperm donation model. For hope, they look to Denmark, where some estimate that 1,000 men are donating every week. The small country is so overflowing with sperm that it has to export the majority of it. Denmark now provides a third of the sperm imported by the United Kingdom (whose own young national sperm bank had only nine registered donors last year). This is despite the fact that donors are paid only around $45 per donation in Denmark, compared to $125 in the United States.

In the meantime, the U.S. is happy to continue supplying Canada with the semen it so desperately craves. According to one recent estimate, America is the biggest exporter of sperm in the world.