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View Len Webber Profile
View Len Webber Profile
2020-10-26 11:05 [p.1193]
moved that Bill C-210, An Act to amend the Canada Revenue Agency Act (organ and tissue donors), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, it is an absolute honour to finally rise again in the House and speak on my private member's bill, Bill C-210.
I first introduced this bill four years ago almost to the day back in October 2016. Back then, it was Bill C-316, which passed unanimously at every stage of the process. Unfortunately, in spite of the widespread support for the bill, it died in the Senate when the 2019 election was called. It was incredibly disappointing, of course. A lot of people worked on this bill with me; stakeholders and friends back home. It was incredibly disappointing, but what can one do? It is just the way it is, the way the cookie crumbles, as my daughters would say, and one just has to move forward.
Fast-forward to December of last year to the private members' business, PMB, lottery date. I clearly remember watching the draw. The Deputy Speaker, the hon. member for Simcoe North, walked into the room with his robes on, and it was really quite formal. He sat in the chair, and there was a big cookie jar with all of our names inside. The Deputy Speaker stood up, picked out a name and, sure enough, it was mine. I was just elated. It was fantastic. Coming from Calgary, I yelled out a “yahoo” Calgary Stampede-style. It was a good feeling, and clearly a divine intervention. I knew then that I had to reintroduce this bill, and so Bill C-316 has now been resurrected as Bill C-210. Here we are today in second reading, and we have this rare opportunity to re-pass this legislation to hopefully and certainly save some lives.
For those who may not already know, I have been a long-time advocate of organ and tissue donation in Canada. In fact, several years ago, I passed a bill in the Alberta legislature as an MLA, which resulted in the creation of the Alberta organ and tissue donation registry. The bill also put in place some strong and robust education and awareness programs that have included adding donor hearts to our Alberta driver's licences.
The reality is that 4,600 Canadians are still awaiting a life-saving transplant, and we need to do more to find those critical matches to save lives. This is an issue that transcends political lines and offers us, as parliamentarians, the opportunity to make a difference in every corner of this country.
It is disappointing that while over 90% of Canadians say that they support organ donation, only 20% have actually registered on their provincial or territorial registries. Every year, this country sees hundreds of people dying waiting for a donor. Sadly, Canada has one of the lowest donation rates in the world. A single donor can save the lives of up to eight people, and a single tissue donor can help up to about 75 individuals.
My Bill C-210 proposes a very simple and effective method to increase the size of the organ donor base here in Canada. It would also help update existing databases but, most importantly, it would save lives. I am proposing that we use the annual income tax form to ask Canadians whether they would like to register as organ donors, and whether they consent to have this information passed to their provincial government for addition to its existing organ donor registries, and that is it. This is a very simple bill that would add the very simple question to our income tax forms. The federal government would simply collect the data and pass it on to the provinces.
We would not be encroaching on provincial jurisdiction because we would not be setting up a federal registry. That was already tried once in this House, back in 2015, by the hon. member for Edmonton Manning in his PMB. He wanted to create a national organ and tissue donation registry. It failed in this House, due to the fact that the government cited jurisdictional encroachment.
This bill would provide the information to the provinces. The provinces would use that information as they see fit. The provinces would still maintain their own lists. We would just be supplying them with that data.
The tax form, by law, is restricted to collecting data for the purposes of taxation only. That is why it is required to amend legislation to allow for this common sense approach to a national problem. I modelled my bill on the successful inclusion on the income tax form of the question that asks Canadians if they want Elections Canada to be kept informed of their current information. That question is on the first page of the form. My bill has been crafted in keeping with that successful precedent.
This proposal is so simple and could be implemented so quickly. The federal government, via the Canada Revenue Agency, already successfully shares data every day with all the provinces and territories via encrypted networks with strong and reliable privacy safeguards. In addition, the existing infrastructure at the CRA would support this change at virtually no cost. The CRA already shares dozens of data fields of information on every taxpayer with the provinces and territories and this would simply be one more data exchange. The income tax form is a way to update this information annually, via a legally binding document. Thus, it would allow for provincial lists to remain current and relevant year after year after year.
Before I go any further, I would like to thank the 20 members of Parliament from all parties in this House who have come forward to officially second my bill. That is a rare occurrence indeed; it has happened twice. It happened in my last bill as well, which was not successful.
This extraordinary non-partisan approach demonstrates how a sensible idea can bring us together as a House to improve the lives of Canadians. This collaborative approach also extended to the health committee. I served on that committee in the last Parliament, along with nine of my colleagues, one of whom is looking over here right now and giving me a big smile. They have been extremely supportive of improving the organ and tissue donation situation here in Canada.
The health committee conducted a study and tabled a report on organ donation with several recommendations. The committee specifically wanted to know what role the federal government could play in strengthening Canada's organ donation and transplantation procurement system. One of the key recommendations in that report deals directly with a debate that we are having here right now. If this bill is passed, it will fulfill that key recommendation.
I also want to thank the government for taking the rare and possibly unprecedented step of allocating funding for this initiative before it has even passed in this House. That is a fact. We have the will, we have the funding, and now all we need is our reapproval here in this House.
This is not a political issue. It is a human issue. Any one of us could be in need of donor organs or tissues at any time. Just asking the simple question could increase the number of donors. Donor registration jumped 15% in British Columbia when drivers were asked directly at licencing locations across their province if they wanted to be donors. They are also doing it in Alberta, as a result of a bill that was passed when I was an MLA there. Imagine what we could do on a national scale with the income tax form.
As I mentioned, the Canada Revenue Agency has already been allocated the funding for this purpose, but needs the law changed so it can proceed. While some methods used by provinces and territories, such as drivers' licences and health care cards, help register donors, none has as far a reach as the income tax form. The existing voluntary online method of registering is neither proactive nor fully effective. For example, those who move from one province to another rarely update their information. The income tax form approach overcomes these common problems.
Stakeholders have been universally supportive of the bill and the thousands of affected families with loved ones on waiting lists will welcome this additional help. One stakeholder, the Ontario Trillium Gift of Life Network, is the largest registry in Canada and its CEO, Ms. Ronnie Gavsie, said:
...we would support creating an opportunity for Canadians, when filing their income tax returns, to register their consent for organ and tissue donation.... The online income tax return becomes a gateway and an annual reminder to drive Canadians to organ and tissue donor registration.
We share with you the goal of substantially improving awareness of organ and tissue donation and improving health of Canadians by increasing the number of life-saving transplants.
I thank Ms. Gavsie for sending that.
Also, the federal agency responsible for organ donation is Canadian Blood Services and its vice-president, Dr. Isra Levy, said, “Just like our colleagues, we support a transactional touchpoint that will raise awareness, especially if it leads to the conversation.... But for sure this is to be welcomed.”
Elizabeth Myles of the Kidney Foundation of Canada wrote to the Prime Minister expressing the foundation’s support for this change. Dr. Amit Garg of the Canadian Society of Nephrology, a society of physicians and scientists specializing in the care of kidney disease, and Dr. Lori West of the Canadian Donation and Transplantation Research Program in Edmonton have also expressed their strong support for the bill. The list goes on. Support for this legislation reaches far and wide across the country and into every community.
In conclusion, we have the opportunity to leverage the resources of the federal government to help our provincial and territorial partners improve their registries. I hope we seize the opportunity and run with it. I and, most importantly, the 4,600 Canadians awaiting life-saving transplants hope we can count on all MPs for their support. We have shown leadership in the past by passing this bill unanimously at all stages, so I call on the members of this House to do the same. This bill got a rare second chance and I hope we can pass it so that people in dire need of the gift of life can get a second chance as well.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-10-26 11:19 [p.1195]
Madam Speaker, I applaud the member on his initiative. It is an issue that I too have followed over the years, from the Manitoba legislature to here in Ottawa. I was disappointed in the Senate since we had gotten it to a certain point and for some reason the other house did not do what the House of Commons wanted done.
Having said that, the support the bill received in the last Parliament demonstrates that members of Parliament on all sides of the House are encouraged by the legislation and look forward to it going to committee, as I suspect it will in due time after debate.
View Len Webber Profile
View Len Webber Profile
2020-10-26 11:20 [p.1195]
Absolutely, Madam Speaker, it is disappointing that we have to go through this stage again, a second hour of debate here, sending it to committee and then coming back to the House to be voted on. It is laborious and time-consuming. The second hour of debate at second reading is not until the end of January, for example. It is frustrating because there are people waiting for organs and we need to get this on the income tax form as soon as possible. There is a deadline to get this bill passed so it can be put on the next income tax form.
View Brian Masse Profile
View Brian Masse Profile
2020-10-26 11:21 [p.1195]
Madam Speaker, Liberal member Lou Sekora introduced this bill in 1999 and the year 2000, followed by Judy Wasylycia-Leis from the NDP in 2002, 2003 and 2008, and the NDP's Malcolm Allen in 2009 and 2013. The most recent efforts have been very much appreciated and well received in the House.
We have had majority governments during that time and a lot of opportunities. Does the member feel confident that we have learned lessons in this chamber, going back to the original mover Mr. Sekora in 1999, and that it is time to act and throw away the irresponsible delays that have taken place?
View Len Webber Profile
View Len Webber Profile
2020-10-26 11:22 [p.1195]
Madam Speaker, yes, there have been many attempts to get a national organ donor registry put in place in this country. On the member's number of individuals who have come through the House to try to pass this bill, I need clarity on whether the hon. member is referring to actually getting the question put on the income tax form. I am not aware of that. I am certainly feeling confident that, this time around, this bill will pass on the kindness of the House because it is required to save lives.
View Earl Dreeshen Profile
Madam Speaker, as a fellow Albertan, I know the member for Calgary Confederation's passion in this particular area. I also understand his frustration. I had a private member's bill that ended up being lost, but which then had the opportunity to come back in the next Parliament. It was regarding the personation of a police officer in the commission of an offence. After all the work done by our staff and the people who have worked with us in the past, I look forward to having this discussion.
One of the things the member mentioned in his speech is there would be an annual reminder on the income tax form. Would the fact that one has done it once mean that it would continue to be on there, or is there a possibility it would be something one would have to do continually?
View Len Webber Profile
View Len Webber Profile
2020-10-26 11:24 [p.1195]
Madam Speaker, from my meetings with the CRA in the past on implementing this on the tax form, the question would be there every year for the individual to either mark yes, they were willing, or to just leave blank. If a person left it blank, it would stay that way on next year's form. If a person changes their mind in the future, they would need to change it on their income tax form.
View Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I want to start by congratulating and applauding the member for Calgary Confederation for his tireless efforts to improve organ donations across Canada: first in Alberta and now here in the House of Commons. He has reached across party lines. This bill has support not only across party lines, but across the country. His way of working in the House of Commons is one we can all take lessons from. He is one of the finest MPs we have in the House.
I gave a speech to support this bill in the previous Parliament, but sadly it did not pass in the Senate. This speech is much the same as the one I gave then because, unfortunately, organ donation rates across the country remain, quite frankly, pathetic. Here in Ontario, more than 85% of residents are in favour of organ donation, but only one in three Ontario residents has registered his or her consent to donate. This trend is similar across the country.
There is clearly a disconnect between people's wishes and their actions. Sadly, without advance registration, an individual's family is often faced with this decision at a time of crisis, dealing with the loss of a loved one when so many emotions are at play. Too often, we have not discussed our wishes with our loved ones. We know that health care delivery is a provincial responsibility, and I applaud the member for finding an elegant way to engage the federal government on this important issue while still respecting our constitutional jurisdictions.
This bill would make it easier to gather information. With a simple check mark on one's income tax return, voila: The information is passed on to the person's province of residence. A province can choose not to participate in the program if it so wishes. This is so important because, while our provincial counterparts have made tremendous strides to raise awareness in registration rates, we are still not seeing organ donation registration rates rising as they should.
In 2012, when I was an Oakville town councillor, I was part of a group of Oakville residents who formed Oakville Be a Donor. It grew out of a call from then Oakville resident Jennifer Malabar, who challenged the mayor and council to register as organ donors.
Jennifer developed a kidney disease while pregnant with her first child, Arya. Facing an eight-year wait for a kidney transplant or the prospect of dialysis, Jenn was the recipient of a kidney from her husband, Hitesh Patel, on their wedding anniversary no less. Hitesh later joined me for the Courage Polar Bear Dip wearing Be a Donor T-shirt to raise awareness for organ donation. They later welcomed their second child, Sage, and the family continues to thrive.
Through the Oakville Be a Donor group, I met the most amazing people: Bev Cathro, who donated her kidney to her young daughter, and Ron Newman, affectionately known as the “dialysis dude”, who received a kidney transplant and lived dialysis-free for many years. However, as of late 2016, he was back on dialysis as he waited for another donor.
Julie Pehar, whose experience was a different one, came to our group having lost a loved one and having made the decision to donate his organs.
Sarah Taylor and Keith Childerhose have a love story that played out as Keith struggled to breathe. In need of a lung transplant, Sarah took to social media to publicize Keith's challenges. They appeared in the news as Keith waited for a double lung transplant.
Keith was failing quickly and was on life support. He had been living with diffuse panbronchiolitis from the age of 25 and had been fighting the disease for 15 years. This severe and rare disease caused fluid to continually build up in his lungs, similar to cystic fibrosis. On life support, the news came as Keith was heading into a 10-hour surgery that a donor had been found. In one of the most touching pictures I have seen, Keith was hooked up to an IV and tubes, looking into Sarah's eyes. Keith touched Sarah's nose as she touched his hand.
The good news is that the surgery was a success and brought much-needed attention to the need for organ donation. In a lovely twist to the story, the two were engaged, then won a wedding package and were married in 2013. As wonderful as Keith and Sarah's story is, sadly, across the country, too many stories like Keith's do not have a happy ending.
Our Oakville Be a Donor group gathered together at the Interfaith Council of Halton with community leaders and politicians to raise awareness across town. Despite our efforts to raise awareness, registration rates across Canada are dismal.
I want to share some statistics from the Ontario Be a Donor website. In Ontario, there are still over 1,500 people waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. That number has not changed since I gave my speech in the last Parliament. This is their only treatment option, and every three days, someone will die because they did not get a transplant in time.
As the member for Calgary Confederation mentioned, one donor can save up to eight lives through organ donation, and can enhance the lives of up to 75 people through the gift of tissue.
Age alone does not disqualify someone from being a donor. The oldest organ donor was over 90 and the oldest tissue donor was over 100. There is always the potential to be a donor and it should not stop someone from registering. Anyone over the age of 16 can register.
Current or past medical history does not prevent someone from registering to be a donor. Individuals with serious illnesses can sometimes be organ or tissue donors. Each potential donor is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
All major religions support organ or tissue donation, or respect an individual's choice.
Organ and tissue donation do not impact future funeral plans, and an open casket funeral is possible.
In Ontario right now, 1,100 people are waiting for a kidney, 252 are waiting for a liver and 46 of those on the wait list are under the age of 17. When we register, we give hope to the thousands of Canadians waiting for transplants. Those on the transplant wait list are often living with organ failure, like my friend Ron Newman. Tissue donors can enhance the lives of recovering burn victims, help restore sight and allow people to walk again. Transplants not only save lives, but return recipients to productive lives.
I want to remember my friend Bob Hepburn. Bob was a kind and generous soul, a teacher and librarian who was a role model for hundreds of students at Abbey Park High School in Oakville. Bob was generous beyond words, so much so that he was twice a living donor: once donating his bone marrow and another time his kidney. Bob died quite suddenly a short time ago, and those to whom he had given the gift of life came to his funeral.
Last but not least, I want to recognize my friend Tim Batke who donated his kidney to his brother over a decade ago.
These selfless acts by Hitesh, Bob and Tim have changed lives, but also highlight the need for more people to register as organ donors.
I want to thank again my colleague across the floor, the member for Calgary Confederation. I know this is an issue he has been committed to for years. I am proud to call him a friend and even prouder to have been asked once again to be a seconder of this bill. It is my sincere hope that this bill receives swift passage so that Canadians will soon have another simple option to register as donors on their income tax returns thanks to his private member's bill.
Those who are watching today should talk to their loved ones about their wishes and go online and register today. In Ontario one can go to beadonor.ca right now. It only takes two minutes to register.
View Luc Desilets Profile
View Luc Desilets Profile
2020-10-26 11:33 [p.1197]
Madam Speaker, we are here today to once again debate the bill to amend the Canada Revenue Agency Act with regard to organ donors. This bill comes from the member for Calgary Confederation, who first introduced it in 2015. It was known then as Bill C-316, and it went as far as first reading in the Senate in late 2018.
This bill seeks to authorize the Canada Revenue Agency, or CRA, to enter into an agreement with Quebec, a province or a territory to be able to collect from individuals via their income tax return the information required for establishing an organ donor registry. This bill also seeks to enable the CRA, if authorized by the individual on their income tax return, to share the information collected with the province or territory in which the individual resides under that agreement.
The Bloc Québécois does not have a problem with this bill and we support it. However, it is unlikely that the Government of Quebec will want to enter into an agreement with the CRA because Quebec already has its own income tax return and, as the Government of Quebec has said and continues to say, we want to implement a single tax return that would be managed by Quebeckers.
This bill does not actually have any bearing on what we want. Again, what is good for Quebec is good for the Bloc Québécois. That said, even if Quebec did want an agreement, we would not have a problem with sharing that information. Quebec is free to sign an agreement or not in this case because this bill does not commit Quebec to anything or limit it in any way. It is when the opposite is true that we strenuously object.
We are fine with letting the CRA collect information and provide it to those provinces that want to participate in such an arrangement. We actually think it makes sense because the CRA handles all the tax returns outside Quebec.
I would point out that the number of transplants performed in Canada has increased by 33% over the past 10 years. Even so, there is still an organ shortage. According to the latest data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, or CIHI, 4,351 Canadians were on a transplant waiting list in 2018. That is a huge number. That same year, only 2,782 organ transplants were performed in Canada.
For example, the number of Canadians with end-stage kidney disease rose by 32% over the past decade, which partly explains the increased demand for organ transplants.
According to information from CIHI's Canadian organ replacement register, in 2018, there were 1,706 people who received one or two kidneys, 533 who received a liver, 361 who received lungs, 189 who received a heart and 57 who received a pancreas.
I want to thank all the donors who have signed their cards and have consented to organ and tissue donation. It is one of the most noble gestures a person can make, but one that is not easy, I admit. I also want to commend the work done by doctors who specialize in organ and tissue retrieval and those who perform transplants.
We need to do more, however. On December 31, 2018, there were 3,150 people waiting for a kidney, which represents twice the number of kidneys available, 527 waiting for a liver, 270 for lungs, 157 for a heart and 156 for a pancreas. We need to use every conceivable means of reducing this long waiting list.
In 2018, 223 people died while on a waiting list for transplant. That is obviously 223 too many. Every new initiative gives hope and can save a life or lives.
Our great sovereignist family was privileged to be able to count on one very courageous, generous and engaged supporter. Tomy-Richard Leboeuf-McGregor sadly passed away nearly two years ago on November 19, 2018, at the age of 32.
Tomy was born with cystic fibrosis, a serious, degenerative lung disease. Tomy's life not only changed but was actually saved when he received a lung transplant in 2013. Driven by a will to live, to give and to give back to others, he became very committed to the organization Living with Cystic Fibrosis, whose mission is to promote quality of life for people living with cystic fibrosis. He even served as its executive director.
Tomy was a staunch advocate for Quebec independence. He was active in the Parti Québécois and the Bloc Québécois. He ran for the Parti Québécois in 2014 and for Projet Montréal in 2017. One of his goals was to promote organ donation.
I want to say to him and his brother Jonathan, his partner Éric, his grandparents and his two sources of pride and joy, Alexis and his niece Sarah-Joan, that we proudly continue to be his voice and carry on his fight.
For all these rather emotional reasons the Bloc Québécois will be voting in favour of the bill introduced by our colleague from Calgary Confederation, which seeks to amend the Canada Revenue Agency Act with regard to organ donors, on behalf of all these people waiting for a transplant, their family and Tomy.
View Brian Masse Profile
View Brian Masse Profile
2020-10-26 11:41 [p.1197]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-210, and I also want to commend the work of the member for Calgary Confederation on the bill. There is no doubt that it has been around several times. This most recent effort is commendable given the fact that this Parliament is on an extended tour at the moment, from just the week before when we had confidence votes. Hopefully we will see something take place this time.
I would disagree that this is not a political issue. If it were not a political issue, it would have been done ages ago. If it were not a political issue, it would have been completed in the Senate as opposed to the Senate finding other business to do when there was plenty of time to get it done. The former minister of health, Jane Philpott, and the cabinet voted against the bill saying it was provincial jurisdiction. That is where there needs to be some recognition.
I think the Bloc's intervention was very strong today on this matter, because this is about giving provinces some control and some capabilities and an enhancement of responsibilities. It allows them now, through the Canada Revenue Agency, to enter into an agreement to be responsible for their citizens. It does not make anything have to happen. It provides the course, the window, the opportunity and most importantly the hope for organ donation in this country to go up.
We have heard from a number of different members that we have a low rate. We have a low rate because there has not been enough education. I do not think it has been a normal custom in Canadian society and it has been a struggle for us to get this in hand.
In my municipality, there has been some really good work with the Windsor Regional Hospital and the “Be a Donor” campaign and the Trillium group, but at the same time, we rank very low. I come from an area that has high cancer rates. The high industrial contaminants related to pollution and the type of work we did creates sickness and illness that is beyond some of the norms across this country and North America. Therefore, we would be a recipient of this, but we still struggle to get that message out.
The member for Calgary Confederation deserves credit for bringing this back in a Parliament that might have a shortened life in general because of the conditions of a minority Parliament, but it does provide an opportunity for us to get work like this done. Let us not ignore that the bill did pass very recently in this chamber. It went to the health committee, where it had good support, and then it moved back to the chamber and ended up in the Senate again.
We need to find a way this time to be extra determined if there is going to be all-party support for this on the surface, because the surface does not always show the real thing. Behind the scenes, there could be other things taking place. Hence, that is why we saw the bill die in the Senate last time because it was not seen as a priority.
I know this because I have seen many private members' bills, some I have been the custodian of, that have gone to that place. It is not good enough for the government to blame, like the parliamentary secretary did, the Senate, when the fact is that their work moves further, quicker and faster. That is why we have an abysmal record in this chamber of private members' bills dying a death in the Senate because it did not get dealt with.
It is unfortunate because there are some very excellent senators. Regardless of my feelings with regard to the other chamber and whether it should be democratically elected or not, there are strong, capable individuals who have been appointed. There are strong, capable individuals who have won their election in the few cases there have been. There are strong, capable individuals in the most recent selection process who are working on behalf of Canadians. However, the reality is that there is still political partisanship and games with regard to the ordering and the system in the Senate, which has several layers of committees and groups breaking apart. We cannot ignore that.
How do we actually fix that situation?
We unify even stronger in the House, pass it quickly at committee and get it back here in the chamber, or we could move it through unanimous consent. I will leave that to the member for Calgary Confederation to decide if that would be the appropriate way to go. I would support that because it already had its due diligence and its day here very recently.
It has been well recognized. I will give the government credit for this. There is money sitting right now that could help people and it has been funded. Just as I am critical, I am also very encouraging and respectful of the fact that we have money that is available for a program. In my 18 years here, I do not know many programs like this that would come through as a private member's bill and already have funding sitting on a shelf somewhere. It just cannot be triggered by legislation. I do not think I have ever run across something like that before. It shows there is a sound support structure within our public institutions and bureaucracies to move this along, and that the way this has been done is well respected.
The real holdup at the end of the day is us. The real holdup is Parliament through process. The real holdup is the Senate. What is behind the times and lagging and failing people right now is us as an elected body and the other place, which have to deal with this to get royal assent to get this done.
Everything else has been done to save lives, and they count for anyone, the two-year-olds and 30- and 40-year-olds. I have seen these cases because I served them when I was formerly an employment specialist on behalf of persons with disabilities.
When somebody got an organ transplant, I saw what it did for their life. Not only did it give them hope and opportunity for themselves and the immediate circumference of their friends and family, but it also led to what I did as an employment specialist, which was help them find employment in the community. There needs to be some work on and recognition of that because it benefited not only the individuals, but also the people introduced to this person who had had this second chance at a full life. When employment was added to their curricula of activities, they become taxpayers and contributed back.
We see that these people have not only a recognition of what they have gotten from the community, but also a respect for the unconditional love that was provided when somebody filled out a form and gave them that gift. We see that not only through their emotions and their eyes, but also through their gestures.
Most recently, we had in this country the Kidney Walk. With COVID-19, we cannot do walkathons the way we would normally do them because of social distancing. The organizers of the Kidney Walk put a process in place where people got their shirt and a pin with their number on it, as I did. They then put them on and went out, wherever they wanted to, by themselves to find their walk. It was fun.
It was different because people reflected on it. I have done a lot of walkathons over the years, but this was really different. I was out by myself, just thinking about it. They said to pick the time, whenever, and just a few weeks ago, Canadians raised over $600,000 on that alone, despite everything. The people involved are often people who have had an organ transplant, or they are a family member or somebody else associated with them.
The legislation being presented here, as I noted earlier, has been around for many years. I noted the Liberal member who originally put forth a bill related to this was Mr. Lou Sekora in 1999 and 2000, just prior to my coming to this chamber. To suggest that we have unanimous support for this and that we actually have no politics behind it is not right, because it never got done.
I do not want to go back on a blame train with regard to why it did not take place with Judy Wasylycia-Leis, Malcolm Allen or, most recently, Liberal members, who introduced it and then saw cabinet vote against it. What I want to do is recognize that, because it is a potential pitfall we could face going forward to get this done. Let us not ignore that.
We can have these moments in this chamber when we feel good about coming together to speak about this, but if we do not get the job done, then we are part of the problem and not the solution. If we keep talking about this, with its real human existence connection among children, adolescents and seniors, then we have an obligation to follow through with those words to make sure the deed is actually done. We have to give the government credit for the fact that there is money on the shelf waiting for this, and it actually could help people right away.
If we look at Australia, Belgium and Spain, we see the results. When we move to a system like this with discussion about it and also inclusion, the numbers for organ donations go up because people feel better educated about it. They know that the process has been fully vetted through their parliamentary system and their democracy. They know there has been inclusion and consultation, such as what we had at the health committee before.
However, again, if we do not actually move on this, if we just give it lip service and do not have a plan to get it done, especially in a Parliament that potentially has a limited time, it could happen or maybe it could not. While maybe this Parliament will go on, as I have seen some minority governments go on for years, we all know the terms and conditions that we have right now.
As I conclude, I want to thank the member for Calgary Confederation and all the members who intervene here, but it is only worth something if we get it done. If we do not get it done this time, then we are just part of the problem that goes back to 1999.
View Scott Aitchison Profile
View Scott Aitchison Profile
2020-10-26 11:50 [p.1199]
Madam Speaker, I want to thank my friend and colleague, the hon. member for Calgary Confederation, for sponsoring this bill, for his perseverance through our legislative process, and for his lifetime of advocacy and action on the issue of organ and tissue donation. I am honoured to second Bill C-210, a bill which would improve organ and tissue donation registration in Canada.
View Scott Aitchison Profile
Organ and tissue transplants improve life, extend life and save life for thousands of Canadians every year. In fact, one deceased donor can potentially save up to eight lives through organ donation and improve the lives of 75 more through tissue donation. This is an incredible field of medicine, which Canadians wholeheartedly support. In fact, 90% of Canadians indicate that they support organ and tissue donation.
Canada has been a world leader in the development of transplant surgeries, having performed the world's first successful heart valve transplant in Toronto in 1956, the world's first successful lung transplant in 1983 and the world's first successful double lung transplant in 1986. All were performed right here in Canada. However, despite Canada's pioneering role in transplant medicine, the undeniable success of these life-saving procedures and the overwhelming support of 90% of Canadians, merely 20% of Canadians have registered for organ and tissue donation.
Sadly, the impact of this gap between intention and action can be measured in lives lost. In 2019 there were 4,527 Canadians waiting for transplant surgery. Of those 4,527 people, 710 either withdrew from the list or died. Those 4,527 Canadians do not tell the full story. The Kidney Foundation of Canada reports that of the 22,000 Canadians whose kidneys have failed, only 16% are on the transplant wait list. Why the discrepancy in the face of such need and also such support?
In testimony before the Standing Committee on Health in 2018, Ms. Ronnie Gavsie, the president and CEO of the Trillium Gift of Life Network, explained that the variety of reasons for this discrepancy includes misconceptions about donation. Some people think that their age or health may prohibit them from being a donor, or that becoming a donor would affect their care in the hospital. Another factor is, quite simply, procrastination. Ms. Gavsie also explained that in 10% to 15% of circumstances, organ donor registrants' wishes are overturned by their loved ones at the time of their death.
Remarkably, the most common reasons for the gap in organ donor registration could be solved with a conversation. Canadians need to be reminded of their intention, and Canadians need to be encouraged to have a conversation with their loved ones about organ donation. Public education, awareness campaigns and greater opportunities to register could most certainly help, and as we have heard, tragedies have spurred Canadians to register as donors as well. An option to register for organ donation on the federal income tax form will spur the conversation, and it will save lives.
Laurie Blackstock was among the witnesses the Standing Committee on Health heard from while preparing its 2018 report on organ donation in Canada. Laurie arrived home one day to find her husband unconscious and suffering multiple seizures. He was rushed to the hospital where he then suffered a heart attack. The medical staff at The Ottawa Hospital brought him back to life, but he was transferred to the intensive care unit and put on life support.
After he had been in the intensive care unit for two days, Laurie knew that her seemingly healthy 57-year-old husband, Stephen, would not survive. Stephen had told Laurie that he had checked the organ donor registry and the doctors knew that Stephen was a registered donor. Laurie, along with Stephen's mother, met with the Trillium Gift of Life coordinator in the hospital and the decision was made. Through their despair, they knew that potentially eight families could be spared their grief and pain, and that their loved ones could be saved and go on to live a much healthier life.
Many weeks later, Laurie received a thank you note from a young man who had been the recipient of both Stephen's lungs. She described how in that note he wrote that he thinks of his donor family every time he breathes and that the word “grateful” could not begin to describe his feelings. He thanked her and her family for saving his life.
Laurie went on to say:
I'm here to emphasize that organ and tissue donation doesn't just help the recipients and their families. It doesn't just reduce the tremendous cost of long-term kidney treatment. It can also be an incredible gift to bereaved families like mine, because when presented gently and ethically, at the right time, when there's little or no hope of a loved one's survival, it is a gift. Knowing that five people's lives probably improved dramatically with Stephen's lungs, kidneys, and corneas doesn't change his death and the intensity of our grief, but it gives us moments of relief.
Stephen lives on through those five people.
What an extraordinary gift.
Today, all members of Parliament have an opportunity to come together to give the gift of life. We have a chance to work together in a non-partisan way to help our constituents. Let us rise to this opportunity. Let us show Canadians the best of this Parliament. For the sake of thousands of Canadians who desperately need an organ donation, I ask all members to support Bill C-210.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-10-26 11:58 [p.1200]
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the comments made by both the mover and the seconder. No doubt there is a number of seconders out there who believe in their heart the importance of this legislation.
In my question to the mover of the legislation, I posed this issue: The House has previously reflected on the legislation, and it received unanimous support. Members of all political parties see the merit and the strength of this legislation. There was a certain level of sadness when it did not pass through the Senate. There had been an expectation, and I do not know the understanding or the in-depth thinking that went on in that chamber.
This legislation is much like that which the government just introduced a few days back in regard to sexual assault. That was something the then leader of the Conservative Party Rona Ambrose had brought to the floor of the House, and we expedited its passage.
The opportunity is still here for us in this Parliament. I really and truly believe that. Given the manner the member is presenting the legislation, and his willingness to work with members on all sides of the House, I am actually encouraged that we will in fact see the bill get through the House of Commons. I would love to see it get through before the end of December. If there are ways in which I could assist, I am prepared to do so.
However, at this time I do want to allow for ongoing debate on the legislation, and I hope the member will understand. I am more than happy to sit down afterwards to have a discussion—
View Alexandra Mendès Profile
Lib. (QC)
The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.
View David Lametti Profile
Lib. (QC)
moved that Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to commence second reading debate on Bill C-6, which proposes to criminalize conduct related to conversion therapy, a cruel exercise that stigmatizes and discriminates against Canada's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit communities.
Bill C-6 is identical to former Bill C-8, which I introduced on March 9, 2020. Bill C-6 and former Bill C-8 signal our government's continuing commitment to eradicating a discriminatory practice that is out of step with Canadian values.
Our government is committed to protecting the human dignity and equality of members of the LGBTQ2 community by ending conversion therapy in Canada.
The bill delivers on that commitment and complements other measures, including former Bill C-16, which provides increased protection for transgender Canadians in the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act.
I am pleased to present another initiative that will further protect LGBTQ2 people from discriminatory practices.
So-called conversion therapy refers to misguided efforts to change the sexual orientation of bisexual, gay and lesbian individuals to heterosexual; change a person's gender identity to cisgender; or repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour. Conversion therapy can take many forms, including counselling, behavioural modification and talk therapy, and may be offered by professionals, religious officials or laypersons.
This practice is a manifestation of the myths and stereotypes surrounding LGBTQ2 individuals. More specifically, it suggests that sexual orientation other than heterosexual and gender identity other than those genders can and must be corrected. This type of discriminatory message stigmatizes LGBTQ2 individuals and violates their dignity and their right to equality.
Conversion therapy has also been discredited and denounced by many professional associations as harmful, especially to children. For example, in its 2014 position paper on mental health care for people who identify as LGBTQ2, the Canadian Psychiatric Association stated that it opposes the use of conversion therapy given that the practice is based on the assumption that LGBTQ2 identities indicate a mental disorder and that LGBTQ2 people could or should change their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Canadian Paediatric Society has identified the practice as “clearly unethical”, and the Canadian Psychological Association, in its policy statement on conversion therapy, opposes the practice and takes note of the fact that “Scientific research does not support [its] efficacy”.
The position of these professional associations and of many other Canadian and international associations reflects the scientific evidence that people subjected to this practice must deal with its negative effects such as anxiety, self-hate, depression, suicidal ideation and attempted suicide.
Studies indicate that children are particularly susceptible to these negative effects. For example, research shows that negative mental health outcomes among youth who have been exposed to conversion therapy include, in addition to the negative impacts I have already mentioned, high levels of depression, lower life satisfaction, less social support and lower socio-economic status in young adulthood.
What do we know about conversion therapy in Canada?
Thanks to the community-based Sex Now survey, we have a better picture of who is most affected by conversion therapy. The survey's most recent results, from 2019-20, indicate that as many as 20%, or one in five, of respondents had been exposed to the practice, so we know that this harmful practice is currently happening in Canada. Moreover, a recent Canadian Journal of Psychiatry article that interpreted the Sex Now survey's previous results indicates that transgender, indigenous, racial minority and low-income persons are disproportionately represented among those who have been exposed. It also notes that transgender overrepresentation “may be explained by the ‘double stigma’ experienced by those who simultaneously occupy sexual minority and gender minority social positions.”
This data is significant cause for concern. Not only does conversion therapy negatively affect marginalized persons, but it negatively affects the most marginalized within that group.
Given the inherent cruelty of conversion therapy and the evidence of its effects, which are not only harmful but also discriminatory for the most marginalized, Bill C-6 proposes amendments to put an end to this practice.
First, the bill would define conversion therapy, for the purposes of the Criminal Code, as a practice, treatment or service to change a person's sexual orientation to heterosexual or gender identity to cisgender, or to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour.
I note that Bill C-6's proposed definition of conversion therapy is restricted to practices, treatments or services that are aimed at a particular purpose, that is, changing a fundamental part of who a person is. Accordingly, practices, treatments or services designed to achieve other purposes would not be captured by the definition, such as treatments to assist a person in realizing their choice to align their physical appearance and characteristics with their gender identity, and therapies that assist a person in exploring their identity, known as gender-affirming treatments.
However, out of an abundance of caution, the bill contains a “for greater certainty” clause, which clarifies that the definition would not capture certain practices, services or treatments, specifically those that relate
(a) to a person’s gender transition; or
(b) to a person’s exploration of their identity or to its development.
This clause comprehensively responds to any concern that the definition could be misinterpreted to include legitimate gender-affirming practices that help people explore their identities or realize their choice to gender transition. It is also consistent with the 2009 report of the American Psychological Association's Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, which describes affirmative therapeutic interventions for those experiencing distress, for example, because of same-sex sexual attraction. Specifically, the report notes that legitimate interventions involve exploring and countering the harmful impact of stigma and stereotypes on the person's self-concept and maintaining a broad view of acceptable choices. To be clear, legitimate gender-affirming interventions do not share the same purpose as treatments that are designed to change or suppress who a person is.
Consequently, the offences proposed by Bill C-6 do not apply to recognized therapies, first, because the main objective of gender affirming treatments is not to change a person's sexual orientation to heterosexual or to restrict their gender identity to cisgender only, or to repress or reduce attraction or sexual behaviour. In case this is still not clear, the proposed legislative measures specific to these types of practices are not included in the definition of “conversion therapy”.
Since this seems to be very important to the Leader of the Opposition, I want to explicitly reassure him. This bill does not prohibit conversations about sexuality between an individual and their parents, family members, spiritual leaders or anyone else. The legislative measure we are debating today does not prohibit these conversations, but criminalizes an odious practice that has no place in our country.
Building on its clear definition of conversion therapy, the bill would also create five new Criminal Code offences to criminalize causing minors to undergo conversion therapy, removing minors from Canada to undergo conversion therapy abroad, causing a person to undergo conversion therapy against their will, profiting or receiving a material benefit from the provision of conversion therapy and advertising an offer to provide conversion therapy.
This approach will protect all minors who are disproportionately affected by conversion therapy, whether it be provided in Canada or elsewhere. No one would be able to provide conversion therapy to minors, and no one would be authorized to take a person who is ordinarily resident in Canada abroad to receive conversion therapy.
The approach would also protect persons who are at risk of being forced to receive conversion therapy. No one would be allowed to cause another person to undergo conversion therapy.
The approach would also protect all Canadians from the commercialization of conversion therapy. No one would be allowed to profit from the practice, regardless of whether it is provided to minors or adults.
Finally, the approach would protect all Canadians from public messaging suggesting that a person's sexual orientation or gender identity can and should be changed. No one would be allowed to advertise conversion therapy, regardless of whether a fee is charged for it. Courts would also be authorized to order the seizure and forfeiture of conversion therapy advertisements or their removal from the Internet, which is similar to existing powers with respect to hate propaganda.
I cannot emphasize enough that telling someone they cannot be who they are is wrong and needs to be condemned in the strongest possible terms. The balanced approach in this legislation factors in the interests of every implicated person.
To be clear, the bill's main purpose is to protect the equality rights of marginalized people in Canadian society, but we know that conversion therapy not only causes individual harms to those subjected to it, but also causes harm to all of society by sending the message that a fundamental part of who a person is, their sexual orientation or gender identity, is a transitory state that can and should be changed. Such messaging is anathema to Canadian values, as reflected in our charter, which protects the equality rights of all Canadians, including LGBTQ2 people. Respecting equality means promoting a society in which everyone is recognized at law as equally deserving of respect and consideration. This starts with promoting a society in which everyone can feel safe to be who they are. The law must provide the same protection for LGBTQ2 people as it does for others.
To promote these values, we need legislation to discourage and denounce a practice that hurts LGBTQ2 people and perpetuates the myths and stereotypes surrounding LGBTQ2 people.
As stated in the preamble of the bill, it is our duty to discourage and denounce the provision of conversion therapy, in light of all of the social and individual harms it causes. It is our duty to protect the human dignity and equality of all Canadians. That is precisely what we are doing with Bill C-6.
We recognize the proposed amendments limit certain choices, including, for example, for mature minors. We made this policy decision because research shows us that all minors, regardless of their age, are particularly vulnerable to conversion therapy's harms. Moreover, if mature minors were allowed to consent to receive conversion therapy, it would be the providers who would have to determine whether the child is mature enough to consent, but most so-called conversion therapy providers are not medical professionals and are not in a position to assess whether a minor is truly capable of making their own treatment decisions. That is why we have drawn a hard line at 18 years of age. That is the best way to protect the most vulnerable among those who are at risk of being subjected to this abhorrent practice.
We also recognize that criminalizing profiting from conversion therapy means that consenting adults would be prevented from accessing conversion therapy unless it is available free of charge. That is because deterring this harmful practice requires placing limits on its availability, and these limits assist in avoiding psychological harm to the individuals who may be subjected to it, as well as harm to the dignity and equality rights of a marginalized group.
Criminalizing advertising conversion therapy furthers that same important objective and reduces the presence of discriminatory public messaging.
Significantly, nothing in the bill limits a person's right to his or her own point of view on sexual orientation and gender identity, nor the right to express that view, including, for example, in private conversations between individuals struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity and counsellors, family members, friends or religious officials seeking to support that individual. Ensuring everyone's ability to express his or her point of view is fundamental to a free and democratic society, and this is true regardless of whether there is agreement on that point of view.
Now that I have described the proposed amendments and what they will and will not prevent, I would like to commend former Senator Joyal for his work on this issue. He introduced former Senate public bill, Bill S-202, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding conversion therapy, which was taken over by Senator Cormier after Senator Joyal retired. This bill had previously been known as Bill S-260.
The proposed offences in the legislation fill a gap in the criminal law because we currently have no offence directly targeting the heinous practice of conversion therapy. Together with existing offences, the new offences would create a comprehensive criminal law response to the harms posed by conversion therapy.
Let us not forget that criminal law responses would complement existing provincial and municipal responses as well. Three provinces, Ontario in 2015, Nova Scotia in 2018 and Prince Edward Island in 2019, have enacted legislation under their responsibility for health-related matters. This legislation specifies that conversion therapy is not an insured health service and bans health care providers from providing conversion therapy to minors.
Significantly, other Canadian jurisdictions are following suit. Earlier this year, both the Yukon and Quebec introduced bills that would implement similar reforms. Although Bill C-6 is an exercise of criminal law because it would amend the Criminal Code, it is consistent with provincial health regulation.
Some Canadian municipalities, such as Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, have also prohibited companies from providing conversion therapy in their cities. All levels of government have roles to play in eliminating this harmful practice. I was pleased to get the support of my provincial and territorial colleagues when we met in January to discuss Criminal Code reforms to address conversion therapy.
There is no reason for anyone in the House to oppose this bill.
We are proud that so much is being done in Canada to address this destructive practice. Our efforts place us at the vanguard of the international community. For example, Malta is the only jurisdiction known to have criminalized various aspects of conversion therapy. Its approach criminalizes conversion therapy to vulnerable persons, which is defined as persons under the age of 16 years, persons with a mental disorder or persons considered by the court to be at risk. Malta also criminalizes advertising conversion therapy as well as involuntary conversion therapy.
The approach that we are proposing goes even further. We are proposing to protect all children under the age of 18 from conversion therapy in Canada or abroad. We are also proposing to protect all Canadians from the negative messages associated with the advertisement of this harmful practice and those profiting from it.
We hopefully will be joined by others soon. For example, in March of 2018, the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning conversion therapy and urging European Union member states to ban the practice. Shortly thereafter, in July of 2018, the United Kingdom government announced that it intended to bring forward proposals to ban conversion therapy. I understand that work is ongoing.
In short, there is growing recognition worldwide of the destructive nature of this practice and acknowledgement that the criminal law is an appropriate way to address that harm.
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