I appreciate this opportunity to speak to Bill S-240. As vice-chair of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights, I can say that the subject of black market organ harvesting is not a new one. Indeed, Bill S-240 is the fourth iteration of a bill that has been through many parliaments. These bills were written largely in response to credible and appalling reports concerning organ harvesting in China.
Organ trafficking is considered an organized crime, with a host of offenders including the recruiters who identify the vulnerable persons, the transporters, the staff of the hospital or clinic and other medical centres, the medical professionals themselves who perform the surgery, the contractors, the buyers and those at the banks that store the organs. The Subcommittee on International Human Rights has studied the issue of organ harvesting in China numerous times and has issued at least two lengthy reports and a number of statements. The reports discuss in gruesome detail the establishment within China of an actual organ-harvesting industry.
The first source of organs for transplants apparently was prisoners who were sentenced to death and executed. A second source of organs was prisoners of conscience. The earliest of these were the Uighurs, Chinese Muslims from the eastern part of the country. The chamber will recall the more recent reports of up to one million Uighurs being rounded up by the government of the People's Republic of China and forciably placed into re-education camps.
In our subcommittee, we heard that while China's official central government's statistics indicate that approximately 10,000 organ transplantations take place per year, the numbers may actually be as high as between 60,000 and 100,000 organ transplants per year. The one population that ultimately became the principal victims of China's organ-harvesting industry was the country's Falun Gong followers. Falun Gong is the adherence to the Falun Dafa spiritual practice that originated in China. According to testimony that our subcommittee heard on November 3, 2016, China's organ-harvesting industry developed in tandem with its systematic repression of Falun Gong.
I will admit to being a bit skeptical initially about reports on organ harvesting in China. The idea of taking another person's organ to sell on the open market suggests a level of depravity that ordinary decent human beings find difficult to fathom. However, the more I learn about human rights abuses committed by the Chinese government against its own people and more and more credible accounts, my skepticism dissipates into reluctant belief. In fact, in recent hearings in the Subcommittee on International Human Rights looking into the human rights situation of the Uighurs in China, we heard that the Chinese government has been forciably taking DNA and blood samples from Uighurs. Chillingly, those of us who follow these issues immediately began fearing the Chinese government might be looking for yet more organs to harvest from this population.
It is time, therefore, that the international community come together on this issue and establish the conditions that will render the organ-trafficking industry unprofitable. While the majority of organ trafficking occurs abroad, measures must be taken to ensure Canadians waiting on long organ donation lists are not perpetuating this brutality by purchasing trafficked organs. Trafficking in human organs is an abhorrent activity that should be included in Canada's Criminal Code. Further, Bill S-240 proposes amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to ensure that receiving organs or benefiting economically from this illicit trade would also make a permanent resident or foreign national inadmissible to Canada.
The NDP supports Bill S-240 as we oppose all forms of trafficking in organs. We believe it is important to ensure that Canadians who have their names on the long organ donation lists are not inadvertently contributing to the demand for this horrendous crime.
As this is the fourth bill on organ trafficking in 10 years, the NDP calls for cross-party co-operation to ensure the swift passage of Bill S-240 and for this issue to be finally taken seriously. In addition to supporting this initiative, more should be done to encourage ethical, safe organ donation domestically. Canadians contribute to organ trafficking primarily through a phenomenon called transplant tourism. It is the most common way to trade organs across national borders. Recipients travel abroad to undergo organ transplants and there is currently no law in Canada against this practice.
Unlike the United States, Canada does not have a centralized list of people waiting for an organ. The Liberal government actually voted against a bill in 2016 that would have supported the creation of a national registry to help identify those wishing to donate organs and those who need them. Canada is the only developed country without national organ donation legislation, such as the 1984 United States National Organ Transplant Act. The Government of Canada should seriously consider the feasibility of a presumed consent system for organ donation where individuals opt out instead of opting in to organ donation.
In addition to the development and coordination of an advanced interprovincial organ-sharing system, the federal government must also facilitate the implementation of best practices and promote professional education and training opportunities. Canada is way behind on the issue of organ trafficking. In fact, the Council of Europe has had a convention against trafficking in human organs since 2008, and as of 2017, it has been ratified by 47 member states. Several countries, including Taiwan, Spain, and Norway, have already passed similar legislation. It is time for our country to catch up with the rest of the world and we can begin doing so today by supporting this bill.
It is not lost on many human rights defenders listening to this debate today that it is a profound anniversary marking the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights 70 years ago. Those sentiments are inextricably linked after the horrors witnessed in World War II and the conviction of never again. I submit that those sentiments are profoundly linked here as well to Bill S-240. After World War II, the world sought to ensure such madness ensued against humanity never happened again. Organ harvesting and trafficking are a nauseating reality and we must put a stop to them. Canada must act and must start by passing Bill S-240.