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David Kilgour
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Hon. David Kilgour
2016-11-03 13:08
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My thanks to all your colleagues for inviting us to appear before you.
I am going to make my remarks in French, but I would like to start with a bit of humour.
I asked all the members around the table if Irwin could join us, and I think all of you said yes, but he refused to come. Can you cite him for contempt or something, Mr. Chair?
This is a very unfunny topic, so forgive me for trying to bring in a bit of humour.
As you alluded to, Mr. Chair, the two of us were asked by the coalition to investigate the persecution of Falun Gong in 2006—a long time ago—as volunteers, and to look into some seemingly preposterous allegations that were coming out of China about Falun Gong.
We did two reports. The third one was a book published in 2009 called Bloody Harvest.
I hope you have the book. I think we could get you one, Mr. Chair, if you don't.
We concluded that for 41,500 transplants done in the years 2000 to 2005 alone, the only plausible explanation for sourcing was Falun Gong. My colleague, David Matas, can perhaps tell you more about Falun Gong. I'm just trying to skim through this by giving you some of the presumed highlights.
Here are three of the 32 kinds of evidence we found that this was happening. Investigators made calls to many hospitals and detention centres across China claiming to be relatives of patients. We discovered that in about 15 facilities across China, they had Falun Gong organs for transplant available. A number of Falun Gong practitioners who later got out of China told us that they were systematically blood tested in forced labour camps. We knew this couldn't be for their health, because they were being tortured and forced to work under hideous conditions, as I'll mention in a few minutes. We interviewed the ex-wife of a surgeon from Sujiatun District, China, who had told his wife that he had removed the corneas from 2,000 Falun Gong practitioners during a two-year period, 2001 to 2003. He also told her that none of the “donors” survived because the surgeons removed other organs and their bodies were then burned. I know the lawyers here would know that's hearsay evidence, but I still think it's persuasive.
Unfortunately, Ethan Gutmann can't be with us today, but he wrote the book called The Slaughter, which he spent seven years researching and writing. He looked at the Falun Gong, Tibetan, Uighur, and house Christian communities, and his best estimate was that the organs of about 60,000 to 65,000 Falun Gong, and 2,000 to 4,000 Uighur, Tibetans, and house Christians were harvested in the 2000 to 2008 period.
A recent update to our books came out in June of this year. It was launched in Washington, Brussels, and Ottawa. It provides an exhaustive examination of hundreds of hospitals in China, looking at records, websites, the beds available, and a whole bunch of things. We concluded that industrial-scale organ harvesting is going on across China.
We conclude that a minimum of 60,000 transplants a year are being done across the country. As you probably all know, the Government of China claims they're doing about 10,000. We provide a lot of evidence—740 pages, depending on the size of the font, and 2,400 footnotes—documenting what we call a “state-directed transplant network”, controlled through national policies and funding, and implicating both the military and the civilian health care systems.
Our update has a number of conclusions, but I'll just give you four. Perhaps Davis Matas will talk about the others.
First of all, organ pillaging in China is a crime in which the Communist Party, state institutions, the health system, hospitals, and the transplant professions are all complicit.
The global intergovernmental community should establish an institution-based, independent investigation into organ transplant abuse in China. Perhaps the Government of Canada could do it. We are well placed to do that, and I think all of us who've worked on this issue are convinced you'd come to the same conclusions we've come to.
Organ tourism to China should not be shielded by medical confidentiality, but openly monitored. We think that Canada should enact laws that would ban Canadians for going to China for organs, as Israel, Spain, and Taiwan have now done. No nation, including ours, should allow its citizens to go for organs until China has stopped killing their own prisoners of conscience for their organs.
So what can the Parliament of Canada or the Government of Canada, do?
In early 2015, this committee...I have the highest respect for this committee, and I think you probably all know the motion you passed expressing concern. You encouraged the medical professionals to do something about this. You called on medical and scientific regulatory bodies to name and shame and ostracize individuals involved in this hideous practice. You called on the Government of Canada to consider ways to discourage and prevent Canadians from taking part in transplant tourism.
DAFOH, Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting , which was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize this year and has professionals across the world who are against forced organ transplants, has put out a number of documents, including a press statement. One point they made in their press conference was that China is not ready to join the world's ethical, values-based transplant community as an equal and trusted partner. In order to take the Chinese government's claim seriously, monitoring groups and ethical organizations should demand full disclosure of the use of prisoners of conscience as organ sources, transparency of organ sources, and access to China's organ procurement pathways.
Permit me a word about forced labour camps. People will tell you they don't exist anymore, and I certainly hope they don't. They've been renamed. They were called detoxification centres for a while, but I'm very much afraid that these camps still exist across China. One estimate we got was that there are about 350 of these camps in China. You may not know this, but you can be sent to one of these camps on a police signature only. There's no appeal. There's no hearing. The policemen can send you there for up to three years, and you work 16 hours a day for no pay, under very bad conditions.
We've been told by people who've got out of these camps and out of China that they make things like Christmas decorations, McDonald's toys, and all manner of other things for use by multinational companies outside of China.
Charles Lee was actually an American. He got out of one of these camps after, I think, three years, thanks to pressure from the U.S. Congress. He'd been making Simpsons slippers in this camp. He went back to New Jersey and found that he was able to buy these slippers in a store near his house. Jennifer Zang and Charles Lee were both in a movie called Free China that talked about their experiences in these camps. As you can imagine, these experiences are hideous.
In conclusion, I'd like to refer to Dr. Jacob Lavee. He just retired. He was a member of the Transplantation Society's Ethics Committee, and he was a key figure in reforming Israel's legislation about transplants. Previously insurance companies in Israel would pay for people to go to China, and they would pay for the organs. One day Dr. Lavee discovered that one of his heart patients was going to China to get a heart, and he realized what was going on. To his enormous credit, he got Israel to stop this process and basically made it an offence to be a broker for going to China for organs.
He gave an interview just before the transportation conference in Hong Kong a few months ago—which is quoted in the piece you have—and he said to New York Times reporter Didi Kirsten Tatlow, “I'm a simple Jewish heart transplant surgeon and the son of a Holocaust survivor, and the reason I spend so much time on this is that I can't keep silent in the face of a new crime against humanity”.
I'll just cite one other person, Professor Maria Fiatarone Singh of Sydney University Medical School. She said, “… individuals who are not free to consent can never be used as organ donors, as this not only prevents them from achieving their human potential, it completely dehumanizes them, and should be thus unacceptable to any society in the twenty-first century….”
Finally, DAFOH recently put out a response to a conference that was held in Beijing a few months ago about supposed reforms in China's transplant system. They put out a longer statement, but let me quote to you a bit from its press release, which I believe is also attached to your statement:
There has been extensive Chinese media coverage of a recent Beijing conference on Chinese organ donation processes. The conference was reportedly held with the support of the China National Organ Donation & Transplant Committee (CNODTC), the International Society for Organ Donation and Procurement (ISODP), The Transplantation Society (TTS),
You may not know that TTS is a very large organization that represents all of the transplant surgeons around the world, and they are the ones who had the meeting in Hong Kong that David and I both were at as well.
and the World Health Organization (WHO). Various eminent international doctors involved in the conference allegedly made statements in praise of China's reforms. Despite the rhetoric, there is no evidence that China now sources organs for transplantation in an ethical or transparent way.
Then comes this paragraph:
Serious concerns remain. First, there is no actual law prohibiting the use of organs from executed prisoners. The widely proclaimed ban is nothing more than an announcement reported in the media. Second, the semantic trick of re-classifying executed prisoners' donations as voluntary citizen donations makes it impossible to identify the true source of organs within the allegedly voluntary system.
The last from my statements is this final paragraph from the press release:
Finally, it is difficult to see this situation as anything more than another propaganda event designed to distract attention from actual practices in China. The onus is on those who champion China's reforms to now demand accurate, auditable data, independent access to practitioners and relatives, unscheduled visits to hospitals (including military hospitals) and open access to financial records regarding organ transplantation.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
David Kilgour
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Hon. David Kilgour
2016-11-03 13:39
We run into this all the time. People say, “What about someone who got a kidney in country X?” This happens, and I'm sure you know it happens. You sell one kidney hoping you can get your child through university or something, but there's only one country in the world where it's state run from top to bottom, and that's China.
There may be black market organ transplants in China, but they don't need them, because they have a huge system run by the government from top to bottom.
Here is one example we sometimes use. You remember I mentioned the case of the person who removed 2,000 corneas. Her husband was paid the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars for doing those 2,000 operations. The doctors are very well paid, and they're not going to talk about it.
It's a whole system that can only exist with a totalitarian government. We can't stop the government of China from killing its people, unfortunately, although I honestly believe that naming and shaming has helped. I think they're at a tipping point because they're getting so much bad publicity now. There was a hearing, for example, in Germany yesterday. There's so much bad publicity for them from this that I think they may stop.
It's a small number of Canadians, probably, who are going to China, but we can at least say that Canadians are not allowed to go. You don't even have to mention China. What we can do is say that you cannot go and buy an organ somewhere outside of Canada.
Taiwan has the best legislation now. If Taiwan can do it, being so close to China and having so many people....
David Kilgour
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Hon. David Kilgour
2016-11-03 13:43
Can we both have a go at that?
Nothing is effectively being done. As you know, China has a veto in the UN, but some of the committees of the UN have.... The UN Committee Against Torture, which is a group of non-UN employees, experts, has been very helpful. The UN rapporteur on torture has been very helpful in the past. It's hard to get a multilateral organization like the UN or.... The European Union passed a very good resolution that we are fond of, but not much has been done, except in Spain. It seems when you get a large number of governments involved, this is not an issue that you can....
One country we know about, which I agreed not to name, was finding that a lot of their people were going to China for organs. Rather recently they have agreed they will stop their people from going to China. We won't name the country. We'll see how they do in stopping that.
What I'm really saying—and David may have a different view—is we're trying to get countries like Canada...and it's a little embarrassing when these two Canadians have been running all over the world, yet Taiwan and Spain and Israel are really way ahead of us. It would be very nice if one of you or all of you would get this new Government of Canada to bring in a bill that would simply do what Taiwan has done. If Taiwan can do it, it should be relatively easy for this country to do it on an all-party basis.
David may have a completely different answer.
View Len Webber Profile
Thank you, Dr. Hoffman, for your information.
I have a question. I'm hearing more and more about Canadians seeking surgical procedures or dental procedures outside the country, whether because they want to fast-track treatment or because it's less expensive for things like dentures and teeth implants and such. Then they come back to Canada and they develop complications and so they seek treatment within Canada, often costing taxpayers more with the treatment and the healing than it would be to actually do the procedure to begin with.
I just want to know what your thoughts are with respect to what is occurring. Are these incidents increasing? Are you hearing more and more of these types of stories? I certainly am, with some of my constituents.
What policies are in place with respect to people like this who come back and seek these treatments?
Abby Hoffman
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Abby Hoffman
2016-03-21 16:40
Well, we're hearing about this as well, maybe through the same sources, which are significantly through the media.
I think I can tell you that most provincial and territorial jurisdictions do have systems for advance approval of procedures that are done out of the country. However, clearly a lot of the cases you're referring to are instances where someone just simply chooses...either the procedure is not available in Canada and they think it will be better for them, or as you say, they may not wish to wait, or who knows precisely the circumstances.
Of course, one of the benefits of our system is that regardless of how somebody becomes ill, if individuals go to another country and have botched procedures or the procedures they've undergone don't produce the result that they expected, and they actually are more ill than they were, those individuals are entitled to receive care in Canada. It's partly an issue of public information. We know over time people have gone to the United States, Mexico, or other countries seeking care, thinking that it's a silver bullet for whatever condition they're suffering from, and the consequences unfortunately have been dire.
I think a lot of this is about public education and people needing to be cautioned to be very careful about a decision to get care in another country without consulting anyone, either their own doctor or their own insurance scheme, whether it's public or private insurance. It's a risky business, and we are hearing about more of these cases.
Gigi Mandy
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Gigi Mandy
2016-03-21 16:42
I was just going to add that we've heard recently about people who have gone out of country seeking bariatric surgery, people who are overweight but may not meet the criteria for the surgery here. There was one case in the news about a woman who was only 35 pounds overweight. That's what she wanted to lose. She went out of the country and had surgery, and had disastrous effects.
One of the problems is when people come back, they often may have incomplete medical records. It really poses challenges for the doctors here who are trying to correct the problems because they don't know exactly what has been done or what the complications were.
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