Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to talk about the legislation. I must start off by commending the member in terms of the initiative that he has taken upon himself. I believe that the bill raises the very important issue of organ and tissue donation, something which is top of mind for a number of Canadians in all regions of our country. One only needs to visit a hospital to get a very good sense as to how serious an issue this really is.
Whether it is provincial, national, or here in Ottawa, governments are generally concerned about the issue of organ and tissue donation and what role we might be able to play in that. I would ultimately argue that all governments of all political stripes encourage Canadians, as a population, to do what they can by listing on donor cards their willingness to have their organs used if their life is terminated in some fashion or another, especially if it happens prematurely through a vehicle accident or something of that nature.
I say this because if we read through Bill C-223 it sets out some fairly decent objectives. In reading it, one would easily ask why we would not vote in favour of the legislation. I have had the opportunity to have a number of discussions over the years with respect to what the bill is attempting to do. At first blush, one would think that this is something that we as legislators should be acting upon.
As much as I appreciate the bill that we have before us, I believe it is not necessary. My understanding is that the government will not be voting or recommending that we vote in favour of the bill for good reason. No member of the House should interpret this in any fashion to mean that the Government of Canada is not sincere or genuine in wanting to play a strong leadership role on this very important issue. As I said, as much as possible we encourage Canadians to get engaged in this issue in one form or another, ideally, as I made reference to, in terms of considering the donation of their organs and tissue if their end comes in a premature fashion.
If I may, I would like to expand as to why it is that we are taking this position. It is important that we recognize that the federal, provincial, and territorial governments are committed to investing in improving organ and tissue donation and transplantation. Since 2008, all provincial and territorial governments, with the exception of the Province of Quebec, in collaboration with the federal government, have given Canadian Blood Services the mandate, and over $64 million in funding, for a nationally coordinated system.
It is important we recognize the jurisdictional responsibilities of what the bill is looking for. If we put the statement I just gave into proper context, one gets a better understanding as to why the bill is not necessary at this stage, as important as the issue is.
When we look at what Canadian Blood Services does with respect to the system I just referred to, it can be best explained in four points. First, it is responsible for developing and implementing a national strategic plan, including the mandate, and the roles and responsibilities in the nationally coordinated system. Second, it establishes leading practices, professional education, knowledge translation, and public education and awareness campaigns. Third, it enhances system performance reporting, including public reporting. Fourth, it develops and maintains the Canadian transplant registry and a national donor registry with three interprovincial organ-sharing programs.
Like many others no doubt, I can tell stories of constituents I have represented where the need was high. I think of a gentleman, Hank Horner, who has been a long-time advocate for organ donation. I have had numerous discussions with him. I am sure if he saw the legislation before us, he too would be tempted to support it.
However, I like to think that if we look at the bigger picture and at working with the provinces and territories, where there is jurisdictional responsibility, we here in Ottawa would do best, in terms of serving individuals like Hank, by working in collaboration with these different levels of government to make sure Canada establishes a world-class system that Canadians can truly believe in.
What Hank often argued for was that, as much as it was important to have a registry, the most important issue for him personally, and the individuals he had advocated on behalf of, was education. We need to be able to make Canadians aware of the importance of organ donation, and how not only does it save lives but it improves quality of life for recipients who have had the good fortune of receiving a transplant.
I have witnessed first-hand, as I am sure others have, recipients who have been gifted an organ. They had the operation necessary and the medications that followed. They will espouse how profoundly it has changed their lives. This gift has taken them off of machines. They no longer have to go into health care institutions, often on more than a weekly basis. It gives them that sense of independence. Therefore, I believe it is critically important for us to do what we can as legislators, as parliamentarians, to try to deliver those quality health care services.
What Hank would ultimately argue when he looked at a Manitoba driver's licence, for example, is that we have a driver's licence in which it is an optional issue. If one wanted to donate one's organs, one would tick off a particular box. I know that he, and others, were looking at the possibility of having a negative option where it is assumed that people would be prepared to donate organs, as opposed to having to tick off the box to voluntarily donate. I can appreciate the arguments for that.
I had encouraged Hank and others to work with the provincial government to look at creative ways in which they could improve the number of people who are prepared to donate organs, and the driver's licence is but one example. Another thing we often talked about was the issue of education and going into high schools. I know that Hank and others have done just that. They try to educate through our high school system, radio interviews and programs, community clubs, and outreach programs, which can really make a difference.
In essence, I commend the member for bringing the legislation forward. However, I would advise the member that there are already things in place to ensure that we are accomplishing what the member is hoping to accomplish with the legislation. Therefore, I will not be able to vote in favour of his private member's bill.