Madam Speaker, I rise with pleasure to address an important bill before the House, Bill C-223, an act which would establish the Canadian organ donor registry and coordinate and promote organ donation throughout Canada.
The bill proposes to establish a Canadian organ donor registry to centrally compile information on organ donors and potential transplantation recipients across the provinces and territories. The purpose of the registry would be to increase efficiencies associated with patient assessment and organ allocation to improve patient wait-times, hopefully to reduce them, for transplantation and reduce the number of lost transplant opportunities.
For years New Democrats have supported better national collaboration in organ and tissue donation and transplantation. Specifically, New Democrats have supported the creation of a national registry to achieve this objective, so we are glad to support this initiative put forward by my hon. colleague.
Let me give the House some key figures. Every year, 1,600 Canadians will be added to organ donor waiting lists. Over 80% of Canadians say they would donate their organs; however, fewer than 20% have made arrangements to donate. At any give time, approximately 5,000 Canadians are waiting for an organ or tissue transplant.
Canada's deceased donation rate is relatively low compared to other comparable countries. According to 2009 data from the International Registry of Organ Donation and Transplantation, Canada placed below countries such as Spain, Uruguay, U.S.A., Cuba, and the U.K. in donation rates. Canada's donation rate is less than half that of leading countries. One-third of Canadians who need a transplant will never receive one, according to Canadian Blood Services. We can and must do better.
New Democrats have been working hard in recent years to establish a national organ donor registry to save and improve the lives of Canadians in desperate need of transplants. Canada can do a better job managing the organ transplant system and the establishment of a national registry is a critical first step.
This is the latest in a series of similar private member's bills on a national organ donor registry that have been introduced over the past 15 years. The last two variations were introduced by New Democrat member of Parliament Malcolm Allen in the 40th and 41st Parliaments. A bill proposing a national organ donor registry has never been voted on at second reading.
The sponsor of the legislation, the member of Parliament for Edmonton Manning, has a son who was born with a rare liver disease and has required three life-saving transplantations over the course of his lifetime. The legislation is a combination of personal experience fused with public policy and I would like to congratulate the member for bringing it forward.
In 2011, Canada's organ and tissue donation transplant communities in collaboration with Canadian Blood Services produced a document entitled “Call to Action”, which formally recommended the establishment of an integrated, interprovincial organ donation and transplantation system. The “Call to Action” document recommended the establishment of this interprovincial system by 2017. The authors of the document believe that a nationwide coordination would allow Canada to better reach our potential in organ and tissue transplant donation. They called for the creation of a system that would be consistent across the country, easily accessible, available online, and used to legally authorize donations based on the wishes of the donor.
A national registry would not only improve the availability of organs to patients in need but could also reduce provincial health care costs on those on waiting lists as they are treated more quickly. It would also address the disparities in wait-times across regions and provinces by increasing the efficiency and the supply of donor organs and tissues.
New Democrats support sending the bill to committee to permit an in-depth study of its provisions and perhaps to see if any improvements could be made.
Due to the important life-saving potential of the bill, it is vitally important that Parliament get the details right. For example, we believe that the special status of Quebec must be addressed within the legislation.
Bill C-223 lacks some of the implementation details included in Mr. Allen's former national registry bill, including the right of Quebec to operate a parallel registry as they do today with blood and tissue collection.
In addition, the bill gives substantial power and responsibility to the health minister rather than delegating responsibility for the administration of the registry to the registrar, as did the former bill. This should be studied, as well, to determine the best approach.
Finally, in Bill C-223, both reporting mechanisms to Parliament and the process for provincial affiliation to the national registry are not detailed when compared to the former bill. These details require closer study.
Parliament should also study the experience of other jurisdictions that have implemented presumptive organ and tissue donation, that is, a system where people are deemed to agree to be a donor unless they explicitly opt out, as a means of dramatically increasing potential donations to save lives. This is not in the bill currently, but it is an idea that is well worth exploring to ensure that every single Canadian man, woman, and child, has access to necessary organs and tissues if they need them to save their lives.
In 2014, the NDP also supported removing the ban on certain organ and tissue donations made by men who have sex with men. Efforts to create a national registry should go hand in hand with efforts to remove this unscientific discrimination and replace it with a science-based behavioural screening process.
It is particularly appropriate to reflect today on this item, and to express my shock and revulsion at the hate crime committed this weekend in Orlando, Florida, where approximately 50 people were targeted and murdered for their sexual orientation. I think I speak for everyone in the House in expressing our solidarity, our prayers, our comfort, and our expression to stand with the LGBTQ community, not only in Orlando but in North America and across the world. This kind of hate crime has to be denounced firmly by everyone.
The bill is timely in a number of ways, but particularly in terms of urging the government to take immediate measures to end the current discriminatory policy governing blood and organ donations in the gay men community. That would be a good first step to start building the kind of science-based policy, the understanding and smart policy, that makes everyone feel included in our country.
New Democrats will continue to work positively and across party lines with our Conservative and Liberal colleagues to build a better health care system for everyone in our country.
I believe that the Liberal government will not be supporting the bill. I would urge Liberals to reconsider that position. Second reading is an opportunity for every member in the House to express our agreement or not with the spirit of the bill. Notwithstanding that we may have some concerns about particular details, we should be able to discuss those details at committee. Therefore, I urge all members of the House to stand together and support this important bill, to support it in spirit and in principle. Any concept or policy that helps organ and tissue donation become more available to Canadian men, women, and children in our country is something we should be giving every opportunity to debate and to put into law.
I would be remiss if I did not point out that there have been some missed opportunities in this regard. The former government had a full four-year term to take action on establishing a national registry, particularly after the release of the April 2011 “Call to Action” report, and the subsequent election of the previous Conservative government, just a month later, in May 2011.
It is unfortunate that four years have been allowed to pass. However, as my father used to say, “Wisdom comes so seldom that it ought not to be rejected simply because it comes late.” I am happy to see that a member of the Conservative caucus, the member for Edmonton Manning, has put forward the bill.
I urge all members of the House to give the bill the study it requires, to support it at second reading. Let us see if we cannot make the improvements we need to make at committee to get everyone's vote in favour of the bill and implement it as soon as we can, for the health of all Canadians.