Madam Speaker, it is a real honour to be able to rise today to speak to Bill S-223. Before I get into my remarks, it is important to recognize the two individuals who have been working diligently over the years to shepherd this bill through Parliament, starting in the other place, with Senator Ataullahjan, and here, the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan. Both individuals have been long involved in this process, over several Parliaments.
The bill, of course, passed very quickly through second and third reading in the other place. In fact, it even skipped consideration by the committee on December 9 of last year. It gives a sense of the arduous journey that private members' bills, both from the Senate side and from the House side, have to make in order to pass the entire parliamentary process: the fact that we are here in December 2022, only now considering its third reading, and it has taken a full year to get to that stage.
Before I get into the details of why this legislation is necessary, I would like to talk about a few key points in terms of what the bill is going to do, so we are all very clear on what the House is going to be debating and hopefully passing in short order.
Essentially, it is a substantive amendment to a narrow section of the Criminal Code in relation to the crime of trafficking in human organs. We know that organs like kidneys and livers are being forcibly removed from many people, but this bill, with a new section 240.1, is going to create some new offences: anyone who obtains organs without informed consent, either for use in another person or for themselves; anyone who is involved in the carrying out of the procedure to remove those organs without informed consent; and anyone who does anything in connection with the removal of the organs without informed consent.
That is quite broad. It could involve anyone who was involved in allowing a place to be used for the surgery and anyone who is involved in the transportation of the organs or their smuggling across borders. It is a very real problem. It is something that, through several Parliaments, we have been waiting for substantive action on.
We know this is a crime that disproportionately affects people who live in impoverished countries and who live under authoritarian rule and do not have access to the same rights, privileges and equality under the law that we sometimes take for granted here in Canada. It is important that countries like Canada, with its well-known track record in standing up for human rights and the rule of law, not only here in our own country but abroad, follow suit and really establish what we think should be the norm and what all citizens of the world should be able to enjoy.
There is also a very important amendment to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, so that a permanent resident or any foreign national would be inadmissible to Canada if the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship is of the opinion that they have engaged in any activities related to the new offence that is going to be put into the Criminal Code through the passage of this bill.
Through the conversation today, I have heard several members talk about how having this provision in Canadian law for a crime that occurred in another country is important. It reminds me that we sometimes have a double standard in this place about how we apply Canadian law.
I have been a member of this House for seven years now. I was here in the 42nd Parliament. I remember a previous private member's bill, which was sponsored by the member for New Westminster—Burnaby. It was Bill C-331. In the dying days of the 42nd Parliament, we managed to come to a vote on that bill at second reading. It was June 19, 2019, pretty much the very last day of the 42nd Parliament.
That was an important bill, because it intended to amend the Federal Courts Act so that people from other countries who wanted to bring a civil claim could do so under the jurisdiction of federal court.
The nature of the claims could have to do with genocide, a war crime or a crime against humanity, slavery or slave trading, extrajudicial killings, torture, prolonged arbitrary detention, or the sale or trafficking of persons. These are all crimes that every member of this House agrees are abhorrent and certainly need the full force of the law.
The problem is that when the member for New Westminster—Burnaby was attempting, for many good reasons, to bring that bill forward, the House voted against it. In fact, the Liberals and the Conservatives joined together to shut the bill down at second reading.
I do not want to take away from the debate on the bill today. Bill S-223 is going to have our full support. I just hope that when Parliament is conducting itself and when we see value in these types of measures that try to apply Canadian law to things that happen abroad, we can do so on a consistent basis.
We need to recognize that there are huge problems out there, not just with human trafficking in organs, but also in war crimes, slavery and other methods. Should the member for New Westminster—Burnaby try to bring that initiative back, I hope the House will apply the lessons from the debate on Bill S-223 to that similar and worthy initiative.
Bill S-223 is no stranger to us. In the 42nd Parliament, it was before the House as Bill S-240. The reason I think it is a forgone conclusion that this bill is going to pass the House is that it is identical to the version we debated and passed as Bill S-240. In fact, in the 42nd Parliament it received the unanimous support of the House at second reading and again at third reading on April 30, 2019.
The important and notable difference with Bill S-223 is that it incorporates the amendments the House made to the previous version of the bill. That is what caused the delay on Bill S-240. It had to be sent back to the Senate so it could consider House amendments.
Unfortunately, at that time, the bill was held up because of the procedural shenanigans going on in the other place related to the old bill, Bill C-262, which was introduced by my former colleague, Romeo Saganash. That was his attempt with a private member's bill to enshrine the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
I am glad to see, from the tone and content of the speeches so far, that there is recognition that this is an important and long-overdue change to criminal law. It sends a strong message, not only to people around the world who are facing these barbaric practices under regimes such as China, and we have heard well-documented testimony on what the Uighur population is going through, but also to impoverished people living in countries where the rule of law is applied selectively at best.
These people may be targeted by criminal organizations. We have heard testimony from people who have woken up in a drugged haze to someone wearing a surgical mask and gloves telling them that their kidney has just been removed and that they need to take care. Often, these victims can suffer very serious, lifelong health consequences from that, and because of the nature of the operation, some people have ultimately died from it. It is a very real issue.
We know the demand for organs is very high worldwide, and we need to take steps to encourage people to put themselves on an organ donor registry. I am pleased to see that this Parliament has tried to address that by making it easier for people to sign up and so on. However, those are problems that are not going to go away. The demand for organs is high, and as our population ages we certainly need to have smart and effective policy to address that.
On behalf of the New Democratic caucus, I will indicate that we are looking forward to supporting this bill and voting on it so it gets sent to the Governor General for royal assent. We have long opposed all forms of trafficking, whether it be human trafficking for sexual exploitation, labour trafficking or the trafficking of human organs. We must do all we can to protect vulnerable people. With that, I will conclude my remarks. I appreciate this opportunity.