My colleague's bill would authorize the Canada Revenue Agency to enter into an agreement with a province or a territory regarding the collection and disclosure of information required for establishing or maintaining an organ and tissue donor registry in the province or territory. With authorization from the taxpayer in their last tax return, the CRA could disclose to the province or territory the individual resides in the information collected under the agreement.
The NDP supports this bill. We firmly believe that we must take all necessary steps to ensure that every Canadian gets the organ or tissue transplant they need. This is not new to us. Since 2002, two NDP MPs on five occasions have introduced a bill to create a Canada-wide organ donor registry and to coordinate and promote organ donation across Canada.
This bill is essentially a weaker version of what we have been calling for for some time in order to allow anyone who needs a transplant to have access to the organs or tissues needed.
In this Parliament, the Conservative member for Edmonton Manning, whose son has received three liver transplants, had once again introduced a bill to establish a Canadian organ donor registry. Bill C-223 was debated in the House in 2016, but was defeated when the Liberal caucus voted against it. The health minister at the time, who is currently Minister of Indigenous Services, defended that Liberal Party decision by saying, “This is a matter that is under provincial jurisdiction, and it is for that reason that the bill was unsupportable.”
It is interesting that the Liberals claim to be the great champions of the provinces when it suits them, but then impose their decisions in other situations. That is another story.
That being said, we truly hope that this time the Liberals will support this new bill that essentially seeks to have the federal government collaborate with the provinces and territories to help them implement their own organ and tissue donor registry. What everyone in the House needs to realize is that Canadians registered on a waiting list to get an organ or tissue transplant are dying, in part because of our low donation rate.
Currently only 20% of Canadians are registered organ and tissue donors in their province or territory. Some provinces and territories are already taking steps to increase the number of registered donors, but, unfortunately, despite these initiatives, far too few people consent to have their organs or tissue removed and transplanted to people in need.
According to a recent study by the Standing Committee on Health, in 2016 alone, 260 out of 4,492 people registered on a transplant list died before getting the organ or tissue they needed to survive. These are our fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers and children. This has to stop. Losing one person is one too many.
The NDP believes that, by passing the bill, the federal government could help without interfering in provincial jurisdiction. I will say it again: if it is passed, the bill we are debating today will make it possible for the federal government to co-operate with the provinces and territories and make it easier for people to sign up to be organ donors.
Of course, special measures would have to be implemented to ensure that taxpayers consent to giving personal information to their province or territory of residence so they can be added to an organ donor registry, as it would otherwise not be possible to forward this type of information to other levels of government.
One donor can save up to eight lives and help more than 75 people by consenting to the harvesting of organs or tissue. Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, Canada is lagging behind when it comes to organ donation. In fact, Canada's donation rate of 18 donors per million people puts us in the bottom third of developed countries.
The objective of this bill is to increase the number of donors by making it possible for Canadian taxpayers to register with their province's or territory's organ and tissue donation registry by providing their consent on their income tax return.
This legislative change will improve the consent rate and promote a culture of organ and tissue donation in Canada. Many health professionals and organizations support this bill and additional incentives for people to consent to organ and tissue donation. All it takes is a little political will.
I would also like to take this opportunity to speak directly to everyone tuning in and strongly encourage them to sign up for organ donation using whatever procedure their home province or territory has in place and, most importantly, to discuss their wishes with their family members.
I really want to emphasize that last point because, unfortunately, even if a person has made the choice to be an organ donor, family members have the final say. According to a 2016 Ontario study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, families vetoed the donor's wishes in one in five cases, which is huge.
I would also like Canadians to keep in mind what I said earlier, and that is that one donor can save up to eight lives and improve the quality of life of 75 people through tissue donation. What is more, age does not prevent people from becoming donors. In fact, the oldest organ donor in Canada was over 90 years old, and the oldest tissue donor was over 100. Medical history also does not prevent people from registering as donors. People with serious illnesses can sometimes donate their organs or tissue. Each potential donor is assessed individually.
If this bill is passed, Canadians will have a new way to consent to donating their organs and tissue. They will be able to do so via their income tax return and by consenting to allow their personal information to be shared with their province or territory of residence. If the bill does pass, I strongly encourage people to use this method. It will save lives.
I want to take advantage of this opportunity I have to address the House today to thank all those who work behind the scenes and who make us look good every day and to wish everyone an excellent Christmas break. With the subject of Bill C-316 in mind, I ask everyone to be very careful over the holidays, especially on the roads.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to wish you and all of my colleagues a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.