An Act to amend the Canada Revenue Agency Act (organ donors)

Sponsor

Len Webber  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Second reading (Senate), as of Dec. 13, 2018

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-316.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canada Revenue Agency Act to 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.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Nov. 7, 2018 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-316, An Act to amend the Canada Revenue Agency Act (organ donors)

Canada Revenue Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

December 12th, 2018 / 6 p.m.
See context

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to debate Bill C-316, an act to amend the Canada Revenue Agency Act with regard to organ donors, introduced by my colleague from Calgary Confederation.

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.

Canada Revenue Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

December 12th, 2018 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Len Webber Conservative Calgary Confederation, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be brief as well.

In the week since we have debated this legislation, five more Canadians have died awaiting a life-saving transplant. Delays are costing lives at a rate of five per week.

Bill C-316 has been unanimously supported through a health committee study and it has been unanimously supported by all parties at second reading. The bill was unanimously supported by health committee when it reviewed it. Bill C-316 has had all-party unanimous support in every single vote it has faced to date.

In a moment, the Speaker will ask for a unanimous decision on the bill. If it passes on a unanimous voice vote, the changes will make the 2019 tax return. If someone forces a recorded vote, this will not take place until next year and we will miss that 2019 deadline. The changes will only be on 2020 tax returns. In that year, 250 Canadians will die waiting for a life-saving transplant.

Bill C-316 will be the last private member's bill debated in this chamber for a very long time.

Everything that needs to be said has been said. Everything I wanted to say I have said. There is nothing more really to be said.

Canada Revenue Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

December 5th, 2018 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Len Webber Conservative Calgary Confederation, AB

moved that Bill C-316, An Act to amend the Canada Revenue Agency Act (organ donors), be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-316, at third reading.

For those who may not be familiar with Bill C-316, it is a legislative proposal that would allow Canadians to indicate their interest in being an organ and tissue donor through their annual tax forms. It is just that simple.

Right now, the tax forms can only be used for the collection of taxes. This bill would create a legal exemption, just like that made for Elections Canada, to allow this important question to be added to the tax forms.

If we have any hope of getting these changes to the tax forms implemented in time for the 2019 tax year, we need to move this through both the House now and the Senate early next spring. If we miss that deadline, the Canada Revenue Agency, CRA, will not be able to implement the required changes for another year. We cannot let that happen. We need to get this done quickly.

This bill was unanimously supported at both second reading and committee, and has progressed from its first debate in the House to its last debate in just 23 sitting days. I think that is a record.

I do want to reiterate my sincere thanks to all the parties in the House for showing such support and offering their genuine co-operation to move this proposal forward so quickly. In particular, I must express a great debt of gratitude to the hon. member for Red Deer—Lacombe for the quick progress of this bill. The bill was not actually scheduled to be back for third reading debate until February 25 of next year, but the hon. member for Red Deer—Lacombe graciously traded his position in the PMB calendar with me to make this debate possible today and to further ensure that this legislation is passed. I know the member for Red Deer—Lacombe is a strong supporter of improving Canada's organ and tissue donation system, and his willingness to help prioritize this bill demonstrates that. His graciousness might be proven one day to have resulted in the saving of hundreds of lives. I sincerely thank the hon. member.

I also want to thank all of my colleagues on the health committee who have been vocal, determined and dedicated supporters of this bill. As I said in the health committee the other day, “I have referred to this bill several times as 'my bill', as it stands in my name, but I do want to say that this is really our bill.” It is our bill, because we worked together in committee as a single team to make it a reality. We found a shared goal and a sensible solution, and worked together to make it happen.

I also want to thank the government, yes, the government, for its allocation of $4 million in funding in the recent fall economic statement to facilitate the implementation of this legislation. Governments do not often commit funding ahead of legislation being passed, especially when for a private member's bill by an opposition member of Parliament. The fact that funding has been committed is very much appreciated and signifies an impressive willingness by the government to see this initiative happen.

I must also thank Mr. Terence Scheltema, my assistant here in Ottawa, for his tireless efforts throughout the entire process of this bill. Without him, this bill would not be before us today.

My final thanks go to my friend, Robert Sallows, a double-lung transplant recipient who recently passed away at the age of 31. He was, and always will be, a hero and a true inspiration.

At the health committee last week, we had an opportunity to hear from CRA officials. They told us that for this proposal to be in place for the 2019 tax season, the legislation needs to be passed by early spring. I think that is quite possible, again, thanks to people like the member for Red Deer—Lacombe.

A few other things became very clear in committee, and I want to talk about them for a moment. First of all, for this initiative to be most effective, the question about organ and tissue donation needs to be placed on the front of the tax form. The committee members made this very clear to the CRA. I was pleased that the CRA has acknowledged this as a priority of Parliament and committed to putting this on the front page.

I also think that the committee process was very informative and allowed the CRA to demonstrate its commitment to making this proposal a reality by working co-operatively with all provinces and territories on this matter.

The path ahead for the CRA will require a lot of work and dedication by many people to make sure this change happens smoothly. In advance, I want to thank all of the CRA employees who will work on this project for their dedication and persistence. I know there will be days of frustration as small details are worked out and circled back and forth in the consultation process with the provinces and territories. However, when the 2019 tax forms come out and thousands, perhaps millions, more donors register, they will know they have played a key role in saving the lives of some of their fellow Canadians. Therefore, I implore the people at the CRA to dig deep on those tough days and push forward to make sure that we get this done as soon as possible with the highest rate of effectiveness. Their work will have purpose and the results will be rewarding.

One other aspect I want to spend a few minutes on is something the bill does not directly address, but is a significant problem in Canada. Research has shown that as many as one in five potential organ and tissue donors has their final wish overturned by their families at their time of death. That is 20% of families who are overturning the wishes of their deceased loved ones. That is just sad. The decision by their families are robbing those in need of a life-saving transplant of a chance to live. To me, this is unconscionable and has to change. We can and must do better.

It is beyond my understanding how we can allow people to die at a rate of five a week, while at the same time burying, incinerating or putting to rest perfectly good organs every single day. My daughters know I want to be an organ donor, and they know I expect them to follow through on this wish.

As the Christmas holidays approach, families will gather in every corner of the country. I encourage willing organ donors to please speak to their families during this time, to make sure their families know that their final wish is to be an organ and tissue donor, and to let them know how they would feel if they were to find out the family failed to honour their wish.

Throughout my organ and tissue donation advocacy work, both here and in Alberta, I have been approached by many people who have donated the organs and tissues of their deceased loved ones. Every single one of them has made it clear to me that they found the ability to donate to someone in need as a very essential part of their grief and healing process. Their ability to find some good in a time of utter grief and loss was profound and everlasting. Without exception, they encouraged me to let other families know that sharing their loved one made accepting their loss so much easier.

Their loss has purpose, and their gift has brought unimaginable relief and joy to another family in need. By honouring the wishes of their loved ones, they have allowed grandparents, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers to live. Their gift has meant that many parents have not had to see their children die. That is a legacy to leave for their loved ones.

We all have our own reasons for supporting this legislation. Some members in the House are living organ donors, the real heroes among us. Some members here have families in need of a life-saving transplant. Some members themselves, or their family members, have medical conditions that they know one day they might require their getting a life-saving transplant. Other members are able to love, laugh and live with loved ones because they got a life-saving transplant and are still with us here today.

No matter members' reasons for supporting the bill, it is very much appreciated.

Canada Revenue Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

December 5th, 2018 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

Deborah Schulte Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue, Lib.

Madam Speaker, first, let me thank the member for Calgary Confederation for introducing his private member's bill and for his tireless and passionate work on this issue. His personal commitment to this and the co-operative way he has worked with MPs from all parties has moved members of the House, as demonstrated by the unanimous all-party support Bill C-316 received at second reading.

I would also like to acknowledge the member forEdmonton Manning for his early advocacy on this issue and his private member's bill and, more recent, Motion No. 189, organ and tissue donation, brought forward by the member for Thérèse-De Blainville.

Our government understands that organ and tissue donation and transplantation is an important part of our health care system that relies on the generosity of Canadians to give the gift of life. We know many Canadians, when approached, are willing to be a donor, however, reaching them to get that consent is hit and miss.

We all recognize that more work is needed to address the chronic shortages of organ and tissue donations for transplantation across the country. It goes without saying that transplants not only save lives, but also drastically improve the quality of life for the recipients. In some cases, transplants are the only treatment for end-stage organ failure.

The Canadian Transplant Society notes that more than 1,600 Canadians are added to organ wait-list every year. In 2017, more than 4,333 people were waiting for transplants across Canada. That same year, 2,979 organs were transplanted.

Over the past decade, the number of deceased organ donors has gone up by 42%, so that is good news. While that is encouraging, unfortunately, the number of people needing a transplant has also gone up during that same time. In many ways, we are not making progress and many people are continuing to suffer.

Hundreds of Canadians could no longer wait, and did not get a transplant in time. In 2017, 242 people died while waiting for a transplant.

As our population ages, the need for transplants will only increase. Any one of us could one day find ourselves in need of a donation. As I have mentioned before in previous debates on the bill, and I am sorry, I am getting a little emotional, my sons have a very rare genetic condition resulting in serious heart disease. The only option currently for my eldest when his heart fails to pump effectively is to have a heart transplant. I am hopeful for more options in the future through cardiac and transplant research. However, we must do more to ensure Canadians have timely and effective access to the care they need.

That is why the government is standing in support of Bill C-316. By working together, we can improve the organ and tissue donation and transplantation system and ensure that Canadians have timely and effective access to that care.

Bill C-316 would enact a provision that would authorize the Canada Revenue Agency to enter into an agreement with a provincial or territorial government to collect information required for establishing or maintaining an organ and tissue donor registry in the province or territory.

Specifically, the CRA would collect and share personal information for individuals who wish to receive information from their provincial or territorial government on becoming an organ or tissue donor. A memorandum of understanding with the willing provinces and territories would need to be signed so the CRA could share information from potential donors. To this end, the CRA would work diligently with provincial and territorial governments to put these agreements in place.

Canadians can be assured that we are committed to improving the organ and tissue donation and the transplantation system.

In the meantime, people need to know that registering to donate is not complicated and that registration can be done at any time. We know one organ donor can potentially save as many as eight lives and a tissue donor can improve the quality of life for up to 75 people. This is the gift of life, not only for the individuals with the serious health problems who are direct beneficiaries, but also for their family members and loved ones.

I want to mention again the significance of this gift of life, as we saw in the Humboldt disaster. I am sure people have heard the stories by the member opposite.

I have my own story in my own community. A vibrant, loving young mother, an inspired teacher, suddenly lost her life when she suffered a stroke. She had signed up to be a donor and was able to give the gift of life and improve the outcomes for eight other people. Out of one family's pain came joy for eight other families who were forever grateful for her final act of kindness.

Living donors who are at the age of majority and in good health can donate a kidney, part of a liver and a lobe of a lung and continue to lead full and rewarding lives. We know that one donor, as I said, can potentially save up to eight lives and improve the quality of life for up to 75 people. Lives are transformed through these miracles.

Canadians can count on this government to continue to improve the organ and tissue donation and transplantation system. To demonstrate this commitment, the Minister of Health announced on October 18, 2018, renewed funding of $3.3 million for the Canadian donation and transplant research program, CDTRP. This funding allows the CDTRP to continue its research to advance organ and tissue donation and transplantation in Canada. It is through research that we can increase the availability of transplants for Canadians and transform clinical outcomes for transplant patients from coast to coast. It is absolutely incredible what is being done in research institutions in Canada.

I had the opportunity to see the work being done in Toronto at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre. They were working on keeping a cow's heart alive outside of the body for weeks, which would provide an opportunity to do external repairs to fix damaged organs and potentially allow for treatments that would not be possible implanted in a body. This is most promising research to be able to make best use of all the organs donated, as many get rejected due to defects or disease.

Our government is committed to supporting Bill C-316. We will collaborate with the provinces and territories upon royal assent to implement this legislation as quickly as possible to be in place for the beginning of the 2019 tax filing season.

Canada Revenue Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

December 5th, 2018 / 4:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to stand on behalf of the New Democratic Party of Canada. All my colleagues in our caucus and I offer our support to this important bill.

Canada's New Democrats believe that we must make every possible effort to ensure that every Canadian who needs an organ or tissue transplant receives it. We know that one donor could save up to eight lives and benefit more than 75 people, yet at 18 donors per million people, Canada's current donation rate puts us in the lower third of developed countries. Therefore, I particularly welcome this bill as an attempt to try to remedy that unfortunate state of events, because allowing Canadians to register as an organ donor through their tax returns will no doubt help increase registration rates, improve consent rates and help build a donation culture in Canada.

By way of background, Canadians are currently dying on wait-lists because our organ donation rate is so unacceptably and unnecessarily low. At present, only 20% of Canadians have joined their province's organ and tissue registry. Provinces like Ontario are taking steps to make it easier by asking about organ donations on health card and driver's licence renewals, which has increased registration. However, even with everything in place, some 20% of families refuse to transplant a registered donor's organs.

In its recent study on organ donation, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health learned that of the 4,492 Canadians currently on the wait-list, 260 died waiting for an organ in 2016. In order to better meet that demand, improved coordination across provinces and territories is absolutely required.

Bill C-316, the bill before the House, allows the federal government to coordinate with provinces and territories to allow Canadians to register as organ donors through their federal tax filing. In this case, individuals would be required to consent to the sharing of their information before the agency would share that information with the provincial and territorial levels of government for the purpose of receiving information that hopefully would result in their being added to an organ donor registry.

I pause here to say that, in my view, it would be better if there was a box on everybody's tax return that taxpayers could check off to directly indicate they want to be a donor and the information would go straight to an actual organ donor registry. That is not what this bill does; however, in my opinion, it is worthy of support, because I think it will improve the situation, but I think that a more direct portal and a national registry is ultimately a better way to go.

Of course, this bill aligns with the long-standing advocacy and legislative work of New Democrat members of Parliament around organ donation. This bill is essentially a version of a previous proposal to create what I just referred to, a pan-Canadian organ donor registry, that would coordinate and promote organ donation throughout Canada. That bill had previously been introduced seven times both by Liberals and New Democrats. Judy Wasylycia-Leis, a New Democrat member of Parliament from Winnipeg, introduced a bill in 2002, 2003 and 2008. Malcolm Allen, who was a New Democratic Party member of Parliament from Welland, introduced a bill in 2009 and 2013. Unfortunately, of those five times that New Democrats have introduced bills to set up a pan-Canadian organ donation registry, neither the Conservative nor Liberal governments have ever taken up that excellent idea that would save lives.

I want to share some facts with members and any of the Canadian public who might be watching this debate.

While 90% of Canadians support organ donation in concept, less than 20% have made plans to donate. Unlike the United States, Canada does not have a centralized list of people waiting for an organ. The current Liberal government voted against a bill in 2016 that would have supported the creation of a national registry to align with the United States to help identify those wishing to donate an organ and those who need them.

That leaves us with a patchwork of provincial and territorial systems, the efficiency of which varies greatly from province to province. In the case where someone dies outside of the province where the individual is registered for organ donation, it is unlikely that the hospital would be able to identify the individual as a donor. This is one of the reasons that a centralized national registry is so much better.

Online registration is available in only five provinces: my province of British Columbia, Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec. Even if someone is registered as a donor, the family always has the final say. In Ontario, about one in five registered organ donors have their wishes overridden by family members, according to a 2016 report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

To put this into perspective, for every patient in Canada who does receive an organ transplant, there are two more on the wait-list. In 2016, over 4,500 people were waiting for organ transplants, 2,800 organs were transplanted and, again, 260 people died waiting for a transplant that never came.

In the past 10 years, the number of deceased organ donors has gone up, but the number of people needing a transplant has also gone up. In fact, over 1,600 Canadians are added to organ wait-lists yearly. While most Canadians consent to donate after death, it is also possible to donate organs while one is still alive. Living donors who are the age of majority and in good health can donate a kidney, part of their liver or even a lobe of their lung. About 1% of Canadians who die in hospital donate an organ, but 99% do not, which works out to about 18 per million, about half the rate in countries such as Spain, which is 34 per million, and the United States at 26 per million.

I want to talk about the presumed consent system, because that is why countries like Spain and other European countries have organ donation and transplant rates that are twice as high as Canada's. It is because they have moved to a presumed consent system, which means that every citizen is presumed to consent to be an organ donor unless they choose otherwise. Individual choice, of course, is respected, but it vastly increases the pool of people who are available for organ donation.

The truth is, as I said earlier, over 90% of Canadians agree with the concept of organ donation, but it is difficult or confusing for them to know how to do that, and so most of those wishes go unexpressed. However, if we changed our system to a presumed consent system, we would have the best of all worlds. We would still respect individual choice for those who, for a variety of reasons, do not want to donate, but we would vastly increase the number of organs and tissue available for donation and hence save the lives of so many more Canadians who are waiting for an organ transplant.

It is funny that Canada is the only developed country without national organ donation legislation such as the 1984 U.S. National Organ Transplant Act. The comments that I am making were borne out repeatedly when we studied this bill at committee, and I will read some of the comments we received from people with respect to a national database.

Dr. Norman Kneteman, professor and director, Division of Transplant Surgery at the University of Alberta said that:

...the Canadian Transplant Registry that CBS has built is in place; the computer system exists. The challenge is how we get the information into it. In Canada, all the reporting and transplant and donation in our history has been voluntary, and because of that, it's full of defects; it's not reliable. We have to get beyond that, and we need to be thinking about how we are going to fund the activity of getting the information into the database so the professionals, the researchers...have something to work with.

The Kidney Foundation of Canada backed that up. It said:

Currently, there is a lack of data concerning missed donor opportunities in Canada, which stems from inconsistency in the frequency, methods, and scope of data collection between jurisdictions. Furthermore, this data is not centrally accessible to patients on the waitlist, researchers, clinicians, administrators, or policy makers. Current Canadian approaches to measurement and reporting of potential donor identification and referral are fragmented and lack consistency, timeliness and accessibility of information.

It is rare that one can identify a policy response to a problem that is so obvious and achievable. We need a national organ donor registry in this country. We need a presumed consent system in this country. Why? It is because those two policy initiatives have been identified by all the stakeholders and all the experts. We know that it will increase organ and tissue donation in Canada and save lives. The New Democrats will continue to work towards those ends.

Canada Revenue Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

December 5th, 2018 / 4:50 p.m.
See context

Yvonne Jones Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade, Lib.

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to Bill C-316. I want to start by congratulating the member for Calgary Confederation for bringing the bill forward to the House of Commons and doing it in a manner that sought the support and input of many Canadians, and members of the House as well.

The bill itself recognizes the value of organ and tissue donation and transplantation and the important role that plays in protecting the health and safety of Canadians. I think all of us at some point or other in our lives have known people who have been confronted with that situation, whether a family with a loved one who is on a wait-list, or someone else needing an essential organ or transplant for their future survival and ability to continue to live a good quality life, or a family that has to deal with the grief of losing a family member and is faced with a difficult decision at the time of their sudden death. That cannot be easy. I think we have all heard of many of these stories and situations.

The bill allows people to reflect upon their own lives and those of others around them. It gives them the opportunity to make a very important decision on what will happen to their organs and tissues upon their death, so those kinds of decisions are not left to others and family members at a time of tremendous grief.

My colleague, the member for King—Vaughan, who spoke earlier was very emotional in her speech, but was certainly able to relate to this particular situation in a way that many of us cannot. She talked about her own family and how this issue has hit the heart of it, with the emotional decisions and trauma of having a family member who might need an organ transplant at some point, and their reflections on that decision. Obviously, this bill will go to heart of what many Canadians and many families might face in this difficult situation they might face in the future.

We also know that the bill before us today is one of the pieces of legislation the Minister of Health and our government have been following through on in their mandate. The minister has been working with provinces and territories on this very legislation to try to facilitate some collaboration, some partnership, across the country when it comes to an organ and tissue donation and transplantation system that would give Canadians timely and effective access to the kind of care they need.

I think most of us who listened to our colleague from the NDP cite the statistics of the numbers of people currently on wait-lists for organ and tissue donations and transplantation and of those who have died waiting can agree that far too many people are still on those wait-lists.

We can also agree that far too many Canadians die waiting, waiting for organ and tissue transplants that are necessary for them to continue to live and have a good quality of life.

I do not think any Canadian wants that to happen. It is all our responsibility to allow for a system that will ensure more people become organ donors, that there is a system in place to allow those who need transplants to get them. It is all our responsibility as Canadians that if we can bring life to someone, we bring life to that person.

In my riding, I have a very close friend and a family that went gone through such an experience. The family was faced with the decision upon the death of its son, which was very sudden, on whether to donate his organs for transplantation. That was a difficult decision, one I cannot even imagine. At a time when his parents were already shocked, heartbroken and in despair, they made a decision that their son's organs would be donated and used for transplantation.

Just recently, they had the opportunity to meet an individual who received one of those organs, an individual who today is enjoying a good quality of life, bringing joy to his family, to his grandchildren, watching his grandchildren and his children continue to grow and be a part of their lives.

As difficult as it was for her, her husband and her daughter at that time, knowing that in some way their son had been able to give this gift of life helped them through what had been one of the most tragic and difficult situations in their lives. It has helped them look at grief in a different way.

It was probably a couple of weeks ago when I was listening to CBC Radio's The Current one morning. She was on the radio, talking about this situation and so was the recipient who had received the heart as part of that donation. It was one of the saddest yet most inspiring stories I had heard in a very long time.

I do not think any of us wish for any family to be placed in that situation. By allowing this as a question, as a part of the Canada Revenue Agency work that it does through the application process, in reaching out to all Canadians, creating that awareness and allowing Canadians to make that decision to become a donor, we not only give them a sense of comfort in the decision they make, but we give their families a sense of comfort as well. Hopefully, at the end of the day, we are able to bring light to more Canadians who need it.

I am happy to support Bill C-316. I know many members of the House will, including government members. I am proud of the fact that as a government we have already stepped up to do many of the things outlined in the bill. In addition, we have been able to invest more into research related to transplantation, this year it is $100 million additional, to ensure these transplantations are successful.

We are continuing to work with research agencies, with science, along with families to ensure we can improve the system of organ and tissue donation in Canada.

Canada Revenue Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

December 5th, 2018 / 5 p.m.
See context

Bernadette Jordan Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.

Madam Speaker, I am extremely pleased to rise today in support of Bill C-316. I would like to thank the member for Calgary Confederation for bringing this forward.

One of my friends once told me that the best speeches are given from the heart, that it is not about great notes or somebody who writes us a good speech. My speech today is coming from the heart. I am going to tell a little story about Nick. I did speak to Nick and I asked him if I could speak in the House on why this was so important and why it was important to him.

I first met Nick 21 years ago when he showed up at my door with my oldest son. He was an eight year old. As soon as he walked into the house, I noticed he was coughing. I asked him if had a really bad cold and he said, no, that he had a chronic disease called cystic fibrosis and because of that he had a hard time breathing and a lot of digestive problems. He explained the whole disease to me. Nick became a huge part of our lives. He was my son's best friend through his whole time growing up.

Nick's medication was kept in our cupboards. Oftentimes Nick would spend the night and he needed it to survive. Nick would come to the cottage with us and he would bring his breathing machine and his medications, but he never let it slow him down. There were a couple of times as Nick was growing up that he ended up in intensive care in the Halifax hospital because of his condition. A number of times we sat our son down, because they were very close, they had been friends since they were very young, and we told him we did not know if Nick would get out of the hospital. We had those conversations and we always knew it was a possibility. It was always really tough, when dealing with a young child and our own kids, trying to explain to them that this could happen.

Nick was amazing. He continued to beat the odds and he got out of the hospital both times. I remember when the Children's Wish Foundation asked him what his wish would be. Unfortunately, at that point in his life, he was very sick. He said that what he really wanted to do was make memories with his best friends. Therefore, Nick, my son and one of their other friends went to the big city for the weekend. The foundation gave them money to go shopping. They went to movies, ate steaks and they made memories. To this day, at 29 years old, when they get together, they still talk about it. It was just such a wonderful thing.

However, as everyone else was moving on, going to school and getting degrees, Nick was struggling more and more as he got older. Nick continued to go to university. He would oftentimes go for a semester and then have to take a semester off because he was too sick to continue. His dream was to become an architect. He continued to go to university and then he would take time off because of his health.

About a year and a half ago, Nick got very sick. I remember talking to him and him saying to me, “It's like I'm breathing through a straw”. If we think about that, how would that feel? Every breath we take and feeling like we are breathing through a straw.

Nick was put on the waiting list for a double lung transplant and he continued to deteriorate. One of the challenges for individuals who are that sick is having to deal with this. We live in a province that does not do transplants. Nick had to go to Toronto to have this transplant. His family needed $20,000 to be raised in our community in order for him to live there while he waited. Unfortunately, Nick ended up in intensive care on life support, waiting, because he was failing so badly.

However, this is a great news story. In July, Nick got a double lung transplant. It was a 10-hour surgery. He was on life support before the surgery. He is doing great. He is out of the hospital. He is back home. He says that he will never take for granted every breath he takes. One of the things he is also very cognizant of is that somebody else died in order for him to have the transplant.

It took almost two years for him to get a lung transplant. It is so important for us to sign donor cards and to ensure we have bills like this that will encourage more people to become donors so people like Nick are not left waiting for two years.

I am really pleased Nick is doing as well as he is. I want to thank the member opposite for the bill. It is very important that we continue to support these initiatives, that we continue to work with the provinces and territories and ensure we play a leadership role in transplants, ensuring they are available to people.

It would be great if there were some way we could also support people financially so the communities do not have to raise as much money to send people to places like Toronto for their surgeries.

Veterans AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

December 5th, 2018 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, before I get to the topic of my late show question, I do have to say that it is disappointing this evening to again see the government talk out, and therefore deny, the opportunity to expedite a good private member's bill. Bill C-316 was debated tonight, and it would have been excellent if that debate had been allowed to collapse so that we could have ensured that it would meet the CRA deadline to get organ donor information included on tax forms. However, as we have seen on a number of occasions from this government, it insisted on filling the time and thus not allowing this good private member's to pass, even at the risk of the bill not now passing in time before the next election.

Nonetheless, I do want to address the issue of Christopher Garnier tonight. This issue has really captured the attention of Canadians. He is a person who received veterans benefits even though he never actually served in the Canadian Armed Forces. He received benefits related apparently to PTSD he acquired as a result of his commission of a terrible crime. The crime was the murder of Constable Catherine Campbell, who did serve her country as a volunteer firefighter and a police officer.

This obviously offends the sensibilities of veterans, as well as all Canadians, who were shocked to learn that someone who had committed a crime in Canada and never served in the Canadian Armed Forces was and is receiving benefits that are supposed to go to Canada's veterans. The government at the time did not provide meaningful answers. Subsequently, in response to our questions and advocacy, the Liberals have brought in policies that, hopefully, will prevent this kind of situation from happening again. Obviously, that is a positive step, but it remains the fact, as far as we know and have been told, that Mr. Garnier continues to receive those benefits.

Notwithstanding any policy changes in the future, I want to ask the parliamentary secretary about this specific case. Does he believe that Mr. Garnier should be receiving these benefits, which arise not from his service to this country, but rather from the apparent PTSD he got as a result of his terrible crime of murdering Constable Catherine Campbell? Does the parliamentary secretary believe that Mr. Garnier should still be receiving those benefits? Does he believe that? If he believes Mr. Garnier should not be receiving those benefits, then why will the government not act to ensure that in this specific case those benefits will not continue? If he does not believe that, maybe he should explain why he believes this person should still receive those benefits.

Again, should Christopher Garnier continue to receive benefits from Veterans Affairs despite never having served his country?

HealthCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

November 28th, 2018 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Bill Casey Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 21st report of the Standing Committee on Health entitled, “Bill C-316, An Act to amend the Canada Revenue Act (organ donors)”. The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report it bill back to the House with amendments.

I would like to compliment the member for Calgary Confederation for tabling this important legislation.

After considerable testimony, Bill C-316 has received the unanimous support of the committee. I hope that all MPs take that into consideration at a later date.

I want to thank the CRA for its positive approach to help us get through and resolve this. I also want to thank the committee members for helping get the bill through to this point so quickly and efficiently.

Canada Revenue Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

November 5th, 2018 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Ron McKinnon Liberal Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the private member's bill of the member for Calgary Confederation, Bill C-316. The member is to be commended for his work and advocacy to facilitate organ donation in Canada. I fully support what the member is trying to accomplish with Bill C-316 and co-seconded the bill, and will vote in favour of it at second reading.

In light of a chronic shortage throughout Canada, there can be little doubt that measures must be taken to increase the number of organ and tissue donations available for transplantation. Bill C-316 would enact a provision that would authorize the Canada Revenue Agency to enter into an agreement with a province or territory regarding the collection and disclosure of information required for establishing or maintaining an organ donor registry in the province or territory. This would give Canadians an additional opportunity to become organ donors; as such, it is likely to increase the number of donors across the country over time.

In the spring of 2018, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, HESA, of which I am a member with the hon. member, examined the status of Canada's organ and tissue donation procurement system. The committee heard from numerous witnesses, who shared their insights on how the federal government could strengthen Canada's organ donation and transplantation system. The committee tabled its report on this study on September 25, 2018. Among the seven recommendations made, recommendation number 4 reads as follows:

That the Government of Canada identify and create opportunities for Canadians to register as organ donors through access points for federal programs and services in collaboration with provincial and territorial organ donation programs.

This is exactly what Bill C-316 would do by making the Canada Revenue Agency, which interacts with millions of Canadians every year, an additional vehicle in the organ donation ecosystem.

It was no surprise to hear witnesses express support for Bill C-316 during the committee's study. According to the Canadian Transplant Society, more than 1,600 Canadians are added to the organ wait-list every year. While 90% of Canadians support organ and tissue donation, fewer than 20% of Canadians plan to donate their organs or tissue.

There is no question that more must be done to address the serious need for organs and tissue available for donation. In 2017, more than 4,333 people were waiting for transplants across Canada. These are our relatives, friends, neighbours and colleagues. That same year, 2,979 organs were transplanted. However, hundreds of Canadians could no longer wait. In 2017, 242 people died while waiting for a transplant.

To address this situation, the attitudes and behaviours of Canadians must change. Individuals need to be informed that it is not complicated to register to be an organ and tissue donor. Individuals can register at any time. It is not necessary to wait until the end of one's life to become a donor, nor is age necessarily an impediment. We know that one donor can potentially save as many as eight lives and improve the quality of life for up to 75 people. This became clear to Canadians recently, following the terrible tragedy that hit the Humboldt Broncos. After the accident, it was revealed that one of the victims had registered to be an organ donor and went on to save six lives. This prompted Canadians from all walks of life, young and old, to become donors themselves. Registrations skyrocketed across the country.

The government recognizes both the importance of donations and the role the transplantation of organs and tissues plays in the protection of the health and safety of Canadians. Canadians can be assured that we are committed to improving the organ and tissue donation and transplantation system in collaboration with provinces and territories and key stakeholders.

From 2008 to 2009 and from 2017 to 2018, provinces and territories, excluding Quebec, and the federal government provided over $70 million in funding to Canadian Blood Services to play a role in coordinating the organ and tissue donation and transplantation system by focusing on four areas: developing and implementing a national strategic plan, including a mandate, roles and responsibilities in a nationally coordinated system; establishing leading practices, professional education, knowledge translation, and public education and awareness campaigns; enhancing system performance reporting, including public reporting; and developing and maintaining interprovincial organ-sharing programs through the Canadian Transplant Registry. During this period, Quebec also contributed $845,000 per year to Canadian Blood Services to participate in certain elements of its program.

At the moment, only a fraction of Canadians are registered donors, despite it being easy to become one. Depending on where people live, there are different ways to register and decide what they want to donate. Of course, if Canadians opt to become organ and tissue donors, it is important to discuss this decision with those closest to them. People must ensure that family and friends are aware of their wishes.

For many Canadians it may just be a matter of becoming more aware and taking a step that could dramatically change the lives of thousands of Canadians facing health crises.

It is only by working together that we will continue to improve the organ and tissue donation and transplantation system and ensure that Canadians have timely and effective access to care. Rest assured that the government will continue to assist on the important issue of organ and tissue donation and the transplantation needs of Canadians.

Canada Revenue Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

November 5th, 2018 / 11:25 a.m.
See context

Deborah Schulte Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada recognizes the value of organ and tissue donation and transplantation, and has an important role to play in protecting the health and safety of Canadians. We all recognize that more work is needed to address the chronic shortages of organ and tissue donations for transplantation across the country. It is only by working together that we will continue to improve the organ and tissue donation and transplantation system, and ensure that Canadians have timely and effective access to care.

The Canadian Transplant Society notes that more than 1,600 Canadians are added to organ wait lists every year. That is because transplants are often the only treatment for end-stage organ failure. In addition to treating conditions like cornea blindness, diabetes, and birth defects, organ transplants and tissue and organ donations can also help burn victims recover, remove the need for long-time dialysis, reduce amputations, repair childhood heart problems, assist in heart bypass surgery and heart failure, replace cystic fibrosis diseased lungs with healthy ones and provide a new cosmetic solution for disfigured facial accident victims.

We know that transplants both improve the quality of life of their recipients and also save lives.

The government recognizes that too many Canadians are on organ wait lists. In 2017, more than 4,333 people were waiting for transplants across Canada. That said, over the past decade the number of deceased organ donors has gone up by 42%. While that is encouraging, unfortunately, the number of people needing a transplant has also gone up in that time. In many ways, we not making the progress we need and many people are continuing to suffer and are dying waiting for a donor organ.

As our population ages, the need for transplants will only increase. Any one of us could one day find ourselves in need of a donation. I just want to tell a private story. This is very close to my heart. I did not know this when my boys were born, but both of them have a very serious heart defect that will ultimately require them at this point in time to have a transplant. Obviously, I am very excited about the technological changes in medical services today and I am hopeful maybe that will not be the case. However, I am mindful that both of my boys may need a transplant in their future. This is an issue that is very close to my heart.

That is why the Government of Canada continues to work with Canadian Blood Services and the provinces and territories to help increase organ donation rates and raise public awareness about organ donation across Canada. People need to know that registering to donate is not complicated and that registration can be done at any time. It is not necessary to wait until death. In fact, that is often too late, especially if loved ones are not aware of your wishes.

Living donors who are the age of majority and in good health can donate a kidney, part of their liver, a lobe of their lung and continue to lead full and rewarding lives. What could be more rewarding than saving someone's life? We know that one donor can potentially save as many as eight lives and improve the quality of life for up to 75 people.

I want to tell a personal story. In my riding we had a wonderful teacher and outstanding member of our Ahmadiyya Muslim community who died suddenly of a brain haemorrhage. The family and she had decided to donate her organs if she died, and their decision saved the lives of eight members of our community. Those community members would not be living if it had not been for her tragedy. Thus, from one family's tragedy, eight other families have been blessed to have their loved ones still with them.

This is a huge gift, not only for the individuals with serious health problems who are direct beneficiaries of donations, but as I mentioned, also countless family members and our whole community at large. Their lives are also transformed with these miracles of life.

As I stated earlier, the government recognizes the value of organ and tissue donation and transplantation and has an important role to play in protecting the health and safety of Canadians. The Minister of Health is working with the provinces and territories to facilitate collaboration on an organ and tissue donation and transplantation system that gives Canadians timely and effective access to care. Canadians can be assured that we are committed to improving the organ and tissue donation and transplantation system.

In collaboration with provinces, territories and key stakeholders, we are establishing leading practices, strengthening professional education and raising awareness to improve organ and tissue donation. The Government of Canada also continues to work with Canadian Blood Services and our provincial and territorial partners to increase the donation rates of blood and blood components because we need to raise public awareness about that all across Canada. The need for blood donations is also great.

There is a constant demand. People do not realize that it takes five donors to save someone who needs heart surgery; 50 donors to help just one person in a serious car accident; and eight donors a week to help someone going through treatment for leukemia. I am sure many members are aware of people in their communities who have been dealing with that disease. This is why it is so crucial to get the message out that it is in everyone to donate.

Canadians can count on the government to continue to improve the organ and tissue donation and transplantation system. To demonstrate this commitment, the Minister of Health announced on October 18, renewed funding of $3.3 million for the Canadian Donation and Transplant Research Program.

This funding also allows the CDTRP, Canadian Donation and Transplant Research Program, to continue its research to advance organ and tissue donation and transplantation in Canada. It is through research that we can increase the availability of transplants for Canadians and transform clinical outcomes for transplant patients from coast to coast.

Our government is committed to supporting the organ and tissue donation and transplantation needs of Canadians and is looking closely at Bill C-316 and other opportunities to determine how best to support that objective.

Canada Revenue Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

November 5th, 2018 / 11:30 a.m.
See context

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is with enormous pleasure that I stand here today to speak in support of Bill C-316, an act to amend the Canada Revenue Agency Act, organ donors. This initiative was brought forward by my friend and colleague, the member for Calgary Confederation. The member has worked tirelessly in this Parliament to get this organ donor bill passed.

There are some issues that transcend party lines and this bill is certainly one of them. We have a responsibility to support one another when something as simple as an adjustment on our tax form can save the lives of hundreds and thousands of Canadians.

Canada is a nation that has much to be proud of, but where organ donation is concerned, too many Canadians are dying while on the wait-list. Although 90% of Canadians support organ donation, less than 20% have made plans to donate. According to global comparison statistics from the Council of Europe, Canada has a donors per million people rate of 20:1. This low ratio places us 18th internationally in organ donation, behind Italy with a donor rate of 24:7 and the U.S. with a rate of 30:8. Spain has the highest national donors per million people rate at 43.8. This is a ratio that we should set our sights on as a country.

We have the opportunity to drastically change the lives of individuals and their families.

In a 2016 study, the health committee found that close to 4,500 people were on the wait-list, and a staggering 6% of people died while waiting for an organ. Furthermore, according to the data, while about two-thirds of people on the wait-list received an organ, that meant that one-third of people on the wait-list did not receive an organ. This wait-list is ever-increasing. It is estimated that over 1,600 Canadians are added to it every year.

While true that the number of organ donors has increased over the past decade, they are not increasing at a high enough rate to meet the demand. People are still dying needlessly because there are not enough donors on the list. We must make every effort to ensure that every Canadian who needs an organ can be matched with someone who can and is willing to donate an organ.

Again, these deaths are not because Canadians do not support organ donation, but rather opportunities and infrastructure are missing. This is not something we can hope will get better without action, and many people and organizations have worked determinedly over the years to address this.

The current version of Bill C-316, as tabled by my colleague from Calgary Confederation, builds on legislative and advocacy work done over the past 20 years around creating a system of organ donation.

Similar legislation has been introduced numerous times since 1999.

Lou Sekora, a Liberal MP, introduced a bill calling for the establishment of a national organ donation registry in 1999 and again in 2000. Judy Wasylycia-Leis, the former NDP MP from Winnipeg South, introduced legislation on this topic in 2002, 2003 and again in 2008. Malcolm Allen, a NDP MP from Welland, introduced similar legislation in 2009 and 2013. In 2016, my colleague from Edmonton Manning reintroduced legislation calling for the establishment of a national organ donor registry. Now we are once again presented with an opportunity from my colleague, the member for Calgary Confederation. That equals nine times over the past 20 years that this has been introduced by people from all political parties. This many attempts over the past two decades clearly demonstrates that there is a huge void this bill can fill.

We should do better, we need to do better and we can do better.

In February 2016, I stood in the House with the other MPs from the NDP caucus and the Conservative caucus who unanimously voted yea for the earlier version of this bill, Bill C-223, which was a private member's bill put forward by the member from Edmonton-Manning. MPs have worked tirelessly to get legislation in place that facilitates organ donation and once again to encourage all MPs to vote in favour of this important legislation. Indeed, along with many of my colleagues here, I look forward to and will work toward a day when every Canadian in need of an organ has access to one.

It is not a stretch to say that this incarnation, Bill C-316, is the ninth version of a long line of attempts to get some legislation put in place around this very important subject. Let us ensure that we do not have to sit here for a 10th. Let us put partisan blindness aside and stop letting it get in the way of good legislation.

A piecemeal approach with different programs in different provinces was the exact reason why we asked for the creation of a pan-Canadian organ donor program in the first place. Federal legislation is needed to fill the legislative void on this subject. We need to pass this. This is not a simple matter of provincial jurisdiction. We need a centralized list of people waiting for an organ. By way of this legislation, we are simply looking for co-operation in the service of people who sent us here, Canadians.

Many organizations have repeatedly asked for a national strategy and national oversight of the organ donation system.

Dr. Lori West, the director of the pan-Canadian National Transplant Research Program, aptly said, “we cannot afford to be stymied by the makeup of our country. We can turn it to our benefit and really use those sorts of strategies to get where we want to go.”

The Kidney Foundation of Canada stated, “[We] recommend that the federal government take steps to improve Canada’s Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation system and save more lives by: Implementing a national strategy and oversight to ensure every potential deceased donor is identified and that every person awaiting transplant has equitable access to organ transplantation across the country.”

Dr. Philip Halloran, who is a professor of medicine at the University of Alberta, stated, “Donations in Canada are not performing at the standard that our colleagues in the United States are performing and there isn’t really any excuse except organization and accountability.”

The testimony from these experts underscores once again that there is a dire need for federal legislation and oversight over this very critical issue.

Once again, I want to urge my colleagues to support this bill and a commitment to progressive co-operation and getting results for Canadians.

I want to thank my friend from Calgary for championing this very important issue.

Canada Revenue Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

November 5th, 2018 / 11:40 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Matt Jeneroux Conservative Edmonton Riverbend, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today in support of the private member's bill sponsored by the member for Calgary Confederation to streamline organ donation. I want to thank the member for his work on the bill, as well as his hard work in helping to create the organ donation registry in our home province of Alberta when we served in the provincial legislature together. I had the opportunity to speak to both his provincial bill and now to the federal bill, hoping that we will see similar results in passing both of them.

Almost every Canadian has heard about someone whose life was impacted by organ donation, whether in the media or through personal connections. The organ donation of one person can save up to eight people, and a tissue donation can impact more than 70 people. Of course, even more people than that are impacted as families get to keep their loved ones alive longer because of donation. However, only a quarter of Canadians are registered to donate.

Our organ donation rate is among the lowest in the world. Currently, almost 5,000 Canadians are waiting for a transplant on which their lives depend. Sadly, about 260 Canadians lose their lives every year while waiting for a transplant that, sadly, never happens. That is about five deaths per week, or one death about every 30 hours, that could be prevented if they had a viable donor. Ninety per cent of Canadians say that they support organ and tissue donation. However, in practice, less than 20% have actually made plans and registered to donate.

In the past 10 years, the number of deceased organ donors has gone up by 42%. The number of people needing a transplant has also gone up in that time. Therefore, a more effective method is needed in order to increase the size of the organ donor base in Canada. The proposal of the member for Calgary Confederation is so simple and yet so smart. Implementing it could mean a huge increase in the number of organ donations in Canada, and my friend is proposing to add an option on tax revenue forms, where people can declare whether they would like to register to be an organ or tissue donor. If they check yes, their names and information are given to their provincial government and added to an organ donor database.

Almost every Canadian fills out these forms annually. Making registration for organ and tissue donors easier will save more lives. It will be the same process for everyone, no matter what province they live in. There is no need to create new computer and database systems, because the existing system can do that job.

This method will reach the most potential donors at the lowest cost. It will also help identify organ donors when someone dies outside of his or her province of residence. The new system proposed by the member for Calgary Confederation will be more efficient at identifying donors, resulting in more lives being saved.

Earlier this year, our country suffered a horrible tragedy when 15 young men and one young woman from the Humboldt Broncos hockey team died after a bus crash. After that tragedy, there was a spike in the number of people who signed up to become organ donors. I wish it had not taken such an unfortunate accident to encourage people to become organ donors. However, I am glad to see organ donation on the rise.

The current process to register to become an organ donor in my province of Alberta involves going online to put one's name on the organ donation registry. This was spearheaded by the member for Calgary Confederation while he was a member of the legislative assembly, and it is so great to see him work so hard to continue this good work on a national scale here in Parliament.

It is so important to have the registry, and the number of organ donors has risen since it was implemented in 2013, but it is just not front of mind for most people. With so many things going on in our lives, we do not always remember to complete this type of task. Bringing the option of organ donation right to Canadians instead of waiting for Canadians to come to a website will no doubt result in an increase in the number of registered donors in Canada.

Currently, the only proactive approach by governments is to register Canadians via the driver's licence registration process. However, the percentage of Canadians with a driver's licence is dropping in every age category. While young Canadians are our future donors and they have the healthiest organs, less than 70% of 19-year-olds obtain a driver's licence. This indicates a 20% drop from the previous generation.

In Canada, only 1,600 people are added to organ transplant waiting lists each and every year. On top of that, there is also a limited time in which organs can be viable for transplant to a matching donor on the waiting list. It is typically less than a day after death. With the continuous decline of driver's licence registrations, Bill C-316 is a sensible solution to gather more donors, decrease the numbers of Canadian patients on donation wait-lists and, ultimately, save more lives.

Kidney donations are the most common organ transplant in Canada, followed by the liver, lungs and heart. A study done by Canadian Blood Services examining organ transplants between 2006 and 2015 found that transplants benefit both patients and provincial health services. According to the study, “Kidney transplantation is the best therapy for patients with end-stage kidney disease. Compared to dialysis, it can more than double a patient's life expectancy. Although the data in this section speaks primarily to the benefits of kidney transplantation, other types of transplantations, such as lung, heart and liver, are also beneficial.”

The same study found that transplants can save governments money because of reduced hospital stays. It is estimated that Ontario alone already loses approximately $100 million every year to support the care of those on the waiting list for a donated kidney. The study states:

Liver, heart and lung transplants may also reduce costs for governments. Although there is limited information on the cost avoidance associated with the transplantation of organs other than kidneys, a U.K. report states, “there is some evidence that the care of patients with life-threatening organ failure may involve many days or weeks of in-hospital care, including significant time in intensive care (which is very expensive), that would be avoided if transplantation had taken place.”

It is evident that organ and tissue donation benefits patients, families and taxpayers because of decreased health care costs. However, other countries are far ahead of Canada in terms of successful transplants. As I said earlier, Canada has a low organ donation rate. Figures from 2015 show that only 1% of Canadians who die in hospital donate their organs. We lag behind many other countries, including the United States, in registered donors.

In Europe, many countries have opt-out organ donation systems. This means that all citizens are automatically registered as organ donors and have to deregister themselves if they do not wish to be a donor. It is because of this system that Spain leads the world in the number of registered donors.

However, the system proposed by the member for Calgary Confederation achieves a happy medium. It will reach almost all adult Canadians without being heavy-handed. Canadians do not want the government telling them what to do. With the tax form system, Canadians can decide for themselves what they want to happen to their bodies. This would be a most convenient system for potential donors.

Additionally, it would be practically free to implement, because it would utilize existing documents. This system is economical for taxpayers and would ultimately help to save more lives.

Many of us do not like to think about it, but we never know when or if we will need an organ donation. Our lives could change in an instant. Many families have been put in a position where they have to wait for life-saving organs or tissue to become available. This is an incredibly nerve-racking wait. Often, families do not know whether the donations will come in time.

In Edmonton right now, a young girl from Okotoks is waiting to receive a number of life-saving organs. Thousands of other Canadians are in the exact same situation. The wait is agonizing for these families. I would like us as parliamentarians to do everything we can to decrease the number of families in this situation.

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-316 would be a great amendment to the Canada Revenue Agency Act. As I have said, it would reach more Canadians, increase the number of donors, save taxpayers money and ultimately save more lives. This is a sensible solution to our problem of low donor numbers. It is a very straightforward private member's bill, and I am pleased to support it today. I urge all members of this House to consider supporting Bill C-316.

I want to thank my friend, the member for Calgary Confederation, for bringing this bill forward. I also want to thank him for all the work he has done on organ donation, both here and in Alberta. He was instrumental in bringing in Alberta's organ donation registry, and he has stayed true to his word to continue to fight right here in Parliament for strong organ donation access.

I hope the next time we all do our taxes, we see the option of becoming an organ donor right there on the forms.

Canada Revenue Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

November 5th, 2018 / 11:50 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Bill Casey Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on Bill C-316 today. I sit on the health committee with the hon. member for Calgary Confederation, and if there is one thing I have learned about him, it is that he is dedicated and persistent when he has an issue he wants followed up. He has done a great job on this bill.

It is interesting that two of the last four speakers have said they have children who will need organ transplants. It just reminds me that we are all people, experiencing the same things everybody else in Canada experiences. We all have the same challenges. That is an incredible thing to have to face. I hope it works out well for both those members.

I would bet that if all 338 members could stand up and speak, they would all have stories about organ transplants. I have a story myself, which I will not go into, but it affects us all. It is critical that we do something about this. This is at least one step in the right direction, and I support it a hundred per cent.

It is almost embarrassing to me that Canada is in 18th place in the world in organ donation. It is almost not Canadian to be in 18th place, behind so many other countries. We should be doing much better. It would not take a lot to improve. A lot of it is just communication. A lot of it is focus.

In Spain, where they have twice the organ donation that we have, they have a very organized method. They educate doctors, and they have emergency rooms ready and available. They train people to improve the organ transplant success rate, as well as on the preservation of organs and so on. These are things we could do. They are not hard to do, and we should be doing them.

As one member said a little while ago, eight lives could be affected by one organ donor. Imagine, eight lives could be saved by one organ donor, and 75 lives could be affected one way or another. It is an incredible thing that we are so far behind.

I notice some of the members of the health committee are here today. In our committee, we have studied so many different diseases and health issues that could benefit from improved organ donation. For many of the subjects that we talk about, the only answer is organ donation, and here we are in 18th place in the world. It is hard to believe that we, as Canadians, accept that and continue on in that direction.

There are a lot of things we could do. We could expand the number of potential organ donors. We could change the rules to allow more people to donate organs, and we could educate our doctors in emergency rooms to these changes. That would help. We could have better transfer protocols. We could train doctors to help patients understand organ donation.

We heard at committee, over and over again, that it is difficult for a doctor who has worked so hard to save someone's life to then tell them that it might be a good idea to donate their organs. We heard that from doctors and health care providers. We could help doctors and the medical field in general to prepare patients for organ donation when the time comes.

A national registry is the key. We are not there yet, but hopefully we will get there. New technology could help preserve organs after they are harvested, so they last longer and can get to the people who need them the most. This is technology that we have within our reach. It is within our grasp. We can do it.

All of these things are very doable. They are very simple things to do, and would move us from 18th place closer to first place, which is where Canada should be. Canadians should not accept that we are in 18th place in this comparison. I do not accept it, and the member for Calgary Confederation certainly does not accept it.

I will be supporting Bill C-316, and I look forward to hearing about it at committee, hearing the pros and cons. I am sure there will be far more pros than cons, and perhaps we can find solutions to some of these problems I have listed and that some of the other members have talked about.

It should be easy to register. Just a little while ago, some of us checked our driver's licence to see if we were donors. I am a donor, but it is not on my licence. Maybe if something happened to me, it would not be known that I was a donor. It should be on my driver's licence. That is a simple thing we could do. It is on my health card. It says “donor” right on it, but it is not on my driver's licence. If the wrong card is picked to look at, somebody might lose. The opportunity to help eight people might be lost. I do not want that to happen.

That is really all I wanted to say. I want to say that I support Bill C-316. I congratulate the member. I know how determined and persistent he is on this, and he is right. All of us should accept the challenge to not accept that we are in 18th place in the world in organ donation. I look forward to the bill progressing through the system.

Canada Revenue Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

September 25th, 2018 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Len Webber Conservative Calgary Confederation, AB

moved that Bill C-316, An Act to amend the Canada Revenue Agency Act (organ donors), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, for those who may not already know, I have been a long-time advocate of organ and tissue donation in Canada. In fact, a few years ago I passed a bill in the Alberta legislature as an MLA, resulting in the creation of the Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Registry. It also put in place a strong and robust education and awareness program that included adding donor hearts to our Alberta driver's licences.

However, the reality is 4,600 Canadians are still awaiting a life-saving transplant and we need to do more to find those critical matches to save more lives. This is an issue that transcends political lines and offers us, as parliamentarians, the opportunity to make a difference in every corner of this country.

The Humboldt Broncos tragedy last spring highlighted the issue across Canada when Logan Boulet signed up as an organ donor just weeks before his tragic death. This incredibly kind gesture prompted thousands more to register, but it is still not enough because while over 90% of Canadians say they support organ donation, only 25%—