An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (trafficking in human organs)

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.


Considering amendments (Senate), as of May 14, 2019
(This bill did not become law.)


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

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to create new offences in relation to trafficking in human organs. It also amends the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to provide that a permanent resident or foreign national is inadmissible to Canada if the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is of the opinion that they have engaged in any activities relating to trafficking in human organs.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 30th, 2019 / 6:45 p.m.
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Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to the Minister of Democratic Institutions

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this third reading debate on Bill S-240, a piece of legislation that has been described as the culmination of over 10 years of parliamentary work on the important issue of organ trafficking.

It is worth recalling that four bills dealing with this issue were introduced in Parliament prior to Bill S-240, some of which were sponsored by the member for Etobicoke Centre and by the former minister of justice, Irwin Cotler.

This goes to show that combatting the scourge of organ trafficking and protecting vulnerable people from whom organs are being forcibly removed are serious concerns that we all share. That applies to my constituents in Parkdale—High Park and Canadians around the country who are rightfully concerned about protecting those who are vulnerable to predatory organ harvesting activities in Asia and around the world.

There is no question that there exists a serious organ shortage, both in Canada and abroad. The organ shortage affects family members and neighbours, and it understandably leaves many feeling vulnerable about their health. However, Bill S-240 provides an important reminder to Canadians that capitalizing on the vulnerability of organ donors abroad is not an acceptable response to this issue. That is why our government is proud to support this important bill, with targeted amendments that make it better achieve its objectives.

Bill S-240 proposes to strengthen Canada’s response to organ trafficking by creating four new Criminal Code offences related to this conduct, extending extraterritorial jurisdiction over these new offences and amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to add a new ground of inadmissibility to Canada for having engaged in conduct that would be an offence under the bill.

More specifically, Bill S-240 proposes to criminalize all persons involved in the removal of an organ for transplant knowing that, or being reckless as to whether, the organ was removed without the informed consent of the donor or a substitute decision-maker.

Organ trafficking involves a range of conduct committed by various players. Accordingly, the proposed offences seeking to address this conduct would capture brokers who connect prospective organ recipients with prospective organ donors, medical professionals who extract organs illegally for transplantation, and persons who purchase organs for their own use, as well as those who assist them.

The bill also proposes to criminalize the commodification of human organs more specifically by enacting a new financial transaction offence. This offence would prohibit participating in, or facilitating the obtaining of, an organ for transplant knowing that, or being reckless as to whether, it was obtained for consideration, whether the donor consented or not to the organ removal.

With respect to the meaning and scope of the term “for consideration”, according to the study of the bill by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, this term targets the purchasing of human organs.

The bill would also extend extraterritorial application to these offences, which means that Canadian citizens or permanent residents who go abroad to purchase an organ for transplant, also known as “transplant tourism”, or commit any of the new offences abroad, could then be prosecuted in Canada.

As illegal organ trafficking is an international issue that mostly targets impoverished individuals in foreign countries, the extraterritorial application of these offences will help protect vulnerable people abroad, including those who may be induced to sell their own organs out of financial desperation.

Consistent with the objectives of the bill, these new provisions would help deter Canadians and permanent residents from contributing to organ trafficking by fuelling the demand through transplant tourism.

As mentioned during second reading debate, the extraterritorial application of the new organ trafficking offences is necessary given the fact that much of the conduct targeted by the bill occurs abroad.

Bill S-240 also proposes to add a new ground of inadmissibility to section 35 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, for having engaged in conduct that would constitute an offence under the bill. As a result, a permanent resident or foreign national could be found inadmissible to Canada for having engaged in one of the new organ trafficking offences. This amendment sends a clear signal that purchasing any organs, including from vulnerable people abroad, is serious criminal conduct here in Canada.

I would like to address some of the amendments that were made to the bill during the committee stage.

On February 27 of this year, the House committee adopted an amendment to clarify that a substitute decision-maker can provide consent on behalf of an organ donor to provide greater precision around some of the criminal law language used in the bill.

The committee also removed two amendments that had been passed in the Senate on October 23, 2018. It removed the proposed definition of “informed consent”, as well as the duty for physicians to report all organ transplants to an authority designated by order of the Governor in Council.

As previously highlighted during second reading debate, the proposed definition of “informed consent” presented challenges. The term “informed consent” has clear meaning in provincial and territorial health law. This is one of the reasons why it was not defined in the Criminal Code as part of the medical assistance in dying reforms in 2016. Therefore, in order to avoid statutory interpretation issues and ensure clarity and consistency in the Criminal Code, the definition was removed.

The proposed duty to report for physicians also raised concerns. As recalled before the House committee, doctor-patient confidentiality is sacrosanct. It is a fundamental principle that allows people to feel safe about disclosing any health issues they may be facing to their doctor. It encourages people to safeguard their own health and seek treatment, where necessary, in order to get better. It is important to protect this relationship between patients and their physicians.

Furthermore, the duty to report for physicians applied to all transplants. For these reasons, among others, the duty to report for physicians was also removed.

I pause to note that since the committee's important study of this bill, the Government of Nova Scotia has passed legislation that presumes consent for organ donation while retaining the ability for individuals to opt out of the organ donation regime. I want to clarify that I respect the choices individual provinces and territories make to try to protect the health and safety of Canadians, and that nothing in Bill S-240 is intended to interfere with provincial efforts in this important regard. We look forward to seeing the results of this legislation for the people of the province of Nova Scotia.

As members know, this piece of legislation is the result of successive efforts made by parliamentarians in both Houses to address what is truly a horrendous crime that continues to exploit vulnerable individuals right around the planet. The provisions contained in Bill S-240 will allow Canada to demonstrate leadership in the fight against organ trafficking and in the protection of international human rights.

I would urge all members of this House to support Bill S-240 in order to ensure that its proposed legislative measures become law.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 30th, 2019 / 6:55 p.m.
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Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill S-240, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (trafficking in human organs).

In 2007 at an airport in western Ukraine, I came across a gut-churning article on the front page of the local newspaper. The town's police officer had investigated the disappearance of orphans who, at age 17, were discharged from the care of the local orphanage. He had been worried that they were being trafficked into western Europe for sexual exploitation. What he discovered was much worse. These adolescents were sold to be trafficked for their organs, by the director of the orphanage.

In the following weeks, upon returning to Canada, a constituent made me aware of illegal clinics in India where poor farmers had their kidneys removed to pay off debts. Then the most barbaric example was brought to my attention. There were multi-million-dollar businesses run by the Chinese People's Liberation Army, which through its military hospitals had built an industrial-scale operation that removed, to order, body parts and organs of prisoners of conscience imprisoned in China's vast penal network.

This harrowing underground industry of trafficking in human organs and body parts, whether in the developing world or in totalitarian states, has commonalities. Those with power and wealth target and victimize the most vulnerable in their societies: orphans, destitute farmers, prisoners of conscience.

This depraved industry is a consequence of three global trends coinciding during the last decades: first, the development of medical technology allowing for the transplantation of virtually any body organ; second, an immense increase in global income disparities between the rich and powerful and the poor and vulnerable; and finally, easy and accessible transplantation tourism by wealthy westerners to clinics in the developing world.

I first addressed this modern-day horror in the House of Commons on February 2, 2008, when I introduced Bill C-500, an act to amend the Criminal Code with regard to trafficking and transplanting human organs and other body parts. Unfortunately, the legislation died on the Order Paper of the 39th Parliament, as did Bill C-381, which I introduced in the 40th Parliament, and Bill C-561, introduced by our colleague the Hon. Irwin Cotler in the 41st Parliament.

The horror of this industry hit home when, the very day after I first addressed this legislation in the House of Commons on February 3, 2008, the Toronto Star headlined an article “GTA home to 'Dr. Horror'”. Millionaire doctor Amit Kumar of Brampton was the mastermind behind an operation in India that implicated three hospitals, 10 pathology clinics and five diagnostic centres. This cabal had bought or forcibly removed and then trafficked to wealthy Indians and westerners the kidneys of approximately 500 destitute farmers and poor labourers in India.

However, the west is not just implicated in this industry by those among us willing to profit from the illegal removal of body organs, the “Dr. Horrors” among us. The profits feeding this evil are provided by those facing debilitating terminal illnesses, those among us made desperate by the severe lack of organ donations in Canada and other countries, those among us willing to not ask questions as to how and from where the human organs that extend their lives come from, and willing not to ask whether the donors were willing, willing not to ask whether donors' health and often lives were sacrificed and their organs stolen and exchanged for money.

This is why I supported what I consider to be a complementary sister motion, Motion No. 189 on organ and tissue donation. Organ donation can address this shortfall of organs for transplantation in Canada, and it is why legislation that addresses the trafficking and transplanting of organs must be passed.

My original draft legislation from 2008 has served as a template for similar legislation in Poland and Belgium. It is time for Canada to take action. Canadians must not be implicated in this depraved, evil industry that sees the wealthy and desperate in the west monetize, pay for the organs and body parts of the most vulnerable in the developing world: orphans, destitute farmers and prisoners of conscience.

Eleven years after I first tabled legislation to deal with the trafficking in human organs, I am heartened that legislation to combat this horror, to combat this modern form of cannibalism will finally be enacted by this 42nd Parliament.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

December 10th, 2018 / 11:05 a.m.
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Cheryl Hardcastle NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, before I get into the debate on the bill, I would like to acknowledge that this is our last week in this place not only for the year, but it is the last time we will be sitting here in Centre Block for the next decade. I would like to thank everyone who works behind the scenes to make this place run smoothly for those of us who are honoured to be elected and serve Canadians here in this beautiful building, which is going to be restored over the next 10 years. Hopefully, it will take only 10 years. On our behalf, I thank all the staff, from Parliamentary Protective Service, to administration, to custodians and everyone in between.

I appreciate this opportunity to speak to Bill S-240. As vice-chair of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights, I can say that the subject of black market organ harvesting is not a new one. Indeed, Bill S-240 is the fourth iteration of a bill that has been through many parliaments. These bills were written largely in response to credible and appalling reports concerning organ harvesting in China.

Organ trafficking is considered an organized crime, with a host of offenders including the recruiters who identify the vulnerable persons, the transporters, the staff of the hospital or clinic and other medical centres, the medical professionals themselves who perform the surgery, the contractors, the buyers and those at the banks that store the organs. The Subcommittee on International Human Rights has studied the issue of organ harvesting in China numerous times and has issued at least two lengthy reports and a number of statements. The reports discuss in gruesome detail the establishment within China of an actual organ-harvesting industry.

The first source of organs for transplants apparently was prisoners who were sentenced to death and executed. A second source of organs was prisoners of conscience. The earliest of these were the Uighurs, Chinese Muslims from the eastern part of the country. The chamber will recall the more recent reports of up to one million Uighurs being rounded up by the government of the People's Republic of China and forceably placed into re-education camps.

In our subcommittee, we heard that while China's official central government's statistics indicate that approximately 10,000 organ transplantations take place per year, the numbers may actually be as high as between 60,000 and 100,000 organ transplants per year. The one population that ultimately became the principal victims of China's organ-harvesting industry was the country's Falun Gong followers. Falun Gong is the adherence to the Falun Dafa spiritual practice that originated in China. According to testimony that our subcommittee heard on November 3, 2016, China's organ-harvesting industry developed in tandem with its systematic repression of Falun Gong.

I will admit to being a bit skeptical initially about reports on organ harvesting in China. The idea of taking another person's organ to sell on the open market suggests a level of depravity that ordinary decent human beings find difficult to fathom. However, the more I learn about human rights abuses committed by the Chinese government against its own people and more and more credible accounts, my skepticism dissipates into reluctant belief. In fact, in recent hearings in the Subcommittee on International Human Rights looking into the human rights situation of the Uighurs in China, we heard that the Chinese government has been forceably taking DNA and blood samples from Uighurs. Chillingly, those of us who follow these issues immediately began fearing the Chinese government might be looking for yet more organs to harvest from this population.

It is time, therefore, that the international community come together on this issue and establish the conditions that will render the organ-trafficking industry unprofitable. While the majority of organ trafficking occurs abroad, measures must be taken to ensure Canadians waiting on long organ donation lists are not perpetuating this brutality by purchasing trafficked organs. Trafficking in human organs is an abhorrent activity that should be included in Canada's Criminal Code. Further, Bill S-240 proposes amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to ensure that receiving organs or benefiting economically from this illicit trade would also make a permanent resident or foreign national inadmissible to Canada.

The NDP supports Bill S-240 as we oppose all forms of trafficking in organs. We believe it is important to ensure that Canadians who have their names on the long organ donation lists are not inadvertently contributing to the demand for this horrendous crime.

As this is the fourth bill on organ trafficking in 10 years, the NDP calls for cross-party co-operation to ensure the swift passage of Bill S-240 and for this issue to be finally taken seriously. In addition to supporting this initiative, more should be done to encourage ethical, safe organ donation domestically. Canadians contribute to organ trafficking primarily through a phenomenon called transplant tourism. It is the most common way to trade organs across national borders. Recipients travel abroad to undergo organ transplants and there is currently no law in Canada against this practice.

Unlike the United States, Canada does not have a centralized list of people waiting for an organ. The Liberal government actually voted against a bill in 2016 that would have supported the creation of a national registry to help identify those wishing to donate organs and those who need them. Canada is the only developed country without national organ donation legislation, such as the 1984 United States National Organ Transplant Act. The Government of Canada should seriously consider the feasibility of a presumed consent system for organ donation where individuals opt out instead of opting in to organ donation.

In addition to the development and coordination of an advanced interprovincial organ-sharing system, the federal government must also facilitate the implementation of best practices and promote professional education and training opportunities. Canada is way behind on the issue of organ trafficking. In fact, the Council of Europe has had a convention against trafficking in human organs since 2008, and as of 2017, it has been ratified by 47 member states. Several countries, including Taiwan, Spain, and Norway, have already passed similar legislation. It is time for our country to catch up with the rest of the world and we can begin doing so today by supporting this bill.

It is not lost on many human rights defenders listening to this debate today that it is a profound anniversary marking the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights 70 years ago. Those sentiments are inextricably linked after the horrors witnessed in World War II and the conviction of never again. I submit that those sentiments are profoundly linked here as well to Bill S-240. After World War II, the world sought to ensure such madness ensued against humanity never happened again. Organ harvesting and trafficking are a nauseating reality and we must put a stop to them. Canada must act and must start by passing Bill S-240.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

December 10th, 2018 / 11:10 a.m.
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Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on Bill S-240 and to take this opportunity to respond specifically to comments that have been made by many colleagues so far in this debate.

This bill, as members may know, would make it a criminal offence to receive an organ taken without the consent of the patient. This issue is morally clear-cut, and I think all speakers have agreed to that basic idea.

We are coming up towards the second reading vote, where we will vote on the legislation's principle. Members who have questions about some of the particulars but agree with the general principle should give this bill speedy passage at this stage so that we can make any necessary amendments at committee stage and still ensure that the bill becomes law before the next election. If further delays by Liberal members hold back progress in this Parliament, then we will have to start at square one in the next Parliament.

During previous speeches, members made observations about the extraterritorial application of Canadian law proposed in this case, that under this bill someone would be charged for getting an organ overseas for which there had not been consent. Members have generally agreed that we should be concerned about the basic human rights of non-citizens, and that we should seek to prevent Canadians citizens from violating the human rights of others while abroad.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice discussed some of the challenges associated with prosecutions involving extraterritoriality. He noted that these cases can be difficult and expensive to prosecute, since they might require Canadian law enforcement to gather evidence overseas. This can be the case with extraterritorial prosecutions, but I would make two observations to counter concerns about the challenges associated with extraterritorial prosecutions in this particular case.

First of all, we should not fail to criminalize bad behaviour just because prosecution is difficult. Even if we are only able to prosecute a small number of cases, the deterrent effect of the law will go a long way. We criminalize child sex tourism already, presumably recognizing the challenges involved in prosecution but also hoping that the law and the possibility of prosecution deter and reduce these crimes.

Second, though, organ trafficking and harvesting is a special case insofar as prosecution should be relatively easier than prosecutions for other crimes where extraterritoriality is involved. Recipients of trafficked organs are a special case because they will necessarily have prior and follow-up medical needs, and the transplanted organ will have a clear physical indication of a transplant. Circumstances related to the transplant will give doctors, and therefore law enforcement, clear indication of whether a person showed gross negligence around verifying that the donor consented.

Let us consider a concrete example and imagine that a patient is on a waiting list for a heart. He says to his doctor, “Doc, great news, I'm going to get a new heart. My cousin set me up. I'm going to Beijing six weeks from today, and I'll come back with a new heart.”

The doctor is perplexed. She replies, “That's not really possible. If there's a heart available for you, they're not going to keep it in the freezer for six weeks. The only way to plan that far in advance would be if doctors over there knew with certainty that someone who is a perfect match will die right before you arrive.”

This is a case where lack of consent is relatively clear, even if the patient may not fully understand at first. If someone is receiving a vital organ from a recently healthy patient in a country where organ harvesting is common, and is being told well in advance when an organ will be available, it becomes absolutely clear that someone else is being executed in order to remove the organ, on a schedule based on the availability of the patient.

In this hypothetical case, there is some very strong evidence already that can help lead to a conviction. That evidence exists based on the medical needs of the patient to consult with a physician here in Canada before and after.

In the scenario I have laid out, ideally, the doctor would advise the patient of what is likely going on. If the patient proceeded to receive the trafficked organ, the doctor would currently have no recourse, legal or otherwise. However, if Bill S-240 passes, a doctor in that situation might stand a better chance of persuading the patient to try a different path.

She might say to him, “You might not know this, but you taking an organ under those circumstances almost certainly means that it is being taken from an unwilling patient, who is being executed in order to get you an organ. Receiving an organ taken from an unwilling source is a serious criminal offence in Canada, even if done abroad. If you proceed with this, any physician who sees you in Canada will be legally obligated to report that you have received a transplanted organ and the circumstances of that transplant will become clear.”

It is hard to imagine a patient proceeding with his original plan after being presented with these new criminal law provisions and a reasonable probability of detection. While this is a case of extraterritorial application of criminal law, the medical realities mean fewer practical challenges.

The parliamentary secretary also mused about whether the reporting provisions in this legislation are overbroad. In an effort to ensure that any case of organ harvesting and trafficking is detected, a doctor is required to report the presence of a transplanted organ in every case. Might a narrower reporting mechanism achieve the same purpose?

The proper scope of the reporting mechanism is a good issue for the committee to study and should not be an impediment to those considering whether or not to support the bill at second reading, but still, l have a couple of observations at this point.

First of all, the parliamentary secretary argued about both the challenges of extraterritorial prosecution and a potential overbroadness of the reporting provision. The broadness of the reporting provision is precisely aimed at responding to what would otherwise be the challenge of prosecution; the one is a partial solution to the other. Further, it should not be particularly complex or onerous for the government to keep track on a list of those who have received an organ transplant, such that it can be verified if an organ was received properly. Requiring that reporting happens in every case ensures that those who participate in organ trafficking would be held accountable.

There are a few other points to make in response to what has been said. The member for Edmonton Centre mused about whether this legislation should include cases in which organs are purchased. He notes, quite correctly, that the bill presumes that a person who sells his or her organs is doing so from a position of vulnerability and therefore the bill proposes not to allow the selling of organs under any circumstances.

I appreciate that the member for Edmonton Centre acknowledges both sides of this question, saying as well, “...I also recognize...the need to ensure that individuals, often from developing countries, who may be vulnerable to abuse given their own economic situation, are protected from potentially exploitative practices.”

Let me make three points in response to this question about whether or not the bill should include a prohibition on purchasing organs abroad. First of all, this is also a subject where the application could be altered at committee. I would be sorry to see these provisions removed from the bill, but their presence should not be an impediment to supporting it at second reading given the possibility of amendment.

Second, the case the member for Edmonton Centre used, wherein a person goes overseas to buy an organ, in an environment with well-defined laws protecting the rights and the safety of the donor, is largely a fiction. There is a very small number of countries in the world where the buying and selling of human organs is legal and they are almost all very poor countries where the levels of health care are not anything resembling a respectable or desirable level. The decision by a healthy and aware person to sell their organ in a safe environment might be an interesting hypothetical for a philosophy seminar, but we should bracket that question and support measures that deal with the overwhelming reality of organ trafficking cases that involve exploitation.

Third, Canada does not allow the buying and selling of human organs domestically, so it is consistent with our Criminal Code to recognize the risks inherent in the commodification of human organs and the inherently exploitive nature of relationships in which people are selling body parts.

A number of members have said that there are no known cases of this practice happening in Canada, but whether or not the taking of human organs without consent has ever happened in Canada, the fact is that here in Canada it is already illegal and the bill deals with international organ trafficking, something we know is big and growing. It would be foolish to assume no involvement by Canadians in organ harvesting and trafficking. We have indeed heard anecdotally from hospitals of people going overseas to receive organs in China, although the particulars of the involvement of Canadians are obviously difficult to quantify. In the absence of a law prohibiting this practice, information about those going overseas to receive illicit organs should be released.

Let us move forward with the bill as quickly as possible and stop the excuses and delays. Let us make sure that we get this done before the next election.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

December 10th, 2018 / 11:20 a.m.
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Marwan Tabbara Liberal Kitchener South—Hespeler, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to talk about sections 36 and 37 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in my speech, which already address inadmissibility grounds with respect to criminality, serious criminality and organized criminality. That will be the majority of what I will be speaking about in my speech.

I am pleased to be able to take the floor to discuss Bill S-240, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which proposes new criminal law responses to tackle the issue of organ trafficking.

I would like to spend my time discussing the bill's proposed changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Members will likely be aware that the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act sets out a number of rules governing who is and who is not admissible to Canada. In particular, division 4, part 1 of the act specifies a number of situations where a foreign national or permanent resident will be inadmissible to Canada for reasons of security, for reasons of criminality of various types, or for having engaged in human or international rights violations.

Section 35 specifically articulates the grounds upon which a permanent resident or foreign national would be inadmissible for reasons of violating human or international rights, such as where the person has engaged in genocide or war crimes. Bill S-240 proposes to amend this section to provide that a permanent resident or foreign national would be inadmissible to Canada for having engaged in conduct that would constitute an offence captured by any of the four new offences proposed in this bill. This amendment raises interesting issues that I look forward to hearing more about during our debates here in the House.

In determining whether someone is inadmissible, Bill S-240 would require the minister to be satisfied that the individual engaged in conduct that is captured by the bill's proposed new offences. In the summary of the bill, it notes that the minister who would be responsible for making such determinations would be the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. However, it is my understanding that the minister who is responsible for the inadmissibility sections of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is the Minister of Public Safety. It is unclear to me whether the sponsor of the bill is proposing that the ministerial responsibility for this new ground of inadmissibility be different than what is currently the case. It is important to ensure that the bill would not result in a situation where ministerial responsibility is either misunderstood or inconsistently applied in this act.

I would also be interested to hear more from the bill's sponsor in the House of Commons as to whether amending section 35 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is appropriate, given the focus of the section is on international rights violations. It is not clear to me why the amendments are proposed here, rather than in sections 36 and 37 of the act, which deal with inadmissibility on the grounds of criminality, serious criminality and organized criminality.

I would also like to note that another private member's bill, Bill C-350, introduced by the sponsor of Bill S-240 in the House, dealing with the same issue, would amend section 37 instead of section 35. There appears to be some uncertainty as to where this kind of change should be made, and I am interested in hearing more about this in the House.

More fundamentally, I wonder whether this type of amendment is even needed. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act already contains a number of different grounds upon which a person may be found inadmissible to Canada. Specifically, sections 36 and 37 of the act already address inadmissibility on grounds of criminality, serious criminality and organized criminality. These provisions, in my view, are broad enough to capture the conduct targeted by the proposed amendment. For example, permanent residents or foreign nationals are inadmissible to Canada for engaging in serious criminality. While “serious criminality” is not defined, the provision makes clear that it includes engaging in conduct abroad that was an offence in the place where it occurred and that if it had been committed in Canada it would constitute an offence punishable by a maximum penalty of at least 10 years' imprisonment.

Under this rule, a foreign national or permanent resident who engages in conduct that would be criminalized by the offences proposed in Bill S-240 would be inadmissible. I wonder then what the rationale is for specifically enumerating a new ground of admissibility.

The same holds true for subsection 36(2), which states that a foreign national is admissible to Canada for having been convicted of an offence outside of Canada that, if it were committed in Canada, would have constituted an indictable offence.

Beyond the question I have already raised concerning the need for specific amendments of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, I would like to spend a few moments talking about what may be unintended consequences of Bill S-240.

As has already been discussed in previous speeches, one of the proposed new offences will criminalize any person who obtains or facilitates obtaining an organ from the body of another person where he or she knows or was reckless as to whether the organ was obtained for consideration. Others have spoken about how this would capture individuals who travel abroad to obtain an organ that was purchased in a country where it would be legal to do so. However, it is not only limited to this conduct.

For example, proposed subsection 240.1(3) will also criminalize medical practitioners who participate in the organ transplant surgery in the country where it is legal to do so. Under Bill S-240, that person will also be inadmissible to Canada. I wonder if this is an appropriate outcome.

I raise these questions because I strongly believe we need to fully appreciate the implications of any legislation that is brought before us. I do not believe that to this point, Bill S-240's proposed changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act have benefited from the kind of detailed debate that is required. In fact, based on my review of the parliamentary record, I could not find a single question raised in the other place about the implications associated with Bill S-240's immigration-related proposals.

There can be no doubt that the issue of illicit organ trafficking is a serious one. There equally can be no doubt that we, as parliamentarians, are united in our concern and commitment to identifying appropriate solutions to address the behaviour of those who would seek to exploit the vulnerable, with no regard for their health or well-being.

Nevertheless, we should not let the seriousness of the issue detract from our responsibility to closely examine and, where possible, improve upon legislation that is brought before us. A number of issues have been identified with Bill S-240 that require more detailed examination, and I look forward to our continued consideration of them.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

December 10th, 2018 / 11:30 a.m.
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Len Webber Conservative Calgary Confederation, AB

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill S-248, a Senate bill that was brought forward to the House by the Conservative member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan. I know the member is passionate about this issue and has worked hard to bring this legislation to this point, so I thank him.

The RCMP has stated the obvious. It says that there are far more people in the world in need of a new organ than there are organs available. As in any market where a dollar can be made because demand far outweighs supply, people can turn to the black market to find what they need. When a person's life is on the line, the will to survive may override morals.

As members in the House may know, I have been a passionate advocate for finding improvements to Canada's organ and tissue donation systems. While 90% of Canadians support organ donation, just 20% are registered as organ donors. There are 4,500 Canadians desperate for a life-saving transplant, and 250 die each year before that life-saving transplant becomes available.

If we can increase the supply of organs, we can reduce or eliminate the desperation that leads people to take such drastic measures to save their own lives.

The problem of organ trafficking is not just a Canadian problem. The World Health Organization says that 10% of all organ transplants involved a trafficked organ. This is about 10,000 a year, every year.

The country of Iran stands alone in the world as the only nation with a legal organ trade. However, the trade is closely monitored and it has eliminated the wait-list for kidneys. However, I do not believe the end justifies the means either.

On a positive note, it has spurred the rate of donations from deceased donors in Iran. It is important to note that deceased donors are not paid.

Organ trafficking is a horrible phenomenon that can be crudely reduced to this: Rich nations take advantage of poverty in poor nations to satisfy their need for organs. A Harvard study showed that the main purchasing nations were the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Israel, Japan and, yes, Canada. We target nations in South America, Asia and Africa. In Indian alone, it is estimated that 2,000 kidneys are sold each year.

This trade is big business. Profits are estimated to be between $600 million U.S. and $1.2 billion U.S. per year.

Organ trafficking is done through what is generally known as “transplant tourism”. Those in need of a transplant travel to one of these poorer nations to undergo their transplant under the auspices of a vacation. There are even websites that offer all-inclusive transplant packages for these so-called tourists. A kidney transplant, for example, will mean a transplant vacation costing anywhere from $70,000 U.S. to $160,000 U.S. Canada does not have a law that prevents this.

While kidneys are the most commonly traded organ, it does not stop there. Other common transplants involve hearts, livers, lungs, pancreases and corneas. Human tissue is also illegally traded.

The trade involves three basic groups, according to the United Nations' global initiative to fight human trafficking: traffickers, who force or deceive victims into giving up an organ; victims who have their financial desperation used against them to give up their organs; and victims who are deceived into a medical procedure during which they have an organ removed without their prior knowledge.

Like any other illegal trade supported by organized crime, there are many layers of offenders. There are the recruiters, both for donors and recipients; the vulnerable people, who are the victims; the immoral medical people and facilities; the buyers; the facilitators; and more.

What do we do to address this problem? Of course, if we had enough donors in Canada, people would not be desperately mortgaging their homes or spending their retirement savings to get that life-saving transplant.

I do not blame people who are facing death for taking whatever steps they can to save themselves. They are just as much a guilty party in this trade as they are a victim of the trade. However, we need to take a stand on this issue if we are to stop it.

Before I go any further, it is important to clarify this would not prevent a truly informed and consenting person from donating an organ to someone in need. We are talking about unethically obtained organs.

Bill S-240 seeks to amend the Criminal Code to create new offences in relation to trafficking in human organs. It would also amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to provide that a permanent resident or foreign national would be inadmissible to Canada if the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship were of the opinion that he or she had engaged in any activities relating to trafficking in human organs.

We face an interesting problem in the world of illegally obtained organs. Unlike other contraband items, customs officers cannot just seize an organ at the border. How can we tell if that tourist coming back to Canada has the same heart he or she left with weeks earlier? It would be a very difficult crime to detect. In many ways, the only way to detect this activity would be when those Canadians would go to their doctor, who suddenly would notice they had surgical scars and signs of a new organ.

Section 240 of the bill would require health professionals to notify a designated authority of such activity for investigation. Anyone found guilty of contravening these new prohibitions would be subject to up to 14 years in prison. I have concerns about the kind of relationship this would set-up between doctors and patients, but there really is no other way to do this.

Where does that leave us today? There is a saying that I think is very appropriate here, “When all is said and done, there is often a lot said and little done.” There have been four bills before Parliament in the past 10 years on organ trafficking, but yet we stand here today and continue to talk. It is time we get something done instead. Until we take aggressive steps to stop organ trafficking, the practice will continue to victimize thousands more every year.

Let us get the legislation enacted before the next election. If we do not, the whole process would have to start all over again. What a waste of time and money that would be. Thousands more could be victimized in the process.

At the same time, let us pass legislation like Bill C-316, my bill, which would help eliminate the demand for organ trafficking. Let us also focus more effort on acting on the recommendations of the health committee to improve our domestic supply of organs and tissues. Let us better promote the registration of organ and tissue donors, so our supply will exceed our demand. Honestly, imagine a day when people come to Canada to get a life-saving transplant because we have too many available organs. Would that not be an amazing goal?

Again, I applaud the Conservative member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan for putting the legislative proposal forward in the House. I look forward to voting in support of it.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

December 10th, 2018 / 11:35 a.m.
See context


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, I am going to start by tying up a loose end. Some members have spoken and raised the question of whether, effectively, this is already captured by other provisions of the Criminal Code.

The parliamentary secretary to the minister of science made comments that might be construed to this effect. She spoke about provisions around human trafficking, including human trafficking for the purpose of the organ, which can be applied extraterritoriality. She also spoke about how the harvesting of human organs would likely involve the commission of other crimes, such as assault if it were to take place here in Canada.

However, I want to be clear that human trafficking for the purpose of extracting an organ and the trafficking of organs are two different things. For example, someone who receives a harvested kidney is not, strictly speaking, engaging in human trafficking, but organ trafficking; hence, the need for new offences with clear extraterritorial application.

While organ harvesting would necessarily involve other offences, those offences, like assault, do not have extraterritorial application. There are no current laws that involve the extraterritorial application of prohibitions against the trafficking of human organs. My friend from Kitchener South—Hespeler spoke about whether existing provisions around inadmissibility could be applied in this case. He spoke about serious criminality and organized criminality.

Let us be clear, first of all, that we have not seen prosecutions related to this in the past, and colleagues who think that the existing provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Act or the Criminal Code are sufficient should hopefully be able to point to cases where this crime has actually been prosecuted. Given that none have been raised in the House, it suggests to me that we actually do need to clarify and strengthen the offences such as they exist.

In terms of this issue of serious criminality and organized criminality, we are talking about offences that offend any basic sense of morality but are not necessarily illegal in the country where they take place. We have spoken about the case of one country that seems to have systemized and organized process of organ harvesting from political prisoners. Therefore, provisions that deal with inadmissibility to Canada based on the commission of an offence in the country where it is committed would not apply in this case, because someone might be doing something involving organ harvesting and trafficking from political prisoners. That is legal and, in fact, state policy in one country, but we would seek to apply the extraterritoriality provisions here in Canada.

There is a need for laws to address an issue that is perhaps hinted at around the edges of the existing provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Act and the Criminal Code, but is very clearly not explicitly illegal. Again, if members opposite think that those provisions are sufficient or do exist, then they should be able to point to cases where prosecutions have happened. As my colleagues have quite effectively pointed out, we know that this happens and that Canadians are involved, and yet we are not seeing prosecution of it.

Regardless of whatever arguments one might make about the text of the law, the fact that this is going on without its being prosecuted should be clear enough evidence that we need to strengthen the legislative work. If nothing else, the reporting mechanism in this legislation would create a mechanism whereby these extraterritorial offences could be effectively prosecuted.

The other points that have been raised have been responded to effectively by my colleagues. I just mention as well quickly that the member for Kitchener South—Hespeler spoke about the possibility that medical practitioners could be deemed inadmissible to Canada in cases where they might be involved in something related to this.

Those who are involved in illicit organ harvesting and trafficking could be deemed inadmissible to Canada, but there is ample space in the legislation proposed for the discretion of the minister. Inadmissibility to Canada is based on assessments made by the Government of Canada, which can weigh various criteria in each case. If there were a concern about people being caught up in the net of this who should not be, again that would be dealt with by the provisions that allow discretion. In fact, the legislation says that prosecutions under Bill S-240 cannot proceed without the explicit consent of the attorney general. These are ample provisions to ensure that there is not some indirect application to people whom it should not be applied to.

We have to take action to help the vulnerable here. There are many details in this bill that should be discussed in greater detail at committee. If people have constructive ideas for amendments, doing so at committee is the right place for that.

However, let us make a clear statement on the principle of the bill. That is what we do at second reading. We go on the principle of the legislation. This is the fourth bill in 10 years on this. I think we should all agree with the principle that Canada cannot, in good conscience, consent to the trafficking and harvesting of human organs from nonconsenting people, that we can take a clear and moral stance on this fundamental human rights issue, the details of which can be worked out at committee to the extent they need to be.

Let us now, at second reading, take a clear stand and move this forward by sending it to committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 20th, 2018 / 6:40 p.m.
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Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

, seconded by the member for Victoria, moved that Bill S-240, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (trafficking in human organs), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

He said: Mr. Speaker, two well-known Canadians, David Matas and David Kilgour, have uncovered something shocking. Their painstaking research has unearthed that between 60,000 and 100,000 human organs are being transplanted in Chinese hospitals each year, with virtually no system of voluntary donation in place. Most of the organs come from prisoners of conscience, primarily Falun Gong practitioners.

I make this speech today in the presence of people who have been arrested in China, and had their blood tested in prison. It may have been that the only thing that prevented their victimization was that they did not match a potential recipient. They understand, more than anything else, the importance of what is happening on the floor of the House today.

Today, I am moving a Senate bill to ask the House of Commons to rule on a fairly simple proposition, that the removal of vital human organs from living patients without their consent is morally unconscionable and must be stopped.

About a similar bill in the past, the parliamentary secretary has said that this bill raises some complex legal and social policy issues. There can be no doubt, though, that the moral issues raised by the bill are quite clear cut. On the legal side, the bill has been well studied by the Senate. I believe it significantly improves on Bill C-350 that I proposed, and also on the original Bill S-240, which was subsequently amended by the Senate committee to bring us the version we have today.

The legal issue is not particularly complex, but in an effort to stop this horrific practice, it does invoke the idea of extraterritoriality. This is where the state seeks to punish someone for a crime he or she committed elsewhere. This is relatively uncommon, although morally necessary in cases like this. Generally, states do not see it as their affair to prosecute crimes that take place elsewhere, because the government of the state in which the crime occurs is best positioned to undertake that prosecution. The government ought not to be indifferent to serious crimes committed by Canadians abroad, but it is generally wise to leave the prosecution of those crimes to the state where they took place.

However, the normal practices should clearly not apply in cases where the local government is indifferent to, is unable to respond to, or is directly facilitating a grievous violation of fundamental human rights. In such cases, Canada can and must prosecute Canadians who go abroad to abuse human rights. Human rights do not apply any less to human beings in other countries. Nation states provide the practical framework through which rights are generally identified and preserved, but this should not be an excuse for allowing their own people to be complicit in grievous violations of human rights.

In 1997, during the tenure of Liberal justice minister Allan Rock, Canada explicitly made it a criminal offence in Canada for a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to engage in so-called child sex tourism; that is, to go abroad and participate in the sexual exploitation of children. Exactly the same principle applies in this case. One notable difference, though, is that offences related to organ harvesting are probably easier to prosecute. Unlike someone who engages in the despicable practice of child sex tourism, someone who benefits from organ harvesting will have follow-up medical needs in Canada.

This bill is morally necessary and it follows a well-established legal track.

A brief word on the legislative history of this initiative. My friend, the member for Etobicoke Centre, began this process on February 5, 2008, with a very similar bill, Bill C-500. He is, for those who do not know, a Liberal. Bill C-561 was proposed by former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler in December of 2013. I proposed Bill C-350 in this Parliament before Bill S-240 was proposed by the very excellent Senator Salma Ataullahjan in the Senate.

We have had four bills in 10 years, and now we have less than one year until the next election. When the next election is called, every bill will die and we will go back to the beginning. Four bills, 10 years, and fundamental human rights are at stake. If we do not proceed to a vote on this as soon as possible, I fear we will significantly reduce our chances of getting this done this Parliament. There have been four bills, 10 years and cross-party co-operation and engagement up until now. Let us not force the victims to wait any longer. Let us pass the bill as soon as possible.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 20th, 2018 / 6:50 p.m.
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Arif Virani Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in the second reading debate this evening on Bill S-240. As has been discussed already, the bill would enact new offences to target organ trafficking and to make those who engage in such conduct inadmissible to Canada.

Illegal organ trafficking is a growing problem around the world. According to the World Health Organization, kidney transplants occur in 91 different countries around the planet, with liver and heart transplants also occurring with some regularity. Despite there being a legal and regulated environment in which these life-saving procedures occur, the demand for organ transplant surgery far outweighs the supply. For this reason, we are seeing a rise in this new form of crime, organ trafficking, although it is important to note that no known cases have occurred in Canada. According to some estimates, 10,000 kidneys are traded on the underground market each year.

I am very troubled to have learned about some of the numbers and circumstances surrounding organ trafficking and the fact that, as with other types of crime, it is often the most vulnerable members of society who find themselves at the greatest risk to be victimized. ln countries around the world, impoverished individuals may be provided little or no money in exchange for a kidney.

News articles have noted that the average payment for a kidney may be around $5,000 and, in many cases, there is no payment provided. ln contrast, the average purchaser will spend well in excess of $100,000 to be provided with a new organ. lt is clear, given those facts, that there is a great deal of money being made for those who operate in this illicit marketplace.

ln my riding of Parkdale-High Park, constituents have approached me to raise their concerns specifically about the practice of organ harvesting. Political prisoners, including Falun Gong practitioners, as mentioned by my friend opposite, have been subjected to organ harvesting in order to support the trade in human organs, and these abuses are ongoing.

I am happy that the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan raised the issue of former parliamentarian, David Kilgour, and his 2006 report. That report documented the many Falun Gong adherents who had been killed to supply the organ transplant industry. In that report, Kilgour stated that he and his fellow researchers “believe that there has been and continues today to be large-scale organ seizures from unwilling Falun Gong practitioners.”

Most human organ trafficking is fuelled by the fact that patients in rich countries cannot get access to the organs they need to survive in their own countries, so they turn to countries where organs can be purchased.

Bill S-240 seeks to target organ trafficking by creating new offences in the Criminal Code. I look forward to debating this bill.

Right now, the sale, purchase and trafficking of human organs outside our existing regulatory framework are strictly prohibited under provincial health laws and the Safety of Human Cells, Tissues and Organs for Transplantation Regulations.

I would also like to note that the Criminal Code already prohibits human trafficking for the purposes of organ removal. This offence focuses on the exploitation of another person. The Criminal Code states that, and I quote, “a person exploits another person if they cause them, by means of deception or the use or threat of force or of any other form of coercion, to have an organ or tissue removed”.

Bill S-240 seeks to focus on the demand side of organ trafficking. It does this through the proposed four new offences included therein that would apply to situations where Canadian citizens or permanent residents would travel abroad and engage in conduct that would be prohibited if it occurred in Canada.

Three of the bill's four offences are focused on the situation where an organ is removed from one person in order to be transplanted into another in a situation where there is proof that the donor did not provide informed consent. Bill S-240 was amended by the Senate to provide a concrete definition of informed consent, which is as follows:

...consent that is given by a person capable of making decisions with respect to health matters and with knowledge and understanding of all material facts, including the nature of the organ removal procedure, the risks involved and the potential side effects.

This presents a challenge, and I want to underscore this for the purposes of this debate, as proof would require evidence that the accused knew that he or she obtained an organ from someone who did not offer informed consent. This, in turn, would require evidence that the accused knew that the person providing the organ had the requisite knowledge level.

It is quite possible that the accused would have no information concerning who the person providing the organ was, let alone knowledge of the risks associated with the transplant procedure. I am looking forward to following the debate on this bill on this particular point.

In targeting the demand, Bill S-240 would also allow Canada to assume extraterritorial jurisdiction, as was outlined by the member opposite, and prosecute cases here at home, even when the conduct occurred abroad and was committed by Canadians or permanent residents. This is laudable and perhaps very appropriate, given the fact that much of the conduct targeted by this bill occurs abroad. Nevertheless, I would highlight, for the purposes of this opening debate, that extraterritorial investigations and prosecutions are indeed challenging. They require police-to-police co-operation as well as more formal methods of international co-operation to secure the necessary evidence. Frequently they involve Canadian police officers travelling abroad, and of course, they require the accused to either be present here in Canada or to be returned to Canada. Such investigations are costly and would be borne by the provinces and territories that are responsible for the administration of justice. These matters are worthy of close consideration by all of us as we examine Bill S-240 more closely.

Another aspect of Bill S-240 is the proposal to establish a reporting mechanism to track organ transplants in Canada. Under proposed section 240.2 of the Criminal Code, medical practitioners, under this bill, would be required to report to a federally established body, made via a Governor in Council appointment, information concerning the fact that a person they treated received an organ transplant. This requirement would apply in all cases, including in respect of organ transplants that occurred right here in Canada. This begs the question of whether such an approach is necessary, given that the purpose of Bill S-240 is focused on illicit organ trafficking abroad.

There can be no doubt to anyone in this House that illicit organ trafficking merits serious consideration and appropriate responses from all governments, including our own here in Canada. Even though it does not appear to be a significant problem domestically, we should not take an approach that treats this issue as a problem that does not concern us. Like all forms of transnational crime, criminals find ways to exploit loopholes in the international legal framework. ln this respect, it is right for us to be examining our laws, programs and policies to ensure that they are as comprehensive and effective as they can be.

I would highlight, at this point, some of the comments made by my friend opposite in introducing this bill in this House, which came from the Senate. He underscored the fact that there have been successive efforts made by parliamentarians on both sides of the House to address this important issue. It is an important issue. It is one we take very seriously as parliamentarians. It is one that all parliamentarians in elected legislatures, literally around the planet, need to take seriously, in light of the fact that an illicit underground market has occurred for organs and that this underground market is actually exploiting vulnerable individuals in various nations around the planet. Whether it is in respect of kidney harvesting or liver or heart transplants, etcetera, these are concerns we need to draw attention to. That is why we are looking forward to concrete debate today and in the days and weeks to come on this bill to ascertain its merits.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 20th, 2018 / 7 p.m.
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Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured to rise to debate this matter. I am pleased as well to second this bill, brought to us by the hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan. It is the work of Senator Ataullahjan from the other place, the Senate, that led us here. I understand the bill passed with enormous support in the other place and I am hoping that it will have the same level of support here in this place.

Canada is a bit behind the times on this. I note, for example, that the Europeans have for quite some time had a convention entitled “Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs". The hon. member has already set out the cross-party support an initiative like that has had in this place for very many years, and it seems to me that the time has come to join the Europeans and other countries to deal with the scourge of trafficking in human organs this bill seeks to address.

I note that the bill “amends the Criminal Code to create new offences in relation to trafficking in human organs [and tissue]. It also amends the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to provide that a permanent resident or foreign national is inadmissible to Canada if the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is of the opinion that they have engaged in any activities relating to trafficking in human organs [or tissue].”

The hon. parliamentary secretary pointed out quite properly the difficulty sometimes of going after people in other jurisdictions. Of course, that has not stopped Canada dealing with sex trafficking, as has been pointed out, or “sex tourism” as it is called. We know that is the case. Also there is a section in Bill S-240 that would require any proceedings to be instituted only with the consent of the Attorney General, therefore making it likely that we could address these practical problems, to which he made reference, through that intermediary.

The scourge of organ trafficking is absolutely appalling and its exponential growth should cause concern for every member of this place. In her speech, the senator referred to situations that sound like horror movies. She cited the following:

Waking up in a weary haze in an unfamiliar house on the outskirts of Delhi, India, Khan was greeted by a stranger in a surgical mask and gloves. As he began to ask where he was and what had happened, he was told very curtly, “Your kidney has been removed.”

As another exposé published in the Haaretz newspaper indicates, thousands of Sudanese refugees living in Cairo have fallen victim to the illegal organ trade. These people are among the most desperate and easy prey for people who can simply push them aside, often by putting a mask with anaesthesia over their mouths, taking them to the back of a private clinic and removing organs, the most popular being kidneys, livers and others, and then sending them home after a while, still drugged, maybe unconscious, without the organ in question. Last year Professor Seán Columb of the University of Liverpool published a study showing a connection between the organ-harvesting industry and the societal exclusion of minorities and refugee groups in Cairo.

This is a huge problem. It has grown exponentially according to the experts, in part, as the parliamentary secretary pointed out, due to the fact that the demand has grown and the supply has become limited.

I feel that some practical steps have been taken recently in this place. The member for Calgary Confederation has introduced in the House Bill C-316, which would deal with information from tax records being used for an organ donor registry. That is another initiative I was proud to second and support. As the population ages, the demand will likely increase and these crimes by organized criminals will increase as well.

I do not want to spend much time on this bill. To me, it is a quintessential no-brainer. I want to join the Europeans. I want to join others around the world who are recognizing the scourge of organ trafficking and, as a Canadian, stand proudly with them and deal with this very real problem.

As my friend said earlier, we do not have a problem if we can come together, as other jurisdictions have, and say let us get this done in this Parliament to make a difference in people's lives right now.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 20th, 2018 / 7:15 p.m.
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Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this Senate public bill, Bill S-240, which proposes amendments that seek to tackle an issue that is of concern internationally and to Canadians, and that is the illicit trafficking of human organs.

Before I discuss the substance of this relatively small but important piece of proposed legislation, I would like to spend a few minutes discussing the issue on which it focuses. As I mentioned, this issue has affected many other countries around the world, yet as my hon. colleague for Winnipeg North has said, it is important to note that, to our knowledge, no known cases have yet occurred in Canada, nor would we want them to.

Organ trafficking is a lucrative and dangerous form of transnational organized crime. According to a 2015 study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, this activity purports to net in excess of $1 billion U.S. annually in illegal profits. What this illicit revenue is used for can be far-reaching, but one can well imagine that some of it is funnelled into other criminal ventures, which can undermine public safety, fuel corruption and negatively impact the rule of law.

It is also important for members to understand what it is we are talking about when we say “organ trafficking”. According to the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs, the only international treaty on this issue, trafficking in human organs includes the removal of organs from a person who has not provided free, informed and specific consent or who has received a financial benefit in exchange for the removal of organs.

We know that organ trafficking puts lives at risk. Medical procedures that might be performed in substandard and unregulated environments can impact those whose organs are being removed or those who are seeking organs themselves. Quite simply, this is an appalling and dangerous business, and it requires a strong legislative and operational response. It is against this backdrop that I would like to turn my attention to the substance of Bill S-240.

As I said earlier, this legislation is short and proposes amendments to both the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. However, despite the protests of my colleague across the way, there are still some questions we must address.

I will start with the Criminal Code proposals, the most significant of which relate to the creation of new criminal offences punishable by considerable periods of imprisonment. Bill S-240 would enact four new offences targeting organ trafficking and related conduct.

The first offence, in proposed paragraph 240.1(1)(a), would prohibit obtaining an organ in order for it to be transplanted into one's body and in a situation where the person who has received the organ knew or was reckless as to whether or not the person who provided the organ gave informed consent. This particular proposed offence appears to be focused on the beneficiary of the organ and not on anyone else who may be involved in organ trafficking generally.

The second offence, in proposed paragraph 240.1(1)(b), would more squarely address the facilitators. This offence would target those who carry out, participate in or facilitate the removal of an organ in cases where they know or are reckless as to whether or not a person provided informed consent to have the organ removed.

The third offence, in proposed paragraph 240.1(1)(c), would address those who enable illegal organ removals by prohibiting acting on behalf of or at the direction of or in association with a person who has removed an organ and where the accused knows that the organ was removed from someone who has not provided informed consent or was reckless as to that fact.

Finally, Bill S-240 proposes an offence at proposed subsection 240.1(3) to target those who are involved in obtaining an organ for consideration. In essence, this offence would make it illegal to obtain an organ for money, even in cases where the organ was provided by someone who provided free and informed consent.

As I mentioned, these proposed offences would be subject to a significant maximum penalty, imprisonment for 14 years. As with other indictable offences, a sentencing court would also have discretion to impose a fine of any amount.

I am interested in our discussion of these proposed new offences, and I say this because I have a number of questions on these proposed new offences. While I will not be able to raise all of them here this evening, I wonder, for example, whether it is the role of Parliament to use criminal law to target someone who has purchased an organ, perhaps in another country where it may be legal to do so, in a situation where the individual who provided the organ did so freely, in a safe manner and under circumstances that were closely regulated. This type of action would be captured by the bill, because the bill also proposes to allow the prosecution in Canada of Canadians who go abroad to purchase organs.

These are extremely difficult and complicated situations. I can well understand why some who are faced with the prospect of serious health consequences or even death and who cannot otherwise obtain a necessary organ might look to other options for saving themselves or someone they love.

On the other hand, I also recognize the motivation behind the proposal and the need to ensure that individuals, often from developing countries, who may be vulnerable to abuse given their own economic situation, are protected from potentially exploitative practices.

Bill S-240 proposes a definition of informed consent that would be a key feature of the new offences. I would note that, as introduced, the bill did not propose to define this term but that a definition was added by the Senate out of concern for the need to be clear in the law, particularly given that we are talking about criminal offences.

From my own perspective, I welcome the changes by the Senate in this regard, in that they try to make the law clear and clearly understood. At the same time, the Senate committee did not appear to consider the impact of this change in any significant detail. I wonder, for example, whether this definition of informed consent is consistent with the approach that is taken in the medical assistance in dying regime or whether defining it in the Criminal Code in the manner that has been done is consistent with how that term is understood in the health law context.

I look forward to hearing more and considering these points further. I would also like to comment briefly on the changes proposed to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which would result in someone who has engaged in conduct captured by three of the four proposed offences being inadmissible to Canada. In thinking about this proposed change, I wonder whether it is, strictly speaking, essential given that the current laws on inadmissibility already address criminality and organized criminality. I am curious as to why the offence prohibiting the receipt of an organ for money would not provide a basis for excluding someone from Canada when the other newly proposed offences would.

There can be no doubt that Bill S-240 is targeting an important issue and this issue is deserving of our attention. However, as we are talking about criminal law, which is one of the most blunt and powerful instruments available to a government, I think it is critically important that we do our due diligence and fully examine the proposals contained in this bill and the full range of consequences that flow from its changes.

I worked on Bill C-75, which has several hundred clauses, and being in the cut and thrust of such legislation is hard work. We need to do the homework and take the time to make to make sure that the laws to be passed in the country are fair and balanced for all concerned.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 20th, 2018 / 7:25 p.m.
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Matt DeCourcey Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill S-240, which is private member's business relating to trafficking in human organs.

To begin, let me clearly state that our government is entirely committed to ensuring that our criminal justice system keeps communities safe, protects victims and holds offenders to account.

Additionally, our government has a proven record over the last three plus years of presenting a solid face on the international stage as it relates to trafficking in organs, to trafficking in people and to the illicit trafficking of arms exports.

Members in this House will recall that, not too long ago, under the leadership of our foreign affairs minister, our government introduced Bill C-47, which would allow Canada to accede to the Arms Trade Treaty, to ensure that arms sold to other state entities were not going places where they could contravene international law, where they could cause all kinds of horrific things to occur. Quite frankly, we introduced that bill and we believe in the philosophy that underlies it because we understand the importance of global human rights and the equality of human dignity and ensuring that international law is upheld. We certainly share that philosophy when it comes to any and all other matters that concern trafficking and activities that occur across borders in illicit ways. That would relate as well to the trafficking of human organs.

We want to eliminate human organ trafficking around the world. That is why Canada's criminal justice system is at the forefront of these efforts. We want to stop these kinds of activities from happening abroad.

Furthermore, we certainly condemn the illegal and exploitative trade of human organs in the strongest terms, and we say that both in Canada and on the international stage. People can be sure that the officials who represent Canada at embassies and in international forums abroad share that same message, as would all members on the government side of the floor, when meeting with constituents in their home ridings, representing the government from coast to coast to coast and when travelling abroad to represent the Government of Canada and all Canadians on the international stage.

Organ transplantation and donation is governed by a comprehensive legislative framework at federal, provincial and territorial levels in encompassing health and criminal law. We are talking about significant coordination between different federal departments and agencies, which all have to work together to ensure we can guard against the trafficking of human organs. It takes cross-jurisdictional conversations as well to ensure officials at provincial and territorial levels, as well as public safety officials, ensure these sorts of things can be snuffed out and guarded against, and that this sort of trafficking is prevented as much as possible. Trafficking is prevented in drugs and human smuggling at home or when things arrive at our borders or shores.

We want to ensure we take a public health approach when we look at these sorts of things as well to ensure, first and foremost, that we look after the safety, security, health and well-being of Canadians. When we do that at home, we have the ability to share that story around the world and work with other partners on the international scene who may not have the same level of capacity Canada has to deal with these issues. It is a lesson and something we share across the world. Where we have the capacity to step up and lead, Canada always has. It has certainly been the story under this government.

We have to be aware of trafficking in human organs and other illicit goods, especially in the context of increased migration and flows of people who are on the move more so than we have seen since the end of World War II. In many cases, people are fleeing persecution. In some cases, they are fleeing gang violence and other activities that have caused them personal, physical, mental and psychological harm. Therefore, it is important we understand why people are on the move, what other illicit activities could be camouflaged with people moving around and how we guard against any trafficking at all, but certainly a proliferation of trafficking of things like human organs, persons or other illicit goods.

Another point is that the Criminal Code in Canada currently prohibits the removal of an organ without the informed consent of the donor. If we lacked that provision in our Criminal Code, think how terrible it would be to have an organ removed without one's consent. We have taken steps in our country to ensure that is not the case. It is reflected in our view that human dignity is to be upheld in all cases. Having someone's consent to have an organ removed is upheld in Canada.

With the few minutes I have left, it might be worth re-emphasizing for those who have been watching over the last few minutes how seriously we take the issue of trafficking in human organs, just like we take all matters that would have a negative or deleterious effect on the health, well-being, safety and security of Canadians or on the Canadian population.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 20th, 2018 / 7:35 p.m.
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Kate Young Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (Accessibility), Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for bringing this to the House. It is an important debate that we need to have. It will be a debate that will continue, I am sure.

What has been stated before, of course, is very true. Our government is committed to ensuring that our criminal justice system keeps communities safe, protects victims and holds offenders to account. We condemn the illegal and exploitive trade of human organs in the strongest of terms.

Organ transplantation and donation is governed by a comprehensive legislative framework at both the federal and provincial and territorial levels, encompassing health and criminal law. The Criminal Code currently prohibits the removal of an organ without the informed consent of the donor. I think that last part, informed consent, is especially worth noting. That is in and of itself the most important part of any discussion about human organ donation.

Organ trafficking is a growing concern internationally. I appreciate the fact that this has been brought to the House to debate, but no known cases have occurred in Canada, and we hope it never happens.

In Canada, organ transplantation and donation is governed by, as I mentioned, a comprehensive legislative framework at both the federal and provincial and territorial levels. Health regulatory offences apply where organs are removed, transplanted outside the regulatory framework, while criminal laws apply where the organ donor did not consent or was coerced.

More specifically, provincial statutes prohibit the sale, purchase and dealing in any human tissues or organs outside this regulatory framework. These laws require the explicit consent of the donor or next of kin in the case of deceased donation. Federally, the safety of human cells, tissues and organs for transplantation regulations, administered by Health Canada, prohibit transplant activities unless carried out by a registered establishment.

In Canada, we talk a lot about encouraging people to donate organs. It is an ongoing issue. I think probably everyone in this House knows someone who has been on that waiting list, sometimes waiting months for an organ transplant. We have to encourage Canadians to make sure that they sign up so that they can become organ donors, if in fact the situation arises where they would be considered a donor.

That is what we need to address in this House. We need to encourage education so that people understand the differences between consent of an organ donation and what is actually going on around the world that I agree is abhorrent in nature.

The Criminal Code also includes a number of general and specific offences that can respond to the conduct targeted by Bill S-240. In 2005, the Criminal Code was amended to enact a number of specific offences that comprehensively address all aspects of trafficking in persons. For those who want to look it up, it is sections 279.01 to 279.04.

The main trafficking in persons offence prohibits engaging in specified types of conduct in order to exploit or facilitate the exploitation of another person. Exploitation is defined broadly, and includes causing a person “by means of deception or the use or threat of force or of any other form of coercion, to have an organ or tissue removed.” “Coercion” and “consent” are the two main words in this discussion.

In addition, it is an offence to receive a financial or material benefit knowing that it was derived from trafficking in persons. The concept of material benefit is sufficiently broad to encompass the receipt of an organ in cases where the recipient knew the organ was obtained through deceit or any other form of coercion. It is terrible to think that people get so desperate in this world that they know the organ they are receiving has been taken from another human being without their consent or through coercion. That is the worst possible point of this bill that we must address.

Canada's human trafficking offences also apply extraterritorially and, therefore, can be used to prosecute in Canada those Canadians or permanent residents who commit human trafficking offences abroad. There are Canadians who travel abroad and knowingly go there in order to receive an organ from someone who was either paid or coerced. That has no place in our civilization.

In addition to the human trafficking offences, criminal offences of general application could also be used to respond to organ trafficking. Depending upon the facts of the case, aggravated assault, unlawfully causing bodily harm, uttering threats, organized crime offences or extortion could all be used to address organ trafficking conduct involving coercion of the organ donor and all are punishable by significant penalties of imprisonment, as they should be. These provisions, however, do not have extraterritorial effect.

There are some real important issues that need to be discussed and I am certainly glad that my hon. colleague brought this forward. Trafficking in human organs is something that no one in the House would agree with. It needs to be debated, though, because there are laws that may conflict with this bill and we need to make sure we get it right. It is certainly something that, as a government, we are looking into. We need to address it and have the discussion both here in the House and possibly at committee stage.

We can all understand that some people take matters into their own hands and there have to be rules and regulations around trafficking in human organs to make sure people are not leaving Canada to get organs in this way. We also have to educate people in Canada to the fact that, yes, organ donation is a very positive thing to do, but people have to be able to consent and no coercion can be involved at all.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

October 30th, 2018 / 10:05 a.m.
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Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

moved that Bill S-240, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (trafficking in human organs), be read the first time.

Mr. Speaker, for 10 years members of Parliament have been trying to pass legislation to address the scourge of international organ trafficking. My colleague, the member for Etobicoke Centre, as well as the former Liberal MP and justice minister Irwin Cotler, both presented bills on this issue in the previous Parliament. None have passed until this point though.

I would like to commend to the House the excellent work of the Senate, and Senator Ataullahjan in particular, for getting Bill S-240 through the Senate. Great work was done and constructive amendments were proposed and passed at committee to ensure that we have an effective system for prohibiting the terrible practice of harvesting organs.

This is further than this bill has ever made it before, but it is critical that we pass this legislation in this Parliament, so we do not have to start it all over again. It has been 10 years with the involvement of multiple members and multiple parties. I hope we will finally be able to get this done in this Parliament.

(Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)