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

This bill was previously introduced in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Len Webber  Conservative

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

Status

Third reading (House), as of April 12, 2021

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-210.

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.

Canada Revenue Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

April 12th, 2021 / 11:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Len Webber Conservative Calgary Confederation, AB

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-210, at third reading. For those who may not be familiar with Bill C-2l0, it is a proposal that would allow Canadians to indicate their interest in being an organ and tissue donor through their annual tax forms. Right now the tax forms can only be used for the collection of taxes. The bill would create a legal exemption, just like that made to Elections Canada, to allow for its important question of organ donation to be added to the tax form.

The bill was unanimously supported at both second reading and at committee. The bill was also my bill, Bill C-316, in the last Parliament where it was also unanimously supported, however unfortunately, it died in the Senate. It did get a second decent life in this Parliament when I won the PMB lotto. I was picked as number one, so I resurrected the bill.

It is very timely that we are speaking about the bill today as April is Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Month. It is also two weeks away from the tax filing deadline in Canada, so it is ironic to be speaking here today on this. If we have any hope of getting these changes to the tax form implemented in time for the next year, the 2021 tax year, we need to move the bill through both the House and the Senate before the summer. If we miss that deadline, the Canada Revenue Agency will not be able to implement the required changes for yet another year. We just cannot let that happen.

I want to convey my sincere thanks to all parties in the House for showing such strong support and offering genuine co-operation to move this proposal forward. Members' unanimous support and unwavering support at every stage has been heartwarming and shows we really can pull together for Canadians. I specifically want to thank all my colleagues from all parties on the health committee, both currently and in the past when I served on the health committee, who have been vocal, determined and dedicated supporters of the bill.

I also want to thank the government for the allocation of funding in the past fall economic statement to facilitate the implementation of this legislation. Governments do not often commit funding ahead of legislation passing, especially when it is for a private member's bill from an opposition member of Parliament. That funding is very much appreciated and it signifies a shared will to see the bill pass.

I want to bring out the matter that came up at committee. First of all, for this initiative to be most effective, the question on organ and tissue donation needs to be placed on the front page of the tax form. The committee members made this very clear to the CRA. In fact, they specifically voted down the idea of suggesting that the CRA had latitude to move it to some back page in oblivion. Parliament has spoken and it wants this on the front page along with the existing Elections Canada question.

I was pleased that individuals from the CRA have acknowledged that this is a priority of Parliament and committed to putting this on the front page. I implore the folks at the CRA to dig deep and push forward to make sure that we get this done as soon as possible. Their work will have life-changing consequences.

One other aspect I want to spend a few minutes on is something that the bill does not directly address, but is a significant problem here in Canada. This is the reason we have Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Month. Research has shown that as many as one in five potential organ and tissue donors have their final wish overturned by their family at the time of death. That is 20% of families overturning the wishes of their deceased loved ones. This decision by their families is robbing those in need of a life-saving transplant of a chance to live. It is robbing their loved one of their final wish. This is unconscionable and it has to change.

We can do better and we must do better, and that is why it is so important to talk to family members about final wishes when it comes to organ and tissue donation.

I have met with many people who have allowed the donation of organs and tissue of their deceased loved ones, and every single one of them without exception has said that it was an essential part of their grief and healing process. The ability to find some good in a time of utter grief is profound and everlasting. They want other families to know that sharing a loved one makes accepting the loss so much easier. Their loss has purpose, and their gift has brought unimaginable relief and joy to another family in need. That is the legacy to leave for a loved one.

We have our own reasons for supporting this legislation. Some of those reasons are closer to home for some members than others. Some members themselves or their family members have medical conditions, which means that they know one day they may require a life-saving transplant. Other members in the House are able to love, laugh and live with loved ones because they received a life-saving transplant and are still here with us today. No matter the reason for supporting this bill, it is very much appreciated.

Canada Revenue Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

April 12th, 2021 / 11:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Madam Speaker, first, my thanks to the member for Calgary Confederation for bringing this issue back to the attention of Canadians and the House. We will also be recognizing National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week, which will take place from April 18 to 24 this year.

This is a timely discussion, as this upcoming event raises awareness about the critical need for more donors across the country and encourages Canadians to register their decision and talk to their loved ones about organ donation. This topic hits close to home for me as my family and I are all registered organ and tissue donors. I believe more Canadians should at least consider this option as we see rising numbers of people added to wait lists each year.

According to the latest data from the Canadian Organ Replacement Register, in 2019 a total of 3,014 organ transplant procedures were performed in Canada, which is an increase of about 42% since 2010. Despite this good news, the national data shows that approximately 4,400 people in Canada are waiting for organ transplants, and more than 1,600 people are added to the list each year. Sadly, due to this, an estimated 250 people die each year while waiting for a transplant. As our population ages, the need for organ and tissue donations keeps increasing.

The Government of Canada recognizes the value of organ and tissue donation and transplantation. Since 2018, the government has supported an initiative called the organ donation and transplantation collaborative, led by Health Canada. The collaborative’s goal is to achieve organ donation improvements that result in better patient outcomes and increase the number and quality of successful transplantations.

The government recognizes that too many Canadians are on organ wait lists. We are committed to improving the organ and tissue donation and transplantation system. Alongside the 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 continues to work collaboratively with organizations such as Canadian Blood Services, as well as with the provinces and territories, to encourage public participation and increase organ donation rates across Canada.

Additionally, I am proud to say that in the 2019 budget, the government allocated $36.5 million to develop a pan-Canadian data and performance system for organ donation and transplantation.

I would like to briefly note that my colleague, the member for Vaughan—Woodbridge, suggested certain amendments at the committee stage to make Bill C-210 easier for the CRA to implement. While these were not adopted, I believe it is important to review and discuss the intentions behind the amendments. I want to emphasize that we all want the objectives of Bill C-210 to become a reality sooner rather than later. At any moment anyone in this room or their loved one could be in need of an organ. I sincerely hope that it will be there when they need it. Therefore, I want to take a moment to address some concerns regarding the implementation of this bill.

The current legislation, which has the CRA directly collecting organ and donor consent on behalf of the provinces and territories, could potentially cause significant roadblocks and time-consuming delays. For the CRA to implement Bill C-210 in time for the tax filing season next year, we need the quick engagement and support of the provinces and territories.

We have spoken in the past about the need for efficient implementation of this bill. The member for Vaughan—Woodbridge proposed an amendment that would have the CRA collect and share the personal information of individuals wishing to become organ and tissue donors with their respective provinces and territories. The provinces and territories, in turn, would obtain consent from Canadians to share this information and store it in a database. Although this amendment was defeated, I still emphasize the critical role of the provinces and territories in the administration of this bill as the maintenance of donor information is legally within their jurisdiction.

Additionally, the legal requirements of donor eligibility and informed consent are very complex and vary greatly by jurisdiction in Canada, so the bill would have different applications for each province and territory. This is why my colleague, the member for Vaughan—Woodbridge, proposed a separate sheet for organ donation that could be inserted into T1 income tax packages. This sheet was modelled on the insert page for the Ontario Trillium benefit, which is inserted into the tax packages of Ontario residents and then provided directly to the Province of Ontario.

Despite these concerns, I want to reiterate that the CRA will continue to respect the role that the provinces and territories play in organ and tissue donation, ensuring that Canadians' personal information is handled securely. I believe strongly that this collaboration between the CRA and the provincial and territorial governments is essential to delivering real, positive change to Canadians. In fact, I believe that having a pan-Canadian data system in place would support decision-making and improve patient care. It would also help create better records, which could be used for both monitoring and forecasting purposes.

Despite the concerns about the manner of implementation, rest assured that the Government of Canada will fully support Bill C-210. The CRA will continue to work with all parties to make the member for Calgary Confederation's objective a reality, which would make the dream of saving the lives of thousands of Canadians a reality. It is only by working together that we will continue to improve organ and tissue donation progress, along with the transplantation system, and ensure that Canadians have timely and effective access to care.

I encourage all members in the House to vote in support of this bill once again.

Canada Revenue Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

April 12th, 2021 / 11:25 a.m.
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Bloc

Luc Desilets Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to say hello to all of my colleagues. I am very pleased to see them again after the two weeks that we spent in our ridings.

The debate on Bill C-210 is timely because National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week is set to take place from April 18 to 24. This bill seeks to amend the Canada Revenue Agency Act.

First, the bill would authorize the Canada Revenue Agency, or CRA, to enter into agreements with the provinces and territories to collect, via the income tax return, the information required to establish or maintain an organ donor registry. Second, the bill would authorize the CRA to disclose that information to the provinces and territories that have entered into such an agreement.

Just as a reminder, this bill was first introduced in 2016 by our colleague from Calgary Confederation as Bill C-316. Unfortunately, it did not get past first reading in the Senate. This iteration of the bill has a new number, but the contents are the same. As such, the Bloc Québécois's position on this bill remains unchanged. Quebec is just fine with Bill C-210, and the Bloc Québécois fully supports it.

However, as I have already told my House colleagues, it is highly unlikely that Quebec would sign an agreement with the CRA because it already has its own tax return. It is also no secret that the Bloc Québécois is fighting for a single tax return managed solely by Revenu Québec, so why delegate to the CRA a health matter that Quebec is perfectly capable of handling and that is under its exclusive jurisdiction?

Basically, the Bloc Québécois supports this bill because we believe it will benefit the inhabitants of other provinces and territories where the CRA administers the tax system.

We have absolutely no issue with allowing the CRA to collect and share information related to organ and tissue donation. If the Quebec National Assembly were to sign an agreement with the CRA, we would fully respect that decision. Quebec is free to sign or not sign an agreement, and my tone would be completely different if we were to assume otherwise.

According to the most recent data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, in 2019, 3,084 whole organs were transplanted into 3,014 recipients. This includes 1,789 kidneys, 610 livers, 212 hearts, 404 lungs and 68 pancreases. This might seem like an odd list, but it demonstrates the magnitude of the situation. Furthermore, although the total number of transplants has risen quite dramatically compared to ten years ago, I would remind the House that there is still a significant gap between the number of transplants performed and the number of people on waiting lists. In 2019, of the 4,352 people waiting for a transplant, 249 unfortunately died before getting their surgery. This is appalling, and it could be described as a deadly wait. The governments of Canada, Quebec and the other provinces must do better, and everyone needs to do their part.

The COVID-19 pandemic certainly has not made things easier in that regard. In 2020, Transplant Quebec recorded a 20% drop in organ donation and transplantation activity, both in terms of referrals and actual donors and transplant recipients. Quebec is not alone. Other provinces and other countries have seen a similar decline. The pandemic is hitting us hard, but thanks to the tenacity and remarkable adaptability of our medical community in Quebec, things have returned to a semblance of normality in the past few months.

Before I go any further, I would like to take a minute to sincerely thank all the donors who have signed their card and consented to organ or tissue donation. I know that it is not an easy decision for everyone to make.

I also want to take this time to commend the work of doctors who specialize in organ procurement and those who perform the transplants. They do remarkable work. We can never say it enough. Thanks to them, 13,000 people in Quebec and Canada are living with a transplanted organ. It is amazing. However, we cannot rest on our laurels. We must do more, and Bill C-210 will help us do that.

As I mentioned before, this bill will probably not affect Quebec in any way because Quebeckers have their own tax return, and Quebec could collect the required information for its own registry if it wanted to. So much the better if Quebec does not have to do it and Ottawa manages this matter. However, the last time I checked, health is almost exclusively a provincial jurisdiction. In this great and beautiful Canada, geographical distance is a significant problem for the successful completion of transplants. In light of the fact that a transplant must be completed within 12 hours for a liver and eight hours for a lung, for example, it is obvious that the proper administration of registries is crucial. In my opinion, the provincial centralization of data collection and registry maintenance is a win-win proposition.

That said, I would like to share some more thoughts about this bill. This amendment to the Canada Revenue Agency Act is truly a step in the right direction, but there is no evidence to show that it will have a direct, noticeable impact on the number of deceased donors, so long as we do not do more to promote awareness and education of organ and tissue donation. I remind the House that there is still a significant gap between the number of people who say they are in favour of organ donation and those who explicitly consent to it. I signed these papers when I turned 18 because I had a teacher at the end of high school who told us about the importance of organ donation.

I do want to commend the Government of Nova Scotia, which officially adopted an opt-out system in January. This system is the complete opposite of the opt-in system that exists in the rest of North America. Quebec has been considering this issue for some time now. I would be interested in seeing how this system unfolds with our maritime neighbours. I think it could be very worthwhile. I remind members that there is no data to establish a clear link between the implementation of an opt-in system and an increase in the number of transplants.

That has been demonstrated by Spain, which is a leader in this medical field. The opt-in system expands the pool of deceased organ donors, but that is only useful if we have the appropriate and necessary infrastructure. One of the keys to reducing the gap is to increase investments in medical infrastructure related to organ donation and transplants. There is no point in having more donors if there is a lack of trained staff or if the registry is not administered properly.

Another key is awareness, and I have a special interest in that. In addition to family refusal, there is also a widespread belief that minimal effort will be made to save the lives of those who agree to be organ donors. We need to counter this type of misconception through education and awareness.

I want to take this opportunity to recognize the work of an organization in my riding in Quebec called Chaîne de vie. Chaîne de vie's team of health and education professionals have been visiting high schools across Quebec since 2007 to educate young people between the ages of 15 and 17 about organ and tissue donation. This tremendous work does not just raise awareness among youth. It also encourages family discussion—

Canada Revenue Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

April 12th, 2021 / 11:35 a.m.
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NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Madam Speaker, I am here today to speak to Bill C-210. This bill would change the Canada Revenue Agency Act to allow for people in Canada to sign up for organ donation on their income tax form.

I want to thank the member for Calgary Confederation for bringing forward this bill for a second time. As this is National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Month, it is important that this is the debate we are having at this time.

This is a hard one to talk about because of the emotional nature of this process. Currently, we know that there is a provincial and territorial jurisdiction. This means, sadly, that someone could be in desperate need in one province or territory and have no way to access organs that people have identified they want to donate. This means that people cannot get their second chance.

As a New Democrat, I fundamentally believe that we must make every possible effort to ensure that every Canadian who needs an organ or tissue transplant receives it. This is so important, and I support this because it allows people, while they are doing their taxes, to check another box, to show that this is something, if they were in the saddest circumstances, they would be able to provide.

We know that one donor could save up to eight lives and benefit more than 75 people. That is a tremendous generosity. Yet, at 18 donors per million people, Canada's current donation rate puts us at the lower third of developed countries.

Allowing Canadians to register to donate their organs and tissues through their tax return would help increase registration rates. This would improve consent rates and also help to build a donation culture in Canada. If we think about this being something that we do once a year to review, it would give that opportunity for us to have conversations with our loved ones about the decisions we have made.

We know that across Canada people are dying on wait-lists because our organ donation rate is so low. At present, only 20% of Canadians have joined their province's organ and tissue registry.

This is such an important bill because it allows the federal government to coordinate with provinces and territories to allow Canadians to register as an organ and tissue donor through their taxes.

There is a lot of concern here, sometimes, about the bill with its unauthorized sharing of personal information. This would allow for individuals to be required to give consent.

In my riding, I have read multiple articles about constituents, or have talked to constituents themselves, who have talked to me about the gift that it is when they receive a transplant. What I hear from people, again and again, is how they do not take a moment of their life for granted, as a donor. The gratitude they have for the person who gave them their second chance is incredibly powerful.

Not too long ago, I read about a constituent named Darvy Culleton, who received a double lung transplant. He was born with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that affects the lungs and other major organs, and was told from a very early age that he would potentially only live until around the age of 29. When he was 29, he got his transplant, and now has married his wife, Megan, and they have a baby. Although he did not know much about his donor, he said that every day he lives with a deep and profound gratitude, one that is shared by his family.

In the last Parliament, the same legislation, then Bill C-316, was passed unanimously by the House of Commons. Unfortunately, it did not get passed through the second House, the Senate. In 2016, we know there was some concern that the Liberals brought forward about this bill, and it did not move forward in the way that it should have, because it was under provincial jurisdiction. I am very happy to see that people are coming together, understanding that this is the way we could make this work through the system.

I know that for New Democrats in this House, the opt-out system is something we are very supportive of. We know that countries that have an opt-out system, which means people are automatically put into the list unless they take themselves out of it, see record-high donation rates. This is part of the approach that has made Spain a world leader in organ donation over the past 25 years. We know that in Australia the donor rate grew tremendously through the opt-out legislation that was put forward.

This is always a hard thing to talk about, because it is really about a sad situation that leads to somebody else having an opportunity. I want to thank the member for bringing it forward. I want to thank all the people across Canada who put their names forward to be organ or tissue donors. I want to stand in solidarity with the people who live life because somebody else was generous with theirs.

Canada Revenue Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

April 12th, 2021 / 11:50 a.m.
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Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, it is also an honour to rise today to speak to Bill C-210, introduced by the member for Calgary Confederation. I understand, based on some of the discussion today, that he had also introduced a similar bill to this one in the last session of Parliament.

I know from my own experiences how challenging it can be to work and navigate through the system and to hit those pitfalls and challenges along the way when trying to introduce a private member's business. However, to have the opportunity to come back and do it again, I really admire the passion the member has shown in his determination to get this issue on the table and in the centre of the public's attention.

When it comes to a tissue and donor registry, as I indicated in the question I had asked earlier, I often wonder why it has taken so long just to get to this stage in having this discussion. I will focus on that for a bit and then I want to talk about the significance of putting this on the tax form and the intuitive way the member has gone about doing this, which I think is really going to highlight the need for this for so many Canadians.

First, I will talk briefly about an experience I had as it relates to organ and tissue donation.

I am not familiar nor do I know of anybody who has received an organ or has had his or her life significantly altered as a result of receiving an organ. However, when I was mayor of Kingston, going back seven or eight years, I was invited to a ceremony at the Providence Motherhouse in Kingston. As politicians, we are invited to so many of these various events and after a while they all start to appear to be the same. However, this one really sticks out in my memory. This was an opportunity for people who had received organs from other people to celebrate that they had those organs.

Different speakers spoke about the way that getting the organ had changed their lives and how their lives had been impacted by the new opportunities they had. They talked about their lives before versus after. It truly, for me, was an eye-opener to what it meant to somebody. Sometimes, with the scientific talk and everything that goes on in the medical field, when we learn about these things, we quite often think it is pretty neat and interesting stuff. However, until we start to really hear the stories from the people who are impacted by these changes in medicine and these ways we can now save lives where we never were able to before, until we have the opportunity to experience that, I do not know if we really can appreciate the contribution that something like this has to somebody's life.

I will always remember this, because part of the push at this event was to celebrate the lives saved and to hear the stories, but also to bring about awareness as to why it was so important to ensure that registries existed and that people got on the registries. As we know, it is an opt-in system in most parts, if not all, of Canada, and previous people talk about this, and that is one of the struggles. A lot of people do not want to think about this kind of thing. I will be totally honest with everyone that before I had been to this event, I had never wanted to actually think about dying and what would happen to my organs. It is something I think that, very innately, people do not want to think about, and so people try to push it off and say they will maybe think about it another day.

However, when we consider the impact that we could have in saving lives and the impact it has on the families, as the member for Calgary Confederation mentioned in his speech, of the individuals who have passed on, knowing that they have contributed to another life that has been saved truly, is remarkable.

Going back to this event, I will never forget talking to some people there and thanking them for having invited me. I remember going straight home and telling my wife about this. Because people in Ontario can indicate it on a driver's licence or health card, I immediately signed up as a donor. I knew that if anything was going to happen to me, being totally honest about it and thinking clearly about it, there was nothing I could do to prevent or stop it, but what I could do was improve somebody else's life. Why would we not want to do that? Why would people not have that desire, knowing that if they were in a fatal accident, unfortunately ending their lives, why not use that as a way to improve somebody else's life moving forward?

I really commend this. I had always wondered why we did not have an opt-in system. My NDP colleague from North Island—Powell River brought the point up about why we did not have a default system where everybody would be in and people could opt out based on personal, religious or any reasons individuals might have. They should have the right to make that choice, but by default, that would put so many more people into the system, people like me who did not want to think about it but when I did, recognized I did not have an issue with this, that it was really a good thing.

What the member for Calgary Confederation has proposed recognizes that we might not be able to have that system given the complexities of the way our provinces work together and with the federal government in whose jurisdiction this might be under. However, it would put this right on the front of a form that Canadians are responsible to fill out every year. If accountants fill this out every year, they will ask their clients how they would like them to check the box off. It would force people to make that decision on an annual basis.

I know that by default, this would generate so much more interest in it and would force people to have to think about it. As I said earlier, I did not want to think about this until I was confronted with the realities of about it. Knowing people will have to think about it and make that decision is important. It puts the onus on individuals to make a decision and this way their families do not have to be put in that position later on. People can declare early on whether they would like their tissue and organs to be donated.

The government spent just under $37 million in budget 2019 specifically to work on collecting data and putting it together in a more cohesive way so it could be shared throughout the country. Various territories and provinces have been working on this information. If my memory serves me correctly, I believe Quebec is an observer to that and might not be in this group.

All of that aside, this takes on a whole new dynamic, a dynamic that would put this in front of people when they do their tax returns. It is a form that every Canadian has to fill out. Therefore, it is a great opportunity to push this issue and put it at the centre of people's attention.

I want to thank the member for Calgary Confederation for bringing this forward. In minority Parliaments like this, it is very easy to bring other ideas forward, some that might be a lot more partisan and political in nature, but the member has truly hit the nail on the head in finding something that appears to have bipartisan support throughout the House. I applaud him for that.

Canada Revenue Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

December 1st, 2020 / 5:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-210, an act to amend the Canada Revenue Agency Act, which would enable the CRA to use tax returns to collect the information required for establishing and maintaining an organ and tissue donor registry in the province. The second part of the bill would allow the CRA to disclose this information to Quebec and the provinces and territories with which it has entered into an agreement.

Today I will talk about three different points connected to this bill.

First, I will talk about our party's position on this matter. Second, I will read some excerpts of articles and will share some cases that describe the state of organ donation in Quebec, Canada and the world. Third, I will talk a little about how the pandemic has made organ donation difficult.

I want to start by saying that the Bloc Québécois supports this bill, which should have absolutely no impact on Quebec. We also want Quebec to manage a single tax return. Even if that does not happen, Quebec will have to get all of the information required from its own tax returns. Allow me to explain. The Bloc Québécois has no problem with this bill, but Quebec is unlikely to sign an agreement with the Canada Revenue Agency, since Quebec already has its own tax return.

What the Bloc Québécois wants instead is a single tax return handled by Quebec, which means that this bill would not affect Quebec at all. Even if Quebec wanted an agreement, we would have no problem with sharing this information. Quebec is free to sign an agreement or not. This bill does not commit Quebec to anything or limit it in any way. It lets the CRA collect information if there is an agreement with participating provinces, and sharing that information with the provinces is not a problem. It actually makes sense because the CRA handles all the tax returns outside Quebec.

Now I would like to show how Nova Scotia recently legislated to reverse consent for organ donation. Nova Scotians are now deemed to be consenting unless they state otherwise. Quebec is just getting started on a debate to do the same as Nova Scotia. I had a chance to sit in on a passionate debate on the subject. Right now, Quebeckers have to indicate on their health card whether they want to donate their organs when they die. Quebec has all the information it needs to improve the situation.

According to experts, increasing the supply of organs would be very helpful, but we need more doctors who specialize in organ and tissue retrieval and transplants. This brings us back to the subject of the debate raised in the motion moved by the Bloc Québécois here today, that is, the importance of increasing health transfers. It is only logical. Without additional funding, it would be difficult for Quebec and the provinces to have these medical specialists.

As Raôul Duguay said, everything is in everything.

In addition, the number of potential donors is relatively limited, which further complicates things.

Second, I will share some statistics drawn from current events that illustrate some of the problems that exist in organ donation in Canada.

There is not enough supply to meet the demand. Even though the number of transplants has increased by 33% over the past 10 years, there is still a shortage of organs in Canada, according to the latest data published by the Canadian Institute for Health Information. In 2008, 4,351 Canadians were on a transplant waiting list according to CIHI figures. In the same year, 2,782 organ transplants were performed in Canada, while 223 people died while waiting for transplants.

The increased need for organ transplantation is in part being driven by the rising number of Canadians diagnosed with end-stage kidney disease, which went up 32% over the 10 years studied. According to Greg Webster, CIHI's director of acute and ambulatory care information services, improved organ donation practices across Canada have resulted in a 33% increase in transplant procedures over the last decade.

For most organs, patient survival is greater than 80% after five years.

One of the reasons for the increased number of transplants is that many countries have expanded deceased organ donation practice beyond brain death cases to include donation after cardiac death, meaning the heart has permanently stopped beating. This has led to an increase of almost 430% in the number of donation after cardiac death organs used for transplantation, from 42 in 2009 to 222 in 2018.

According to Dr. Gill, transplant nephrologist and associate professor of medicine at the University of British Columbia, with the increase in donation after cardiac death, there has been a substantial increase in the number of organ donors in Canada, and this has shortened wait times, particularly for those waiting for kidney or lung transplants.

The number of donors after brain death also increased by 21% between 2009 and 2018. That is an encouraging trend given that a deceased donor can provide up to eight organs.

Data published by CIHI also reveal that there were 555 living donors in Canada in 2018. These are people who donated a kidney or a lobe of liver. There were also 762 deceased donors in Canada. The number of deceased donors increased by 56% between 2009 and 2018, whereas the number of living donors remained stable.

Nova Scotia's decision to adopt presumed consent for organ donation has pushed several provinces to ask themselves the question. Is this the best way to increase the number of donors? Survivors and family members believe it is, but for some experts the solution is not that simple. As we heard earlier, we need more specialists.

I will talk about a few cases. Four years ago, Sammy, a young boy from Montreal, was diagnosed with Kawasaki syndrome, a childhood illness that leads to heart complications. He has been living with a new heart for three years. He is in good health. At age 11, Sammy is on the short list of patients who have benefited from organ donation.

Linda Paradis's life was turned upside down at age 60, two years ago, when her lungs started to deteriorate. This active businesswoman fit as from Quebec suddenly ended up with a few weeks to live, a few weeks away from death's door. She ended up getting a double lung transplant. Of course for her, automatic consent does not hurt. It also takes doctors who are able to perform the operation.

Nova Scotia adopting legislation that assumes all citizens are organ donors has given the rest of the country something to think about. The Premier of Nova Scotia, Stephen McNeil, hopes that his initiative will snowball, but for now, nothing is certain. New Brunswick is looking at the idea closely. The governments of Quebec and British Columbia are saying that they will be monitoring what happens in Nova Scotia, and Ontario says it is happy with its system.

Some European countries like France and Spain adopted presumed consent several years ago. At this time, the data do not show a clear correlation between presumed consent and an increase in the number of donors. Marie-Chantal Fortin, a nephrologist and bioethicist at CHUM, said that it is a simple solution to a complex problem. She pointed out that countries with presumed consent like Spain have excellent organ donation rates, yet the United States, which does not have presumed consent, also has a high organ donation rate.

What experts do agree on is that we need better training for medical teams and, above all, people have to talk about organ donation with their friends and family. I mentioned training for medical teams. This brings us back to the debate on increasing health transfers.

The pandemic exacerbated the problems related to organ donation. According to an article published in July 2020, the organ donation rate is the lowest it has been in five years because of COVID-19. That is what Transplant Québec warned. The provincial organization responsible for organ management counted only two people who donated organs to save five patients in April 2020, while the number of donors was already low. According to a press release from Transplant Québec, executive director Louis Beaulieu said, “The slowdown that occurred in April was mainly due to the exceptional circumstances we found ourselves in. The need to ensure the safety of transplant recipients and the massive reorganization that occurred in hospitals contributed to this situation.”

Despite the resumption of activities in May, Transplant Québec noticed a 50% drop in the number of organ donors and a 60% drop in transplants for the second quarter of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

In closing, I hope that we can come up with better solutions in this debate so that we can save lives without feeling uncomfortable talking about the signature on the back of the card. I would like to read a rather interesting testimonial from the oldest organ donor in Quebec. He said, “Just because I'm 92 years old, that doesn't mean that I can't donate an organ.” He gave part of his liver, and the recipient is doing well. As for Quebec's youngest organ donor, it is a much more tragic story. He lived only 48 hours, but he was able to donate his heart. Let's give from our hearts and sign the card.

Canada Revenue Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

December 1st, 2020 / 5:35 p.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a real pleasure to stand in the House today and support Bill C-210, with great thanks to my hon. colleague from Calgary Confederation. I had the immense pleasure of serving with him on the health committee for a number of years. I cannot think of a finer parliamentarian and a more collegial, publicly minded representative than he. I am so pleased to support legislation that I know he has fought so hard to make a reality in this place.

This legislation would amend 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. In short, what the act would do is allow Canadians to indicate on their tax return that they wish to have their information shared with a provincial or territorial organ and tissue donation program to help facilitate and expedite the donation of organs and tissues in the country.

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. Just one donor can 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. Allowing Canadians to register as an organ and tissue donor through their tax returns will help increase registration rates, improve consent rates and help build a donation culture in Canada.

This legislation was first introduced in the 42nd Parliament as Bill C-316. Despite passing unanimously in the House of Commons, Bill C-316 was one of several bills that unfortunately were allowed to die on the Order Paper in the Senate before the last election. By the way, the Senate also blocked legislation to give mandatory sexual assault training to federally appointed judges, implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and ban unhealthy food and beverages marketing directed at children.

However, this was a life and death matter. Canadians are currently dying while on wait lists simply because our organ and tissue donation rate is so unacceptably 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 and tissue donations on health card and driver licence renewals, which has increased registrations. However, even when everything is in place, some 20% of families refuse to transplant a registered donor's organs and tissue.

In our recent study on organ and tissue donation at the Standing Committee on Health last Parliament, we learned that of the 4,500 Canadians on the wait list, 260 died waiting for an organ in 2016 alone. In order to better meet this demand, improved coordination across provinces and territories is needed.

Bill C-210 would allow the federal government to coordinate with provinces and territories to allow Canadians to register as an organ and tissue donor through their federal tax filing.

The act would align with the long-standing advocacy and legislative work of New Democrat MPs around organ and tissue donations. The bill is essentially a version of the previous proposal to create a pan-Canadian organ donor registry to coordinate and promote organ and tissue donations throughout Canada.

In February 2016, Conservative MP for Edmonton Manning, whose son had been the recipient of three donated livers, reintroduced a private member's bill calling for a national registry. That bill had been previously introduced seven times by both the Liberals and two New Democrats, Lou Sekora, Judy Wasylycia-Leis and Malcolm Allen.

Unfortunately, the Liberal caucus voted to defeat the member for Edmonton Manning's bill. The Liberals defended their decision to kill the bill, without study, by claiming that it was a matter that was under provincial jurisdiction and it was for that reason the bill was unsupportable.

Leaving that question aside, I want to quote from a couple of important stakeholders. The Kidney Foundation of Canada says, “In an environment where the supply of donor organs is so low and demands are so high, missed opportunities for donation are literally a matter of life and death. Donor organs are rare and precious and every opportunity needs to be pursued to ensure that no potential donation is missed or lost because it also means lost lives of those waiting for transplant.”

Dr. Philip Halloran, professor of medicine at the University of Alberta, said, “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.”

I was therefore quite disappointed to see jurisdiction thrown out by the Liberals as being a barrier to facilitating organ and tissue donation.

Here are a few facts.

While 90% of Canadians support organ and tissue donation, 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 or tissue transplant.

The efficiency of donor registration varies greatly from province to province to territory. In the case where someone dies outside of the province where they are registered for organ and tissue donation, it is highly unlikely the hospital would be able to identify them as a donor. Online registration is available only in five provinces: British Columbia, Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec.

Even if someone is registered as a donor, the family has the final say. As I pointed out, about one in five registered organ and tissue donors had their wishes overridden by family members, according to a 2016 report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

For every patient in Canada who does receive an organ transplant, there are two more on the wait-list. In the past 10 years, the number of deceased organ donors has gone up by 42%, so there is progress, but the number of people needing a transplant has also gone up at the same time. Over 1,600 Canadians are added to the organ wait-lists yearly.

Canada is the only developed country without national organ donation legislation, such as the U.S.'s 1984 National Organ Transplant Act, so it is time that parliamentarians united and addressed this very pressing need. We cannot let jurisdiction, difficulty, party interests and technicalities get in the way of doing what we all know is necessary: We must make it much more efficient and simple for Canadians, who overwhelmingly want to donate organs and tissue, to do so to save their family members and other Canadians.

It is my view that the best system of all is an opt-out system, where everyone is considered to be an organ donor unless they specifically opt out. This respects the rights of everyone who does not, for various reasons, whether religious, philosophical, health or any other reason at all, want to be an organ and tissue donor. There are many countries around the globe that have such a system, and what we see in those countries is that their rates of organ and tissue donations and transplants dwarf Canada's rates. This saves lives.

I hope that all parliamentarians can work together, support the bill, expedite it through this place and ensure that the Senate passes it as soon as possible. Let us do everything we can in this country to facilitate organ and tissue donation and transplantation as soon as possible.

Canada Revenue Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

December 1st, 2020 / 5:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Ziad Aboultaif Conservative Edmonton Manning, AB

Madam Speaker, at the beginning I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway for his speech and his call for support for this very important issue. It is very close to my heart and I have always hoped to see this debated on the floor of the House of Commons.

After five years in the House, I cannot think of a bill that I have agreed with more than this one, Bill C-210, which was proposed by the hon. member for Calgary Confederation. He is to be commended for his vision and desire to help Canadians.

Bill C-210, an act to amend the Canada Revenue Agency Act regarding organ and tissue donors, is a short bill that has only two clauses. It is a simple, effective and life-saving act. With a “yes” vote, we can all save lives. Bill C-210 authorizes the Canada Revenue Agency to ask those filling out their tax forms if they wish to be organ donors. It allows the CRA to provide that information to provincial health authorities for their organ donor lists.

When we talk about organ donation, we frequently talk about facts and figures. I intended to give some of those today. Sometimes, though, we forget that behind each number there is a human being involved. Lives become impacted for better or worse, depending on the availability of a much-needed transplant. It is that human element that makes this bill so important.

For example, let me tell members about my son, Tyler. When a child is born, parents always have great dreams for them. There is unlimited potential. We are excited to see how they will fulfill it, and so it was with Tyler, who is now a young adult. My wife and I are very proud of him. Tyler is alive, thanks to not one but three organ donations. Without them, I would be standing here telling the story of a life lost, not a life saved.

Tyler was born with a defective liver. When he was very young it became apparent that without a transplant, he would die. The liver is a remarkable organ that can regenerate itself. That means that the transplant can be from a live donor, that is, if the two people are compatible. With any surgery there are risks, and 20 years ago, liver surgeries were much riskier than they are today. No one undergoes such a procedure without much thought beforehand.

I was a compatible donor. Would I risk my life to allow my son to live? Of course I would and the operation was a success. That, though, is not the end of the story. That first liver transplant did not last.

On Christmas Eve, 2003, it looked like Tyler's time had run out. His life expectancy was now days, perhaps hours. I was not allowed to make a second donation. Almost miraculously, a liver became available from a Quebec man who had just died. We were told it was not the perfect solution. It would only buy time, but time was what we were desperately looking for.

After a decade that liver also began to fail. One more time we entered the medical system. Our emotions were a mixture of hope and fear. There were no guarantees. We knew the statistics. We knew the odds and, as we had done before, we prayed for a miracle. Once again, a grieving family offered a loved one's organ for the good of the community and a match was made. Today, we are so grateful to have a healthy son.

There are no sufficient words in any language to express the gratitude my wife Liz and I still feel for the anonymous donors who saved Tyler's life.

Our family's experience is not unique, but there are not enough available organs to meet the need. Bill C-210 seeks to alleviate that.

When Tyler first began having problems, I became aware of the unmet need for organ donations in Canada. There are literally thousands of people waiting for the telephone call that will change their lives and the lives of those around them. Tragically, for more than 200 Canadians every year time runs out before the phone call comes.

More than 90% of Canadians support organ and tissue donation, which is a great yield, but in theory less than 25% make plans to donate. I will not embarrass hon. members by asking for a show of hands as to how many of them have registered to become organ donors should they die. It is probably not as many as one would expect.

Canada's organ donation rate puts us in about 20th place in international ranking. We need to do better. After all, one donor can benefit more than 75 people and save more than eight lives. A single donor can provide lungs, a heart, liver, kidneys, corneas and more.

According to the Canadian organ replacement register, in 2018 there were 762 deceased donors in Canada and 2,782 organ transplant procedures performed. However, there were 4,351 people on organ transplant waiting lists and 223 of those people died waiting for an organ to become available. That is a sad statistic. The demand for organs is increasing, but the supply is not maintaining the pace.

The number of patients on the waiting list for kidney transplants is approximately two and a half times higher than the number of transplants performed. More than 1,600 Canadians are added to the wait-lists each year, which means we are falling behind.

The various ways of registering to be an organ donor are good, but more effort is needed. It is not that people are opposed to the idea of organ donation, but we do not seem to be that great at putting the idea into practice. By expanding the number of those willing to be organ donors, Bill C-210 could help save lives. By allowing people to indicate their wishes before death, medical personnel would not have to approach a grieving family at the worst possible time to ask about the gift of life.

What if it was a member's son or daughter who needed a transplant? Would they not do everything in their power to make sure it could happen? By making a simple change to the income tax forms through Bill C-210, we would be giving Canadians an easy way to do the right thing.

We are talking a bill that could literally save thousands of lives. Think about that. Think about what we do here in the House and how we are frequently unsure of the effects of our actions. With Bill C-210, we know we would be doing good. How many lives lost is too many? In many ways that is the question we are asking today.

We have an opportunity to do good for all Canadians. Why waste it? I urge every member to support Bill C-210.

Canada Revenue Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

December 1st, 2020 / 6 p.m.
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Bloc

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, it is a real honour for me to rise today to speak to Bill C-210.

I believe that the subject we are discussing has the potential to meet the urgent needs of many Canadians, and I want to emphasize the word Canadians. It is true. Quebec can sleep well at night knowing that this bill will not really have any impact on it.

I commend Nova Scotia for the steps it has taken to make organ donation automatic and make opting out voluntary, rather than the other way around. Bill C-210 will facilitate this approach through close collaboration with Ottawa to get the relevant information from people's income tax returns.

As I just mentioned, Quebec will not be part of that Canadian collaboration because it is already collecting that information. However, members know me and I will not turn a deaf ear. It is clear that, in due course, the Quebec National Assembly will move forward and it will be very simple. I hope it will be simple for all of the provinces that have to manage their health care systems and meet an ever-growing need for organ transplants.

Provinces know what they are doing. Once again, the Quebec formula of national, responsible, grassroots governance is paying dividends. I can only agree with other provinces taking the same approach or with other governments choosing to collaborate, especially on a matter of health.

That is a welcome change from the arm-wrestling matches we too often see in this House. Actually, I will digress for a moment, because my fellow Quebeckers would be upset if I did not take this opportunity to remind all hon. members and everyone watching that Quebec is still asking for a single income tax return. I also want to point out that processing Quebec taxes costs the federal government an arm and a leg. With the spending announced yesterday and the looming deficit, I again urge the government to consider that option, which is completely in line with its willingness to listen and collaborate on this bill. Now might be the ideal time to go down that road since the federal government will need public servants to deal with all that was announced yesterday. A lot of elbow grease will be required if this country, now more generous than ever, is to also become more efficient than ever. Now back to the matter at hand.

It is up to Quebec and the provinces to decide what works best for them when it comes to organ donation and transplants. This issue literally speaks to peoples' values and intersects with different peoples' funeral rites. Society's many perspectives can create sparks when they intersect.

In the House, our colleagues in the NDP and in the Liberal Party are fighting tooth and nail for a centralized government. Our Conservative colleagues always wrestle with collective decisions that are connected to their social and religious beliefs. In the Bloc Québécois, we are working non-stop for Quebec's independence.

How does organ donation work elsewhere? This is not always a simple debate, and that makes sense. Brazil has even taken a step backwards. This is why every society needs to move at its own pace.

I would just like to be parochial for a moment. Things can be done locally to significantly increase the donor pool. On that front, people may be surprised to hear that few governments can match Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. In my region, the number of donors per million inhabitants is neck and neck with Spain, which sets the bar. That is impressive, and it might raise a few eyebrows, but it is by design.

Where I am from, there is a strong culture of organ donation and health organizations identify potential donors. According to a 2019 La Presse article, my region is impressively effective, mainly because health professionals have access to training and there is constant follow-up. The author added that a culture of organ donation makes it easier to convince family members of the deceased, who always have the final say in Quebec, to consent to organ harvesting.

If I could just plant a seed, reading between the lines, what matters most is a solid, well-funded health network capable of innovation and adaptation. That is the foundation of a better health system.

This brings me back to one of our demands: increased federal health transfers. Quebec and the provinces are scrambling to support health care systems whose costs have increased exponentially. Meanwhile, the federal government expects us to welcome it with open arms as it dictates how long-term care centres should operate, when just yesterday it showed up to the family party empty-handed.

As they say, out of sight, out of mind. The federal government withdrew so much from health care that it ended up losing interest. Now it is suddenly newly aware that this is a big responsibility, and it wants to take some of it on.

This is totally inconsistent with its record of inaction. Members will recall that over the past few decades both Liberal and Conservative governments have systematically paid down their deficits on the backs of Quebec and the provinces. Today, as many regions teeter on the brink of disaster, Ottawa might have had the good idea of introducing Bill C-210, but that does not make up for the fact that it has messed up pretty much everything else. In the circumstances, the government should think long and hard before invoking the pandemic as an excuse to interfere in such clearly defined areas of jurisdiction.

All of this brings us back to the basic argument for Bill C-210, namely that the federal government can and must support the provinces and provide them with the tools they want, when they want them, and how they want them. In this case, that consists in the federal government's immediate and unconditional payment of $28 billion to Quebec and the provinces.

At its core, Canadian federalism was designed to prevent all levels of government from stepping on each other's toes. When Ottawa decides to encroach on the jurisdiction of health, it is essentially proposing to rewrite legislative jurisdiction. Before this government goes full-steam ahead, I would like to invite the federalists to think carefully about their role and the files they were entrusted with when they were elected to Parliament, this distinguished chamber.

Something tells me that my hon. colleagues have a lot of questions for me. Unfortunately I will not be able to answer them. We could always meet in the lobby.

In closing, I would like to wish the thousands of people waiting for a transplant the best of luck with this difficult ordeal, especially during these times and with the holidays right around the corner.

Canada Revenue Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

October 26th, 2020 / 11:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Len Webber Conservative Calgary Confederation, AB

moved that Bill C-210, An Act to amend the Canada Revenue Agency Act (organ and tissue donors), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is an absolute honour to finally rise again in the House and speak on my private member's bill, Bill C-210.

I first introduced this bill four years ago almost to the day back in October 2016. Back then, it was Bill C-316, which passed unanimously at every stage of the process. Unfortunately, in spite of the widespread support for the bill, it died in the Senate when the 2019 election was called. It was incredibly disappointing, of course. A lot of people worked on this bill with me; stakeholders and friends back home. It was incredibly disappointing, but what can one do? It is just the way it is, the way the cookie crumbles, as my daughters would say, and one just has to move forward.

Fast-forward to December of last year to the private members' business, PMB, lottery date. I clearly remember watching the draw. The Deputy Speaker, the hon. member for Simcoe North, walked into the room with his robes on, and it was really quite formal. He sat in the chair, and there was a big cookie jar with all of our names inside. The Deputy Speaker stood up, picked out a name and, sure enough, it was mine. I was just elated. It was fantastic. Coming from Calgary, I yelled out a “yahoo” Calgary Stampede-style. It was a good feeling, and clearly a divine intervention. I knew then that I had to reintroduce this bill, and so Bill C-316 has now been resurrected as Bill C-210. Here we are today in second reading, and we have this rare opportunity to re-pass this legislation to hopefully and certainly save some lives.

For those who may not already know, I have been a long-time advocate of organ and tissue donation in Canada. In fact, several years ago, I passed a bill in the Alberta legislature as an MLA, which resulted in the creation of the Alberta organ and tissue donation registry. The bill also put in place some strong and robust education and awareness programs that have included adding donor hearts to our Alberta driver's licences.

The reality is that 4,600 Canadians are still awaiting a life-saving transplant, and we need to do more to find those critical matches to save 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.

It is disappointing that while over 90% of Canadians say that they support organ donation, only 20% have actually registered on their provincial or territorial registries. Every year, this country sees hundreds of people dying waiting for a donor. Sadly, Canada has one of the lowest donation rates in the world. A single donor can save the lives of up to eight people, and a single tissue donor can help up to about 75 individuals.

My Bill C-210 proposes a very simple and effective method to increase the size of the organ donor base here in Canada. It would also help update existing databases but, most importantly, it would save lives. I am proposing that we use the annual income tax form to ask Canadians whether they would like to register as organ donors, and whether they consent to have this information passed to their provincial government for addition to its existing organ donor registries, and that is it. This is a very simple bill that would add the very simple question to our income tax forms. The federal government would simply collect the data and pass it on to the provinces.

We would not be encroaching on provincial jurisdiction because we would not be setting up a federal registry. That was already tried once in this House, back in 2015, by the hon. member for Edmonton Manning in his PMB. He wanted to create a national organ and tissue donation registry. It failed in this House, due to the fact that the government cited jurisdictional encroachment.

This bill would provide the information to the provinces. The provinces would use that information as they see fit. The provinces would still maintain their own lists. We would just be supplying them with that data.

The tax form, by law, is restricted to collecting data for the purposes of taxation only. That is why it is required to amend legislation to allow for this common sense approach to a national problem. I modelled my bill on the successful inclusion on the income tax form of the question that asks Canadians if they want Elections Canada to be kept informed of their current information. That question is on the first page of the form. My bill has been crafted in keeping with that successful precedent.

This proposal is so simple and could be implemented so quickly. The federal government, via the Canada Revenue Agency, already successfully shares data every day with all the provinces and territories via encrypted networks with strong and reliable privacy safeguards. In addition, the existing infrastructure at the CRA would support this change at virtually no cost. The CRA already shares dozens of data fields of information on every taxpayer with the provinces and territories and this would simply be one more data exchange. The income tax form is a way to update this information annually, via a legally binding document. Thus, it would allow for provincial lists to remain current and relevant year after year after year.

Before I go any further, I would like to thank the 20 members of Parliament from all parties in this House who have come forward to officially second my bill. That is a rare occurrence indeed; it has happened twice. It happened in my last bill as well, which was not successful.

This extraordinary non-partisan approach demonstrates how a sensible idea can bring us together as a House to improve the lives of Canadians. This collaborative approach also extended to the health committee. I served on that committee in the last Parliament, along with nine of my colleagues, one of whom is looking over here right now and giving me a big smile. They have been extremely supportive of improving the organ and tissue donation situation here in Canada.

The health committee conducted a study and tabled a report on organ donation with several recommendations. The committee specifically wanted to know what role the federal government could play in strengthening Canada's organ donation and transplantation procurement system. One of the key recommendations in that report deals directly with a debate that we are having here right now. If this bill is passed, it will fulfill that key recommendation.

I also want to thank the government for taking the rare and possibly unprecedented step of allocating funding for this initiative before it has even passed in this House. That is a fact. We have the will, we have the funding, and now all we need is our reapproval here in this House.

This is not a political issue. It is a human issue. Any one of us could be in need of donor organs or tissues at any time. Just asking the simple question could increase the number of donors. Donor registration jumped 15% in British Columbia when drivers were asked directly at licencing locations across their province if they wanted to be donors. They are also doing it in Alberta, as a result of a bill that was passed when I was an MLA there. Imagine what we could do on a national scale with the income tax form.

As I mentioned, the Canada Revenue Agency has already been allocated the funding for this purpose, but needs the law changed so it can proceed. While some methods used by provinces and territories, such as drivers' licences and health care cards, help register donors, none has as far a reach as the income tax form. The existing voluntary online method of registering is neither proactive nor fully effective. For example, those who move from one province to another rarely update their information. The income tax form approach overcomes these common problems.

Stakeholders have been universally supportive of the bill and the thousands of affected families with loved ones on waiting lists will welcome this additional help. One stakeholder, the Ontario Trillium Gift of Life Network, is the largest registry in Canada and its CEO, Ms. Ronnie Gavsie, said:

...we would support creating an opportunity for Canadians, when filing their income tax returns, to register their consent for organ and tissue donation.... The online income tax return becomes a gateway and an annual reminder to drive Canadians to organ and tissue donor registration.

We share with you the goal of substantially improving awareness of organ and tissue donation and improving health of Canadians by increasing the number of life-saving transplants.

I thank Ms. Gavsie for sending that.

Also, the federal agency responsible for organ donation is Canadian Blood Services and its vice-president, Dr. Isra Levy, said, “Just like our colleagues, we support a transactional touchpoint that will raise awareness, especially if it leads to the conversation.... But for sure this is to be welcomed.”

Elizabeth Myles of the Kidney Foundation of Canada wrote to the Prime Minister expressing the foundation’s support for this change. Dr. Amit Garg of the Canadian Society of Nephrology, a society of physicians and scientists specializing in the care of kidney disease, and Dr. Lori West of the Canadian Donation and Transplantation Research Program in Edmonton have also expressed their strong support for the bill. The list goes on. Support for this legislation reaches far and wide across the country and into every community.

In conclusion, we have the opportunity to leverage the resources of the federal government to help our provincial and territorial partners improve their registries. I hope we seize the opportunity and run with it. I and, most importantly, the 4,600 Canadians awaiting life-saving transplants hope we can count on all MPs for their support. We have shown leadership in the past by passing this bill unanimously at all stages, so I call on the members of this House to do the same. This bill got a rare second chance and I hope we can pass it so that people in dire need of the gift of life can get a second chance as well.

Canada Revenue Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

October 26th, 2020 / 11:40 a.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-210, and I also want to commend the work of the member for Calgary Confederation on the bill. There is no doubt that it has been around several times. This most recent effort is commendable given the fact that this Parliament is on an extended tour at the moment, from just the week before when we had confidence votes. Hopefully we will see something take place this time.

I would disagree that this is not a political issue. If it were not a political issue, it would have been done ages ago. If it were not a political issue, it would have been completed in the Senate as opposed to the Senate finding other business to do when there was plenty of time to get it done. The former minister of health, Jane Philpott, and the cabinet voted against the bill saying it was provincial jurisdiction. That is where there needs to be some recognition.

I think the Bloc's intervention was very strong today on this matter, because this is about giving provinces some control and some capabilities and an enhancement of responsibilities. It allows them now, through the Canada Revenue Agency, to enter into an agreement to be responsible for their citizens. It does not make anything have to happen. It provides the course, the window, the opportunity and most importantly the hope for organ donation in this country to go up.

We have heard from a number of different members that we have a low rate. We have a low rate because there has not been enough education. I do not think it has been a normal custom in Canadian society and it has been a struggle for us to get this in hand.

In my municipality, there has been some really good work with the Windsor Regional Hospital and the “Be a Donor” campaign and the Trillium group, but at the same time, we rank very low. I come from an area that has high cancer rates. The high industrial contaminants related to pollution and the type of work we did creates sickness and illness that is beyond some of the norms across this country and North America. Therefore, we would be a recipient of this, but we still struggle to get that message out.

The member for Calgary Confederation deserves credit for bringing this back in a Parliament that might have a shortened life in general because of the conditions of a minority Parliament, but it does provide an opportunity for us to get work like this done. Let us not ignore that the bill did pass very recently in this chamber. It went to the health committee, where it had good support, and then it moved back to the chamber and ended up in the Senate again.

We need to find a way this time to be extra determined if there is going to be all-party support for this on the surface, because the surface does not always show the real thing. Behind the scenes, there could be other things taking place. Hence, that is why we saw the bill die in the Senate last time because it was not seen as a priority.

I know this because I have seen many private members' bills, some I have been the custodian of, that have gone to that place. It is not good enough for the government to blame, like the parliamentary secretary did, the Senate, when the fact is that their work moves further, quicker and faster. That is why we have an abysmal record in this chamber of private members' bills dying a death in the Senate because it did not get dealt with.

It is unfortunate because there are some very excellent senators. Regardless of my feelings with regard to the other chamber and whether it should be democratically elected or not, there are strong, capable individuals who have been appointed. There are strong, capable individuals who have won their election in the few cases there have been. There are strong, capable individuals in the most recent selection process who are working on behalf of Canadians. However, the reality is that there is still political partisanship and games with regard to the ordering and the system in the Senate, which has several layers of committees and groups breaking apart. We cannot ignore that.

How do we actually fix that situation?

We unify even stronger in the House, pass it quickly at committee and get it back here in the chamber, or we could move it through unanimous consent. I will leave that to the member for Calgary Confederation to decide if that would be the appropriate way to go. I would support that because it already had its due diligence and its day here very recently.

It has been well recognized. I will give the government credit for this. There is money sitting right now that could help people and it has been funded. Just as I am critical, I am also very encouraging and respectful of the fact that we have money that is available for a program. In my 18 years here, I do not know many programs like this that would come through as a private member's bill and already have funding sitting on a shelf somewhere. It just cannot be triggered by legislation. I do not think I have ever run across something like that before. It shows there is a sound support structure within our public institutions and bureaucracies to move this along, and that the way this has been done is well respected.

The real holdup at the end of the day is us. The real holdup is Parliament through process. The real holdup is the Senate. What is behind the times and lagging and failing people right now is us as an elected body and the other place, which have to deal with this to get royal assent to get this done.

Everything else has been done to save lives, and they count for anyone, the two-year-olds and 30- and 40-year-olds. I have seen these cases because I served them when I was formerly an employment specialist on behalf of persons with disabilities.

When somebody got an organ transplant, I saw what it did for their life. Not only did it give them hope and opportunity for themselves and the immediate circumference of their friends and family, but it also led to what I did as an employment specialist, which was help them find employment in the community. There needs to be some work on and recognition of that because it benefited not only the individuals, but also the people introduced to this person who had had this second chance at a full life. When employment was added to their curricula of activities, they become taxpayers and contributed back.

We see that these people have not only a recognition of what they have gotten from the community, but also a respect for the unconditional love that was provided when somebody filled out a form and gave them that gift. We see that not only through their emotions and their eyes, but also through their gestures.

Most recently, we had in this country the Kidney Walk. With COVID-19, we cannot do walkathons the way we would normally do them because of social distancing. The organizers of the Kidney Walk put a process in place where people got their shirt and a pin with their number on it, as I did. They then put them on and went out, wherever they wanted to, by themselves to find their walk. It was fun.

It was different because people reflected on it. I have done a lot of walkathons over the years, but this was really different. I was out by myself, just thinking about it. They said to pick the time, whenever, and just a few weeks ago, Canadians raised over $600,000 on that alone, despite everything. The people involved are often people who have had an organ transplant, or they are a family member or somebody else associated with them.

The legislation being presented here, as I noted earlier, has been around for many years. I noted the Liberal member who originally put forth a bill related to this was Mr. Lou Sekora in 1999 and 2000, just prior to my coming to this chamber. To suggest that we have unanimous support for this and that we actually have no politics behind it is not right, because it never got done.

I do not want to go back on a blame train with regard to why it did not take place with Judy Wasylycia-Leis, Malcolm Allen or, most recently, Liberal members, who introduced it and then saw cabinet vote against it. What I want to do is recognize that, because it is a potential pitfall we could face going forward to get this done. Let us not ignore that.

We can have these moments in this chamber when we feel good about coming together to speak about this, but if we do not get the job done, then we are part of the problem and not the solution. If we keep talking about this, with its real human existence connection among children, adolescents and seniors, then we have an obligation to follow through with those words to make sure the deed is actually done. We have to give the government credit for the fact that there is money on the shelf waiting for this, and it actually could help people right away.

If we look at Australia, Belgium and Spain, we see the results. When we move to a system like this with discussion about it and also inclusion, the numbers for organ donations go up because people feel better educated about it. They know that the process has been fully vetted through their parliamentary system and their democracy. They know there has been inclusion and consultation, such as what we had at the health committee before.

However, again, if we do not actually move on this, if we just give it lip service and do not have a plan to get it done, especially in a Parliament that potentially has a limited time, it could happen or maybe it could not. While maybe this Parliament will go on, as I have seen some minority governments go on for years, we all know the terms and conditions that we have right now.

As I conclude, I want to thank the member for Calgary Confederation and all the members who intervene here, but it is only worth something if we get it done. If we do not get it done this time, then we are just part of the problem that goes back to 1999.

Canada Revenue Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

October 26th, 2020 / 11:50 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Scott Aitchison Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my friend and colleague, the hon. member for Calgary Confederation, for sponsoring this bill, for his perseverance through our legislative process, and for his lifetime of advocacy and action on the issue of organ and tissue donation. I am honoured to second Bill C-210, a bill which would improve organ and tissue donation registration in Canada.

Organ and tissue transplants improve life, extend life and save life for thousands of Canadians every year. In fact, one deceased donor can potentially save up to eight lives through organ donation and improve the lives of 75 more through tissue donation. This is an incredible field of medicine, which Canadians wholeheartedly support. In fact, 90% of Canadians indicate that they support organ and tissue donation.

Canada has been a world leader in the development of transplant surgeries, having performed the world's first successful heart valve transplant in Toronto in 1956, the world's first successful lung transplant in 1983 and the world's first successful double lung transplant in 1986. All were performed right here in Canada. However, despite Canada's pioneering role in transplant medicine, the undeniable success of these life-saving procedures and the overwhelming support of 90% of Canadians, merely 20% of Canadians have registered for organ and tissue donation.

Sadly, the impact of this gap between intention and action can be measured in lives lost. In 2019 there were 4,527 Canadians waiting for transplant surgery. Of those 4,527 people, 710 either withdrew from the list or died. Those 4,527 Canadians do not tell the full story. The Kidney Foundation of Canada reports that of the 22,000 Canadians whose kidneys have failed, only 16% are on the transplant wait list. Why the discrepancy in the face of such need and also such support?

In testimony before the Standing Committee on Health in 2018, Ms. Ronnie Gavsie, the president and CEO of the Trillium Gift of Life Network, explained that the variety of reasons for this discrepancy includes misconceptions about donation. Some people think that their age or health may prohibit them from being a donor, or that becoming a donor would affect their care in the hospital. Another factor is, quite simply, procrastination. Ms. Gavsie also explained that in 10% to 15% of circumstances, organ donor registrants' wishes are overturned by their loved ones at the time of their death.

Remarkably, the most common reasons for the gap in organ donor registration could be solved with a conversation. Canadians need to be reminded of their intention, and Canadians need to be encouraged to have a conversation with their loved ones about organ donation. Public education, awareness campaigns and greater opportunities to register could most certainly help, and as we have heard, tragedies have spurred Canadians to register as donors as well. An option to register for organ donation on the federal income tax form will spur the conversation, and it will save lives.

Laurie Blackstock was among the witnesses the Standing Committee on Health heard from while preparing its 2018 report on organ donation in Canada. Laurie arrived home one day to find her husband unconscious and suffering multiple seizures. He was rushed to the hospital where he then suffered a heart attack. The medical staff at The Ottawa Hospital brought him back to life, but he was transferred to the intensive care unit and put on life support.

After he had been in the intensive care unit for two days, Laurie knew that her seemingly healthy 57-year-old husband, Stephen, would not survive. Stephen had told Laurie that he had checked the organ donor registry and the doctors knew that Stephen was a registered donor. Laurie, along with Stephen's mother, met with the Trillium Gift of Life coordinator in the hospital and the decision was made. Through their despair, they knew that potentially eight families could be spared their grief and pain, and that their loved ones could be saved and go on to live a much healthier life.

Many weeks later, Laurie received a thank you note from a young man who had been the recipient of both Stephen's lungs. She described how in that note he wrote that he thinks of his donor family every time he breathes and that the word “grateful” could not begin to describe his feelings. He thanked her and her family for saving his life.

Laurie went on to say:

I'm here to emphasize that organ and tissue donation doesn't just help the recipients and their families. It doesn't just reduce the tremendous cost of long-term kidney treatment. It can also be an incredible gift to bereaved families like mine, because when presented gently and ethically, at the right time, when there's little or no hope of a loved one's survival, it is a gift. Knowing that five people's lives probably improved dramatically with Stephen's lungs, kidneys, and corneas doesn't change his death and the intensity of our grief, but it gives us moments of relief.

Stephen lives on through those five people.

What an extraordinary gift.

Today, all members of Parliament have an opportunity to come together to give the gift of life. We have a chance to work together in a non-partisan way to help our constituents. Let us rise to this opportunity. Let us show Canadians the best of this Parliament. For the sake of thousands of Canadians who desperately need an organ donation, I ask all members to support Bill C-210.

Canada Revenue Agency ActRoutine Proceedings

February 19th, 2020 / 3:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Len Webber Conservative Calgary Confederation, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-210, An Act to amend the Canada Revenue Agency Act (organ and tissue donors).

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to reintroduce my private member's bill that I had originally introduced in the previous parliamentary session.

Last year, the bill passed unanimously through all stages in the House in just 25 sitting days. Unfortunately, it died on the Order Paper at second reading in the Senate when the election was called. I am here, once again, to introduce this bill.

There are approximately 4,600 Canadians currently awaiting a life-saving organ transplant. While 90% of Canadians approve of organ and tissue donation, only about 20% of Canadians actually have registered consent with their provincial or territorial registries. This is an absolutely unacceptable number, and this is where we can help as parliamentarians.

My bill would assist Canadian provinces and territories in growing and maintaining their organ and tissue donor registries. The bill is simple. It would ask Canadians on their annual income tax return if they consent to having their provincial or territorial government be informed of their desire to be added to their organ and tissue donor registry. It is that simple: a question of consent on the income tax form.

Currently, the Canada Revenue Agency prohibits the use of the income tax form for any purpose other than the administration of taxes. In order to allow for a question regarding organ and tissue donation on the tax form, a legal exemption must be created.

This was done once before on the tax form so that Elections Canada could ask Canadians for updated contact information. Again, what I am proposing is that a simple question of organ and tissue donation be placed on the tax form alongside of the Elections Canada question.

I want to thank the hon. member for Calgary Shepard for seconding my bill, and also the 20 members of Parliament from all the parties in the House who have officially seconded my bill in a remarkable display of parliamentary co-operation.

I ask all members of the House to pick up the torch and consider passing this bill again with the same amount of enthusiasm, so that we can help save the lives of hundreds of Canadians.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)