Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-210 at third reading. I have already spoken to this bill in the past, last November.
This bill seeks to amend the Canada Revenue Agency Act to allow the CRA to enter into agreements with the provinces and territories to collect, via income tax returns, any information that Quebec and the provinces require to establish or maintain an organ donor registry. The second part of the bill would allow the CRA to disclose this information to the provinces and territories with which it has entered into an agreement.
I will discuss three different aspects of this bill. First, I will lay out our party's position on this matter. Then I will describe the state of organ donation in Quebec, Canada and the world, and share some examples of cases. Finally, I will talk a little about the ongoing difficulties caused by the pandemic for organ donation.
I will start by stating the Bloc Québécois's position even though this bill will not affect Quebec at all. Let me explain. We still want Quebec to administer its own single tax return. That is no secret. Even though we have not yet made that happen, Quebec can get all the information it needs to have its own income tax return. The Bloc Québécois therefore has no problem with this bill, but Quebec is unlikely to want to enter into an agreement with the Canada Revenue Agency because Quebec, as I said, already has its own tax return.
Let me reiterate that what the Bloc Québécois wants is to implement a single tax return—I am giving a shout-out to my colleague from Joliette—that is administered by Quebec, which means that this bill would not affect Quebec at all. Even if Quebec wanted to enter into an agreement, we would have no problem with the idea of sharing this information. Quebec is free to enter into an agreement or not. This bill does not commit Quebec to anything or limit it in any way. Allowing the Canada Revenue Agency to collect information as part of an agreement with a participating province 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.
I will give a few examples where that has already been put in place in Canada. Nova Scotia recently passed a law to reverse consent for organ donation. Nova Scotians are now deemed to be consenting unless they state otherwise. Nova Scotia's decision to adopt this policy of presumed consent to organ donation has pushed some provinces to consider whether that is the best solution to increase the number of donors. Survivors and loved ones think that it is, but the answer is not that simple for some experts.
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. While New Brunswick is looking at the idea closely, the governments of Quebec and British Columbia will be closely 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 similarly high organ donation rate.
What experts do agree on is that better training is needed for medical teams and, above all, people need to talk about organ donation with their friends and family. This is yet another argument for improving funding for the health care system.
This debate is gaining momentum in Quebec. I once had the opportunity to witness a heated debate on this topic at a policy convention. Quebeckers are supposed to indicate on their health card whether they consent to organ donation in the event of death. 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 that the Bloc Québécois is still advocating for, which is the importance of increasing health transfers to Quebec and the provinces. It is only logical. Without additional funding, it would be difficult for Quebec and the provinces to have these medical specialists. The federal government had a chance to increase these transfers in the latest budget, but all we heard was radio silence.
In addition, the number of potential donors is relatively limited, which further complicates things. Statistics drawn from current events speak for themselves. 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, or CIHI.
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, and 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. One of the reasons for the increased number of transplants is that many countries have expanded deceased organ donation practices 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. 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.
I will now talk about a few cases. I was recently very touched by the testimony of a mother who spoke about her son, Justin Lefebvre, who drowned at a party. He unfortunately died far too young. As we can read on the website, Justin, who was eight years old, became a superhero because, by donating his organs, he saved the lives of four children and helped them regain their health. One of his friends and his family had the idea of creating a foundation to honour his memory, but especially to promote organ donation, increase awareness and raise money for research. I therefore invite members to visit the Fondation Justin Lefebvre website to find out more about this touching story. His mother also wrote a book about his story, which I recommend reading.
I also already talked about Sammy, a young boy from Montreal who was diagnosed four years ago with Kawasaki syndrome, a childhood illness that leads to heart complications. He has been living with a new heart for three years now. He is in good health and obviously believes in mandatory organ donation.
Linda Paradis's life was turned upside down at age 60, more than two years ago, when her lungs started to deteriorate. This active businesswoman from Quebec suddenly learned she had a few weeks to live. She ended up getting a double lung transplant. She believes in presumed consent, but knows that no doctor can remove organs without the family's consent.
I would like to add that the pandemic has exacerbated problems with 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. 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. Despite the resumption of activities in April, 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 invite people to visit the Facebook page “Le Don d'organes parlons-en, parlez-en”. Beyond just talking about it, however, I would suggest that we do something about it.