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

Status

Report stage (House), as of Nov. 28, 2022

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Elsewhere

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

Votes

May 18, 2022 Passed 2nd reading of Bill S-223, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (trafficking in human organs)

Human Organ TraffickingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

December 1st, 2022 / 10:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a petition in support of Bill S-223, a bill that would make it a criminal offence for a person to go abroad and receive an organ taken without consent. This bill also has a provision whereby someone could be deemed inadmissible to Canada if they are involved in forced organ harvesting and trafficking.

This bill has been before Parliament in various forms for the last 15 years, and the petitioners call on the Parliament of Canada to move quickly on this proposed legislation to support it. They are hopeful that this Parliament will be the one that finally gets it passed into law.

Human Organ TraffickingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

November 30th, 2022 / 4:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, the next petition I am tabling is similar but somewhat more specific. It also deals with the issue of organ harvesting and trafficking broadly, and calls on this House to adopt legislation to combat forced organ harvesting and trafficking.

The petitioners note a number of bills that have been brought forward on this topic. Most recently we have Bill S-223, which has just come out of committee and will soon be going to third reading in this House.

The petitioners hope that this Parliament will be the one that finally succeeds in passing organ harvesting and trafficking legislation.

Human Organ TraffickingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

November 30th, 2022 / 3:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Greg McLean Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am rising in the House today to present a petition forwarded by my constituents in Calgary Centre concerning their support for Bill S-223, which is before Parliament at this point in time. It is all about banning the sale of organs from around the world. This petition is obviously a concern for people who feel there are regimes around the world that are harvesting organs from people who are unwillingly going there. Obviously, that should be banned in Canada.

These people are petitioning to make sure we support that ban in the House and in Parliament in general.

Unlawful Travel AbroadPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

November 28th, 2022 / 3:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, the next petition I have to present is from Canadians from across the country who want to raise the urgency of protecting children from predators and sexual abuse. This is an issue that I have raised many times, and I have often confronted the government on its lack of action.

In June, the government was asked to inform the House of the number of passports that it had given to child sex offenders over the past few years. The Harper Conservatives left the government with a number of tools to be able to provide it.

They are calling on the Government of Canada to ensure that Canadians are not going abroad to participate in illegal activities such as organ harvesting and child pedophilia.

The folks who have signed this petition recognize that there is a bill in front of the House of Commons right now, Bill S-223, calling for a ban on Canadians going abroad or making it illegal for Canadians to go abroad to gain illegally harvested organs. This is a horrific act that is happening with more and more frequency.

They are calling on the Government of Canada to do all that it can to reduce the illegal harvesting of organs.

Human Organ TraffickingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

November 28th, 2022 / 3:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, next I am tabling a petition in support of Bill S-223, a bill that would make it a criminal offence for a person to go abroad and receive an organ taken without consent. It also would create a mechanism by which a person could be deemed inadmissible to Canada if they are involved in forced organ harvesting and trafficking. I believe the bill will be automatically reported to the House today. Petitioners are hopeful that this Parliament will be the Parliament that finally succeeds in passing legislation combatting forced organ harvesting and trafficking.

Human Organ TraffickingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

November 28th, 2022 / 3:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition signed by dozens of petitioners who are concerned about the international trafficking in human organs that are being removed from victims without their consent.

Senate Bill S-223 is currently being studied by the House of Commons standing committee, and petitioners are urging Parliament to move quickly on the bill, which would prohibit Canadians from travelling abroad to acquire or receive such an organ. International investigations conclude that the Chinese communist regime has been committing mass killings of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience for their organs, which are sold for profit, many to international organ tourists.

Legal experts say crimes against humanity have occurred, and they would generally encourage support for Bill S-223. They would like Parliament to move quickly on that.

Human Organ TraffickingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

November 22nd, 2022 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, the next petition I am tabling deals with legislation to combat forced organ harvesting and trafficking. Bill S-223 is currently before the foreign affairs committee.

The petitioners want the government to recognize the problem of forced organ harvesting and trafficking and to support the rapid passage of Bill S-223. This bill has been before this Parliament and previous Parliaments for approaching 15 years. The petitioners are hopeful that this Parliament will be the one that finally gets this done.

November 21st, 2022 / 3:35 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Ali Ehsassi

As you're well aware, and as was explained to you, Mr. Genuis, the clerk did change that last Monday, and that was out of a concern to make sure that the committee's time is being used efficiently, because as you know there are many issues the members would like to consider.

Yes, that did change, and Bill S-223 is now scheduled for Wednesday.

November 16th, 2022 / 6:35 p.m.
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Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Université de Montréal, As an Individual

Dr. Miriam Cohen

In fact, Bill S‑223 would establish a separate criminal act. Trafficking in human organs would be established as a criminal act in itself, without necessarily being a consequence of human trafficking. What is already a criminal act is trafficking in persons. That is my answer.

As I said, the study I conducted recently outlined the current trend in international law: according to the reports, these crimes can be separated. There was concern expressed about treating trafficking in human organs as part of trafficking in persons, without seeing the distinctions that can exist when trafficking in persons is not present.

This would therefore follow the trend of the convention I mentioned, but also other trends that trafficking in human organs should be treated as a separate and distinct crime from the crime of trafficking in persons for the purpose of removing organs.

November 16th, 2022 / 6:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Montarville, QC

I will try to be brief, Mr. Chair.

I would like to speak to an issue that Ms. Cohen mentioned a few moments ago.

Section 279.04(3) of the Criminal Code defines exploitation for the purpose of trafficking in persons as including the removal of organs and tissue “by means of deception or the use or threat of force or any other form of coercion [...]”.

In addition, section 279.02(1) makes it a crime for an individual to receive “a financial or other material benefit knowing that it is obtained by or derived directly or indirectly from the commission of an offence”, which is trafficking in persons for the purpose of exploitation.

To be clear, what actions does Bill S‑223 wish to prohibit that are not already prohibited under the Criminal Code?

November 16th, 2022 / 6:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Montarville, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I will follow up on Ms. Bendayan's lead with questions for Ms. Cohen.

Ms. Cohen, I must say that I was looking forward to hearing one of the witnesses say a few words in the language of Molière. It's not something that happens very often at this committee. I imagine that if I ask you questions in the language of Molière, we will have the pleasure of hearing you answer us in that language.

Bill S‑223 contains the following provision:

Everyone commits an offence who [...] obtains an organ to be transplanted [...] carries out, participates in or facilitates the removal of an organ [...] knowing that the person from whom it was removed or a person lawfully authorized to consent on behalf of the person from whom it was removed did not give informed consent to the removal, or being reckless as to whether or not such consent was given.

How will it be established that the persons involved knew or did not care that the removal was done without the informed consent of the donor?

November 16th, 2022 / 6:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Rachel Bendayan Liberal Outremont, QC

Thank you. I believe that is a very good thing.

Can you elaborate on some of the mechanisms that are in place in Bill S-223 to track and monitor—

November 16th, 2022 / 6:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Rachel Bendayan Liberal Outremont, QC

—which would be implementing legislation of an international convention.

Would Canada, in fact, become a leader then in proposing to do this, as Bill S-223 does?

November 16th, 2022 / 6:10 p.m.
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Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Université de Montréal, As an Individual

Dr. Miriam Cohen

Mr. Chair, I would add then to my initial comments the need to tackle organ trafficking specifically, and the criminalization of trafficking an organ. That is a different crime from the trafficking of a person for the purpose of harvesting or removing their organs, which is already criminalized in the Criminal Code. This proposed legislation disconnects organ trafficking from human trafficking, making it a separate offence. It also focuses on consent and informed consent, which addresses the situation of children who are victims of forcible organ removal.

Also, the text of Bill S-223 seems to apply solely to organs, exclusive of tissues and cells.

These are the main points that I did not address in my opening remarks.

Thank you very much.

November 16th, 2022 / 5:45 p.m.
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Dr. Miriam Cohen Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Université de Montréal, As an Individual

Mr. Chair and members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, it is an honour and a privilege to appear before you today as part of a panel of witnesses in view of the consideration of Bill S-223, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (trafficking in human organs). Thank you for inviting me to appear before you today.

I'm an associate professor at the Faculty of Law at Université de Montréal, where I hold the Canada research chair on human rights and international reparative justice. My areas of teaching and research are international criminal law and human rights.

I will focus my remarks today on legal questions and more precisely on international law frameworks relating to the trafficking in human organs.

My opening statement will be in English, but I will be pleased to answer questions in both languages.

As for the context, as noted by various international reports, the commercial trade in human organs has developed into a global concern. Human organ trafficking causes grave human rights violations. It often involves transnational criminal activities committed by an organized complex network of criminal groups. Trafficking in human organs has become a highly profitable industry and, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, organ trafficking remains among the most difficult crimes to detect.

The trafficking of human organs often involves the trafficking of human beings for the purpose of harvesting their organs. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has recently deemed human trafficking for the purpose of organ removal one of the fastest-growing forms of human trafficking.

The flagship 2020 “Global Report on Trafficking Persons” indicated increasing reported cases of trafficking for the purpose of organ removal. Very recently, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime launched the toolkit on the investigation and prosecution of trafficking persons for organ removal.

Turning to the international legal framework of trafficking human organs, in considering the global impact of trafficking organs, there have been several initiatives under international law to combat organ trafficking. I will briefly review the most relevant ones.

The first is the “Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime”, also known as the Palermo protocol, with a September 29, 2003, entry into force.

Trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal is clearly defined in the Palermo protocol. Article 3a states:

Trafficking in persons shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons...for the purpose of exploitation. ...Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others [and] other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs;

Canada ratified this protocol in May 2020. It is the first binding instrument under international law that defines trafficking of human beings and includes trafficking in persons for the purpose of removing organs. Canada changed its laws after the ratification of the protocol, a point to which I will refer later in my presentation.

Adopted in 2008, the “Declaration of Istanbul on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism” is not a legally binding instrument under international law, but it does, however, provide some guidelines to states concerning organ transplantation. In 2010, the Declaration of Istanbul Custodian Group was formed, with the task of overseeing the dissemination of the declaration.

The preamble of the declaration refers to “exploitative practices that have harmed poor and powerless persons around the world”. The declaration has been endorsed by various national and international medical societies, including from within Canada.

I now turn to the World Health Organization's “Guiding Principles on Human Cell Tissue and Organ Transplantation”, the WHO guiding principles. The WHO has expressed concern with the commercialization of organs and adopted 11 guiding principles concerning transplantation programs. They aim to provide “an orderly, ethical and acceptable framework for the acquisition and transplantation of human...organs”. The guiding principles mention “informed” consent and the “prohibition“ of monetary payment.

There also have been United Nations General Assembly resolutions that have referred to trafficking in organs.

UN resolution 71-322 is entitled “Strengthening and promoting effective measures and international cooperation on organ donation and transplantation to prevent and combat trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal and trafficking in human organs”. Dated September 8, 2017, it “Urges Member States to prevent and combat trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal”. It further urges member states to consider adopting “Strengthening legislative frameworks, including by reviewing, developing or amending them, as appropriate, to prevent and combat trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal” and “Adopting appropriate legislative measures necessary to guarantee that the donation of organs is guided by clinical criteria and ethical norms”.

In the interest of time, I will move on to the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs, which was entered into force on March 1, 2018. It is the first international legally binding instrument that is specifically dedicated to trafficking in human organs. As of this date, it has received 14 ratifications. The treaty is open to Canada for ratification, which has not yet occurred.

As per article 1, the purposes of the convention are as follows:

(a) to prevent and combat the trafficking in human organs by providing for the criminalisation of certain acts;

(b) to protect the rights of victims of the offences established in accordance with this Convention;

(c) to facilitate co-operation at national and international levels on action against the trafficking in human organs.

Within the legal framework in Canada, the Criminal Code criminalizes trafficking in persons and trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal—