Uqaqtittiji, I thank my constituents in Nunavut for putting their trust in me. I will continue to work hard to ensure their needs are being met and to ensure their voices are being heard.
Bill S-223, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act related to the trafficking in human organs, is important to many Canadians and people abroad. This bill, if passed, could do one of three things.
The bill’s proposed amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act could help to ensure that receiving organs or benefiting economically from this illicit trade is inadmissible in Canada. This is particularly important for developing countries where impoverished people are experiencing forced removal of organs, like kidneys and livers. This could be a strong message to countries like India and Pakistan that have corrupt agents to people in developed countries, including Canada.
The bill, if passed, could send a clear message that the government should do what it can to protect the vulnerable people who are exploited by these heinous crimes. Most importantly, the issue of organ trafficking is not a partisan one and we need to work together to get this bill passed.
We know that organs, like kidneys and livers, are being forcibly removed from many people worldwide. It is a very real problem on which the government has been needing to pass legislation for a while. It is something that, through several Parliaments, we have been waiting for substantive action on. This is the opportunity to pass this important legislation.
The World Health Organization has noted that one out of 10 organ transplants involves a trafficked human organ. This totals about 10,000 a year. We know this is a crime that disproportionately affects people who live in developing countries that do not have access to the same rights, privileges and equality under the law.
The Canadian government, by taking a firm stance on this issue, is sending a message that the trafficking of human organs is a criminal action and should be punished as such. In addition to supporting this initiative, more should be done to encourage ethical, safe organ donation domestically to alleviate the need for trafficked organs.
A total of 2,782 organ transplants were performed in Canada in 2021, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. There are more than 3,300 Canadians on waiting lists for a kidney transplant, which is almost double the number from 20 years ago, and close to a third of them are from Ontario, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
Organ donation is greatly needed within this country. With such a large need within this country, it is important to have a conversation on how the Canadian health care system needs to talk about these needs. With so many Canadians needing organ donations, the illegal trade of organs in Canada continues to grow.
The people who are exploited in this trade have given testimony speaking to their experiences. There are stories of people who have woken up in a drugged haze to someone wearing a surgical mask and gloves telling them that their kidney has just been removed and that they need to take care of themselves. Often, these victims can suffer very serious, lifelong health consequences from that and because of the nature of the operation, some people have ultimately died from it.
In expressing what matters to indigenous peoples, this is an opportunity to remind all Canadians and parliamentarians of the consequences of federal government neglect in investing in first nations, Métis and Inuit health. Indigenous peoples continue to suffer elevated health indicators worse than those of mainstream Canadians.
Generally, the health care needs of indigenous peoples are not being met. Nunavut continues to rely too much on a medical travel system that does not invest well enough in the potential to invest in human resources in Nunavut and indigenous peoples across Canada. An article regarding challenges experienced by indigenous transplant patients in Canada confirmed:
Northern, remote and rural Indigenous populations are further challenged as small population sizes mean that there are significantly fewer local diagnostic and health-care services, and the distances to travel to receive these services is often challenging for patients and families, particularly when regular treatments are required.
By addressing the seriousness of this issue, and through years of discussion, this bill should be passed.
I am pleased to see that this Parliament has tried to address that by making it easier for people to sign up and become an organ donor. However, the illegal organ trade continues to grow and people continue to be exploited. The demand for organs is high and as our population ages, we certainly need to have smart and effective policy to address this issue. It is important that education on organ donation be made more accessible to Canadians.
Canada has a shortage of organs, with 4,129 patients in 2020 waiting for transplants at the end of the year and 276 Canadians who were waiting on a transplant list dying. That was up from 250 to 223 in previous years.
Indigenous children, including first nations, Inuit and Métis, experience persistent health and social inequities and face higher rates of end-stage organ failure requiring solid organ transplantation. The reasons for these inequities are multi-faceted and linked to Canada's history of colonialism and racism. Organizations and labs across Canada continue to conduct research to present their findings of inadequate health care system experiences that indigenous peoples face. With a better discussion, there is hope for the future.
New Democrats have long opposed all forms of trafficking, be it human trafficking for sexual exploitation, labour trafficking or the trafficking of human organs. We continue to fight for human rights.
We all must do what we can to protect vulnerable people. By passing this bill, Canada can send a strong message to other countries. Let us stand together in sending this message out.