Mr. Speaker, I get the impression that you are a miracle worker.
Over the course of almost 30 years of professional life entirely dedicated to paediatric care, I finally saw hope rekindled in the hearts and minds of parents and children. Organ and tissue transplants now make it possible to save lives.
Today, increasingly sophisticated technologies make heart, liver, lung and pancreas transplants possible. What was a virtually impossible feat in 1960 has become, today more than ever, an everyday reality.
In 1995, in Quebec alone, 375 people received the invaluable gift of life because 117 healthy people like you and me agreed to donate their organs after death. Yet, there are still over 500 people in Quebec waiting for organ transplants; in Canada, only 40 percent of people with the same need receive the gift of life.
Despite the progress of science, the main obstacle remains the insufficient number of donors. So, the more donors there are, the more people will benefit from long awaited organ transplants that will improve their quality of life.
Last April, I was able to speak at the second reading stage of this bill introduced by the hon. member for Ontario. I was also at that time joint chairman of an organ donation awareness campaign. Incidently-and this is something I am extremely proud of-for the last four years in Laval, the second most populous city in Quebec and a thriving community in many areas, April has been declared organ donation month. So I know such a campaign can motivate people to sign organ donation cards.
It is in this spirit that I introduced these amendments proposing that the bill provides for a full month of awareness instead of only one day. At the request of agencies that are very concerned about all aspects of organ donations, I wish to present a number of amendments today, and I earnestly hope that my colleagues on the government benches and those in the third party in this House will give their unanimous support to this request.
It is important to inform the public and raise public awareness of the importance of organ donations. We never know when we or one of our loved ones might need this gift of life.
According to a working paper on donation and distribution of organs and tissues in Canada, produced by the federal-provincial-territorial advisory committee on health services in 1996, there is a critical shortage of organs in Canada.
In a society like ours that takes pride in having the best health care system there is, because it is available to every one, can we tolerate not having enough organs to give to the people that need
them? The only way to change this is to make the entire population aware of the problem.
As we near the year 2000, we have truly exceptional means of communication at our disposal. What we can do in a month is incredible. What is needed is political will, and I believe the Parliament of Canada, of which I am a member, is prepared to make this decision.
In Canada, and I think this will surprise you, the number of organ donations per million people is one of the lowest among industrialized countries. In 1993, for instance, it was 13.9 per million; in Austria, it was 25.2; in Spain, not a very rich country, 21.7; in Belgium, 19; in the United States, 17.7; in France, 17 and in the United Kingdom, 15.5.
In addition to having one of the lowest organ donation rates, we are seeing an increase in the number of people in Canada who are waiting for organ donations. It is clear that progress in medicine is widely reported and that people know what they are entitled to and what they can benefit from. A way must be found, therefore, to meet their needs.
In 1995 in Canada, 2,500 people were awaiting a transplant, an increase of 15.5 per cent over 1994. Everyone will agree that it is a significant increase and that it clearly signals a need for public information.
Obviously, a Canada wide public information campaign is called for. A month long information campaign, in April, when nature revives and life breathes anew, is needed, I think, to let people know the importance of the situation and our responsibility as individuals, because too many things still stand in the way of organ donations.
According to a 1994 survey undertaken by Mutual Life, whose excellent efforts toward public awareness I am proud to honour, 77 per cent of Canadians said they were prepared to donate their organs, although only 58 per cent of them said they had signed a donor card.
There is many a slip from the cup to the lip and I think we can change that if Parliament unanimously supports these amendments.
The gap between attitudes and behaviour can probably be explained by the fact that we do not know how other family members feel about this. There are also the fears, the bias and the lack of trust in the operations.
Therefore, I believe that the great shortage of organs and the importance of this cause are worth a month of effort to inform the public. I want to thank my colleague, the member for Ontario, for this extraordinary idea he had to ask that one day, April 21, be devoted to that cause and I am sure he will agree with me that this day should be the culminating point of a whole month dedicated to raising awareness of organ donations.