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House of Commons Hansard #60 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was organs.

Topics

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

9:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Chair, I take the debate we are having very seriously. This is a very important and sensitive issue. As I mentioned earlier, our government supports a strong and safe system for organ donation and transplantation.

In all discussions regarding organ donation, the safety of recipients of transplantation is absolutely paramount. Canada's transplant system is one of the safest in the world and we have accomplished this by putting in place the safety of human cells, tissues and organs for transplantation regulations. These regulations include a number of things, including minimum safety standards, compliance, inspections and predetermined criteria to demonstrate the organ is safe for transplantation.

As I said earlier, I take the debate we are having this evening very seriously. We know this is an important, sensitive and very timely issue.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

9:45 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Chair, I am interested in how we can make Canadians more aware. We can all agree that awareness must be part of the solution. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research is doing its part and having participation in a forum in Montreal was definitely a very good step.

However, I believe that awareness is critical. Would the member like to expand on how we could help make awareness first and foremost?

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

9:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Chair, first and foremost, I agree with my colleagues who have mentioned the need to have conversations, the need to create a space to have the conservation, not only formally but informally. I receive my licence in the mail and one of the first things I do is fill out the donor card and have the conversation with my family to let them know that I am willing to be a donor.

Everyone, from the Minister of Health, to officials, to front line health care workers, acknowledge that this is a very important and sensitive issue. That is truly why our government is committed to working very closely with our provincial counterparts, health providers, researchers and, most important, with patients and donors to improve the system and the process, to strengthen organ and tissue donation in Canada and to ensure that people are aware of this very important need and how they can become donors.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

9:45 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Chair, thank you for giving me the floor. This evening we are discussing organ donation in Canada. This is a fairly broad topic that can cover a number of areas. I will try to cover as many as possible this evening.

First of all, in Canada there is currently a shortage of organs for people with serious injuries and those suffering from a chronic condition who need a new organ to maintain internal circulation. I will give an overview of the situation. At present, there are 4,000 Canadians waiting for an organ transplant in Canada. That is a large number of people who are waiting at home or in hospital. For example, 75% of the people waiting for an organ require a kidney transplant. They have to go to hospital several times a week for dialysis, which really complicates their lives.

For those not familiar with dialysis, it involves spending several hours at the hospital hooked up to a machine. Because the person's kidneys do not work properly, the blood is filtered by the machine to remove waste products that would ordinarily be eliminated by the kidneys and the excretory system.

Just imagine having to go to the hospital several times a week for dialysis. These people must be on friendly terms with hospital staff, but it does restrict their lifestyle. Imagine having to organize your life around spending time in hospital and the money that is invested in very expensive equipment. We are very lucky because, in 2011, there are machines that are artificial replacements for kidneys. However, the cost of this technology is very high. Ideally, the best scenario would be for everyone to sign their organ donor cards. I am very pleased that the Conservative member who spoke before me mentioned that she has signed her donor card. So have I.

If every Canadian did their part for our great health care system, many people could benefit. In the event of one's death, donating organs that are still viable is a beautiful, selfless act of giving. It allows people to live much longer or to have a better quality of life.

The situation is rather grim right now. At present, some 4,000 Canadians are still waiting for organ donations. Last year, there were 1,803 organ transplants, out of the 4,000 people who are waiting. Every day, every week, every month, every year, the list grows longer. What should we do as a society to solve this problem?

We need a public awareness campaign to convince people that signing their organ donor card could help a lot of people. There is a reason it is also called a gift of life. It is a beautiful gift that is passed on from someone who dies to another person, to people he or she does not even know.

Some myths persist about organ donation, but I will try to debunk some of them. People who are afraid of signing their organ donor card are often afraid that all of their internal organs will be stolen. That is truly not the case. The family is consulted at the hospital when the time comes to make the decision about whether the viable organs of a loved one are to be donated. The solution is for everyone to talk to their families about it, so that they are prepared to give their consent for the donation.

I encourage everyone to sign their organ donor card. I also encourage the federal government to launch an awareness campaign to urge Canadians to make this meaningful gesture. Beyond that, however, there are some problems with Canada's organ donation program. I would like to quote Canadian Blood Services.

This is what Canadian Blood Services thinks about the federal government's lack of leadership on creating a national, coordinated system for organ and tissue donation and transplantation. It says:

Canada is one of the only countries in the western world without a national, coordinated system for organ and tissue donation and transplantation. The system as it stands today is at capacity, and is struggling to cope with current needs and projected future demand.

Yes, more people need to sign organ donor cards, but the government also has to do its part and set up a national, coordinated system. There is currently a lack of leadership compared to many other developed countries that have implemented a national, coordinated system for organ donation that works quite well. As a result of this lack of leadership, the system is broken and could be vastly improved.

There is a third aspect. I touched on it a bit with the hon. Conservative member. There is discrimination when it comes to the rules for organ donation. I have already mentioned it, but it bears repeating. Men who have had sex with another man even once in the past five years are automatically deemed to be in the at-risk category for organ donation. This includes many additional complications compared to heterosexual men and women who have had multiple partners over the course of many years, yet who are not deemed to be in the at-risk category. The reason I bring this up is because we are talking about discrimination.

I will share a short story. Imagine a couple, two men who have been together for 20 years in a monogamous relationship. They love each other very much and having sex is part of their private life. Even though they have been together for 20 years and they have had no other sexual partners, if one of them wants to donate his organs, every one of his organs is deemed to be at risk. In contrast, a heterosexual person who engages in high-risk behaviour—we know there are people who are not very careful—will not be put in the at-risk group. As a man who has been having sex with his male partner for the past two years, I find it discriminatory that my organs are deemed to be at risk, unlike my New Democratic, Conservative and Liberal colleagues, my colleagues from every party, whose organs are not at risk.

This is governed by the regulations of the Canadian Blood Services because it is the organization that makes these decisions with the support of the government.

The reason why this discrimination is very troubling is that scientific studies prove that there is no reason to have this discrimination in the regulations. I understand why this measure was initially introduced in the 1980s. It was to restrict donations of blood and organs from homosexual men because of the AIDS epidemic. However, in recent decades there has been such progress that both blood and organs can be tested within two weeks to determine if they are affected or if an infection is present.

For organs to be considered to be at risk for five years is very discriminatory. It does not encourage the homosexual population to contribute and make organ donations. Just imagine being in the shoes of the people who discover that their organs or blood are not valued by the authorities that make the regulations for this matter.

In conclusion, establishing a national, central organ donation registry, in co-operation with the provinces and territories, is very important. That is the main conclusion of the document entitled Organ Donation and Transplantation in Canada. I recommend that the Conservative government establish this type of registry and, at the same time, conduct an awareness campaign to encourage organ donation.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

9:55 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Chair, I thank my colleague for being here tonight to contribute to this very important debate.

A national registry was brought up. I wonder if the member is aware that the living donor registry is a national registry? Is the member aware that provincial jurisdiction is around the delivery of health care, and the federal jurisdiction is for the safety of the cells and the organs?

We have to work collaboratively with all parties, and that includes the public. The safety of the organs is of paramount importance to a recipient. When patients need a donation, the first thing is that they are afraid. They are afraid that something is going to go wrong. They have the organ or stem cell donation to deal with and the effects of the drugs.

What recipients want is a collaboration among all parties. Ultimately the doctors on the ground and the medical experts are the ones who look at the variables around that donation to see if this is going to work.

Did my colleague hear earlier that there are two new registries coming up? One is for very hard to match kidneys and one is a non-kidney registry. Is the member aware of that? Does he think this is a step forward?

Having said that, what else does the member think could be done?

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

10 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Chair, I would like to thank the Conservative member for her question. She is another member of Parliament who is devoted to the cause of health and she chairs our Standing Committee on Health.

I am really pleased that the government is taking more steps forward with these two new measures. The last time that this issue was addressed was in 2007. Technology and science have once again come a long way, and it is time to move forward at this new level.

Earlier, I did not address the issue of the compatibility of the organ donor and the recipient. For example, if I donated my kidney to a stranger or a member of my family and it was rejected, for one thing, I would have lost my kidney and, for another, the recipient would then need to find another donor. It is therefore a good thing that technology and the new measures will help to ensure that organ donors and recipients are more compatible. This is a step in the right direction.

Now, all we need is a better campaign to raise Canadians' awareness. Many of these discussions take place around the dinner table when people are talking. Sometimes, doctors ask their patients if they have ever considered organ donation. The federal government, particularly Health Canada and the Canadian Blood Services, could play a role. The purpose of a campaign is not necessarily to provide funding but to raise awareness. That can be done in many ways, some of which are inexpensive.

Once again, I have a recommendation to add. We must look at the scientific data that clearly shows that other countries are well ahead of Canada in this regard. They have removed the discriminatory regulation requiring five years of sexual abstinence in order for organs to be considered viable.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

10 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Chair, I would be interested to know if the member has any examples of jurisdictions he spoke about that do campaign to elevate awareness?

Does the member have some examples he could cite that we could use as examples of how to inform the public to the extent necessary when there is such a shortage and to make sure we do not compromise the integrity of the organ donation program?

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

10:05 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to answer this question.

I have an excellent example from Nova Scotia. That is not my home province but in Canada's federal government we must look at our provincial partners' best practices. In 2006, the Government of Nova Scotia created the Legacy of Life: Nova Scotia Organ and Tissue Program in order to raise public awareness of the importance of organ and tissue donation and to encourage people to sign up as donors. The federal government could draw inspiration from this wonderful provincial initiative. It could even work in partnership with the provinces.

The people of Nova Scotia can register to be organ and tissue donors by signing their provincial health card. The same is true in Quebec, but I wanted to give a second example. Even if someone has signed their card, health professionals must still obtain the family's consent, as I mentioned earlier, in order to be able to harvest any organs or tissues when someone dies. That is a good example. There are many others, but since we are almost out of time, I will stop at that one for today.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

10:05 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Chair, my NDP colleague raised a good point at the end of his response after he made his speech. He talked about the importance of the federal government's role in this issue. What I love about the federal government is that the provinces can have their own programs within their jurisdictions. But the federal government can play a big role. It can be a leader on this issue and enable the provinces to better develop their programs.

I would like to know what my colleague thinks about the role the federal government could play in the issue we are talking about today.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

10:05 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Chair, I would like to thank my colleague, the member for Sherbrooke, for his question.

I am not an expert on organ or blood donations. So I will let the experts speak to this. I will say however that Canadian Blood Services has existed for many years and is the expert in this field. CBS has conducted research, focused on the issue and looked at all angles for many years. Canadian Blood Services finds it appalling that Canada has no coordinated national organ and tissue donation and transplant system, and goes so far as to say that, currently, although our system is effective in terms of pairing donations, the system is saturated and is having difficulty meeting current and future needs.

For the edification of my NDP colleague, what is even more deplorable is that—and I do not wish to blame anyone at either the provincial or federal level, or even the system per se—200 Canadians were unfortunate enough to die last year while waiting for an organ transplant. I hope that this information will encourage the federal government to move forward, to be innovative and to make me proud to be Canadian.

As a society we must do something, because it does not make sense that so many Canadians linger on waiting lists and, in the end, do not receive the organs that would help them and extend their lives.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

10:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Chair, it is a pleasure to join in this discussions, which is the first take note debate I have had the privilege to participate in since I was elected in May. For many Canadians, the issue of organ donation is not a debate, a theoretical discussion or an interesting topic. It is a matter of life and death. We are here to talk about the work that the Government of Canada has done to co-ordinate organ donation and to talk about the future.

I have a couple of personal stories of how my own life has been affected by the issue of organ and tissue donation.

My mother's cousin, Ben, was someone we saw once a year. I lived on the mainland of B.C. and he lived overseas on Vancouver Island. He was a young man who joined the military out of high school and really enjoyed military life. He developed a disease in his liver and got sick. Eventually, he needed a liver transplant. After anxious months, he received a liver transplant, which gave him a new lease on life. Unfortunately for Ben, he has since passed away, but he received more than a decade of additional life because someone gave the gift of an organ to him.

Another example relates to my former employer and a former member of the House, Grant McNally. He served here from 1997 until 2004. Shortly after he was elected, he found out that his only son, Graedon, had leukemia. Graedon went through chemotherapy and other treatments at BC Children's Hospital. After many rounds of chemotherapy and some relapses, he needed a bone marrow transplant.

Through the anxious process of trying to find a match on the public registry, it was eventually determined that his sister, Jordana, was the best match. They underwent the surgery and Graedon received the gift of life from his sister. Again, there is not a happy ending to the story. Earlier this year, Graedon passed away after a dozen years of fighting that disease. However, he was given many more years of life with Grant, Wendy and his sisters because of that donation.

As parliamentarians, we can further the cause of organ donation through education. We need to talk to one another as a society and as family units about organ donation. We need to have that conversation with our loved ones so that if the unfortunate situation ever presents itself to us, we know what our loved ones are thinking and what their wishes are.

We also need to have a discussion about healthy living and chronic disease. As the chair of the health committee and others on that committee who are here tonight will know, the health committee has just gone through an extensive study of chronic disease and disease prevention. Health promotion and disease prevention are important at all stages of life and all stages of health care.

Prevention is important when we are healthy. It is just as important when we are managing a chronic disease. We know that a healthy lifestyle is essential to the success of a transplant. We heard at health committee many examples of diseases that are preventable. For example, we need to educate Canadians on the dangers associated with obesity. We know that chronic illnesses can lead to organ failure and many will result in the need for an organ transplant. As we have heard tonight, there simply are not enough donors for everyone who needs an organ transplant.

The Government of Canada is working in collaboration with our provincial and territorial colleagues who are primarily responsible for the delivery of health care services. However, the federal government does have a role. As the chair of the health committee has indicated, we are taking that responsibility seriously.

A year ago, Canada's health ministers endorsed a declaration on prevention and promotion. It emphasizes that prevention is everyone's business. Partnerships that go beyond the health sector are essential to stem the rising rates of chronic illness and keep Canadians healthy. We have also participated in international summits.

During the recent health ministers' meeting in Halifax, the commitment of federal, provincial and territorial governments to work together on disease prevention was the first priority. One of the things they talked about was curbing childhood obesity. We know that if chronic illness or chronic disease starts at a young age, there is potential for a lifetime of chronic illness.

We have a strong foundation, and our success in preventing chronic illness will have an impact on the need for organ transplantation in Canada.

We know that if people adopt a healthy lifestyle--Graedon who I talked about was just a young kid, so his lifestyle had no impact on his need for a tissue transplant-- some diseases, 80% I think, are preventable.

Organ transplantation is a gift that we are proud of as Canadians. Each year in Canada there are approximately 2,000 organs transplanted and more than 90,000 tissues distributed for transplantation. The success rates for many types of transplants, such as heart transplants, are high and continue to get better. I know my colleague spoke about the investments in the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and how important research is in continuing to make these medical advances. Even a few decades ago, who would have thought that the medical advances in organ transplantation we see today would be available to Canadians? It is incredible to me that we can take an organ out of a donor and put it in someone who needs it, that medical teams can work together to save a life. I do not have a medical background, but the research, technology and procedures that have been developed are simply mind-boggling.

The government has put in place a system known as the cells, tissues and organs surveillance system. This system, developed in conjunction with Health Canada, monitors adverse events. It is an important tool in providing a robust reporting system in Canada.

Obviously, there is more to be done. We are working with our partners to promote healthy aging and prevent the onset of chronic disease. We will continue to take steps to improve the health and well-being of Canadians.

I want to encourage Canadians who are watching this debate to have those conversations with their family, make their views known, make sure their family knows what their desires are. Let us do more to promote organ transplants in Canada.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

10:15 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Chair, it makes me happy to see so many colleagues from the Standing Committee on Health here today. Moreover, this evening we will have an opportunity to discuss an issue that has hitherto not been discussed in the committee, and that is organ donation. I hope that the repetitive nature of my question does not upset anybody. I was not entirely satisfied with the response from my Conservative colleagues.

Does my Conservative colleague believe that Canadian Blood Services' current rule, which puts any man who has had sexual relations with another man in the past five years in the at–risk group, is discriminatory?

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

10:20 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Chair, I thank the member for his contribution to the health committee. As I said before, I do not have a medical degree and I do not pretend to be an expert in the area of organ transplantation. I defer to the experts at Canadian Blood Services and in the medical community to determine who may or may not donate an organ or who may or may not be able to receive one. Those are very difficult questions and I certainly would expect that those decisions would be based on the best evidence available.

We know that this issue of organ transplant is very important. It is too important to get into the weeds on the issue. We want to ensure that the best available scientific evidence is used to determine who can give and who can receive an organ.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

10:20 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Chair, while my colleague has suggested that he is not a medical doctor or an expert on organ transplantation, he certainly is a valuable member on the health committee.

We know that the Government of Canada is taking action on a number of fronts, consistent with the federal role to support disease prevention. Investments in research, best practices and community efforts to establish policies and programs that promote disease prevention and support Canadians in their efforts to adopt healthier lifestyles are key to the federal government's leadership in this area. We have been conducting a study on this at the Standing Committee on Health.

Could my colleague elaborate on how the Government of Canada is supporting Canadians in adopting healthier lifestyles so that serious chronic illnesses can be prevented? Why is this important in the context of a discussion on organ donation?

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

10:20 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Chair, it is a pleasure to serve with the member on the health committee. We are doing good work hearing from experts from all over the country. As I said in my speech, we know that 80% of heart disease, diabetes and lung diseases are preventable. That is a pretty compelling statistic, based on an analysis by the World Health Organization.

Four risk factors result in most of the chronic diseases that we see: smoking, physical inactivity, poor eating and drinking too much alcohol. We heard about those risk factors today in the health committee. We are taking action that is consistent with the federal role. Our investments in research provide the evidence needed by governments, communities and individual Canadians to make necessary changes to their lifestyle. In so doing, they can adopt a healthier lifestyle and be able to prevent the diseases that can lead to the need for a transplant.

We will continue to work in our role as a federal government to educate Canadians and to invest in research. We believe that is the job that we have been asked to do.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

10:20 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Chair, I think that we agree on one point and that we are all on the same page when it comes to the figures before us today. We are in a crisis situation because we currently lack sufficient organs to meet needs. That much we agree on, however we also agree that action must be taken. On the other side of the House, members can be heard saying that things need to be done at a more local level, with family doctors and our loved ones, and that we have to discuss this with our families.

I would like the member to also speak about the exact role of the federal government and what the government intends to put forward. This evening, we are having a take note debate to discuss this issue, but does the government have a plan to build public awareness rather than leaving it up to those watching the debate today to talk about the issue with their families? The government should take stronger and firmer action to build awareness. A national strategy is required to enhance organ donation and to build awareness around the issue of concern to us today.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

10:25 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Chair, certainly the tack that our government has taken, when dealing with the provinces on health care, is to work collaboratively with them to develop strategies that will respect provincial jurisdiction, while at the same time recognizing there is a coordinating role for the federal government to play.

The chair of the health committee spoke earlier today about specific interventions that the federal government was taking with the registry of donors. Those are good examples of what we can do, while at the same time respecting the provinces and their unique role in the delivery of health care services.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

10:25 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Chair, would the member like to expand on what kind of investments our government is making to help prevent chronic diseases like cancer and if our government is being innovative in its approach in preventing chronic disease in Canada? The member spoke quite a bit about chronic disease.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

10:25 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Chair, our investments include initiatives such as the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, which is accelerating cancer prevention and ensuring that cancer programs in all jurisdictions have access to the best information on cancer control.

We are also making investments in innovative approaches to prevention. We want to ensure that best practices are shared. Part of the role of the federal government is to promote that innovation and make strategic investments. We know we have a role to play in working with the provinces on issues like organ donations and prevention and management of chronic disease.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

December 5th, 2011 / 10:25 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to this debate and it is a good thing we are discussing the issue. I would like before we rise for the evening, however, to come up with some really concrete solutions to this problem.

I have heard people ask, first and foremost, how we get Canadians who have stated clearly that they want to donate, to donate. Ninety per cent say they want to donate, so the big question then is why are they not donating?

What are the things the federal government can do to help them to donate? We should have some concrete solution to that. I would like to suggest one.

Many people have touched on it, and it has to do with looking at some sort of public awareness and public education campaign, which could be done on a website, through articles in newspapers, sending out brochures to physicians or to the public in the way that Health Canada does when it wants to get some issue on board. That is one of the things we could do.

We could let people know that in fact transplants can be 90% successful. What are the ways in which they can offer their organs. Some of them can donate while they are living. Some of them can donate post-mortem. The disease has absolutely nothing to do with it. Their chronic illness has nothing to do with it. Their age has nothing to do with it. In fact, once the organ is set for donation, that is where the people, the physicians and donation and transplantation team, look at that tissue or organ and decide whether it is healthy, whether it is appropriate and whether it is a match or not.

Those are not things for the government to worry about. The government should just help to walk people through the ways in which they can donate and make it as easy as possible. That is just one thing.

We could dispel some of the myths that we know people have with regard to transplantation, religious reasons, et cetera. Transplantation is a big issue. Most people see their organs as a personal part of themselves. Interwoven within that sense of wanting to be able to give freely and generously to save someone else's life, there is that sense that we are removing a piece of ourselves. There are many cultures that associate that with being an important part of when we pass on and whether we want to be intact or not.

Dealing with some of those issues, dispelling some of those myths that most religions do not agree with organ transplantation when in fact they do, is another thing.

There has to be an easy way. There are ways in which the provinces have, as we well know, through transplantation documents or through a driver's licence that we can donate. Many people know about that, but they are also very concerned because again, most people do not like to think there will come a time when they have a traffic accident and have to donate their organs. We are asking people to think ahead.

The ability to help people understand that this is a life-saving thing they are doing, that this is one way of preventing death, is something that would make a lot of people think differently. Public education and public awareness is the first piece.

The second piece in any kind of strategy would be to have the infrastructure and to make it a one stop shopping area. Practically every country in the world has it, including countries that have federal systems like the United States. We have already seen that the council of the ministers of health met in 2001 and set this up. In 2008 it met again and put money into the whole blood system to deal with the issue. The will is there. Let us get it to become a structure that works.

The next thing we need to do is to find out how we match donors across our vast country and how we match people who are in intensive care units and in emergency departments so we have rapid matches, because time is of the essence in donation. That is a really concrete things we can do.

I heard people talking today about the safety of donations. There is enough information now and we have enough scientific evidence, and this should be done on a evidence-based basis and not on a moral, personal or subjective basis.

I heard the question about gay men who had been active sexually donating either blood or organs. The United Kingdom and all other countries have said that given the next tests we have that can predict HIV or hepatitis C very early and very accurately, that we do not need to look at this five year plan that had been set up. In fact one could look at very clear ways of finding out almost nominally in a very objective manner whether this was a piece of an organ or a tissue that could be donated safely.

This is something that scientists and physicians know how to do. They are doing it around the world. Canada just has to get in step and in line with that. We have had the Canadian Medical Association and other surgeons tell us the international criteria. Therefore, let us follow international criteria. Let us be clear that we are not lagging behind in terms of the decisions that we make because these things change regularly.

Safety of donations is another piece.

In the end, we have money within the system we have already, so let us look at a national registry. Let us also ensure that we have a third party that is set up to look at how we standardize procedures. We are not talking about making one province do what another province does. We are talking about clinical procedures, clear safety procedures and other scientific procedures. There should be standardized procedures for having a registry of donors and a registry of donees. There should be standardized procedures for matching. There should be standardized procedures for moving organs from one place to another rapidly. That is very simple thing to do. It is something we can get the third party to set up, talking to all of the transplantation teams and finding out what is the best way to get this to work. This is not rocket science. This is something that can be done.

Everyone has been very clear. We are on the same page and everyone wants this to happen. Everyone knows that if we can save a life, we should be able to do so as clearly as possible. Everyone understands what provincial jurisdictions are. However, everyone understands as well that there is a huge role here for the federal government.

Best practices is another item. If there is a place where provinces can go to check out what other provinces are doing things and what new things are they doing, we will not have to reinvent the wheel every time. Best practices is not an intrusive thing. It is an information database.

Let us get those things in place. Let us get this moving. Let us get people to understand that it is something they must do, that they need to do it and that it is not complicated. It does not cost them any money. It does not infringe on their religious and cultural beliefs. It is a very simple one-stop shopping thing to do.

Some countries have been doing some interesting things. Israel, for instance, has just started an offering incentive. Israel is suggesting that if people indicate they will donate their organs, then if they get sick and need care right away, they will be first in line in terms of getting care themselves when an organ is there. It is kind of an incentive. It is not buying an organ, which I think is very unethical to sell organs on the market.

We need to look at that. How does Canada play a role internationally in ensuring that organs are not for sale to the highest bidder and that kind of black market thing? We have a huge role to play, internationally, ensuring that this is so through the World Health Organization.

At the same time, there could be incentives. No one knows how the Israel incentive is going to work because it has just started, so let us look at this best practice and see if it works. This is something we should do.

We know that Denmark and other countries have different incentives, where if people do not say they do not want to donate their organs, then they are automatically donated. However, that does not seem to help the number of organs on the market, so I do not think that has been proven to be a best practice. The United States does not do that and it has a larger percentage per million of people who donate organs than in Denmark.

Let us not just pick everything. Let us just pick the things that work. Let us look at what other countries do. Let us emulate good practices. However, let us do something, please.

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10:35 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Chair, I want to go back to the February 2011 CIHR transplantation workshop held in Montreal with 60 participating members from the transplantation community and potential partners who provided valuable information on how best to address the current challenges in the field of transplantation and improve related clinical outcomes through innovative research programs.

I would like the member to expand on one of the recommendations by the group of 60 participating members. They recommended teams and networks that foster collaboration across the fields of research in partnership with public and private sector partners be formed with the purpose to forge the necessary linkages among transplant communities, support common platforms in infrastructure databases, operating procedures and encourage training. It seems to me that this is a very important recommendation.

I know the member opposite is a medical doctor so I think she could address this very eloquently in terms of the importance of what these linkages would be.

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10:35 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Chair, what I have been saying is that we do not need to reinvent the wheel. There are already many ideas on the table. People who know and have expertise in this issue are telling us what other things we could do.

I think what this group is talking about is the standardization of procedures, of getting together to look at how we standardize across the country, how we pick donors, how we match, how we get the process moving cleanly and clearly so we are able to get the organ to the donee as quickly as possible and that everything is safe and securely done and that everyone is on the same page in terms of the best practices.

While we are debating here, I would like to see us all agree that we will do something because the work has been done and the suggestions are there. Let us all have the political will to get it done because it is about saving lives.

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10:40 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Chair, in my colleague's speech—and when she answered questions—she urged members and the government to take action because the situation is, to say the very least, urgent.

A question was asked of the Conservatives, and I would like to ask the same question of the Liberals. What do they think about the fact that people who have had sexual relations with a person of the same sex in the last five years feel excluded—and they are, in my opinion—from the system?

Does she believe that the Liberal Party could address this situation? How could we achieve equality among all persons in Canada, specifically in the area of organ and blood donations?

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10:40 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Chair, I think I did speak to that in my speech. I said that looking at equitable access is really important. Within the last three or four years, there is the ability to have clear and accurate tests done on HIV testing. When I was practising medicine a long time ago, even six or seven years ago, there were a lot of false positives and false negatives. They test were not as accurate then. Now the tests have become very accurate. We need to be able to rely on the tests to tell us whether we should allow donation of an organ or not and not be based on any subjectivity as who is donating the organ, is the organ safe, has it passed all the tests, is it a clear and safe organ to be transplanted.

Other countries have in the last year been moving in that direction. The five-year waiting time is not any more acceptable by most countries. The United Kingdom recently joined in on this. It is talking about moving this agenda forward and looking at a maximum of about a year for that type of donation.

The Liberal Party feels strongly about this. We are the people who brought into the House the amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act for looking at sexual orientation as a prohibitive ground for discrimination and moved all the legislation thereafter, including same sex marriage. Therefore, for us, the issue of equity, fairness and the use of non-subjective, evidence-based guidelines for how we treat people and how we make decisions is always at the forefront of what we do as Liberals.

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10:40 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Chair, I would like to thank my Liberal colleague for pointing out that organ donation legislation in England is now ahead of Canada's when it comes to persons who have had sexual relations with an individual of the same sex in the last five years.

I would therefore invite the Prime Minister to speak more regularly with his British counterpart. Why has the United Kingdom passed this legislation and progressed on this issue when the scientific evidence is the same in Canada as in England? Scientific evidence abounds in 2011. I hope that the Conservative government will at last show leadership on this issue.

I have a question to ask my Liberal colleague, who is a doctor by profession. Perhaps she raised this issue with her patients in the past. In her opinion, why is the public, generally speaking, so disinclined to donate their organs? Given her professional and medical experience, can she tell us why people are so reluctant to donate their organs?