Madam Speaker, I would like again to offer my congratulations to the member for Edmonton Manning for bringing forward this legislation.
I am proud to be one in the long line of New Democratic Party members of Parliament to speak in favour of this issue over the years. It is absolutely crucial that we support the creation of a pan-Canadian registry for organ donations in collaboration with the provinces and territories.
This is the latest attempt of a parliamentary colleague taking up the NDP's torch from the 40th and 41st Parliaments where former MP Malcolm Allen tabled similar bills. In this Parliament, a Conservative colleague is sponsoring the bill and I truly hope that through debate we can come to an all-party consensus.
It is unfortunate to hear that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health has indicated that the government will not support the bill. I really thought this would be an easy bill for Parliament to pass, but unfortunately it is not.
Back in 2011, Canadian Blood Services and organ and tissue donation transplant communities produced a call to action. This call to action formally recommended the establishment of an integrated interprovincial organ donation and transplantation system by 2017. That is next year.
Every year that we do not act upon this, more Canadians will not get the help they need. According to the Canadian Transplant Society, 1,600 Canadians will be added to organ donor wait-lists every year. This means that at any given time there are approximately 5,000 Canadians who are in need and waiting for an organ or tissue transplant. This is no small matter. These Canadians waiting for transplants often live with severe medical conditions and they must also endure end-stage organ failure.
We know based on surveys that over 80% of the people in this country would donate their organs but fewer than 20% of us have actually made arrangements to do so. Our country's deceased donation rate is relatively low when we put it up against other comparable countries. This is in part due to there being a lack of a nationwide registry that would unify the provinces and other actors that are currently operating independently.
Talking about the benefits of having a registry, my colleague rightly pointed out some clear benefits to this registry, but I would like to highlight some of my own thoughts on this legislation.
The national registry would improve the availability of organs to patients in need of transplants. This is the most obvious benefit, but something else that should be brought up is that it is likely also to reduce provincial health care costs. The reduction in people waiting with severe medical conditions caused by easier access to organs for patients in need would allow costs to come down and also would reduce wait times for other health care needs.
While mentioning wait times, by increasing the efficiency in the supply of donor organs and tissues, a national registry would be fairer and more equitable when it comes to waiting for transplants as right now there are wild disparities in wait times across regions and provinces.
This gives the call to action a very clear context for why such a registry that is accessible, consistent, and allowed to legally authorize donations based on the wishes of the donor is so important.
With all of this in mind, New Democrats are supporting the bill to go to a parliamentary committee so that we can perform an in-depth study of this piece of legislation. The bill is potentially life-saving to many of our fellow Canadians and it is vitally important that we get the details right.
To make sure we get these details right, we should look at the experiences of other jurisdictions before we get rid of the bill wholeheartedly. We have to look at jurisdictions which have implemented presumptive organ and tissue donation as a means of dramatically increasing potential donors to save lives. Right now, we are unfortunately behind countries like Spain, Cuba, Uruguay, and even the United States on donation rates.
We should also, as I mentioned earlier in a question, be speaking about the current discriminatory practice in blood, tissue, and organ donations. New Democrats moved in 2014 that the Government of Canada take immediate measures to end the current discriminatory policy governing blood and organ donations from men who have sex with men. We believe that efforts to create a national registry should go hand-in-hand with efforts to remove this unscientific discrimination and replace it with a science-based, behavioural screening process. It is time for evidence-based decision-making. This would ensure that all potential donors are treated with equal dignity and respect.
The Liberal platform during the election also promised to end this discriminatory ban. Therefore, I think we can find common ground in the House on this issue.
Other reasons for bringing this bill to committee lie with some of the issues we believe need to be worked out. The bill would give substantial power and responsibility to the health minister, rather than delegating it to the administration of the registry, to a registrar, not to mention we would need to make clear the reporting mechanisms to Parliament. There should be a clear, detailed process for provincial affiliation to a national registry.
The parliamentary committee study would give members a chance to hear from witnesses on this bill, something which is incredibly important. These witnesses would inform our opinion on what the final outcome should be.
There are clear details that need to be worked out on this legislation, but we are also in need of it to pass as soon as possible.
This debate makes me remember the struggle of Hélène Campbell a few years ago to find organ donors. She was looking for a double-lung transplant. Instead of just waiting on the list, she was able to raise international awareness to her plight and to the lack of organs that were required for people to heal. She was featured on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in the United States, and also had a public exchange with Canadian pop star Justin Bieber over social media, which raised awareness and reportedly led to a surge in donor rates.
Personal stories like these enable people to make personal decisions to become organ donors. She was able to get the organs needed and was greeted by the then federal health minister upon her return home.
Hélène's personal story was subjected to media attention and led to some very positive results. However, there are still many more personal stories that are not told internationally but still require just as much immediate attention.
The statistics are clear, and they are dire. Over the past decade, more people have waited for a transplant than the number of operations actually performed in a given year.
With respect to seniors, which is something I take very seriously as the NDP's critic for seniors' issues, there is an increase in end-stage kidney disease linked to the growing aging population in our country. Over the next two decades, our senior population is expected to double. Therefore, this is a particularly strong issue among many and it will get out of hand even more if there is not swift and specific action on that front.
The New Democrats have been highlighting tragic stories in the House for many years. We asked the government to address the issues of desperate Canadians heading overseas to buy organs on the black market, only to see the origans fail when they got home. These Canadians ended up in hospital and, tragically, some died.
We should not be putting the citizens of our country in that kind of a situation.
The situation is currently unacceptable. I think we could move forward swiftly with this legislation if only we had the government's support. We really should be hearing witnesses and discuss the implementation of a national organ donor registry. At least give the committee time to hear from experts on this matter.
We owe it to the people of our country who are living with a stressful wait of organ and tissue donations. They need to see federal leadership on this issue to ensure Canadians get the health care they need.
I would like to again congratulate the member for Edmonton Manning. I know he is personally affected, with his son, and has gone through this. As members of Parliament, when we bring personal stories like his to the House, it brings the betterment out of us. We leave the partisanship behind the door when we bring forward an issue that we know will truly benefit Canada.
I am proud to stand as a member of the New Democratic caucus to lend my full support to getting this bill to committee.