Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for bringing this to the House. It is an important debate that we need to have. It will be a debate that will continue, I am sure.
What has been stated before, of course, is very true. Our government is committed to ensuring that our criminal justice system keeps communities safe, protects victims and holds offenders to account. We condemn the illegal and exploitive trade of human organs in the strongest of terms.
Organ transplantation and donation is governed by a comprehensive legislative framework at both the federal and provincial and territorial levels, encompassing health and criminal law. The Criminal Code currently prohibits the removal of an organ without the informed consent of the donor. I think that last part, informed consent, is especially worth noting. That is in and of itself the most important part of any discussion about human organ donation.
Organ trafficking is a growing concern internationally. I appreciate the fact that this has been brought to the House to debate, but no known cases have occurred in Canada, and we hope it never happens.
In Canada, organ transplantation and donation is governed by, as I mentioned, a comprehensive legislative framework at both the federal and provincial and territorial levels. Health regulatory offences apply where organs are removed, transplanted outside the regulatory framework, while criminal laws apply where the organ donor did not consent or was coerced.
More specifically, provincial statutes prohibit the sale, purchase and dealing in any human tissues or organs outside this regulatory framework. These laws require the explicit consent of the donor or next of kin in the case of deceased donation. Federally, the safety of human cells, tissues and organs for transplantation regulations, administered by Health Canada, prohibit transplant activities unless carried out by a registered establishment.
In Canada, we talk a lot about encouraging people to donate organs. It is an ongoing issue. I think probably everyone in this House knows someone who has been on that waiting list, sometimes waiting months for an organ transplant. We have to encourage Canadians to make sure that they sign up so that they can become organ donors, if in fact the situation arises where they would be considered a donor.
That is what we need to address in this House. We need to encourage education so that people understand the differences between consent of an organ donation and what is actually going on around the world that I agree is abhorrent in nature.
The Criminal Code also includes a number of general and specific offences that can respond to the conduct targeted by Bill S-240. In 2005, the Criminal Code was amended to enact a number of specific offences that comprehensively address all aspects of trafficking in persons. For those who want to look it up, it is sections 279.01 to 279.04.
The main trafficking in persons offence prohibits engaging in specified types of conduct in order to exploit or facilitate the exploitation of another person. Exploitation is defined broadly, and includes causing a person “by means of deception or the use or threat of force or of any other form of coercion, to have an organ or tissue removed.” “Coercion” and “consent” are the two main words in this discussion.
In addition, it is an offence to receive a financial or material benefit knowing that it was derived from trafficking in persons. The concept of material benefit is sufficiently broad to encompass the receipt of an organ in cases where the recipient knew the organ was obtained through deceit or any other form of coercion. It is terrible to think that people get so desperate in this world that they know the organ they are receiving has been taken from another human being without their consent or through coercion. That is the worst possible point of this bill that we must address.
Canada's human trafficking offences also apply extraterritorially and, therefore, can be used to prosecute in Canada those Canadians or permanent residents who commit human trafficking offences abroad. There are Canadians who travel abroad and knowingly go there in order to receive an organ from someone who was either paid or coerced. That has no place in our civilization.
In addition to the human trafficking offences, criminal offences of general application could also be used to respond to organ trafficking. Depending upon the facts of the case, aggravated assault, unlawfully causing bodily harm, uttering threats, organized crime offences or extortion could all be used to address organ trafficking conduct involving coercion of the organ donor and all are punishable by significant penalties of imprisonment, as they should be. These provisions, however, do not have extraterritorial effect.
There are some real important issues that need to be discussed and I am certainly glad that my hon. colleague brought this forward. Trafficking in human organs is something that no one in the House would agree with. It needs to be debated, though, because there are laws that may conflict with this bill and we need to make sure we get it right. It is certainly something that, as a government, we are looking into. We need to address it and have the discussion both here in the House and possibly at committee stage.
We can all understand that some people take matters into their own hands and there have to be rules and regulations around trafficking in human organs to make sure people are not leaving Canada to get organs in this way. We also have to educate people in Canada to the fact that, yes, organ donation is a very positive thing to do, but people have to be able to consent and no coercion can be involved at all.