, seconded by the member for Victoria, moved that Bill S-240, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (trafficking in human organs), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, two well-known Canadians, David Matas and David Kilgour, have uncovered something shocking. Their painstaking research has unearthed that between 60,000 and 100,000 human organs are being transplanted in Chinese hospitals each year, with virtually no system of voluntary donation in place. Most of the organs come from prisoners of conscience, primarily Falun Gong practitioners.
I make this speech today in the presence of people who have been arrested in China, and had their blood tested in prison. It may have been that the only thing that prevented their victimization was that they did not match a potential recipient. They understand, more than anything else, the importance of what is happening on the floor of the House today.
Today, I am moving a Senate bill to ask the House of Commons to rule on a fairly simple proposition, that the removal of vital human organs from living patients without their consent is morally unconscionable and must be stopped.
About a similar bill in the past, the parliamentary secretary has said that this bill raises some complex legal and social policy issues. There can be no doubt, though, that the moral issues raised by the bill are quite clear cut. On the legal side, the bill has been well studied by the Senate. I believe it significantly improves on Bill C-350 that I proposed, and also on the original Bill S-240, which was subsequently amended by the Senate committee to bring us the version we have today.
The legal issue is not particularly complex, but in an effort to stop this horrific practice, it does invoke the idea of extraterritoriality. This is where the state seeks to punish someone for a crime he or she committed elsewhere. This is relatively uncommon, although morally necessary in cases like this. Generally, states do not see it as their affair to prosecute crimes that take place elsewhere, because the government of the state in which the crime occurs is best positioned to undertake that prosecution. The government ought not to be indifferent to serious crimes committed by Canadians abroad, but it is generally wise to leave the prosecution of those crimes to the state where they took place.
However, the normal practices should clearly not apply in cases where the local government is indifferent to, is unable to respond to, or is directly facilitating a grievous violation of fundamental human rights. In such cases, Canada can and must prosecute Canadians who go abroad to abuse human rights. Human rights do not apply any less to human beings in other countries. Nation states provide the practical framework through which rights are generally identified and preserved, but this should not be an excuse for allowing their own people to be complicit in grievous violations of human rights.
In 1997, during the tenure of Liberal justice minister Allan Rock, Canada explicitly made it a criminal offence in Canada for a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to engage in so-called child sex tourism; that is, to go abroad and participate in the sexual exploitation of children. Exactly the same principle applies in this case. One notable difference, though, is that offences related to organ harvesting are probably easier to prosecute. Unlike someone who engages in the despicable practice of child sex tourism, someone who benefits from organ harvesting will have follow-up medical needs in Canada.
This bill is morally necessary and it follows a well-established legal track.
A brief word on the legislative history of this initiative. My friend, the member for Etobicoke Centre, began this process on February 5, 2008, with a very similar bill, Bill C-500. He is, for those who do not know, a Liberal. Bill C-561 was proposed by former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler in December of 2013. I proposed Bill C-350 in this Parliament before Bill S-240 was proposed by the very excellent Senator Salma Ataullahjan in the Senate.
We have had four bills in 10 years, and now we have less than one year until the next election. When the next election is called, every bill will die and we will go back to the beginning. Four bills, 10 years, and fundamental human rights are at stake. If we do not proceed to a vote on this as soon as possible, I fear we will significantly reduce our chances of getting this done this Parliament. There have been four bills, 10 years and cross-party co-operation and engagement up until now. Let us not force the victims to wait any longer. Let us pass the bill as soon as possible.