That the House: (a) reiterate its commitment to facilitate collaboration on an organ and tissue donation and transplantation system that gives Canadians timely and effective access to care, since every year more than 250 people, out of the 4,500 on waiting lists, die without receiving a transplant; and (b) urge the government to support national efforts with provincial and territorial authorities and stakeholders to increase organ and tissue donation rates in Canada through public education and awareness campaigns, ongoing communication and the exchange of information, including best practices.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise today in the House to speak to Motion No. 189 on organ donation. This motion to establish an organ and tissue donation and transplantation system is above all a matter of empathy, altruism, human generosity, and respect for both life and death.
Organ donation is one of the greatest possible gestures of human solidarity. It reconciles the irreversible side of death and the beauty of life by giving those waiting for a donation a second chance. This is a very sensitive human issue that must be approached with respect. Organ donation goes against certain beliefs and challenges certain ideas. I would like to say a little more about that.
Organ donation has many outcomes and possibilities. It can be as extraordinary as delaying death, restoring sight, repairing tissue, or even carrying out a face transplant, as we saw with the recent case in Montreal, a Canadian first. These medical feats have one objective: to make life as normal as possible for those who have sustained lifelong injuries and been deprived of what matters most, namely their health.
Speaking of firsts, I had the honour of meeting Diane Hébert, the first person in Quebec to receive a heart-lung transplant. She lived in Lorraine, the town that I have lived in for 25 years and that I have served as town councillor and mayor.
Ms. Hébert's story was known across Quebec. This woman overcame many challenges and was an exception to the rule. She had been given two years to live, but the transplant gave her a new lease on life that lasted more than 25 years.
After recovering, Ms. Hébert made it her mission to raise awareness of organ donation. As a result of her work, in 1987, the Quebec health card became the official organ donation card in the province. Ms. Hébert inspired me and was behind my commitment to promote organ donation.
Every year, there are 4,500 Canadians awaiting an organ transplant. These people live in hope of getting healthy, being active again, contributing, participating in everyday activities, or simply being able to appreciate the small things in life, like everyone else, before their lives and those of their loved ones are turned upside down by illness.
Unfortunately, too many people today will still not find a compatible donor. Of the 4,500 sick Canadians who are waiting for an organ donation, 250 die every year because a donor is not found on time.
Motion No. 189 is therefore especially important for those people and for anyone who may need an organ donation in the future. They will have a better chance of survival with the improved system that is called for in this motion, because progress is not being made quickly enough to help the thousands of Canadians who are waiting for a transplant that will improve their health or even save their lives.
Although the number of donors has increased substantially over the past 10 years, there is still work to be done to realize Canada's potential in organ donation and transplantation. Despite the growing number of donations in Canada, the deceased donation rate in Canada is still two times lower than in some of the highest-performing countries, such as Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. What is more, living donor rates per million population in Canada remained stagnant or declined slightly between 2006 and 2015, from 17 per million population in 2006 to 15.7 in 2015.
Our system cannot meet current and future patient needs. For example, 75% of individuals on the wait list are waiting for a kidney, and the median wait time for a kidney is four years, ranging from 5.7 years in Manitoba to three years in Nova Scotia.
That brings me to my next point: donor rates vary greatly from province to province. Here are the numbers for 2015: between 250 and 300 donors died in Ontario; about 150 died in Quebec; 100 died in British Columbia; and fewer than 50 died in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador. This disparity results in an inequitable organ donation system for Canadians.
Consent is another major limiting factor in our existing organ donation system. Only 20% of Canadians have registered as donors, even though 90% of them say they support organ donation. Moreover, in 10% to 15% of cases, families withdraw consent when the potential donor dies because they had not been informed of the donor's wishes.
On Tuesday, the Standing Committee on Health, on which I sit, tabled a report on organ donation in Canada that was unanimously adopted by all members of the committee. The committee's study highlighted the importance of a strong organ donation and transplantation system for improving the quality of life of many Canadians.
In light of what we heard from experts, researchers, provincial organizations, and health organizations, we realized that there is still a lot of work to be done to realize Canada's potential in organ donation and transplantation. We must do better at meeting current and future patient needs for organ donation, especially since these needs vary significantly across the country.
Motion No.189 calls on the government to reiterate its commitment to facilitate collaboration on an organ and tissue donation and transplantation system that gives Canadians timely and effective access to care. The variation in organ donation rates from one province to another is the result of varying capacities and resources across jurisdictions to implement best practices in organ donation.
Provinces such as Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec are pioneers in Canada. In other provinces, programs and services for organ donation after death are practically non-existent. The factors that contribute to higher donation rates in certain provinces are the following: mandatory referral of a deceased donor, presence in hospital of organ donation specialists who must account for the effectiveness and quality of the system, optimized programs for diagnosis of neurological death and cardiac-circulatory death, and the systematic application of sophisticated practices.
The differences in programs and services offered by the provinces result in unequal access to care and missed opportunities for organ donation when the occasion arises because of the lack of potential donors. That is why this motion urges the Government of Canada to support national efforts with provincial and territorial authorities and stakeholders to increase organ and tissue donation rates in Canada. It is unfortunate and completely unacceptable that the probability of receiving an organ donation is dependent upon the patient's place of residence in Canada.
Motion No. 189 also addresses the improvement of ongoing communication and the exchange of information between provinces, including on best practices. Even though organ donations and transplants in hospital fall under provincial and territorial jurisdiction, the federal government can and must play a role by promoting the sharing and implementation of best practices or the essential components of highly effective organ donation systems that exist in certain provinces, so that in the near future face transplants are done not only in Quebec, but also across Canada.
Motion No. 189 also calls on the government to encourage organ donation through public education and public awareness campaigns.
As I said, one of the limitations of our organ donation system is consent. This can change through education, awareness, and knowledge of the right information. It is crucial for donors to understand the importance of their action and their commitment. It is not enough for people to sign the back of their driver's licence or health card. They also have to talk to their loved ones. We have to raise awareness among donors and their loved ones. We all have this amazing ability to be organ donors.
There are some myths surrounding organ donation that contribute to the statistic indicating that only 20% of Canadians have expressed their willingness to be a donor. Some believe that their age might prevent them from being an organ donor or that donating organs will have an impact on the hospital services they are offered.
That is why this motion seeks to share reliable information between all the key players while making public education a priority, a cornerstone of an effective organ donation program.
I will give an example showing just how generous Canadians are. At the time of the terrible tragedy involving the hockey team in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, one of the victims had registered as an organ donor, which helped save six lives. Shortly afterwards, there was a sudden and considerable spike in donor registrations in Canada, with nearly 100,000 new donors.
Motion No. 189 calls for more education campaigns to encourage public conversations and the exchange of information, especially with our families, friends and loved ones. This is a social issue that concerns all of us. Real efforts need to be made to increase awareness of organ donation so that it becomes a natural reflex, including when we are talking about our own deaths.
Despite current efforts, of the 4,500 people waiting for a transplant in Canada, approximately 250 die every year. I truly believe that we need to do better to save those whose only hope is an organ donation.
I want to thank all the individuals, organizations and stakeholders I spoke with regarding organ donation and this motion. I would like to emphasize that Motion No. 189 transcends all partisan politics. In fact, I have been assured of support from all sides of the house, and I would like to thank all hon. members in advance.
The last thing I want to ask of my hon. colleagues, besides their support for Motion No. 189, is that they register as an organ donor, if they have not already, and that they speak with their families about their wishes. If, by chance, they also know someone who would like to register, we could spread our message even further, right across the country.
I thank my hon. colleagues in advance for their interest and the thoughtful discussion we are about to have.