Madam Speaker, I want to say hello to all of my colleagues. I am very pleased to see them again after the two weeks that we spent in our ridings.
The debate on Bill C-210 is timely because National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week is set to take place from April 18 to 24. This bill seeks to amend the Canada Revenue Agency Act.
First, the bill would authorize the Canada Revenue Agency, or CRA, to enter into agreements with the provinces and territories to collect, via the income tax return, the information required to establish or maintain an organ donor registry. Second, the bill would authorize the CRA to disclose that information to the provinces and territories that have entered into such an agreement.
Just as a reminder, this bill was first introduced in 2016 by our colleague from Calgary Confederation as Bill C-316. Unfortunately, it did not get past first reading in the Senate. This iteration of the bill has a new number, but the contents are the same. As such, the Bloc Québécois's position on this bill remains unchanged. Quebec is just fine with Bill C-210, and the Bloc Québécois fully supports it.
However, as I have already told my House colleagues, it is highly unlikely that Quebec would sign an agreement with the CRA because it already has its own tax return. It is also no secret that the Bloc Québécois is fighting for a single tax return managed solely by Revenu Québec, so why delegate to the CRA a health matter that Quebec is perfectly capable of handling and that is under its exclusive jurisdiction?
Basically, the Bloc Québécois supports this bill because we believe it will benefit the inhabitants of other provinces and territories where the CRA administers the tax system.
We have absolutely no issue with allowing the CRA to collect and share information related to organ and tissue donation. If the Quebec National Assembly were to sign an agreement with the CRA, we would fully respect that decision. Quebec is free to sign or not sign an agreement, and my tone would be completely different if we were to assume otherwise.
According to the most recent data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, in 2019, 3,084 whole organs were transplanted into 3,014 recipients. This includes 1,789 kidneys, 610 livers, 212 hearts, 404 lungs and 68 pancreases. This might seem like an odd list, but it demonstrates the magnitude of the situation. Furthermore, although the total number of transplants has risen quite dramatically compared to ten years ago, I would remind the House that there is still a significant gap between the number of transplants performed and the number of people on waiting lists. In 2019, of the 4,352 people waiting for a transplant, 249 unfortunately died before getting their surgery. This is appalling, and it could be described as a deadly wait. The governments of Canada, Quebec and the other provinces must do better, and everyone needs to do their part.
The COVID-19 pandemic certainly has not made things easier in that regard. In 2020, Transplant Quebec recorded a 20% drop in organ donation and transplantation activity, both in terms of referrals and actual donors and transplant recipients. Quebec is not alone. Other provinces and other countries have seen a similar decline. The pandemic is hitting us hard, but thanks to the tenacity and remarkable adaptability of our medical community in Quebec, things have returned to a semblance of normality in the past few months.
Before I go any further, I would like to take a minute to sincerely thank all the donors who have signed their card and consented to organ or tissue donation. I know that it is not an easy decision for everyone to make.
I also want to take this time to commend the work of doctors who specialize in organ procurement and those who perform the transplants. They do remarkable work. We can never say it enough. Thanks to them, 13,000 people in Quebec and Canada are living with a transplanted organ. It is amazing. However, we cannot rest on our laurels. We must do more, and Bill C-210 will help us do that.
As I mentioned before, this bill will probably not affect Quebec in any way because Quebeckers have their own tax return, and Quebec could collect the required information for its own registry if it wanted to. So much the better if Quebec does not have to do it and Ottawa manages this matter. However, the last time I checked, health is almost exclusively a provincial jurisdiction. In this great and beautiful Canada, geographical distance is a significant problem for the successful completion of transplants. In light of the fact that a transplant must be completed within 12 hours for a liver and eight hours for a lung, for example, it is obvious that the proper administration of registries is crucial. In my opinion, the provincial centralization of data collection and registry maintenance is a win-win proposition.
That said, I would like to share some more thoughts about this bill. This amendment to the Canada Revenue Agency Act is truly a step in the right direction, but there is no evidence to show that it will have a direct, noticeable impact on the number of deceased donors, so long as we do not do more to promote awareness and education of organ and tissue donation. I remind the House that there is still a significant gap between the number of people who say they are in favour of organ donation and those who explicitly consent to it. I signed these papers when I turned 18 because I had a teacher at the end of high school who told us about the importance of organ donation.
I do want to commend the Government of Nova Scotia, which officially adopted an opt-out system in January. This system is the complete opposite of the opt-in system that exists in the rest of North America. Quebec has been considering this issue for some time now. I would be interested in seeing how this system unfolds with our maritime neighbours. I think it could be very worthwhile. I remind members that there is no data to establish a clear link between the implementation of an opt-in system and an increase in the number of transplants.
That has been demonstrated by Spain, which is a leader in this medical field. The opt-in system expands the pool of deceased organ donors, but that is only useful if we have the appropriate and necessary infrastructure. One of the keys to reducing the gap is to increase investments in medical infrastructure related to organ donation and transplants. There is no point in having more donors if there is a lack of trained staff or if the registry is not administered properly.
Another key is awareness, and I have a special interest in that. In addition to family refusal, there is also a widespread belief that minimal effort will be made to save the lives of those who agree to be organ donors. We need to counter this type of misconception through education and awareness.
I want to take this opportunity to recognize the work of an organization in my riding in Quebec called Chaîne de vie. Chaîne de vie's team of health and education professionals have been visiting high schools across Quebec since 2007 to educate young people between the ages of 15 and 17 about organ and tissue donation. This tremendous work does not just raise awareness among youth. It also encourages family discussion—