Madam Speaker, it is indeed an honour to rise today to speak to Bill S-223, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to stop the trafficking in human organs. I want to thank Senator Salma Ataullahjan, who brought this bill forward in the Senate, where it passed all three readings. It is now being considered here in the House of Commons, sponsored by my colleague from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.
This bill would amend the Criminal Code to create some indictable offences for those who are engaged in illegal organ harvesting. It would also allow the Minister of Immigration and Citizenship to intercede. If it is believed that someone is in Canada as a permanent resident or here as a foreign national, they can be deemed inadmissible to Canada if they have participated, in one way or another, in the harvesting of human organs.
I have been advocating for this for quite some time. We brought forward the Sergei Magnitsky law, which passed this place unanimously in 2018. The government has failed to use it since that time, other than for the first tranche of people who were sanctioned. It was to make sure that those individuals who are committing gross human rights violations around the world were held to account and that they were not allowed to use Canada as a safe haven.
We know there has been a systematic organ harvesting program going on in China, led by the Communist regime in Beijing. They have used it on political dissidents and ethnic and religious minorities, like the Falun Gong practitioners, like the Uighurs, like Christians and others. They have gone out after them, arrested them and then forcibly removed their organs to profit from them.
We talk about gross human rights violations. It is disgusting that someone would actually take people who are being persecuted because they are a minority group or someone who does not agree with the regime in Beijing, or other countries for that matter, and arrest them, detain them and then literally rip them apart and market their organs around the world.
Bill S-223 would make sure that those individuals, if they ever came to Canada, would face our criminal justice system. They would not just be facing sanctions and be banned from Canada or have their assets frozen here in Canada, but they would face criminal prosecution here in Canada.
Let us consider someone who needed an organ transplant and knowingly used an organ that was harvested in this manner from a political dissident, from a Falun Gong practitioner or Uighurs. Right now, the Uighurs are being persecuted to the highest level. Essentially a genocide is being carried out by the Communist regime in Beijing against the Uighurs. If somebody wanted to buy one of these organs, they could be facing criminal prosecution here in Canada.
We know that this market exists. Estimates suggest that illegal organ trafficking generates $1 billion to $2 billion Canadian every year. That is sourced from 12,000 illegal transplants, predominantly coming from mainland China. That is 12,000 transplants a year. We have to put an end to this.
I had the privilege of working with the Falun Dafa Association here in Canada. It represents Falun Gong practitioners. Many of them have fled mainland China to make sure they had the ability here in Canada to have the things that we take for granted, such as freedom of association, freedom of expression, freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. All of that is denied by the Communist regime in China.
They put together some great research over the years. A former colleague has put together a rather large report with the assistance of David Matas. When I say a former colleague, I mean David Kilgour, who was a long-time MP here, who always championed human rights.
They had a list of over 150 individuals who were profiting from the sale of illegally obtained organs that were harvested from Falun Gong practitioners. Last spring, I presented a petition that called on the government to look at this. It said that in the last 21 years, Communist Party officials had orchestrated the torture and killing of a large number of people who practised Falun Gong and that it was being done on a mass scale so their vital organs could fuel the communist regime's organ transplant trade. There were 14 names to sanction under the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, the Sergei Magnitsky Law, and the government responded but never sanctioned any of the individuals named.
In October 2021, I sent a letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs congratulating her on her new appointment and asking her to take action on behalf of Falun Gong practitioners. I asked her to look at the entire list of individuals, which said who they were, what position they held in mainland China and what operations they were involved in with regard to persecuting and arresting Falun Gong practitioners, harvesting their organs and ultimately trading those organs around the world. I first sent the 150 names to her predecessor at the time and then to her. Again, we got a response but no action was taken.
I know the bill is getting support from all sides of the House and from every corner of the chamber, but we need to make sure we step up and sanction those individuals to ensure they are not coming to Canada. We can sanction them using the Sergei Magnitsky Law. They are hiding their wealth, taking advantage of our strong banking system, taking advantage of our fairly robust real estate market and capitalizing on the illicit gains they have been able to achieve because of this illegal trade in organs.
There are Canadians who need organ transplants. We have to encourage more and more people to donate organs in Canada so that we can extend the life of those who need transplants. That way, we can also deter this illicit trade in illegally harvested human organs and make sure it does not spread to other jurisdictions. We always like to concentrate on the communist regime in China, but we know this is happening in other places in the world. There are stories of African nations, and it is not just governments doing this, but gangs and the people out there in human trafficking who are resorting to this as a way to generate illicit revenues.
We need to continue to stand on the side of the individuals who cannot stand up for themselves. We have to make sure Canada continues to be a leader on the issue of human rights.
We need to make sure that those committing these crimes can be held to account. I know Bill S-223 would go a long way in ensuring that they would not be allowed to work in Canada and would be arrested if they did, and would not be allowed to travel to Canada or they would be arrested and face charges. We also need to make sure that those who know they are purchasing organs through this gross human rights violation of illegal organ harvesting face the full cost and full force of law here in Canada.
I again want to congratulate Senator Ataullahjan for bringing this bill forward. It is something she has been working on for a number of years. It has died on the Order Paper in the past, and this is our opportunity to make sure it comes into force as quickly as possible.