The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights met by videoconference this day at 5 p.m. [ET] to study Bill S-204, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (trafficking in human organs); and, in camera, to study matters relating to human rights generally, as stated in rule 12-7(14).
Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard (Deputy Chair) in the chair.
The Deputy Chair: Hello, my name is Wanda Thomas Bernard. I am a senator from Nova Scotia and one of the deputy chairs of this committee.
We acknowledge the land of Turtle Island that was never meant to be owned. We recognize that most of the land that was entrusted to the Indigenous peoples was in some cases shared by choice but all too often taken by force. We recognize the historical colonialism and the ongoing colonialism that has led to the present-day situation where land acknowledgments are offered in place of land.
I have the pleasure of chairing today’s virtual meeting on Bill S-204, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (trafficking in human organs).
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Today we have the pleasure of welcoming the sponsor of Bill S-204, the Honourable Senator Salma Ataullahjan, who is, as we all know, also the chair of this committee. Accompanying her is the Honourable David Kilgour, representative of the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China. Please note that the Honourable Irwin Cotler, Chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, wanted to be with the committee today but had to send his regrets earlier this morning.
Before I give the floor to our witnesses, I would like to ask a member of the committee to move the following motion:
That a list of witnesses who appeared before the committee, along with a list of all briefs, documents and testimony received during the first session of the Forty-second Parliament on Bill S-240, an Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (trafficking in human organs), by the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights be appended to the official minutes of this committee proceeding.
Who would like to move this motion?
Senator Martin: So moved.
The Deputy Chair: The motion is moved by the Honourable Senator Martin. Is there any opposition to the motion?
The motion is carried.
Senator Ataullahjan, you now have the floor.
Hon. Salma Ataullahjan, Senator, Senate of Canada: Honourable senators, thank you for giving me the opportunity to appear before the committee as a witness and as the sponsor of Bill S-204, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (trafficking in human organs).
I would also like to recognize the participation of the Honourable David Kilgour. His wealth of knowledge on trafficking in human organs is invaluable and appreciated by this committee. David was a key witness the last time trafficking in human organs was discussed in this committee. His in-depth knowledge on organ harvesting is important because there is limited research on this topic. I would like to thank Mr. Kilgour for his work on advancing human rights around the world.
As you already know, the Honourable Irwin Cotler was invited but was not able to attend. He did provide to committee members his full support of Bill S-204, and I thank him for his support.
Back in 2013, Irwin Cotler sponsored Bill C-561, whose short title was “trafficking and transplanting human organs and other body parts.” Unfortunately, his bill died on the Order Paper like two others before it. I admire Professor Cotler’s dedication to this bill, and I am grateful for his support.
I’m also happy to report that Bill S-204 already includes the latest amendments approved by the House and subsequently introduced in the Senate in May 2019.
This piece of legislation has been a culmination of over 12 years of parliamentary work on the important issue of organ trafficking. Many of you were also members of this committee back in 2018. I would like to remind you of the numerous witnesses who informed us that this legislation is urgently needed to curtail transplant tourism.
Canada still does not have any legislation preventing Canadians from travelling abroad for organ transplantation. Today, organ trafficking is reported around the world, including in Eastern European countries and in Russia. As a result of tougher law enforcement against trafficking in Eastern Europe, the Philippines and on the Indian subcontinent, trafficking in human organs is shifting to Latin America, North Africa and other regions where the economic crisis, along with social and political instability, create opportunities for traffickers.
As with most covert affairs that prey on the vulnerable, statistics represent only a fraction of the reality. However, the information that is available is enough to paint a horrifying picture.
We do know that Canadians continue to travel abroad for commercial organ transplants. Doctors at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto have reported that three to five people per year still arrive having obtained an organ abroad. That is only one of the hospitals. A conservative number of three patients per hospital multiplied by 1,200 hospitals in Canada amounts to 3,600 organ transplants performed abroad every year — a jarring number that cannot be dismissed.
A few months ago, my office received an email from the University Health Network in Toronto. I was informed that their medical professionals regularly receive questions on this broad topic. Currently, the university cautions against travelling abroad for organ harvesting for several non-legal reasons. However, they would appreciate the addition of legal prohibitions.
Without implementing legislation banning Canadians from taking part in organ harvesting, the practice of transplant tourism will continue to grow. When Bill S-204 is passed, perpetrators will know that they can be prosecuted in Canada and banned from entry into Canada.
Despite our inability to eradicate human rights violations around the world, we can enact change at home. It is entirely within our powers to avoid complicity in transplant tourism within our borders. This bill is a welcome effort in that complicity avoidance.
As parliamentarians, it is our job to listen and learn from experts in the field. We’re asked to protect those not in a position to protect themselves from organ traffickers. It is incumbent on us to protect the world’s most vulnerable by strengthening our own legislation. It is up to us to give domestic reality to the international aspirations embodied by international law.
As parliamentarians, whether in government or in opposition, we can and we must do our part. This globally pervasive practice needs to be stopped without any further delays. As you may already know, this is my fourth introduction of this legislation. The closest this bill came to reality was during the First Session of the Forty-second Parliament in May 2019. Unfortunately, because of circumstances out of our control, this bill fell off the Order Paper before receiving Royal Assent.
Honourable senators, organ trafficking is a horrendous predatory practice that targets and exploits impoverished and otherwise vulnerable people. It is a violation of the principles of equity, justice and respect for human dignity. Let us be global leaders in the battle against organ trafficking and pass Bill S-204 here and now.
I will try to answer any further questions that you may have. Thank you.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you, Senator Ataullahjan. Now we’ll hear from Mr. Kilgour.
The Honourable David Kilgour, P.C., Representative, International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China: Thank you, chair; and thank you very much, Senator Ataullahjan, for putting it so succinctly.
There’s an enormous amount of material on this that seems to grow every week. The British Medical Journal put out something about a week ago by a doctor who did an excellent job on this whole subject. If anybody wants a mountain of material — I know that won’t make you want to contact me, but if you visit www.David-Kilgour.com, the first thing you will see on my website is a link to, as it was mentioned before, the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China. That will put you onto a lot of very up-to-date materials that I think might be useful to the committee.
Frankly, the only thing I can say that some of you won’t already know is this: The way it works is that brokers go through hospitals. I hope today that we don’t have brokers in 1,200 hospitals, but they do go into hospitals in Canada and elsewhere. They go around looking for patients who might need a transplant. They then try to solicit that patient, who is often in a desperate situation, to come up with enough money — the prices are, as you probably well know, very high — to become an organ tourist.
The patient goes off, probably to, number one, the First People’s Hospital in Shanghai, which has been the place where Canadians have been going for a long time. They arrive at the hospital after they’ve paid the money for the organ. They have blood testing and tissue testing done on them. Then the surgeon goes on a computer base and finds out who is a match for the patient. Then literally — and we know this and we think that the evidence — so we’re homing of it — some poor man or woman who fits the formula and the tissue-type match is taken out of a dormitory and is killed while his or her organs are removed. The organs are then flown from, probably, a work camp out in the periphery of China. They might well come, by the way, out of the Uighur region of China. The Geoffrey Nice Foundation is looking at that issue right now in Britain. If you follow this at all, you will know that it is undoubtedly overwhelming that the Uighurs are being killed for their organs, too.
The organ is flown to Shanghai, it is transplanted into the patient and the patient comes home to wherever in Canada with a new organ. That has simply got to stop.
I should probably stress that China is the only country in the world, out of 199 countries I think it is now, where this happens and where it’s run by the government and not in some back alley by unscrupulous people. It’s high time that Canada joined about 10 other countries that have enacted legislation on this. I thank you very much for allowing me to appear here to support Senator Ataullahjan on reintroducing her bill for the fourth time. Thank you.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you, Mr. Kilgour. Thank you to both of our witnesses.
Honourable senators, we will now move on to questions from senators. I will remind you that at our meeting of December 15, 2020, it was agreed that speaking times of senators be limited to five minutes per round, including questions and answers.
Now we’ll take questions from senators and I’ll remind you to use the raised-hand feature, please.
Senator Pate: Thank you to our colleagues for appearing.
The question I have on one issue that has been raised is: Are you concerned at all that the bill will properly deter this issue, particularly in light of some of what you’ve already raised in terms of how people are approached? Will, in fact, the individuals who are most vulnerable be protected by this? I’m thinking of the folks who might consent, but not necessarily freely; they may be coerced into giving up their organs and then, for those reasons, subsequently face criminalization and potentially not have access, for instance, to try and immigrate or to stay in a country — that sort of thing. I’m sure you’ve thought of this. I’m curious as to how you see preventing that from happening with this bill, given the criminalization component.
Senator Ataullahjan: I could respond, and then Mr. Kilgour could add his thoughts.
Senator Pate, we in Canada are lagging behind. A lot of countries already have this legislation. We have thought about protection of the vulnerable. If you do sell an organ, you will not be criminally penalized for that. It’s the people who sell the organs who will be penalized. Maybe David could clarify, but my understanding is that if somebody sells their organs, they will not be penalized. It’s the brokers in between the people who are making money off this or who, as we just heard from David, are killing people for their organs or trafficking them. We heard in the last committee meeting — as you must have heard — of cases in North Africa with refugees who were travelling. In the middle of the journey, they would all of a sudden be asked for extra money. If they didn’t have the money, they would be killed and their organs would be harvested. We heard there was a direct link to Egypt; there was a doctor who was doing that.
I didn’t put in any of those stories because most of you were on this committee and you are familiar with all the stories we told.
This is a start. Once we have this legislation enacted, there’s nothing to stop us from doing amendments to it.
I would be happy if David —
Senator Pate: While Mr. Kilgour is unmuting, I’m thinking also of the people who may be coerced, as often happens. The brokers may coerce another party to essentially act as the broker; someone who is also vulnerable. I’m curious if you feel there are enough protections in the bill the way you’ve framed it to address that, or if you’re suggesting that we could amend it after the fact.
Senator Ataullahjan: I’m sorry, Senator Pate’s voice was freezing. I couldn’t hear properly.
Senator Pate: Okay. Can you hear me now, Senator Ataullahjan?
We know that in some situations, those who are vulnerable also get coerced into acting as brokers in all kinds of criminal situations. So in terms of this, what if it’s vulnerable people who are being coerced to act as brokers so that the people who are actually in control and profiting from this aren’t the ones being criminalized? Do you think there are sufficient protections? If so, if you could help us understand that, that would be fantastic.
Senator Ataullahjan: My understanding is that if you broker the sale of an organ, you’re responsible. David is nodding his head in agreement. We have to stop this practice of selling organs. There has to be a deterrence. We hear of so many people going from Canada. This is legislation we should have had in place a decade ago. So we’re really lagging behind.
Once we enact this legislation, there will be new issues and new problems. It’s a world that evolves. Legislation has to evolve to keep up. Currently, the way it stands, there’s a dire need for it. If anybody is involved in the selling of organs, they can be held criminally responsible. I hope that answers your question.
Mr. Kilgour: The problem is that in all countries in the world, to my knowledge, except for one, a mother might sell a kidney to try to put her daughter or son in university or something, but she doesn’t die in the process. They only take one kidney. Most of the time the donor, even a paid donor, survives. The difference is that in China, every so-called donor is killed. Virtually all donors, we are certain, are never asked if they want to donate a kidney or liver, because they take all of their organs. They don’t just take one kidney. They take the heart, liver, lungs; everything they can take. Of course, the donor dies in the process. That’s a very important thing to understand about the difference between China and every other country in the world.
As you’re suggesting, donors are unfortunately pressured to donate in a number of countries. Often they pay a huge price healthwise for it, as I’m sure you know. This problem with China is a very particular problem. We’re trying to deal with that. The kind of person who is going around a hospital in Toronto or Vancouver or Halifax is a complete and utter scoundrel, and we should make life as difficult as we can for that person. We’re not trying to take a person who’s dying, who desperately needs a heart and is misguided or whatever and goes to China for an organ, and put that person in jail or something. I was a prosecutor for about 10 years. The last thing any prosecutor is going to try to do is throw an elderly man or woman in jail because they went to China for an organ. At least they will know it’s illegal for them to go. The doctors will tell them it’s illegal. Everybody will tell them. Hopefully it will cut down the number of people going to China completely.
Senator Martin: Thank you to Senator Ataullahjan for her tireless advocacy and effort to bring this legislation to its end. I know how hard you’ve worked. I can’t believe it is the fourth time this is being done in Parliament. Thank you for that. Of course, Mr. Kilgour understands full well how these legislative processes takes time. Your expertise on this is very important.
My question is in some ways going to the next concern related to what Senator Pate is saying, which is the vulnerable individuals involved. I understand we have to punish the sellers, the ones who are taking advantage of the most vulnerable and in the case of what’s happening in China.
My question relates to what happened in the previous Parliament. The committee had added a provision to the bill, Senator Ataullahjan, that would have required medical practitioners to report all organ transplants to an authority designated by the Governor-in-Council. But this provision ended up being removed in the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.
In some ways, the doctor or the medical professionals could be helpful in monitoring and ensuring that the vulnerable patients are protected and that this kind of nefarious activity is prevented or reduced.
Can you tell us about the debate on the issue of the removal of the requirement for medical professionals to report organ transplants?
Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you, Senator Martin. The House Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development deleted the proposed duty for physicians to report organ transplant patients. The concerns raised were around the sacred relationship between doctors and patients and that when you speak to your doctor, it’s supposed to be confidential between you and the physician. It was felt that mandatory reporting may unnecessarily increase the stress and pressure on doctors that they already face. Most physicians, we know, face tremendous stress, even more so now. The House felt this would be an added stress.
There was tension between the duty to care for Canadian residents and the unwillingness to enable transplant tourism. My colleague Garnett Genuis, who was the sponsor of the bill on the House side, indicated that it’s important that we get this legislation in. We were keen to have this doctor-reporting clause in there, but in the end, we agreed it was more important to pass legislation. We can always amend. We can always add amendments.
Because we don’t have anything in place right now, we agreed to take that out. At some later stage, some parliamentarians might feel that’s important. It’s a debate that is never closed. Any of the parliamentarians can suggest any kind of amendment to legislation.
Senator Martin: That’s very clear, senator; we do need to pass this legislation. I agree with you. Are there lessons learned from other jurisdictions that already have this legislation? Going forward, are you confident that Canada can learn from some of the ways in which this law was applied and the changes or amendments that were made? Do we have such examples in the world that we could consider for Canada once this is passed?
Senator Ataullahjan: I would defer to David. He can answer that.
Mr. Kilgour: Yes, well, that’s an interesting question. Of the 10 countries that have legislation now — I think it’s about 10 — the most up-to-date one, in my understanding, is Taiwan. Taiwan has got the best legislation that would probably be the model for Canada now. We have got this bill before us, and I hope we can pass this bill, and then we can look at some of the things Taiwan is doing that perhaps we should do more firmly in amendments.
For example, Taiwan really goes after the brokers, and if I’m not mistaken, they also say — as I’m sure you know, Senator Martin — that if a doctor assists in arranging for a patient to go to get an organ in China, he or she can be fined or lose their licence. It’s fair to say that now very few people are going from Taiwan to China for organs.
Senator Martin: Thank you.
Senator Boyer: My question is for Senator Ataullahjan. I thank you for joining us today, and I thank you and Dr. Kilgour both for your presentations.
As senators on this committee will know, I have spent my life working to see the end of forced and coerced sterilization of Indigenous women. I see many parallels between people who are forced into giving up their organs and women being sterilized. Both are horrific practices that must be stopped once and for all. I applaud the work that Senator Ataullahjan has done up to this point on this file.
When the committee examined Bill S-204’s predecessor, Bill S-240, during the Forty-second Parliament, the committee amended the bill to add a provision that expanded on and defined informed consent, which is an outstanding issue in both areas that we’re talking about. In my opinion, this amendment made the bill stronger, and I was disappointed to see it removed by the other place’s committee.
Can you explain to this committee why informed consent is not in this new version of the bill? Can you also expand a bit on why the House committee removed it the last time around?
Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you, Senator Boyer. Yes, we did have informed consent in there, and it was removed. Informed consent means that the patient has to understand and agree to the nature, risk and the consequences of the medical procedure. The addition of a definition of informed consent proved to be problematic when the other side looked at it, as the term “informed consent” is already defined in provincial and territorial health law. Therefore, in order to avoid statutory interpretation issues and to ensure clarity and consistency in the Criminal Code, the definition was removed. They felt it already existed, and if we put it in this bill, it might lead to confusion. That’s what happened on the other side. We did have it.
Again, I go back to the desire to have some sort of legislation in place. Let’s do something. We’re really lagging behind. If you hear of cases like in Kosovo a few years ago when they raided a clinic that was doing transplants, there were Canadians there too. We know Canadians are travelling.
When we talked about the numbers in hospitals, Senator Boyer, those are the ones that the hospitals are reporting. There are many cases where patients, after they have had a transplant abroad, come back and they have all these health issues, and they go to their own physicians. Some of them might need to go to the hospital, and some might not.
Let’s get something done; that is the desire. This is a building block. For me, this is a building block that’s been 12 years in the making. Let’s put this there, and then we or anyone can build on it. That’s what happened with informed consent. I can understand that if it is going to lead to confusion, okay, let’s take it out if it’s already there.
Senator Boyer: Thank you, senator. Perhaps we can look at an amendment at some point; I want to add that capacity is a requirement of informed consent, as well.
I have a supplementary. Is that all right, Madam Chair?
The Deputy Chair: You have 1 minute and 25 seconds left.
Senator Boyer: Great. We’re well aware of how traffickers of human organs target the most vulnerable to steal their organs, and in most countries in the world, Indigenous populations often fall into the vulnerable category due to colonial violence.
I’m wondering if you know of organizations that have looked specifically into this aspect of practice with Indigenous populations.
Senator Ataullahjan: David, please go ahead.
Mr. Kilgour: The Uighurs are an Indigenous people who’ve lived for thousands of years in East Turkestan, now Xinjiang, and many of them have made that exact point that the evidence is overwhelming, they have all been tested — but only the Muslim Uighur population.
The Indigenous people of East Turkestan are the Uighurs — and other groups too, but primarily the Uighurs. All of them, we have been told by expert witnesses, have been blood tested. They are not being blood tested because anybody in the government in China cares about their health. They are being blood tested because they will be good organ donors, so the Indigenous connection is very real in this issue.
Senator Boyer: Thank you.
Senator Ngo: Thank you, Senator Ataullahjan. Thank you for your continuous hard work on this matter. This is long overdue.
In your second-reading speech on this bill, you state, “. . . my bill does not prevent Canadians from travelling abroad to receive an organ transplant through legitimate and legal means.”
Could you define “legitimate and legal means” and give us an example of what constitutes legitimate and legal means within the framework of your bill?
Senator Ataullahjan: Legitimate means would be that they should go to a legal authority and talk to them. We want to prevent the buying of organs. We want to prevent financial rewards.
What we heard is that many people will say, “My brother is willing to give me a kidney,” or “My sister is willing to give me a kidney,” but they don’t live in Canada. What I was trying to say in my speech is that if that is the case, they need to go before a lawyer and get advice to make sure they are very clear that no financial transactions are taking place. If it’s a family member or a friend who is donating, we have to make sure there is no pressure on that person.
There are people whose brothers, sisters or other family members are willing to specifically donate kidneys. We don’t want to stop that. What we want to stop is the illegal trade — the buying of organs where there are brokers. We also heard that people are promised money but they never get paid. We also heard where people were kidnapped; they woke up in clinics and were told they had an organ removed. They were being followed, and if they reported them, they would get into trouble.
We also don’t want to stop people who are getting an organ from a family member or from someone else where there is no financial transaction and no force being used. We don’t want to stop that. But they should get legal advice before they leave Canada.
Senator Ngo: Thank you. We know that Canadians are also travelling to China to receive an organ transplant and are doing so through illegitimate and illegal means. How can we prevent that from happening, and how can we catch those criminals?
Senator Ataullahjan: I think as the China expert, David, I will defer to you on that.
Senator Ngo: I have a question for David afterwards.
Mr. Kilgour: Go ahead, senator, please.
Senator Ngo: I would like to get this answer and then I’ll continue afterwards.
Mr. Kilgour: I guess it’s a tough situation. We all know that, because people are desperate. But if it goes out in the newspapers and the media that it’s now illegal to be an organ tourist from Canada, a lot of people will understand that it’s now against the law. Doctors will understand. Families will understand. Sick people will understand, so hopefully the number will go down enormously.
It’s always going to be a problem, senator. Jay Lavee, who is a heart surgeon in Israel, didn’t understand what was going on until one of his heart patients told him, “I’m having my heart transplant in China in two weeks” at a certain time and date. Then Dr. Lavee realized that obviously somebody was going to be killed by taking their heart out so his patient could go over and get a new heart. As he said, the penny dropped for him, and in Israel, the Knesset passed a law that, at the time, was one of the toughest laws there is.
There is no absolute solution to it, but at least we’re saying as well as we can to our 37 million Canadians that this is where your organ is coming from if you go to China or anywhere to buy an organ.
Senator Ngo: Thank you for your answer. You mentioned that some countries have implemented robust legislation to combat organ trafficking, and you just mentioned Taiwan, and I mentioned Spain, Israel and Italy.
Why is the legislation in these countries better than the proposed bill before us? Are there any particular provisions or characteristics in any of this foreign legislation that you would like to see enacted in this bill?
Mr. Kilgour: Well, our cultures are all different. Every country that you mentioned, we all have different cultures and backgrounds, and perhaps health problems too, so we have to get something that works for Canada.
At this point, Senator Ngo, as you know, David Matas and I have been going around probably 50 countries talking about this, and it’s very embarrassing that we haven’t got anything in Canada yet. So if we can get something that someone may say is imperfect but at least it’s something, it would be a very educative thing for us to do, and I think it would be very helpful.
Senator Ngo: In your opinion —
The Deputy Chair: Senator Ngo, your time is up. If there is time for a second round, we can bring you back then.
Senator Ngo: I will do second round. Thank you.
Senator Mégie: I would like to thank Senator Ataullahjan and Mr. Kilgour for their testimony today.
I have a question. I know this bill is a first step for Canada. However, I know that after an organ transplant, there needs to be medical follow-up, there needs to be anti-rejection drugs, and there needs to be follow-up over a long period of time.
If this person comes back to Canada, they will arrive in the country after the transplant. They will go to their family doctor for any problems they’ll have. What is the doctor’s ethical and medico-legal role? The doctor is going to ask, “Where did you have your transplant”? Let’s say the person says it was in China. If the doctor knows anything about how it’s done in China, do they have to call a body to report it, or should they maintain confidentiality and say nothing, knowing what happened with their patient?
Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you, Senator Mégie. We already discussed that we had an amendment in there that physicians who treat patients should report. The other side decided that it was placing too much stress and responsibility on physicians and they took that amendment out.
For me personally, I would like to see that. If a physician has a patient who all of a sudden doesn’t need a transplant or, like you said, who comes back to them because they are ill or for whatever reason, the transplant is — it’s not without risk. There can be many health risks.
For me, on every level — again, this is me personally talking — it would be good if the physician can report that this has happened; they are no longer on the transplant list, or they have had a transplant and now they are facing a range of health issues and they need medication. However, the other side took that out.
As David said, and as I am saying, we are so keen to see this pass. We are so keen to have this legislation in place and then go back to it and say, “Let’s make an amendment. Let’s add to it. Let’s improve this legislation.” Currently, the way it stands, Canada has nothing there, and we know Canadians are travelling abroad. We all hear stories. There are no statistics even available. There is such little information available on organ harvesting and organ tourism that is occurring. We need to have something in place. We need to get an idea of how often it’s happening.
I agree with you. I think doctors should report, but the House saw fit that we should remove this and we said okay. Again, I am keen to get something in there. Let’s get something — some sort of legislation so it deters people. If they know there is legislation in place and if they go abroad and buy an organ but don’t know how that organ has been harvested, there will be consequences for them. For me, this is a building block in the right direction.
Senator Hartling: This is a very important subject. Thank you, Senator Ataullahjan, for being so tenacious on this and bringing it around. We are going to look forward to hopefully getting this through.
And thank you to David Kilgour, as well; great job. It’s very interesting.
It sounds like Canada is one of the top countries of origin for patients seeking organs abroad. You were mentioning, David, how we’re not really getting so much information to Canadians about this. What would be some of the other legal or policy measures that we could take to deter Canadians from engaging in these practices? I don’t think, generally, that Canadians know about this. What do you think we could do to create more awareness and make sure there is more accountability? I know the bill will certainly help, but what else could we do?
François Michaud, Clerk of the Committee: Madam Chair, I’m sorry to interrupt. I am sorry to have to inform the committee that we have lost Mr. Kilgour. We’re trying to reach him.
The Deputy Chair: Maybe he’ll come back. Senator Ataullahjan, do you want to respond to that question from Senator Hartling?
Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you. Senator Hartling, currently we have no legislation, so for anybody who goes overseas for a transplant, when they come back there are no repercussions and no consequences. I feel that if we get this legislation in place, there will be consequences. They will know that they have done something that is illegal. Believe me, in the medical community, and among the brokers who facilitate this, like David was saying, some hospitals have people where they will go and they will say that this is available to you, because it’s not illegal. If you have an interest in this, you will find out very soon when legislation is enacted.
David is back so I will let him answer. I don’t know if he heard the question. Maybe you could repeat the question to him.
Mr. Kilgour: I’m sorry about that. I don’t know what happened.
The Deputy Chair: We’re happy that you’re back with us. Did you actually hear Senator Hartling’s question?
Mr. Kilgour: I’m sorry, I didn’t. I was frantically trying to get back on.
Senator Hartling: Thank you, David, and thank you very much for your presentation. You were mentioning that where you’re working that Canadians aren’t necessarily deterred or the information isn’t there about what they should or shouldn’t be doing. I’m wondering, besides the bill — I know that’s a really good thing — are there any other legal or policy measures that we could take to deter Canadians from engaging in these practices or any kind of awareness? What needs to happen to go along with the bill?
Mr. Kilgour: The case of Australia might be interesting because in 2006, Ethan Gutmann and I went to Australia, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation put us on the national television news for, I think, three sessions. We explained this horrible thing that was going on in China, and I guess enough people saw it that a couple of years later when we went back to Australia, we were told by one of the state deputy health ministers that virtually nobody was going from Australia to China for organs.
So if Canadians, Australians and, I’m sure, other people as well know that this is what is happening — that somebody is being murdered on demand so that you can have a new kidney or liver — people would stop going from Canada and these countries.
But having this bill here will help us to go after brokers, for one thing. It will help us to, if you like, educate people in Canada who don’t know. I hope most people do, but it will educate people in Canada that this is where their organ is coming from if they succumb to a broker who says, “Give me $100,000 and I’ll get you a new heart.” They will know where it’s coming from. Somebody is going to be killed so that he or she can come back to Canada with a new heart.
Senator Hartling: Thank you.
The Deputy Chair: I think we have a few minutes left. I think we have two people in the second round. Senator Ngo and Senator Pate — one question from each of you.
Senator Ngo: This is for David. This is a little bit about the legislation. I think you must be well aware of it. In your opinion, how does this bill compare to Canada’s existing human trafficking framework under the Criminal Code?
Mr. Kilgour: That’s a very interesting question, Senator Ngo. We used to have, a long time ago — I guess it was in the seventies — when if somebody went to a country — I had better not single out a name, but you can think of a country where they would go and they would get involved with sex trafficking, probably with a minor, and that at the time was perfectly legal because the crime didn’t occur on Canadian soil. What they did in “x” country was allowable.
In fact, I brought in a bill with some others to try to make it illegal for a Canadian to go and be involved with an underage person sexually in another country. That bill didn’t get anywhere, but eventually, I believe, such a bill was passed years later.
This “universal jurisdiction” concept is a difficult subject for a lot of people, but by having a bill such as the one we’re discussing right now on the books for Canada, I think it would reduce substantially the number of people going to China for organs. That to me is a huge plus for Canada that we have sided with countries that have said there will be no more organ tourism for our citizens; that will be illegal.
It’s not perfect, but it’s a step in a better direction, as I hope all of you feel.
Senator Ngo: Thank you.
Senator Pate: Thank you to both of the witnesses. I’m curious what the pandemic has done to organ trafficking and how this bill will impact online negotiations of trafficking.
Mr. Kilgour: I can give you a concrete example of that. It’s in my files somewhere if you want to look at my website entries under “organ pillaging.” The Government of China took great pride in announcing that they had found a first and second lung — this was about six or eight months ago, I believe — and they had found a perfect match for somebody in the East Turkestan part of the country. If you or anybody believes that that was a voluntary donor who was giving their lung up — I’m sure you don’t think it was. It was clearly these thousands of people — in excess of a million; we’re not sure how many more than a million — who had been tested, and exactly what I said earlier is what happened; somebody came in and said, “We need somebody with this type of body fluid and this blood type and so on.” The first one didn’t work; that person was dead; and then they went out back and got another one.
So the Government of China, thinking that we all think the moon is made of cheese, tried to sell the world that they had just found a voluntary donor who had donated a lung. Completely fictitious and completely, in my view, criminal and against the values of Canadians and virtually everybody else in the world as well. That’s the kind of thing that goes on in China every day.
We estimate, by the way, as of 2016, that between 60,000 and 100,000 of these transplants are going on in many hospitals across China. They had a voluntary donation scheme that — don’t hold me to the number, but it was something like 1,500 organs were donated in a real sense in China that year.
You can be absolutely sure that the vast majority of the 60,000 to 100,000 organs are coming from people who were killed on the spot so that their organs would be available to people with lots of money. It’s an absolutely despicable, hideous practice.
Senator Pate: Most of this is online, I take it then.
Mr. Kilgour: Some of it is. They know that they’re being watched and a lot of people are looking at them now. You can see a lot of this stuff on the ETAC website. We have managed to take photographs of it, but they are offline now. Very little of it is left online, I believe, as of now.
Senator Pate: Thank you.
The Deputy Chair: I don’t have anyone else who’s looking to ask questions, so, colleagues, is it agreed that the committee proceed to clause-by-clause consideration of Bill S-204?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Deputy Chair: We’ll now do clause-by-clause.
Shall the title stand postponed?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Deputy Chair: Agreed. Carried.
Shall clause 1 carry?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Deputy Chair: Shall clause 2 carry?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Deputy Chair: Shall clause 3 carry?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Deputy Chair: Shall the title carry?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Deputy Chair: Shall the bill carry?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you, everyone. Thank you, David.
Mr. Kilgour: Thank you, all of you.
Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you, Senator Bernard.
The Deputy Chair: There are two other questions: Does the committee wish to consider appending observations to the report?
Senator Ataullahjan: I don’t think so, no.
The Deputy Chair: No?
Senator Ataullahjan: No.
The Deputy Chair: Is it agreed that I report this bill to the Senate?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Deputy Chair: Agreed.
Senator Ngo: Tomorrow.
The Deputy Chair: Congratulations. Agreed for tomorrow.
Senator Ataullahjan: David, thank you very much for taking the time.
Mr. Kilgour: Thank you very much.
Senator Ngo: Thank you, David. Congratulations, Senator Ataullahjan.
Senator Ataullahjan: Colleagues, thank you for supporting this very important bill. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
The Deputy Chair: I think that’s the fastest clause-by-clause I’ve ever seen.
Senator Martin: We’re all in agreement.
Senator Ngo: We’re all in agreement for this one. I think we had no objections at all.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you very much to our witnesses.
Mr. Kilgour: My pleasure.
The Deputy Chair: Senator Ataullahjan and the Honourable David Kilgour, we appreciate you. Thank you to all the senators who asked really good questions today.
Mr. Kilgour: Thank you. Goodbye for now.
The Deputy Chair: Colleagues, this concludes the public portion of today’s meeting. We will now suspend for a few minutes and go in camera.