Moved third reading of Bill C-210, An Act to amend the Canada Revenue Agency Act (organ and tissue donors).
He said: Honourable senators, I have nothing further to add to this bill. I just want to reiterate my gratitude to the critic of the bill, Senator Kutcher, and all members who have worked in cooperation to expeditiously move the bill along. I thank everyone for their cooperation. I look forward to hearing from Senator Mercer and Senator Gold. Thank you, honourable senators.
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate)
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Honourable senators, today I rise in support of Bill C-210, An Act to amend the Canada Revenue Agency Act (organ and tissue donors), which was introduced in the other place by MP Len Webber and passed with the support of all parties.
The bill would authorize the Canada Revenue Agency to enter into agreements with the provinces and territories regarding the collection and disclosure of information required for establishing or maintaining organ and tissue donor registries in those provinces or territories.
Colleagues, many of us have had our lives touched by a family member or loved one in the position of needing an organ transplant. These patients and their families wait and suffer, and in far too many cases, they mourn.
While education and publicity on the value of designating oneself an organ donor seems to have had some effect, more steps must be taken to broaden the opportunities to improve quality of life and, in some cases, save the lives of Canadians by expanding the pool of those willing to donate. Bill C-210 does just that.
Should an individual consent to becoming an organ donor, this information would be collected by the Canada Revenue Agency, or CRA, and, with the authorization of the individual, shared with their province or territory of residence. With this system in place, the provinces and territories could establish and maintain an organ and tissue donor registry.
As a sponsor of the bill, Member of Parliament Len Webber, who testified at the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology last week, noted a full 90% of Canadians support organ donation. However, only 20% make that known through their driver’s licences.
The simple premise of his bill is to include an organ donor consent box as part of the annual tax forms. This would work in much the same way as the consent box allowing the CRA to communicate an individual’s information to Elections Canada so that electoral rolls can be updated. This annual tax filing form is the one document that reaches the most Canadians, and the data compiled on the CRA form is extremely secure. Additionally, collecting this information would not result in any extra costs as it would simply add one more data field to the existing form. It’s a very simple way of obtaining much-needed information.
Colleagues, five Canadians die each week waiting for a transplant. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, or CIHI, in 2018, a total of 2,782 transplants were performed in Canada. There were 4,351 patients on organ transplant wait-lists and 223 patients died while waiting for a transplant.
Kidneys are at the core of the organ donation and transplantation system. In 2018, 59% of all organs transplanted were kidneys. At the end of 2018, there were 40,289 Canadians living with end-stage kidney disease. That does not include individuals in Quebec.
The government recognizes the value of organ and tissue donation. Budget 2019 committed $36.5 million over five years to improve the consistency and quality of data so that Canadians had timely and effective access to care for organ transplants.
Since 2018, the government has led a joint initiative, the Organ Donation and Transplantation Collaborative, in partnership with the provinces and territories, Canadian Blood Services and other stakeholders to identify opportunities to improve the organ donation and transplantation system.
Transplant Québec participates as an observer.
The collection of information on organ donors by the Canada Revenue Agency under Bill C-210 constitutes another way of obtaining vital information, which would help the provinces and territories identify potential donors and add them to their registry. It is therefore another step forward, and it will help save lives. By working together, we can find ways to continue to improve the organ and tissue donation and transplantation system.
Bill C-210 provides a simple and direct way to collect information that could be vital, and this will help strengthen the provincial and territorial tissue and organ transplantation registries. The government supports this bill, and so do I. I am asking my honourable colleagues to do the same and I hope that we can pass the bill today. Thank you.
Honourable senators, I rise today to briefly speak about Bill C-210, which authorizes the Canada Revenue Agency to enter into an agreement with provinces and territories regarding the collection and disclosure of information required for the establishment and maintaining of an organ and tissue donor registry.
This may sound like a simple bill, but its effect is far from it.
As you know, I was the first executive director of the Kidney Foundation of Canada in Nova Scotia and, indeed, in Atlantic Canada. That was in my previous life, and I thank Senator Kutcher for his kind words about my work there.
Anything we can do to increase organ and tissue donations, we should.
Working with donors and recipients can be challenging when there are so few organs available. You most often cry with the future recipients who are struggling while they wait for transplants, but then you can celebrate with them when they receive one. We should be celebrating more with more recipients, and this bill should help with that.
Let us not forget that we must also honour the donors and their families for making such an important choice to donate their organs and tissues. Their legacy, that of the gift of life, lives on with recipients.
As was mentioned, Nova Scotia became the first place in North America to switch to the opt-out organ and tissue donation law. This is an important step to help save lives, and I am very proud of my province for taking it. I hope, as that the new rules are implemented in Nova Scotia, that we’ll get some data to tell us that this is something worthwhile that other jurisdictions should do.
This bill is also a step forward that could help save lives, so I encourage you all to support it. Thank you, honourable senators.