S-240, a bill that targets human organ trafficking, was unanimously passed on the evening of April 30 in the Canadian House of Commons. It was introduced by the Senate and was already approved by the Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade (AEFA) prior to voting in the House of Commons.
The Act amends the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The first is that unauthorized overseas organ transplant would be treated as criminal activities. The second is that those involved in organ trafficking will not be granted immigration or refugee status.
The bill will go back to the Senate for a vote on the amendments by the House before it can be signed into law.
Parliamentary Secretary: New Offenses in the Criminal Code
Arif Virani, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, said the bill aims to combat organ trafficking and protect vulnerable people from whom organs are forcibly removed.
“Bill S-240 proposes to strengthen Canada’s response to organ trafficking by creating four new Criminal Code offences related to this conduct, extending extraterritorial jurisdiction over these new offences and amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to add a new ground of inadmissibility to Canada for having engaged in conduct that would be an offence under the bill,” he explained.
More specifically, the bill will criminalize all involvement in the removal of an organ for transplant without the informed consent of the donor or a substitute decision-maker.
“Bill S-240 also proposes to add a new ground of inadmissibility to section 35 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, for having engaged in conduct that would constitute an offence under the bill. As a result, a permanent resident or foreign national could be found inadmissible to Canada for having engaged in one of the new organ trafficking offences. This amendment sends a clear signal that purchasing any organs, including from vulnerable people abroad, is serious criminal conduct here in Canada.”
Parliamentarians: Canada Cannot Be Complicit
“There were multi-million-dollar businesses run by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, which through its military hospitals had built an industrial-scale operation that removed, to order, body parts and organs of prisoners of conscience imprisoned in China’s vast penal network,” said MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj from the Liberal Party.
To stop this tragedy and other types of human organ trafficking, MP Borys introduced Bill C-500 in February 2018, which failed to pass in the 39th Parliament. Similarly, Bill C-381, introduced by Wrzesnewskyj in the 40th Parliament, and Bill C-561, introduced by MP Irwin Cotler in the 41st Parliament, failed to pass.
Wrzesnewskyj said his original draft legislation from 2008 has served as a template for similar legislation in Poland and Belgium. He said, “It is time for Canada to take action. Canadians must not be implicated in this depraved, evil industry that sees the wealthy and desperate in the west monetize, pay for the organs and body parts of the most vulnerable in the developing world: orphans, destitute farmers and prisoners of conscience.”
He was pleased to see the bill pass this year: “Eleven years after I first tabled legislation to deal with the trafficking in human organs, I am heartened that legislation to combat this horror, to combat this modern form of cannibalism, will finally be enacted by this 42nd Parliament.”
MP Garnett Genuis from the Conservative Party emphasized the significance of the bill: “I think we should all agree with the principle that Canada cannot, in good conscience, consent to the trafficking and harvesting of human organs from nonconsenting people, that we can take a clear and moral stance on this fundamental human rights issue.”
He said sometimes the organs are removed in a terribly painful process with the victim still alive. “These provisions [in Bill S-240] don’t solve the whole issue, and there is more work to be done, but it formally puts Canada on the right side of this and ends any possibility of Canadian involvement,” he said during an interview.
MP Murray Rankin from the New Democratic Party said, “To me, it is a quintessential no-brainer. I want to join the Europeans. I want to join others around the world who are recognizing the scourge of organ trafficking and, as a Canadian, stand proudly with them and deal with this very real problem.”
Ending a Horrendous Crime
Genius thanked efforts by other MPs during the decade of debate over the issue. “Two well-known Canadians, David Matas, and David Kilgour, have uncovered something shocking. Their painstaking research has unearthed that between 60,000 and 100,000 human organs are being transplanted in Chinese hospitals each year, with virtually no system of voluntary donation in place. Most of the organs come from prisoners of conscience, primarily Falun Gong practitioners.”
He said that the Canadian Government needs to help the vulnerable: “I make this speech today in the presence of people who have been arrested in China, and had their blood tested in prison. It may have been that the only thing that prevented their victimization was that they did not match a potential recipient. They understand, more than anything else, the importance of what is happening on the floor of the House today.”
MP Murray Rankin from the New Democratic Party told Parliament that his party “wholeheartedly” supports the bill and urges all parliamentarians to support it as well. “We want it to be a legacy of this Parliament, so we can address what my friend, the parliamentary secretary [Virani], properly called a ‘horrendous crime.’”