By Quinton Amundson
MONTREAL, Canada, (The Catholic Register) – A frenetic December 14 on Parliament Hill before the Christmas adjournment saw the unanimous passage of Bill S-223 in the House of Commons, which now makes it illegal for Canadians to partake in or profit from organ trafficking at home or abroad.
This bill, which received royal assent on Deember 15, was the product of years of work by Senator Salma Ataullahjan and Conservative MP Garnett Genuis.
“The long fight to strengthen Canada’s response to human organ trafficking has finally paid off: my bill #S223 is now part of Canadian law,” tweeted Ataullahjan on December 15. “Huge thanks to all those who supported the bill in both the (Senate) and (House of Commons).”
Genuis, a Catholic who serves the constituency of Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan in Alberta, detailed the long road to the bill’s passing.
“This is a project I have been working alongside Senator Ataullahjan for the past five or six years,” said Genuis. “But the efforts to strengthen Canada’s efforts against (organ trafficking) date back to probably 15 years before I was elected to Parliament. I became aware of the ongoing injustices taking place in China targeting Christians and other minority communities. One aspect of those injustices was forced organ harvesting and trafficking.”
Previous iterations of this legislation passed the Senate three times, but failed to makes its way through the House of Commons. The fourth time was the charm.
Specifically, this bill amends section seven of the Canadian Criminal Code to make it a criminal offence for Canadians to participate in or profit from organ harvesting and trafficking even if the human rights violation occurs overseas.
“A person who is involved in this exploitation while abroad can actually be prosecuted back here in Canada,” said Genuis. “This extra-territorial application of Canadian law is relatively unique, but it is an important way of responding to our belief in universal human dignity. Violence against innocent people is not any more acceptable beyond our borders than it is within Canada. We are going to do what we can to put a stop to it.”
Bill S-223 also amends the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to make anyone participating in these acts inadmissible to Canada.
Attempt four to pass Bill S-223 began with first reading in the Senate back on November 24, 2021. Ataullahjan delivered her sponsor’s speech two weeks later on December 7.
“In 2012, the World Health Organization claimed that an illegal organ was sold every hour,” said Ataullahjan during that address. “Overall, the number of illegal transplants worldwide is believed to be around 10,000 a year. This would mean that in the past 13 years that we have dedicated to putting an end to organ harvesting and trafficking, over 130,000 illegal transplants have occurred.
“The international character of this problem, which often sees vulnerable people exploited to meet the demand for organ transplantation in places like Canada, requires more than just a condemnation. We need legislation now. When this legislation is passed, perpetrators will know that they can be prosecuted in Canada and banned from entry.”
This legislation will, of course, not completely eradicate the worldwide criminal scourge of organ trafficking and harvesting, but Genuis said it will decrease demand. He would like to see other countries adopt similar legislation and for sanctions to be applied against perpetrators of these atrocities.
Until the MPs return to Ottawa on January 30, they, after a holiday break, will engage with constituents, host round tables and continue public advocacy for the issues they champion. Genuis said raising awareness and combatting the ongoing expansion of medical assistance in dying is a top priority for him and the Conservative Party.