As a member of the Canadian Committee of the International Coalition To End Transplant Abuse In China, I have been among those advocating for Bill S-240, an act that brings important changes to the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in order to combat organ tourism.
Live organs on demand
Organ trafficking is a global phenomenon. However, forced organ harvesting deserves special attention in the context of the Chinese. In China, this practice is driven by the state.
Human Rights Watch reported in December 2017 that the Chinese government forcibly collected biodata, including DNA and blood samples, from 19 million Uyghurs that year under the guise of a free public health program in which all citizens are given physical examinations.
For the past two decades, Canada, among other developed countries, has been a participant in this abuse. Dr. Jeff Zaltzman, the head of renal transplants at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, revealed in 2014 that he alone had at least 50 patients who had gone to China for transplants. Zaltzman has since advocated for changing legislation to address the issue of forced organ harvesting.
Barring a few exceptions, the Canadian Criminal Code only criminalizes acts committed in Canada. As such, it is currently legal for Canadians to travel abroad and obtain organs from illicit sources, because such acts do not take place on Canadian soil.
An extraterritorial offence
Bill S-240 recognizes the extraterritorial nature of organ transplant abuse. By making the purchase of organs, and obtaining organs without donors’ informed consent an extraterritorial offence, the bill creates important measures to stem the flow of organ tourism to countries such as China.
On Dec. 11, 2018, the China Tribunal — an independent people’s tribunal chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice, former deputy prosecutor who led the prosecution of Slobodan Milosevic at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia — stated the following in its interim judgment:
“The Tribunal’s members are all certain — unanimously, and sure beyond reasonable doubt — that in China forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience has been practised for a substantial period of time involving a very substantial number of victims.”
The final judgement is due to be released on June 17.
It’s vital that Canada ensures Bill S-240 is passed.
The industrialization and globalization of organ transplantation is the industrialization and globalization of mass murder. If this practice is allowed to take root in human societies, ever more vulnerable populations would be sacrificed in the pursuit of a healthy life by the powerful and the rich.
The cost of inaction means a continuation of Canadian complicity in one of the worst crimes of our times. It is vital that Canada passes this legislation before the end of this parliamentary session, bringing this complicity to an end.
Research at the University of Manitoba is partially supported by funding from the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.