Cotler Introduces Legislation to Combat Organ Harvesting

Posted on December 6, 2013



Prof. Irwin Cotler today introduced legislation to combat organ harvesting by introducing legislation that would sanction persons who, inside or outside Canada, are knowingly involved in the medical transplant of human organs or other body parts  obtained or acquired as a consequence of a direct or indirect financial transaction or without the donor¡¯s consent.

Explained Cotler, ¡°The evidence of organ harvesting and individuals trafficked for this purpose is as horrifying as it is shocking ¨C we must ensure that Canada has the tools to prosecute individuals who engage in or facilitate the practice. As well, this legislation seeks to prevent individuals from entering Canada if there is reason to believe they are doing so in an effort to facilitate or otherwise engage in organ harvesting¡±.

Cotler¡¯s bill was in part inspired by the work of David Matas and David Kilgour, who have extensively investigated Chinese organ harvesting, particularly that of Falun Gong practitioners. As Cotler put it, ¡°We cannot alone change abhorrent practices in other countries, but we can ensure that Canada is in no way complicit with this must fundamental violation of human rights.¡±

Cotler noted that the bill would also address instances when individuals are trafficked for organ harvesting, adding ¡°The news this fall of children being trafficked to the UK for organ harvesting is both sickening and appalling. The immigration provisions in this bill are specifically aimed at preventing something similar from happening here¡±.

Among other things, the legislation would also create requirements for certificates that a transplanted organ was obtained through donation, and establish a list of individuals believed to have engage in organ harvesting.


Biographical Highlights

Prof. Cotler was first elected to Parliament in 1999 with 92% of the vote.  As Minister of Justice and Attorney General, he helped transform the face of the judiciary through the appointment of two outstanding women justices to the Supreme Court of Canada ¨C making the Supreme Court of Canada the most gender representative Supreme Court in the world, while also appointing the first aboriginal justice and first visible minority justice to an appellate court.

While Minister, Cotler introduced Canada¡¯s first-ever human trafficking legislation as well as legislation for the protection of children and other vulnerable persons. He also initiated Canada¡¯s first prosecution under the War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity Act, while spearheading the first-ever National Justice Initiative Against Racism and Hate.

Cotler played an instrumental role in ensuring the inclusion of civil liberties protections in the Anti-Terrorism Act and later as Minister initiated the first prosecution under this legislation. He has been a vocal advocate for international justice and genocide prevention, and the promotion and implementation of the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine.

Though Cotler served as Minister for only a short time, he quashed more wrongful convictions in a single year than any prior Minister, notably in the case of Steven Truscott. And, as part of his commitment to equality and human rights, he crafted the Civil Marriage Act, legislation that granted marriage equality to gays and lesbians while protecting religious freedom.

As an active global parliamentarian, Prof. Cotler has chaired international groups such as the Inter-Parliamentary Group for Human Rights in Iran, the Justice for Sergei Magnitsky Interparliamentary Group, and the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism.

Prior to serving in Parliament, Prof. Cotler was a law professor at McGill University (where he is now Professor Emeritus), and was also a visiting professor at Harvard University and a Woodrow Wilson Fellow at Yale Law School. A noted advocate for civil liberties, Cotler has litigated every section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including landmark cases in free speech, freedom of religion, women¡¯s rights, minority rights, war crimes justice, prisoners¡¯ rights, and peace law.

As well, Cotler has served as counsel to numerous prisoners of conscience around the world, including Nelson Mandela, Natan Sharansky, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, and Jacobo Timerman. He is the recipient of 10 honorary doctorates and is an Officer of the Order of Canada.