David Kilgour was a rare breed, a true gentleman of honor and virtue. He was willing to risk his reputation, face international criticism, and incur the wrath of a communist regime all in the name of helping others and upholding truth and justice.
Born February 18, 1941 in Winnipeg, Canada, David Kilgour spent his early career as a distinguished lawyer and principled politician. He went on to serve an impressive 27 years as a Member of Parliament, never wavering from his deeply-held beliefs and principles. He served as Deputy Speaker, Chairman of Committees, Secretary of State (Latin America and Africa), and Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific). Following his time in Parliament, he devoted himself to championing human rights. With a selfless heart and tireless spirit, he gave a voice to the voiceless and helped expose atrocities that would shock the international community.
A man of faith, David’s beliefs served as an undercurrent, moving him to fight for freedom of belief for the oppressed around the globe. In 2006, when the Coalition to Expose the Persecution of Falun Gong was established, David Kilgour, along with highly-regarded international human rights lawyer David Matas, stepped forward to lead the investigation.
In the resultant Kilgour-Matas Report, the duo detailed accounts of unlawful imprisonment, torture, and state-sanctioned forced, live organ harvesting at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Though China fueled criticism of the two men and their report, the findings sent shock waves around the world. The report was updated the following year, and in 2009 it was made into a book entitled, “Bloody Harvest: The Killing of Falun Gong for Their Organs.” In 2014, their work was highlighted in the Peabody Award-winning documentary “Human Harvest” by Canadian filmmaker Leon Lee.
In a climate brimming with Chinese propaganda, Kilgour and Matas were among the first to speak out in support of Falun Gong, and to publicly expose China’s dark secret. Although forced organ harvesting continues to this day, their work has played an invaluable role in raising awareness of China’s crimes against humanity as well as effecting positive change. For their tireless efforts in exposing the persecution of Falun Gong, the two David’s, as they came to be known, were bestowed with the 2009 Human Rights Award from the International Society for Human Rights. The following year, the two men were honored with nominations for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.
In 2012, “State Organs: Transplant Abuse in China” was released. Edited by David Matas and Dr. Torsten Trey, founder and executive director of DAFOH, the book includes further investigation into forced organ harvesting with chapters by Kilgour, Matas, and human rights analyst and author, Ethan Gutmann.
In 2014, Kilgour, Matas, and Gutmann teamed up to found the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China (ETAC). Through ETAC and other outlets, David continued exposing the CCP’s crimes against humanity. He traveled internationally to participate in panel discussions, held speaking engagements, wrote articles, did interviews, doggedly researched, and consistently met with lawmakers to advocate for legislation to help end forced organ harvesting in China. In 2016, Kilgour, Matas and Gutmann published an updated version of “Bloody Harvest,” adding further evidence to their prior work.
David Kilgour’s humanitarian efforts continued until shortly before his death on April 5, 2022. Passing away at the age of 81 from a rare lung disease, the loss came much too soon for those who knew him.
In a touching tribute by friend and co-researcher David Matas, Kilgour was remembered as a man of integrity and empathy, a man who was at his best when he was standing up for those who could not stand up for themselves. Matas concluded his tribute with these words, “All who have known David will miss him. Yet he will not be gone. His example will endure to remind us of the difference between indifference and empathy, between bafflegab and honesty, between giving way and standing firm, between doing well and doing good. He has not disappeared because he has become part of us.”
To recognize David’s important work, Canadian MP’s recently urged the passage of Bill S-223 which has been put forward in some iteration or other for the past 13 years. The bill, which recently passed its second reading in open parliament would make it a criminal offense for Canadians to obtain organs abroad which have been procured without informed consent and deem anyone involved in the trafficking of organs inadmissible to Canada.
Just as the history books will surely do, DAFOH honors the life and work of David Kilgour. His fearlessness and tenacity in researching and speaking out on an issue that so many others turned a blind eye to provides hope and inspiration to us all. He has undoubtedly positioned himself on the right side of history, and his many contributions are immeasurable in value.
May David’s kind-heartedness, upstanding moral character, unwavering efforts, and dedication to defending the lives of the innocent, serve as a shining light to guide us all to be a little better and do a little better, to stand up for what’s right, and to not be deterred in the face of challenges and adversity.
What better way to honor the life of a great crusader.