Assisted Human Reproduction Act

An Act respecting assisted human reproduction

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in November 2003.

Sponsor

Anne McLellan  Liberal

Status

Not active, as of Nov. 7, 2003
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Speaker's Ruling
Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

May 12th, 2008 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

There are four motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-377, An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change.

The Chair does not ordinarily provide reasons for its selection of report stage motions in amendment. However, in light of the point of order raised on Thursday, May 8, 2008 by the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh and the subsequent intervention of the hon. deputy government House leader, I would like to convey to the House the reasoning involved in considering these motions.

In his submission, the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh described the particular circumstances surrounding the committee consideration of Bill C-377.

During its consideration of the bill, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development presented three separate reports. In the first of these reports, presented on April 14, 2008, the committee described procedural difficulties it had encountered in the course of its study of Bill C-377 and recommended some action that the House might wish to take.

On April 29, 2008, in its second report relating to this bill, the committee reported Bill C-377 with eight amendments. On the same day, the committee presented a third report. This report explained that having begun its clause by clause study on March 3, 2008, prolonged debate on clause 10 of the bill resulted in an impasse; and that as no further progress seemed possible, the committee turned to the consideration of a motion, the effect of which was to deem adopted the remaining parts of the bill and to agree that the bill be reported to the House without further debate or amendment. This motion was adopted on division by the committee.

The hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh also referred to previous Speaker's rulings where motions in amendment at report stage were selected on the basis that members involved did not have the opportunity to present motions during the committee consideration stage. Specifically, he cited a ruling given on January 28, 2003, regarding Bill C-13, An Act respecting assisted human reproduction, and a ruling given on November 6, 2001, regarding Bill C-10, An Act respecting the national marine conservation areas of Canada.

In his intervention on Friday, May 9, 2008, the hon. deputy government House leader also reviewed the sequence of events surrounding the committee consideration of the bill and referred to the two rulings just cited. He went on to argue that, in his view, the committee's decision to report the bill back to the House prior to the May 7, 2008 deadline represents a conscious decision of the majority of the committee not to make full usage of the time remaining and thus to forego further opportunities to propose amendments at the committee stage. On this basis, he concluded that the motions at report stage should not be selected.

Four report stage motions have been submitted. These motions are identical to committee amendments which were not considered due to the impasse, as described in the committee's report and the adoption by the committee of the motion to report the bill. The motions relate to clauses of the bill which were deemed carried at the committee stage, quite clearly as a way out of the impasse.

The Chair is now faced with the matter of selection. The note accompanying S. O. 76(5) reads, in part: “The Speaker ... will normally only select motions which were not or could not be presented [in committee].”

Having carefully reviewed the sequence of events and the submissions made by the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh and the hon. deputy government House leader, the Chair is of the opinion that we are facing very exceptional circumstances. The committee recognized that the impasse was significant and wanted to bring that situation to the attention of the House. It did so in a report which states in part:

Given the impasse, the Committee opted not to consider the remaining clauses and parts of the Bill....

Therefore, I am satisfied that these motions could not be presented during the committee consideration of the bill, and accordingly I have selected them for debate at report stage. Accordingly, Motions Nos. 1 to 4 will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting pattern available at the Table.

I shall now propose motions numbered 1 to 4 to the House.

Health
Oral Question Period

November 5th, 2003 / 2:40 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, an important vote on human cloning will be held tomorrow at the United Nations. There are 65 countries that will be supporting a resolution that would ban all forms of cloning. However, there are 23 countries, including Canada, that will back a weaker proposal that would allow therapeutic cloning.

It is strange that the government would be supporting therapeutic cloning at the United Nations, even though Bill C-13 aims to ban human cloning.

Why would the government be supporting a resolution that does not reflect its own legislation?

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

October 28th, 2003 / 6:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, just to clarify, there are two motions on Bill C-13. The first is a procedural motion and I believe there is consent to apply. There will be a standing vote on the second motion on third reading of the bill.

I would ask that you seek the consent of the House that those who voted on the previous motion be recorded as voting on this motion now before the House, with Liberal members voting yes.

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

October 28th, 2003 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

The Speaker

The House will now proceed with the taking of the deferred recorded division on the previous question at the third reading stage of Bill C-13.

Assisted Human Reproduction
Statements By Members

October 28th, 2003 / 2 p.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, for too long Canadian women and their children have waited for Parliament to pass legislation on assisted human reproduction and genetic technologies.

Bill C-13 is the result of more than a decade of careful consideration and consultation that is designed to protect the health and safety of women and the children born to them through assisted human reproduction.

This legislation is all about hope: hope for couples struggling with infertility and hope for Canadians with disabilities such as Parkinson's, MS and leukemia. And let us not forget the children born with juvenile diabetes, who would benefit from research into the use of stem cells to treat these diseases. An open letter released on October 25 by 65 leading health care experts calls on Parliament to pass Bill C-13.

As parliamentarians, we have a responsibility to put in place a framework to regulate aspects of reproductive technology and to act now in the best interests of hundreds of Canadian families who have waited so long for this to happen.

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

October 27th, 2003 / 4:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House of Commons to provide all hon. members with what I believe to be a summary of some of the substantive reasons why I do not support Bill C-13.

First, the bill does not ban all forms of human cloning. Dr. Ronald Worton testified before the Standing Committee on Health and said that many of the definitions are in error or problematic from a scientific perspective.

In addition, we had the opinion of Dr. Dianne Irving, formerly of the University of Georgetown in Washington, who stated that the bill mixed up medical and science definitions. She also said that Health Canada had made an amendment to a definition to add the reference to a deployed chromosome from a single living person or a previously deceased person.

The bill says that no person shall knowingly create a human clone. However, human clone is a defined term in the bill. It says that a human clone is an embryo, not someone walking around the streets. It is an embryo that contains, as a result of the manipulation of human reproductive material or an in vitro embryo, a deployed set of chromosomes obtained from a single living or deceased human being, fetus or embryo.

This is suspiciously complex--members would agree--and it begs the question, why does it not say that a human clone is simply an embryo which is genetically identical to another living or deceased human being or human embryo? That is very straightforward. Why is it so complex? Why does it have so many adjectives and conditions?

Dr. Irving identified four methods of human cloning which are not covered by the definition because of that word “single”; getting cells from a single person rather than from one or more. The United States legislation uses the phrase “one or more” because there are proven techniques which use cells from more than one person.

If we do not ban all forms and techniques of human cloning, then we really miss all of them. All they need is one.

Dr. Irving lives in the U.S. and was called as a witness two days prior to the U.S. Thanksgiving and could not appear as a witness when called. No one has ever challenged Dr. Irving's opinions that the bill does not ban all forms and techniques of human cloning for any purpose.

Despite the assertions of armchair media, Bill C-13 does not ban all forms of cloning and therefore the bill, as it stands, does not ban human cloning at all.

The United Nations is currently debating a resolution to ban all forms of human cloning for any purpose. Canada is not supporting that resolution. There is an alternative resolution sponsored by the French and the Germans to ban cloning for human reproduction purposes and to permit human cloning for research and experimentation. Not only is Canada supporting this limited ban on cloning, we are actually a co-sponsor of that resolution before the UN.

Canada, therefore, has one position at the UN and a different position in Bill C-13 which is totally unacceptable.

Alternatively, we could say that the UN position is in fact precisely the same as in Bill C-13 which is that Canada supports human cloning for research and experimentation. This is also unacceptable. Never has Health Canada said that we would support human cloning of any type and yet we have that same resolution being supported at the UN.

Based on the unrefuted testimony and opinions of Dr. Worton and Dr. Irving, it is clear that Bill C-13 would ban human cloning for reproduction but would permit human cloning for research and experimentation. This is unacceptable.

As an aside, a human clone is arguably a human being. The definition in the bill of a human clone is that it is an embryo. By logic, that means that human life begins at conception, that is, when there is an embryo. This will make for an interesting debate when the question of when human life begins is again before the House.

As I indicated, medical and scientific definitions are a problem. One of them was chimera. It has been changed from the established medical and scientific definition without disclosure of that fact. That is unacceptable.

Chimera refers to the combination of human and non-human life forms. The medical and scientific definition states that it is the implantation of human reproductive material into non-human life forms or the reverse, that is, implanting non-human reproductive material into humans.

The bill itself has a definition of chimera which is different. It refers to the implantation of non-human reproductive material into humans but does not include the reverse. As a consequence, the bill would in fact permit the implantation of human reproductive material into non-human life forms creating animal/human hybrids.

Dr. François Pothier of Laval University told a parliamentary round table that he can see animal/human hybrids being granted personhood status in the future. Can hon. members imagine an animal/human combination being granted personhood status? How bizarre; how scary. Permitting animal/human hybrids for research has never been a stated objective of the bill. I believe that this is a sleight of hand in drafting and assumes that no MPs would ever have picked up this difference when doing their homework.

The next area I wanted to comment on is the fact that there are insufficient surplus human embryos from fertility clinics to sustain meaningful research. Dr. Françoise Baylis testified that in Canada there were less than 10 surplus human embryos that would meet the research quality requirements. She concluded that there were not enough embryos available for meaningful research in Canada and last November she announced a research study to more thoroughly survey the fertility clinics in Canada.

Her application for funding was pending approval from the Canadian stem cell network which the government funded. To date, we have heard absolutely nothing on the study because it would prove that the only way to get enough embryos to sustain meaningful research is to permit human cloning for research and experimentation, as is done in the UK, which is also, incidentally, a co-sponsor of the partial ban resolution at the UN.

The UK has already killed 40,000 embryos in doing embryonic stem cell research and there is not one shred of positive evidence coming out of its research. The only way it got that many embryos is that its legislation permits it to clone human embryos and create them for research purposes, which is apparently contrary to the position of this government in Bill C-13.

The definition of human clone in Bill C-13 does not cover all forms of cloning. To allow this to proceed would violate the ethical guidelines for research on humans as laid out in the tri-council policy statement which covers all medical science and research professionals in Canada. It is also contrary to the position of the Royal Commission on Reproductive Technologies.

Members cannot say that there are no guidelines on cloning because there are. The only difference is that in Bill C-13 there are criminal sanctions. In the ethics of medical science and research professionals, the only sanctions would be the professional sanctions, possibly to lose status in the profession.

The next item is the fact that the bill will not improve the accessibility or safety of fertility treatment. One of the fundamental principles of the bill is that human reproductive materials are not commodities to be commercialized. The bill specifically prohibits the purchase or sale of sperm, eggs or embryos.

However, Canada has a shortage of sperm for fertility treatments and a Health Canada spokesperson testified before the health committee that today we import about 30% of our sperm from other countries, including the U.S., and some of it even comes from U.S. prisons.

By cutting off the ability to purchase sperm through imports or through for profit sperm clinics in Canada, the accessibility of fertility treatments in Canada will actually decline. If we do not have enough sperm and we have to import it today, but we cannot import it after Bill C-13 becomes law, we will not have enough sperm to provide for the demand of fertility treatments.

Health Canada has a solution. The solution is to establish an altruistic system like blood donation. However, it did not disclose this fact or explain why it thought it would be successful. Basically, it thinks people would donate out of the goodness of their hearts to help others with fertility problems.

If there are no commercial transactions permitted then how can researchers get surplus embryos from fertility clinics without some sort of compensation? Health Canada had a response to that, too; however, it said it had not figured it out yet. How do we get things going from fertility clinics into the hands of third party researchers? Its response was that it had not figured it out yet, but it would work it out and deal with it in the regulations.

Non-embryonic stem cells can in fact do anything that embryonic stem cells can do. In June 2002 Dr. Catherine Verfaillie of the University of Minnesota Stem Cell Institute published verified research that non-embryonic stem cells can do anything that embryonic stem cells can do. In fact, Dr. Pothier, who I mentioned earlier from the University of Laval, said that despite the ethical and immune rejection problems of embryonic stem cells, researchers want to use them because there is no money in non-embryonic stem cells.

The only reason they want the embryonic stem cells, in my view, is the commercial benefit. Researchers get their money from private interests substantively, from biotech firms and pharmaceutical companies. They want to use the embryonic stem cells because they are subject to immune rejection problems which require lifelong immune rejection drugs. Dr. Pothier was honest with the roundtable. There is no money in non-embryonic stem cells.

The final area that I want to comment on--and it was a theme that I thought was quite appropriate because it happens far too often in this place--has to do with the notion that some people think that MPs are nobodies.

The Standing Committee on Health reviewed the draft bill and made 34 recommendations. It asked for a response from the government within 150 days and there was no response forthcoming. The fact that there was no response makes me ask, why? The answer is because somebody thinks that MPs are nobodies.

The committee made three substantive amendments to Bill C-13 during clause by clause study. However, at report stage, the minister had her own motions to reverse all three and they passed. As a consequence, all of the work of the committee was effectively dismissed as wasted time. Why? Because somebody thinks that MPs are nobodies.

The definition of human clone is faulty and actually permits certain forms of human cloning. Health Canada did not think anybody would pick it up in the scientific definitions. Why? Because somebody thinks that MPs are nobodies.

Bill C-13 would change the medical definition of chimera to only prohibit the implantation of non-human life forms into humans but not the reverse. Nobody thought that MPs would catch that. Why? Because somebody thinks that MPs are nobodies.

Either Canada has one position at the UN and a different position in Bill C-13, or in fact the position at the UN to allow cloning for research and experimentation is identical to what it is in the bill. I agreed that it is the truth. Either way, it is unacceptable.

Nobody thought that we would find out about what we were doing at the UN, that we had a different position than what was being told to Parliament. Nobody thought we would find it. Why? Because somebody thinks that MPs are nobodies.

The bill has 28 areas in which regulations must be promulgated and details that are significantly important to the bill in order for members of Parliament to know what they are voting on. The bill has so many blanks in it because the detail will be in the regulations. This is the way we always do it. Why? Because somebody thinks that MPs are nobodies.

We are not nobodies. We should never be treated like that by anyone. We are entitled to have our questions answered and to be respected for our work. The House of Commons starts off each day with a prayer that we make good laws and wise decisions.

To conclude, let me assure all hon. members that I have spent two years doing my homework on Bill C-13 and it is my opinion that the bill is not a good bill but a fatally flawed bill.

Furthermore, since the government has closed the door on any consideration of amendments, I believe that the wisest decision is to defeat Bill C-13. We can and should do a better job on behalf of all Canadians.

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

October 27th, 2003 / 4:05 p.m.
See context

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-13. In fact I am one of the few members of the health committee who is in Ottawa today. The committee is on a cross-country tour on the pharmaceutical industry. I wanted to be here for this debate, as did other members, but sometimes I guess it is a question of one's priorities. As I have not spoken at third reading, I thought it important to be here.

This is an example of how a bill can go wrong. From the very beginning there was quite a bit of enthusiasm for this bill. This stems back to the royal commission on reproductive and genetic technologies about 10 years ago. Legislation concerning this subject has been before the House many times under different Parliaments and has yet to be passed.

There is a level of support for some clauses of the bill, those which pertain to reproductive technology. I do not think there is any question that there is support in the House for that. Our concerns are with some of the darker sides of the bill, which have been addressed by members today and which have to be acknowledged by the government.

It is the heavy-handedness of the government which put itself in the position of playing cat and mouse on the bill in terms of whether or not the bill will actually survive a vote on the floor of the House of Commons. There are many members on the government side not to mention on this side who are clearly upset with the direction the legislation is taking.

Many members will remember Hubert Humphrey, a famous American politician of a generation of politicians just slightly ahead of us. In fact at one time he was vice-president of the United States. He had an expression that the true measure of a government was how it cared for the elderly, the poor, the disenfranchised. I am paraphrasing, but basically he was saying that how a government looks after those people who need looking after is the true measure of a government. If that test is applied to this bill, it is a flawed piece of legislation.

It reminds me very much of the 1989 abortion bill that was on the floor of this House, Mr. Speaker, just shortly after you and I entered this place in 1988. I may be wrong, it may have been 1990, but somewhere in that timeframe we came into the House on a very contentious piece of legislation which many of us thought was flawed. We had an opportunity to vote on it.

My position always has been that I would never support any legislation that would basically destroy human life. I would only support abortion if the life of the mother was clearly endangered. Members of Parliament were under a lot of pressure to pass that legislation. Despite that pressure I stood and voted against the government on that bill and I have never regretted it.

On this bill, truly we are looking at just about the same dilemma. We do not want to deny the advancement of science which is really what the bill is founded on. It is a very wide-ranging bill. I will get into some of the banned practices later. Some members have mentioned them and maybe there is no need to go over them precisely.

It is interesting to note that nowhere in Bill C-13 is there an acknowledgement that its purpose is to stop infertility. That was supposed to be the focus of the bill. There is no mention in the bill of genetic testing of embryos and fetuses or how that would impact upon people with disabilities. There is nothing in the bill prohibiting the patenting of human genes. Therein lies the problem. The bill leaves openings big enough to drive a Mack truck through, as was mentioned by the member for Scarborough Southwest.

If we go through the minute detail of Bill C-13, the question becomes does it in fact prohibit cloning? I do not think any of us here in the House could claim to be experts on this subject, but there is no question in the minds of many experts that the bill would not stop cloning. It does not prohibit the very thing it says it would prohibit. The member pointed that out as well as he stepped through some of the details of the legislation.

Where does that leave many of us? None of us wants to be perceived as stopping the advancement of medical science. We know there is a balance between ethical concerns, moral concerns, philosophical concerns, religious concerns and so on against the advancement of medical science. We have to be sensitive to those concerns that haunt many of us.

I was stricken with cancer a number of years ago. I am probably one of the few members in the House who has had a stem cell transplant which basically translates into a bone marrow transplant. Through the advancement of medical science, individuals do not have to wait for a perfect match within their family where the risk is somewhat diminished versus the risk involved with someone outside the family. Over the last number of years stem cells can be harvested during the chemotherapy process when one becomes “cancer free” and has no cancer cells in the body. I am abbreviating much of the procedure because it is very complicated and I cannot pretend that I understand all of it.

I am here because of that advancement in medical science. My stem cells were harvested. Once I went through the bone marrow transplant, those stem cells were put back into my body thereby reducing the possibility of cancer reappearing. I am the recipient of that huge advancement in medical science in that particular area.

Some members may say that I should be the last person to object to some of the advancements that might take place because of the experimentation on the embryos. What concerns us is the ethical dilemma that we are in where these embryos, which are basically the beginning of human life, will be destroyed in the process.

Our party will have a free vote on this issue. I will be voting against it because of some of the concerns I have just outlined. Bill C-13 is flawed legislation. The government has had 10 years to get it right and it is not right yet.

I want to thank some of the government members opposite on the good work they have done on that, particularly the member for Mississauga South and others, including the member from Scarborough who just spoke.

I will conclude with that. I have appreciated the opportunity to put a few words on the record.

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

October 27th, 2003 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Tom Wappel Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address the House on this very important bill. I have talked about the bill before, but unfortunately I ran out of time. Therefore, I want to make a couple of comments on a couple of specific issues.

I want to begin where the hon. member for Wild Rose left off. He was talking about definitions and what we were talking about here. I just want to remind everybody that there is a definition of the word embryo in this statute, and I will read it.

--“embryo” means a human organism during the first 56 days of its development following fertilization or creation...

That means that by the very terms of the bill, by the very words of the bill, it is confirmed that an embryo is a human being. It is right in the act, so what are we talking about?

Of course it is a very complicated bill. There are many things in it. It has been partly drafted by lawyers, partly drafted by doctors and partly drafted by bureaucrats. However, there are many important fundamental considerations that must be addressed when we are talking about the bill. One is what are we doing when we are talking about experimentation on embryos, which by definition are human? It strikes me as utterly macabre to be talking about legislating permission to experiment on humans. Ultimately, that is exactly what we are talking about.

Experimentation on humans has occurred before, much to the distress of the world community. It is a question of where in the development of the human being this experimentation would take place. Here we are trying to have a regime where it will be possible to experiment on human organisms from the time they are conceived up until a certain defined time. That to me is something that we must not rush into.

I am heartened in my resolve by a survey which was recently conducted. The survey results were released on October 21. I would like to talk to members and to Canadians about the results of that poll.

I for one am a person who does not believe that we should legislate by polls, because after all if we legislate by polls, we do not need to be here. Everybody could ask the questions by polls and the legislation would occur. However, it does give us an opportunity to find out where Canadians stand on questions. I do know that whatever government is on this side of the House at any time, it will always stand when polls are favourable and say “The polls show that our policies are favourable to Canadians”. Of course the polls are ignored when they are not favourable.

Be that as it may, this poll was conducted by Léger & Léger. It was conducted between October 6 and October 13. It has a maximum margin of error of 2.5%, 19 times out of 20. The poll asked 1,500 Canadians a question. Basically they were asked if they thought it was acceptable to use human embryos for stem cell research or if they thought it would be preferable to use other sources of stem cells which did not involve loss of life or harm. The results are pretty clear. Only 21% thought it was acceptable to use embryonic stem cells, 33% said that it was not acceptable, while 37% said that it would be preferable to use other sources. What does that mean? It means that 70% of the people polled favoured ethical alternatives to embryonic stem cell research.

That is an important statistic because once people are educated to what it is we are talking about, they realize that they do not want to go down that dark road where we authorize the permission to experiment on human organisms. That is a very dangerous path which we must not follow.

There are numerous problems with this bill and one of them, which I would like to talk about, is the position of the government that says that the bill bans cloning. This comes up because there is a discussion going on right now in the United Nations. The United Nations delegates are considering whether there should be a resolution to ban cloning. One of the discussions is, should the ban apply only to reproductive cloning, or should it apply to therapeutic cloning or should it apply to all forms of cloning?

I do not know this for a fact, but it would appear as if the Canadian position at the United Nations is to favour a resolution which would ban only reproductive cloning. If that is true, it goes contrary to the stated position of the government in the House of Commons. On Monday, October 6, during question period, the Minister of Health was asked about this issue and about what was going on in the United Nations. I will quote her answer directly. While speaking about Bill C-13, she stated, “we ban all forms of human cloning”.

A supplementary question was asked and the Minister of Health answered, “Bill C-13 bans all forms of human cloning for any purpose, howsoever done”.

That is pretty darn clear. That is the same minister who, when she was minister of justice, indicated that there was no possibility there could be any interpretation of the definition of marriage other than that it was the union of one man and one woman. Wrong once, it is certainly possible to be wrong twice.

The definition in the bill of human clone states, “an embryo”, and that is a human organism:

--that, as a result of the manipulation of human reproductive material or an in vitro embryo, contains a diploid set of chromosomes obtained from a single - living or deceased - human being, foetus or embryo.

In my view this definition would cover a number of things, but would it cover everything, which is what the minister has told us it would cover in her answer. In my view, by using the word “single”, it would not cover pro-nuclei transfer. It would not cover the formation of chimeras and back breeding. It would not cover mitochondria transfer. It would not cover DNA recombinant germ line gene transfer or eugenics. All these kinds of cloning techniques have been described in several articles that we have been sent and, of course, that the committee has considered. To say categorically that all forms of human cloning have been banned, in my respectful opinion, is at best a mistake. I could go on.

It becomes a very complicated process to discuss this in medical terminology. However, suffice it to say, although I am not a doctor, I am a lawyer and I know that if definitions are not nailed down six ways to Sunday, someone will drive a Mack truck through that definition. We will see things happen that we did not anticipate and it will be too late to close the floodgates.

I urge the House to consider very seriously whether it wishes to pass this bill at this time. I am thankful for everyone's attention.

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

October 27th, 2003 / 3:45 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Perth—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will not take my full three minutes, but there is one thing I would like to say again on Bill C-13, the assisted human reproduction act. I wonder if it might not be prudent for the government to allow for a free vote on the bill as it is a conscience bill. That is all I want to say.

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

October 27th, 2003 / 1:50 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Perth—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-13, the reproductive technologies act. I have my reservations about this particular bill primarily because of the cloning aspect that might be perceived here.

Bill C-13 seeks to prohibit or control reproductive technologies such as cloning and establish a new federal agency to regulate and license fertility clinics and biomedical research involving human embryos. A bill solely addressing reproductive technologies would have easily passed over a year ago. However, since the vast majority of MPs would have voted to ban human cloning, it was thought that the bill would piggyback the ethically sensitive issue of destroying human embryos and still get passed.

Having underestimated the significant public backlash, the bill became the subject of intense public scrutiny. Initially, the concern was the ethics of destroying human embryos to harvest stem cells for research, but as time passed, many other weaknesses of the bill were discovered. I know a lot of those weaknesses have been discussed here today and I would wish that people would look into them even more.

Members should consider the following weaknesses. Despite the fact that Health Canada has already corrected one error in the definition of a human clone, the bill still does not ban all known forms and techniques of human cloning. I know, through much of my political career, that definitions are very important. One must look at all the definitions that could be described in this bill.

The bill would permit the implanting of human reproductive material into non-human life forms. The biomedical definition of chimera involves the implantation of reproductive material from a human into an animal or from an animal into a human; however, the definition in the bill only refers to the latter. I have friends who have had pig valves implanted in their hearts. I know that has been a very positive thing in life and in how things carry on, so I do understand that particular part.

Experts have estimated that there are less than 10 embryos available in Canada that would meet research quality requirements. The number of surplus embryos is not expected to increase since medical technology has improved. Comparatively, the U.K. has destroyed 40,000 human embryos without any positive research results.

The conflict of interest provisions are so weak that they would allow biotech and pharmaceutical companies to be represented on the board of the agency that would approve and licence research projects.

Significant clauses of the bill have been qualified by phrases such as “as per the regulations”. There are 28 areas in which regulations must be developed and these will not be known until at least 18 months after the bill has passed. Effectively, MPs are being asked to vote on a bill without knowing the full intent. Furthermore, MPs will not be permitted to approve regulations.

The Royal Commission on Reproductive Technologies and the health committee both recommend that paid surrogacy be prohibited. The bill would permit surrogates to be reimbursed for lost employment income if they get a doctor's certificate.

The bill ignores women's health issues by not establishing reasonable limits on the amount of drugs used by them or on the number of ova that can be harvested, or embryos that can be implanted.

The bill prohibits the purchase or sale of human reproductive material, but Health Canada does not explain how researchers would get embryos from for profit fertility clinics without paying compensation.

The bill does not establish uniform disclosure or informed consent practices to be used by all fertility clinics. Such disclosure would protect the interests of the infertile.

The health committee urged that the bill state what constituted necessary research. Specifically, the committee recommended that research on human embryos be permitted only if it could be demonstrated that that was no other biological material that could be used to achieve the same research objectives. The bill rejects the recommendation and delegates the decision to the federal agency.

The health committee made 30 such recommendations on the draft bill. The report received no response and most of the key recommendations are not reflected in Bill C-13.

The health committee heard from about 200 witnesses and received over 400 written submissions. As a result of that work, the committee passed three substantive amendments to the bill. At report stage, all three amendments were reversed, with the effect that the work of the health committee was virtually ignored.

I can relate to that particular situation. I have seen it happen with various other committees. I am a member of a couple of committees that have worked very diligently on various pieces of legislation. Being in the--

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

October 27th, 2003 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-13, the assisted human reproduction act.

The recent history of the government has shown that the government likes to divide Canadians. We are already divided on lines of urban and rural demographics, and by regions. We are even divided on moral lines as witnessed by the proposed legislation regarding same sex marriage and some of the debate that has taken place in this House.

It is unfortunate that we spend so much time debating issues that divide this country.That is a question that this government and future governments need to address.

I believe this House is an instrument that should unite Canadians. If we cannot do the research and come to common sense positions, we should certainly not bring it into this House where it divides the country even more.

The other point I would like to make is that the work of the committees needs to be listened to by governments, not only today but down the road. There is no point in spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers' money, listening to witnesses and travelling across the country, only to end up with legislation that does not reflect at all the views of Canadians, the experts of this country.

It is so unfortunate that too often to talk about divisive issues in this House rather than issues that unite this country.

Again, this is one of those social-moral issues that the country wrestles with from time to time. We know that on the science side there are advantages and benefits to research. At the same time there are moral issues that need to be addressed by this country. We cannot just throw them into one pot and hopefully make a decision that makes all Canadians happy because that will not take place.

Maybe the first way to deal with this is to call for a free vote in this House. That way members of Parliament can represent their constituents. There are 301 constituencies in this country. We all come from different regions and locations. The makeups of our ridings are different in nature.

Our constituents have the last say. Certainly, in a represented democracy that is the key. The constituents sent us here and they should have a say in terms of how this country is run and the kind of legislation we should put in place.

Bill C-13 seeks to prohibit or control reproductive technologies such as cloning and establish a new federal agency to regulate and license fertility clinics and biomedical research involving human embryos.

A bill solely addressing reproductive technologies would have easily passed over a year ago. However, since the vast majority of MPs would have voted to ban human cloning--which I am sure would have taken place in this House--it was thought that the bill could piggyback the ethically sensitive issue of destroying human embryos and still get passed. Having underestimated the significant public backlash, the bill became the subject of intense public scrutiny. That is the conflict we have today.

Initially, the concern was the ethics of destroying human embryos to harvest stem cells for research; however, as time passed, many other weaknesses of the bill were discovered.

Despite the fact that Health Canada has already corrected one error in the definition of a human clone, the bill still does not ban all known forms and techniques of human cloning. I can assure the House that the people of Dauphin—Swan River do not support human cloning. The majority of my constituents do not support Bill C-13.

The bill would permit the implanting of human reproductive material into non-human life forms. The biomedical definition of chimera involves the implantation of reproductive material from a human into an animal or from an animal into a human. However, the definition in the bill only refers to the latter.

Experts have estimated that there are less than 10 embryos available in Canada that would meet research quality requirements. The number of surplus embryos is not expected to increase since medical technology has improved. Comparatively, the UK has destroyed 40,000 human embryos without any positive research results.

The conflict of interest provisions are so weak that they would allow biotech and pharmaceutical companies to be represented on the board of the agency that would approve and license research projects.

Significant clauses of the bill have been qualified by phrases such as “as per the regulations”. There are 28 areas in which regulations must be developed and these will not be known until at least 18 months after the bill is passed. Effectively, members of Parliament are being asked to vote on a bill without knowing the full intent. Furthermore, MPs will not be permitted to approve regulations.

The Royal Commission on Reproductive Technologies and the health committee both recommended that paid surrogacy be prohibited. The bill would permit surrogates to be reimbursed for lost employment income if they get a doctor's certificate.

The bill would ignore women's health issues by not establishing reasonable limits on the amount of drugs used by them or on a number of ova that could be harvested, or embryos that could be implanted.

The bill would prohibit the purchase or sale of human reproductive material, but Health Canada has not explained how researchers would get embryos from for profit fertility clinics without paying compensation.

The bill would not establish uniform disclosure or informed consent practices to be used by all fertility clinics. Such disclosure would protect the interests of the infertile.

The health committee urged that the bill state what constituted necessary research. Specifically, it recommended that research on human embryos be permitted only if it could be demonstrated that there was no other biological material that could be used to achieve the same research objectives. The bill would reject the recommendation and delegate the decision to the federal agency.

Let me close by saying that the health committee made 36 recommendations on the draft bill. Its report received no response and most of its key recommendations are not reflected in Bill C-13. In other words, why did we waste all that money doing the work that the committee did? The government still refused to listen to the committee. We will certainly oppose the bill.

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

October 27th, 2003 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Rimouski-Neigette-Et-La Mitis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak on this matter, because it is an extremely important issue in the current context. If we had more time, we could give the complete background of this issue.

Since we first came here in 1993, the Bloc Quebecois has many times very simply asked the government to pass a legislation regarding assisted human reproduction. We have asked the government to legislate within its jurisdiction, that isunder the Criminal Code, in order to allow provinces who wish to do so to deal with the administrative aspect of this issue once the federal government has decided to pass legislation in the area of assisted human reproduction.

Last spring, the Minister of Health finally decided to introduce Bill C-13. At one point, we asked her to split this bill, to settle the issue of the criminal aspect and to submit the issue of regulation to more extensive debate because there was no unanimous agreement on it, far from it.

So far, the minister has refused to split the bill in two. While we agree with some of the measures contained in this bill, the Bloc Quebecois members will be forced to vote against it. They will oppose the bill for numerous reasons.

Last spring, when we had a PQ government in Quebec, Mr. Legault was health and social services minister. He had clearly indicated his position. He said that in the present context of extremely rapid evolution in reproductive technologies and practices, the Quebec government agreed that there was a need to ban unacceptable practices such as human cloning. He wanted the government to act in this area.

The government went still further by saying that, unfortunately, it did not accept Bill C-13 because, once again, the federal government had not seen fit to stop where its jurisdiction left off. It was getting involved in areas under provincial jurisdiction. For ten years now we have been repeating this, and for ten years now the government has been turning a deaf ear. It acts as if it did not realize it was going beyond its limits. Then, it acts all surprised and describes the Bloc Quebecois as being opposed to everything. The Bloc is not against everything, but it is for defending the interests of Quebec. It is for defending the jurisdictions of Quebec and against the federal government's sticking its nose into our business. We have said this often enough, but the government does not want to understand.

For a variety of reasons, then, other colleagues will be rising this afternoon to speak out according to their conscience. Some others have already voiced their opinions and some of them will also be voting against the bill. I trust it will have the time to die on the order paper. This is an unacceptable bill as far as provincial jurisdictions are concerned. It represents a fundamental lack of respect for provincial areas of jurisdiction.

When we had a PQ government, perhaps the government across the way did not find it surprising that there was opposition to this bill. It told itself that this was not surprising, that sovereignists were totally against this bill because it was a federal bill.

Now, since April 14, we have a government in Quebec that has more of a federalist leaning, one that is a member of the same Liberal family as the one here. Yet this past October 8—not that long ago—the Quebec health and social services minister totally rejected Bill C-13. To have done the same as the Bloc Quebecois, and to reject this bill, he too must be a nasty separatist.

Our new branch office in Quebec City, which stands up for Quebec's rights, has also decided to stand up against Bill C-13. We made a commitment to the people of Quebec that we would come to Ottawa to defend the consensus in Quebec. What a wonderful consensus. This is what the health minister himself says, and I quote:

We have sent a clear signal to the federal government that we are very concerned about certain aspects of the bill, which we see as a clear encroachment on provincial jurisdictions.

What I think is interesting in what the minister is saying, is that he is using a word that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs like to use a lot, the word clear. He said that he sent a clear signal to the government that it was clearly encroaching on provincial jurisdictions.

The federal government must wake up and realize that, as far as we are concerned, it will not get very far with this bill. Even the Quebec minister himself would like the bill to die on the order paper, and would prefer that the bill not go forward, because it is far from ready and because, in terms of regulation, we already have a great deal of it in Quebec. We have a number of bills on this topic.

What did Minister Legault say last spring? He said that in Quebec, thought about assisted human reproduction and the development of related techniques began 15 years ago. He said that legislative and administrative measures, both for research and service delivery, had been implemented.

The provisions in Bill C-13 would change the process for designating institutions that deliver certain services exclusively. Under Bill C-13—should it be passed—the way Quebec's Civil Code views assisted human reproduction would be called into question and at least ten of Quebec's laws and regulations on this subject would be ultra vires.

We also have a different concept of access to information and the confidentiality of assisted human reproduction cases. The bill outlines qualifications required for professionals who practice assisted human reproduction and it sets out the authority to manage the storage of human reproductive material in the institutions. In some cases, the bill completely disregards the direction the Government of Quebec has taken in areas that are exclusively under its jurisdiction.

It is important for the federal government to understand that it must legislate criminal matters, because that is its responsibility. The issue of assisted human reproduction cannot continue to be left in a vacuum. The government has to change its mind entirely and get rid of clauses in the bill that encroach on provincial jurisdiction. It absolutely must do this and demonstrate good will.

The government has to realize that no matter what party is governing in Quebec, the moment the federal government interferes in Quebec's jurisdiction, Quebec's ministers and MNAs will stand up and speak out against the federal government for disregarding the Constitution that it signed. Even though we did not sign it, we are asking the government to abide by it.

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

October 27th, 2003 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-13 at this particular stage. I have had the chance to address it on a couple of previous occasions.

We in the opposition feel that regulation is needed in this field. We have heard that from a number of members debating this topic today. As many of my colleagues have said, there is concern about this because it deals with the creation and death of human life and requires some measure of public oversight on that regulation.

It should be noted that we do support a number of aspects of Bill C-13. We fully support bans on reproductive or therapeutic cloning, chimeras, animal-human hybrids, sex selection, germ line alteration and the buying and selling of embryos. We also support a regulatory body to monitor and regulate fertility clinics, though we want changes to the agency proposed in the bill.

As many of my colleagues have talked about the aspects of the preamble, I will focus specifically on some of the concerns we have with the bill in its current form. We support the recognition that the health and well-being of children born through assisted human reproduction should be given priority. In fact, the health committee came up with a ranking of whose interests should have priority in the decision making around the idea of assisted human reproduction and related research.

The three priorities were the following: first, children born through an AHR system; second, adults participating in AHR procedures; and third, researchers and physicians who conduct assisted human reproductive research.

While the preamble of the bill recognizes the priority of AHR offspring, and this is a good thing, other sections of the bill fail to meet the standard. Children born through donor insemination, from donor eggs, are not given the right to know the identity of their biological parents. I will address the issue of donor identity in a moment.

The bill's preamble does not provide an acknowledgement of human dignity or respect for human life. This is obviously a big issue for many people in Canada. The bill is intimately connected with the creation of human life and yet there is no overarching recognition of the principle of respect for human life. This is a grave deficiency that many people have identified.

The committee's minority report recommended that the final legislation clearly recognize human embryo as human life and that the statutory declaration include the phrase “respect for human life”. We believe the preamble and the mandate of the proposed agency should be amended to include reference to this principle of respect for human life. That would help to calm many people's fears because many people do feel that science and technology, reproductive technologies and the continuing on of research in many of these facets for improving Canadian's lives and the conditions of other people around the world is something that is very important. Clearly there needs to be some recognition of the importance of human life so people's fears that this will not be abused in the future can be calmed.

In the area of the regulatory agency, the bill would create the assisted human reproduction agency of Canada to issue licences for controlled activities, collect health reporting information, advise the minister and designate inspectors for the enforcement of the act. The board of directors would be appointed by a governor in council with a membership that would reflect a range of backgrounds and disciplines relevant to the agency's objectives. The bill in this area was amended at committee placing board members under conflict of interest provisions. That is something that is of importance.

At report stage the health minister succeeded, however, in undoing part of that amendment. Licensees remain ineligible to serve as board members but the minister removed the section requiring that board members have no pecuniary or proprietary interests in any business operating in the reproductive technologies field. That is an important change because we have seen over and over again many conflicts of interest, or alleged conflicts of interest, in this government. We would hate to see that happen in an independent body that is obviously overseeing the regulation pertaining to reproductive technologies.

Clause 25 would allow the minister to give any policy direction she likes to the agency and the agency must follow it without any questions. If the agency were an independent agency, answerable strictly to Parliament, such political direction would be more difficult. The entire clause should be eliminated in our opinion.

The Canadian Alliance proposed amendments specifying that the agency board members be chosen for their wisdom and judgment. This was a health committee recommendation in the report “Building Families”. We want to avoid an agency captured by interests and clearly, that would be a good thing. Members must be able to work together to pursue the greater good, not merely represent certain constituencies.

The Liberals rejected their own recommendation when our amendment came up during the review of Bill C-13 at committee. At report stage the health minister succeeded in deleting one of the clauses requiring board members of the assisted human reproduction agency to come under conflict of interest rules. On this point, I believe the health committee had it right. Board members should not have commercial interests in the field of assisted human reproduction or related research.

We can draw on examples here. Imagine an employee or an investor in a biotech company with a financial interest in embryonic stem cell research making decisions for Canadians on the regulations of such research, including the definition of the word necessary, as specified in clause 40. Imagine the director of a fertility clinic making regulations on limits on sperm and egg donations or number of embryos produced for IVF treatments. Such conflicts of interest need to be prevented in this legislation. This change obviously could rise in some of those unfortunate conflicts.

The health minister said that subclause 26(8) would prevent almost anyone from serving on the board, but this was clearly not the intent of the health committee in its spirit.

To move on to the issue of donor anonymity, I know it is something that many of my colleagues have addressed in the House. Although the agency would hold information on donor identity, children conceived through donor insemination or donor eggs would have no right to know the identify of their parents without their written consent to reveal it. Donor offspring would have access to medical information of their biological parents. Some of the concern with this is that donor offspring and many of their parents want to end the secrecy that shrouds donor anonymity and denies children knowledge of an important chapter of their lives.

The Liberals claim to want to put the interests of children first, but in this case think the desires of some parents should trump the needs and interests of children.

In its review of draft legislation the health committee recommended an end to donor anonymity. Even in the minority report, the CA position was that where the privacy rights of donors of human reproductive materials conflicted with the rights of children to know their genetic and social heritage, the rights of the children should prevail.

However, when the issue came up during the review of Bill C-13, the Liberals defeated an Alliance amendment to end anonymity in a close vote. I believe it was six to five on the committee.

The government attaches a higher weight to the privacy rights of donors than to the access to information rights of donor offspring. This is where the Liberals get it backwards. An identified donor is a responsible donor and if all donors had to be willing to identify, then people would donate for the right reasons. Today, one of the main motivations for anonymity is the money factor, which is unfortunate.

There are just a couple of last concerns I would like to address before concluding. One of the issues is with clause 71, which allows the grandfathering of controlled activities until a date fixed by the regulations. This clause would allow scientists to engage in a controlled activity before the act takes effect thereby avoid licensing requirements and prosecution provisions. This could result in a stampede toward controlled activities before the bill takes effect. An example would be embryonic research.

The other issue I would like to address is the chimera issue. This bill prohibits animal to human chimera. That means human embryos implanted with animal cells. However, it does not prohibit human to animal chimera, animal embryos implanted with human cells. The definition of chimera should have been amended to include both human and animal embryos in which cells of other species have been implanted. I believe Motion No. 5 to this effect was unfortunately defeated, at committee.

A Liberal motion passed at report stage would allow the reimbursement for loss of work related income for surrogates when a doctor certified that continuing to work would pose a health risk to the carrier of the fetus. We oppose the motion because it permits the commodification of human life, rent a womb, payment for children, and the health committee also wanted no such payment for surrogacy. This was another issue of concern for many people.

I conclude by saying that I hope the Prime Minister will allow a free vote on this issue. It is obviously a matter of conscience for many members and we hope that element of bringing in a free vote in this place will be respected.

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

October 27th, 2003 / 1:15 p.m.
See context

Miramichi
New Brunswick

Liberal

Charles Hubbard Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I listened with a great deal of interest to the speeches given not only today but over the months and years that we have been looking at the various aspects of Bill C-13.

I know Health Canada and various other groups have spent a great deal of time putting the bill together, and we as parliamentarians have listened with interest to the points of view of many different groups not only here in the House but also across the country.

I would like to mention three or four main concerns that many people have with the legislation, cloning being one. I am not sure who in our society wants to be cloned. I do not think society would benefit a great deal if I or the hon. member for Prince Albert were cloned. However, within the biological concepts that civilization is now discussing, there is the possibility that humans can be cloned.

We have been hearing about the great need in terms of reproductive technology. We know that many families have difficulty having children. As a result, our best medical people and many of our clinics are working toward the concept that couples who have trouble conceiving will be able to have children as a result of research and work that might be done as a result of Bill C-13.

One of the main concerns the people in my riding have is the matter of embryos. It appears that Bill C-13 does not really define what stage of life an embryo is. We know that an embryo begins at conception but in terms of the definition that we might want to use with the bill, when does an embryo change from one that may be used for scientific purposes to one that has the value of life and is allowed to develop into a human being?

The right to life groups are especially concerned that the embryo, really being the beginning of life, should not be part of any research that is being done. They believe that an embryo is the beginning of human life and should be allowed to continue to develop into a child.

More important, when we talk about producing embryos in terms of the legislation, we have to be concerned about what will become of the ones that are not used. When semen is matched up with an egg, the embryo results and if more than one is produced in terms of a couple wanting to have children, what becomes of the others? Can they be frozen and kept for later on in terms of creating a new life with a surrogate mother?

In terms of the whole concept, I hope we will debate the bill in the House and develop the best possible legislation that we can offer to the Senate. The Senate will then review the legislation at length. Hopefully, through sober thought in the other house, which is part of government, it will make changes that will be brought back to this House so we will eventually produce an act that will enable our country to have a good system of reproductive technology.

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

October 27th, 2003 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate on Bill C-13 dealing with reproductive technology on which many people have waxed eloquently in this chamber on many occasions. I feel it is only appropriate that I add my voice to this very controversial and contentious yet extremely important debate.

It seems to me, when I take a look at the bill, that members of the government have not truly figured out where babies come from. Perhaps they still believe in the stork. They seem to differentiate between the way that we deal with embryos and life before birth and life after birth. I think that is totally wrong on the Liberals' part. I can understand their whole motivation because it seems to be the way that they do things.

Let us start with adults. Before adults, they were children. Before children, they were babies. Before they were babies, they were babies waiting to be born. Before they were fetuses, they were eggs and sperm. It is a fairly simple process of a continuum leading, hopefully once we reach old age, to death and the life hereafter, however we believe in that. The point is there is a continuum from inception all the way through gestation to birth and life.

We all know it has been the government's policy to leave a vacuum and to wait for the courts to fill that vacuum before it acts. Then the Liberals will say that society has moved in a certain direction and they just have to legitimize it through legislation. We have seen that on the same sex marriage issue that is currently being debated in the country.

We could go back a number of years to when the abortion agenda was fought at great length. The debate was heated. Finally the government of the day under Mr. Brian Mulroney said it did not know what to do as it could not come to a consensus, so it left a vacuum and the courts filled it. Today abortion is something that is just a normal occurrence. It happens hundreds of times across Canada each and every day.

Here we are again. The government wants to leave a vacuum in the legislation so that researchers can be allowed to use embryos as if they were just specimens cut from a piece of flesh and do their research and testing as if there were no consequences whatsoever. There are many Canadians who believe that human embryos are life in transition, life in the evolution to being a full born baby. As the previous speaker pointed out, we would never hand over our babies for research. We would never allow our babies to be slaughtered for research, although it did happen once before in history and many people died in order to put a stop to that.

Again here there is the notion that embryos, life in the womb, life before birth, are now going to be used by researchers just as another commodity. That debases all life and if it debases all life, it debases us, those who were elected to lead and make decisions on behalf of all Canadians. If we allow life to be debased, where does it stop? What do we stand on? Where do we stand? Do we believe in the right of every Canadian to freedom or only those who have been born?

The government has refused time after time to provide legislative protection for life before birth. It has always struck me as unexplainable that the day before a baby is born it can be aborted, and that is the end of that, yet if somebody kills it the day after it is born it is murder and subject to life in prison; 25 years and no parole. It is two days apart: the day before birth and the day after birth. What was different? Nothing was different in my opinion.

The government tends to leave human embryos before birth totally without legal protection of any kind whatsoever. The more the government allows this vacuum to remain, the more science starts to use these embryos for research and the more it becomes an everyday occurrence the more we just say “Well it is already here so let it happen”.

What does this place stand for if it is not as the voice of the nation, speaking out not only for those who are alive today but those who are being born today.

It reminds me of something, more on abortion than on embryos. I listened to Cross Country Checkup a few years ago when there was a debate on abortion. I believe it was Rex Murphy who had a panel of young people. One young gentleman said on the radio that life had been tough for him. He had a single mother and he grew up with nothing to speak of, no affluence or prosperity. They struggled along but he said that he was really glad that his mother had decided not to abort him. Even though life had been tough, he said that he would rather have that than no life at all.

Now that abortion has become commonplace, if we do not stop this now, embryos for research will become commonplace.

Do they feel pain? I do not know. I am not in the medical science business. However if they do feel pain and we start taking knives to them and doing whatever else we do to them, I cannot imagine the horrors we would be inflicting upon these embryos. We leave it to science and to the scientists who are performing these research tests to tell us whether they believe that an embryo can feel pain. When it is still at the very early cell state, perhaps not, but I am sure later on the pain actually becomes something that they can feel. I would imagine that it is not something that switches on, on a particular day. I would think it is something that evolves over time during the gestation period, and the concept of pain becomes something that an embryo can deal with.

Where does this human research stop and where does it start? What is allowable and what is not?

Going way back to the dawn of history, I think we realized that life begins before birth and therefore I think it is more in line that we bring in protection for life before birth, rather than allow it to be on the researchers' tables so that they can examine these cells underneath the microscope.

We do not know what is going to happen. We should always err on the side of caution. We should always err on the side of Canadians born and unborn, potentially born. To allow this type of process to become a normal process would be debasing to our society.