House of Commons Hansard #47 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was human.

Topics

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Western Arctic
Northwest Territories

Liberal

Ethel Blondin-Andrew for the Minister of Health

moved:

Motion No. 64

That Bill C-13, in Clause 24, be amended by replacing lines 31 to 35 on page 15 with the following:

“the professions respecting assisted human reproduction and other matters to which this Act applies, and their regulation under this Act, and respecting risk factors associated with infertility;”

Motion No. 71

That Bill C-13, in Clause 26, be amended by deleting lines 30 to 33 on page 16.

Motion No. 72

That Bill C-13, in Clause 26, be amended by deleting lines 10 to 17 on page 17.

Motion No. 74

That Bill C-13, in Clause 32, be amended by replacing lines 34 and 35 on page 18 with the following:

“its powers under section 40, 41 or 42 or any of its powers or duties”

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

moved:

Motion No. 75

That Bill C-13, in Clause 34, be amended by replacing line 12 on page 19 with the following:

“eligible for reappointment for one additional term of office only.”

Motion No. 77

That Bill C-13, in Clause 39, be amended by adding after line 34 on page 20 the following:

“(4) The Agency shall establish a dispute resolution process, which may include arbitration, to resolve any disagreement which may arise between the Agency, the donors, the licensees and any other relevant parties.”

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The member who proposed Motion No. 78 is not in the House. Therefore we will not proceed with it.

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I ask leave of the House that Motion No. 78 be put in the name of the member for Fundy--Royal.

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is that agreed?

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
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1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I take it that we are discussing Group No. 3, since we have set Group No. 2 aside.

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

That is right. We are now at Group No. 3. We will return to Group No. 2 later.

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Having read the amendments that the Chair has selected, I see that they deal with prohibition and payment for surrogate mothers, in particular.

I would remind the House that, for each of the groups of amendments to which I will be speaking, the Bloc Quebecois has serious concerns about the whole issue of the regulatory agency. If I understand correctly, the amendments will be discussed in greater detail when Groups Nos. 4 and 5 are considered. Because of this, I will refrain from commenting on the substance of the amendments, but I believe that the urgency of the situation that we experienced over the holidays compels us, as parliamentarians, to realize that it is important that the Criminal Code contain provisions to remind us that a certain number of practices are prohibited.

Of course, we could lament the fact that this government has demonstrated its characteristic sloppiness on this issue, and that it has taken almost ten years since the findings of the Baird commission, a royal commission of inquiry, to introduce legislation.

It is interesting to review the values to which each of the 13 prohibitions contained in the bill corresponds, for us as a society and as human beings. This bill on new reproductive technologies—or assisted reproduction, to use the official terminology—clearly contains extremely important ethical components.

We are opposed to human cloning because we believe, obviously, that every human being is unique. Every human is an entity in and of itself. We cannot imagine an equal relationship in terms of interpersonal or parental relations when a parent has a child who is identical to the parent in every way. This obviously raises questions. It raises questions about psychogenesis. How would a child be raised? How would the child's development be affected, if he or she sees a mirror image in his or her parents?

Among the prohibited procedures, we are also opposed to the genetic modification of cells to ensure that certain features are passed on from one generation to the next. Science would have enabled us to decide we wanted, for instance, children with blue eyes and blond hair who will grow to be six feet tall and weigh 180 pounds. We are talking about a choice made on the basis of specific physical features, and this can be achieved by altering a number of germ-line cells. We take it for granted that prohibitions like this one must be maintained.

In addition, we are opposed to the maintaining of embryos outside the womb for more than 14 days. We are talking about in vitro embryos here. Why this 14-day limit? It may sound like an arbitrary timeframe, but it is not. Fourteen days is the limit unanimously agreed to within the scientific community. After 14 days, the central nervous system starts developing. There would therefore be problems with maintaining outside the womb an embryo known as an in vitro embryo.

Moreover, we are opposed to a much debated aspect of the bill, that is, how far research should go. Should the creation of embryos for research purposes only be allowed? The bill—and I agree with this provision—prohibits the combination of genetic material and the creation of embryos exclusively for research purposes. We believe that when an embryo is created, it must be first and foremost for the purpose of reproduction.

As set out in the bill, this does not mean that, when there are authorizing mechanisms or cycles of fertilization that have left surplus embryos, a person cannot give consent for such embryos to be used for research. This is, however, part of another framework, which requires authorization by the agency to be created.

This authorization will, of course, make progress in research possible. But when it comes down to it, for ethical reasons relating to the concept of what constitutes human life, we believe that a created embryo must be used for reproductive purposes, not research purposes.

It is forbidden to create one embryo from another. Understandably, a child created under such circumstances would be deprived of ancestry, of natural ties to the human race, to the species. We cannot condone such a practice.

Any use of human reproductive material in the body of an animal would, of course, be an offence under the legislation. One very precise example of this: bringing ovum cells to maturity on the skin of a mouse.

In committee, there was another ethical debate on forbidding the selection or determination of a child's gender. We have the technology to do this. It is acceptable in certain specific cases, since it is known that certain gender-related diseases are passed on from one generation to the next,or skip a generation. Under such circumstances, technologies to identify sex may be authorized.

With the exception of medical considerations justifying jeopardizing the life of the mother or the unborn child, the value of individual equality stops us from wanting to see future parents able to determine a child's sex automatically. “If it's a boy, we don't want him; if it's a girl, we do”, or vice versa. This is not the kind of society we want to live in. We believe that men and women have an equal contribution to make to society, and I am sure the hon. member for Jonquière agrees with me on that.

Another very important provision is the one that prohibits the purchase, bartering or exchange of gametes. This leads me to a very important aspect of the bill: the only maternity we recognize is altruistic maternity. Under the bill, it is prohibited to pay someone to carry a child.

Of course, one can carry a child for altruistic reasons—although the Criminal Code does not recognize this type of maternity—but, as parliamentarians, we are definitely not prepared to allow someone to tell a woman, “I will give you $50,000, $100,000 or $250,000 if you agree to carry a child that will be recognized as mine”. This is bartering, buying or selling and profit seeking, and these are not values we embrace.

My time is almost up, but I will have the opportunity, during the debate on the third and fourth groups, to explain why the Bloc Quebecois will support the bill, albeit with some serious reservations about the constitutional interference that the creation of the proposed regulatory agency will lead to.

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a bit difficult to keep up with the changes in the day by debating Group No. 3, prior to Group No. 2. It was agreed that debating Group No. 2 would be very difficult because of the dynamics. If we look at the 26 or 27 amendments, we will see that there is such a variety that it becomes intense. I hope you will rule on that soon, Mr. Speaker, so we can get back to that part of the debate.

This part of the debate is very important because it talks about accountability on three fronts. One is the accountability when it comes to the different infertility clinics across the country involved with in vitro fertilization. It is very important that we understand how we can hold those fertility clinics to account for what is practised within those clinics.

I am not saying that are not doing everything above board. I am saying we need to look farther up stream when we look at them. Often when we talk to scientists or doctors who are involved in this, success to them is a brand new baby. That is as far as it goes. When they have a live child who is healthy, that is success to them.

We spoke to other individuals involved with in vitro fertilization and we looked up stream a little farther. Individuals who were 19 or 20 years old and adults came to committee. They suggested that they were having difficulty trying to cope and understand where they came from because of the practice that went on years before. We have to take their interest into consideration.

Part of that is to hold infertility clinics accountable. The other is to hold the government accountable. Some amendments deal with how we would audit the agency that would be set up. I would argue that the agency is the most important part of the proposed legislation.

Some people say that the bill is about the embryonic stem cell; others say it is about surrogacy and donation of gamete. I would argue that it is neither of those. I would argue that probably the most important part of the legislation is the regulatory body that will take us into the 21st century and will determine how far we will go or not go when it comes to the whole area of infertility. Virtually we are in the position where we are playing God. The regulatory body will be asked to make decisions that are very important to individuals in not only their lives but in the lives of generations to come after them because of the decisions that will be made.

We need to hold that body accountable. We have to understand how it is made up. Some of these amendments speak to that. The body is not the Senate. The body is there for a certain period of time for a certain job. We have to ensure that body is not driven solely by science or a single interest of any kind. We are creating something new, an agency that will take us into the 21st century. We must be absolutely sure that we look at all sides of the issue and that the regulatory body is responsible to the House and to the people of Canada through an extension of the House. If we do not, we will fail in the proposed legislation in a way that we could never imagine. Therefore that is what some of these amendments are about.

Let me go back to holding the infertility clinics accountable and about counselling. This was a very hot issue in committee. We listened to the witnesses and tried to understand why they were in the situations they were. We asked them how much they understood about the process and about the opportunities to have a child in another way. Virtually all of them said, “What counselling, what opportunity, what information? They knew nothing about that.

The proposed legislation revolves around the idea of embryos in refrigeration in the 25 or more fertility clinics across the country. What do we do with those? Then we have individuals who cannot conceive who have the opportunity to take one of those embryos in the freezer and use it to create a child of their own. However that had not been given to them as an option and they did not know the opportunity existed. They did not know that was something that could even be considered, but the drive was there for their own genetics. A lot of these people are not so concerned about that as they are about having a new child and having the experience of creating that child.

When it comes to the counselling side of it, as a committee we virtually unanimously said that we wanted not just the opportunity for counselling to be provided in those clinics, but that it be necessary to go through counselling and to have that information available. In fact we even said that maybe counselling should not really even take place in clinics, that maybe there should be third party counselling because fertility clinics have a monetary vested interest in how they would counsel. Perhaps the counselling should come from outside the clinics so that there could be no attempt to manipulate an individual with a very altruistic rationale and reason for going into this whole area. They should have not informed consent but informed choice about the options ahead of them. It is very important.

When I see the government putting forward an amendment that would water this down and just leave it there as an option, I suggest that this is something we should consider soberly and very carefully. The idea is to make available all of the information before an individual or a couple go into the most important area of their lives, which is to conceive a child and to create a new human being. The responsibilities that come with that and some of the challenges that will happen down the road because of it are very important.

That is why I would like to speak to Motion No. 52 in particular, which is about counselling. I am really appalled that the government would put forward an amendment actually reversing some of the decisions and amendments made in committee by individuals from all sides who listened to the witnesses, discerned and understood just how important this is and how it actually has been abused in many of the infertility clinics across the country.

Accountability of the clinic is very important, but then we can go on to look at some of the other amendments. Motion No. 55, for example, says that there should be appropriate forms and that they be standardized so we have that information available. When we start talking about a gamete donor, whether it is an egg or sperm, we should not be talking just about the numbers but about how to identify them. We identify them in more ways than by just placing a number on them. We should be identifying that material because it is human material that does not consist just of cells. It actually is the beginning of life. It all comes from individuals. It has a record and the potential of human life; when it is able to cause conception in an individual, it certainly is all of that. We should not just be numbering it. We should be naming these embryos, because they are life at its beginning.

I listened to some of the earlier debate in the House and the question of whether this is life at its beginning. I do not think that is really a debate. It is life at its beginning. It is just biology and it does not matter how one looks at it. One cannot deny that it is biology and life begins at conception. How much value we place on life at that stage is a fair and open debate, but that it is life, one cannot debate. DNA starts there. DNA is created when 23 chromosomes from an egg and 23 chromosomes from a sperm come together and start to grow. That same DNA is there for as long as you, Mr. Speaker, and I are on this earth. The DNA never changes. We have to discern the importance of understanding that this is life at its beginning, that it is not just cells. We have to be accountable for how we treat that life, for treating it with the dignity it deserves.

I also would like to talk about the accountability of the regulatory body. The terms for sitting on that body should be limited so that it is not completely controlled by a certain group of individuals, so that all interested parties have an opportunity to be heard and to be discerned so their views are understood before a decision is made as to how far we are going to allow the regulatory body to push its agenda. Believe me, that body will be pushed as we go forward into the 21st century. It is very important that we in this place hold that body accountable. Now we have an opportunity to amend the bill appropriately and I hope we consider it.

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, before I commence my comments on the Group No. 3 amendments, I want to make a comment on today's confusion in the House, which has led us to this point. I am sure that all members of the House realize that the legislation is probably one of the most important and ground-breaking pieces of legislation to come before the House in a number of years, because it is opening up huge new frontiers to us. It is important not only for us today but for the future of all Canadians who are not yet born. We need to get this right. It is very important for us to be able to not allow the special interest groups or particular biases of any of us to interfere with this process.

I hope that you, Mr. Speaker, or anyone else who is in the chair, will be able to give us full flexibility to deal with this issue. The matter raised by the hon. member for Mississauga South certainly is bang on as far as I am concerned. We need to take the time to hear from all sides on this issue, particularly those who worked so long, and to not make an end run around the legitimate committee process, in which so many members worked for so long, to make sure this is done right.

Having said that, I would like to look at Group No. 3 amendments and related matters as they affect the whole bill.

The mandate of the agency in the bill, at clause 21, is to “promote...the human dignity and human rights, of Canadians”, yet as we stated in our comments on the Group No. 1 amendments, this is really not reflected in the preamble of the bill. If there were a different statement of principle in the bill itself, it would affect the kind of regulatory agency there is and even the purpose and aims of that regulatory agency. The contradiction could be resolved by, for instance, including the following statement in the preamble. By the way, this is taken almost word for word from the majority report of the health committee. It states:

It is hereby recognized and declared that assisted human reproduction and related research must be governed by principles and practices that respect human life, individuality, dignity, and integrity.

I suggest that the inclusion of such a statement in the preamble would go a long way toward setting the proper boundaries for the regulatory agency.

I know from having sat on a number of committees in the House how frustrating it is for us to do a lot of work in which members sometimes in the heat of the debate do have some heated exchanges, but where at the end of the day the good of country is put before all of that. The members come together in some kind of opinion that should be carried through on with legislation. To have the government of course then just ignore those particular unanimous or near unanimous recommendations of committees is a devastating thing. Again, let us get this right and take the time to do it.

Another matter is that the assisted human reproduction agency of Canada will not, according to the legislation, report to Parliament, only to the minister. We have had other situations in other quasi-government agencies where this has been the case. It circumvents the responsibility of Parliament to be the final judge and arbitrator of what is happening according to government agencies. This should be an independent agency that reports to Parliament.

Clause 25 allows the minister to give any policy direction she likes to the agency. The agency must follow it without question. The clause also ensures that such direction would remain secret. If it were an independent agency, answerable to Parliament, such political interference and direction would be far more difficult. We are suggesting that this entire clause should be eliminated for the good of the future work of the agency.

Members of the board should have fixed, twice renewable terms of three years to ensure that the minister simply cannot get rid of a non-compliant board member or keep one on forever. This again was a recommendation of the majority health committee report and should be implemented.

The performance of the agency should be evaluated by the Auditor General rather than the agency itself. Of course in the last number of weeks and in past years, we have seen how important the work of the Auditor General is, not only in terms of uncovering wasteful practices of government departments and agencies but also in making sure that the original intent of the agencies and the government departments that receive taxpayer money are actually kept on track. That kind of review by the Auditor General of course would be made public. We feel that there should be transparency in that regard.

As my colleague from Yellowhead has already suggested, the creation of new fertility clinics, for instance, also should be a very transparent process. The licensing of these new clinics should be something that all of us can see as that process moves on.

In the passing of any new legislation, there is of course the possibility for a particular sector of our economy to perhaps make more money than it used to. It is quite possible that the passing of this legislation will create a fairly lucrative business for a number of related agencies, along with job opportunities. We have to realize that the bill and the setting up of the new fertility clinics could become very big business. Money would become very much a part of that, for example, in regard to the whole role of surrogate mothers and some members wanting to allow surrogate mothers to charge for their services. All of this becomes very much a concern if it turns into a big business and takes out the aspect of really majoring in the public health and good of the country.

The bill also allows for the creation of advisory panels. We believe the bill should mandate that they include some key stakeholders. We would suggest these: the users of assisted human reproductive technology; children born with the assistance of AHR technologies; and people with disabilities. The disability community has had a fairly emotional yet rational response, I believe, to the possibility of new reproductive technologies taking place in this country. I have a little daughter who is quite severely disabled. Certainly one would want to protect the interests of that community, which often finds itself very vulnerable in the face of government regulation and society as a whole. We would suggest that people with disabilities have a large role to play on these stakeholder committees. We would also suggest the following: the scientific and medical communities; the faith communities, to discuss the ethical dilemmas that surround this; professional ethicists and representatives of research ethics boards; private sector providers of services and private research firms; taxpayers and their representatives; and, of course, the provincial and territorial governments.

This again is in accordance with the majority and minority health reports of the standing committee and we would hope that members of Parliament would see fit to include these recommendations in the law.

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

John O'Reilly Haliburton—Victoria—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to point out a couple of items in the bill that bother me and that would make me want to support the amendments to the bill.

I noticed in the agency part of the bill that the minister in Motion No. 72 has actually moved to delete 10 lines on page 17. It appears to me that she is endorsing the conflict of interest part of this agency that we are fighting against. In other words, she would be endorsing the fact that anyone who sat on a pharmaceutical board, who was involved in research and could make a profit from the bill, would be allowed to do so with that particular deletion. I would have to look for a lot of clarification on that before I could consider that to be a good amendment.

I believe that conflict of interest to this House is an issue that we all take extremely seriously and that we should look at in the light that whether it is upcoming legislation that involves corporate donations or whether it is a simple thing like a ticket to a hockey game from a corporate sponsor for a member of Parliament, a person may ask “What is the next thing?”.

According to what I read in Motion No. 72, “That Bill C-13, in Clause 26, be amended by deleting lines 10 to 17 on page 17”, it would allow conflicts of interest among the board. I do not think that is right.

I also want to comment on the standardization, the forms and the agency that would be being formed here: the terms, conditions, options and so forth in Motion No. 55 in the name of the member for Mississauga South. The motion includes:

details on the option to give embryos up for adoption; and

the facts related to what percentage of embryos donated for embryonic stem cell research are likely to produce stem cell lines that would meet the research quality requirements.

I have an adopted daughter. We have spent an inherent amount of time being private detectives trying to find out her history. No history is available, at least none that I know of. I searched everything from the birth mother's OHIP number, the old Ontario hospital insurance number, to searching CPIC to see if the person has a driver's licence but none of those exist. I have gone down the path of trying to find the history of someone in my own family. It is for their information not for mine. I am quite happy to accept everyone as they are.

However the fact is that she wants to know her lineage, her roots and what the possible connections could be genetically that cause us to be in certain forms, such as whether one keeps a good head of hair, like the member from Calgary, whether one is bald, or whether one is allergic to peas or to something else. Some of these things cannot be found out until it actually happens, whereas if there is genetic information available one can be on the lookout for it.

In my own case, all the men in the O'Reilly family, previous to me coming along, all died in their late forties and early fifties. No one knew why until we researched it and found out that there was a genetic problem that sets in around the age of 45 to 47 where blood pressure starts to elevate. Back in the forties and fifties blood pressure was not something that anyone looked at as a problem. Being able to trace that, knowing what to look for, seeking the proper medication and doing the things that can be done, we can preserve and make our lives longer.

I am most interested in the fact that transparency not be removed from the bill, that it be very transparent and that people will be allowed to know the health and the history of their parents.

As we go through the bill and the amendments to it, we should keep in mind that this bill deals with life itself. It deals with the reproduction of human beings. It deals with what can happen with the recent scandal over Clonaid and those people who pretended they cloned someone. We need to make sure that when we examine the bill that we examine it all the way through and that we look at every clause, not taking a particular line because someone is a right wing fanatic, or someone is a religious lunatic, or someone is maybe standing up for the rights of the unborn.

We have to look at the rights of people who, like myself, have adopted children. I think those children have a right to know their background. They have a right to know what they can expect in their growing years and what they can expect to find out from their genetics.

In conclusion, I just want the House to know, and certainly the people who have phoned my office with concerns about the bill, that we are reading it and going through it line by line. I look forward to debating Group No. 2, which, by the way, I cannot read because it is messed up. I hope we get to the bottom of that and find out that it is placed properly. I seconded the motions from the member for Mississauga South. I did it not just to fill in the numbers but because I believe in what he has brought forward.

Firearms Registry
Statements By Members

January 28th, 2003 / 1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Philip Mayfield Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, over the past few months we have seen the facade of the gun registry program unravel before our eyes. This other billion dollar boondoggle of the Liberals has given Canadians little security in their person, reputation or their privacy.

Just last week we heard that a computer hard drive, loaded with personal health and financial information on the residents of Saskatchewan, was stolen from ISM Canada in Regina, but what about that broken down old wreck, the firearms interest police database?

People are named within that system whether they are gun owners or not. The data is unreliable, an invasion of privacy and has gone through the hands of several private industries. A database system is only as secure as the people who have handled it. Lives have been disrupted due to inaccurate or mischievous information inserted into that system.

I ask the Minister of Justice to call it a day. The registry is compromised. Will he axe the database before the information gets into the wrong hands? It is that serious.

Iraq
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Beth Phinney Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, many of my constituents in the riding of Hamilton Mountain are concerned about Canada's involvement in any conflict with Iraq.

As this volatile situation continues to dominate the news and the minds of Canadians, I feel it is important to speak out on behalf of my constituents on this issue.

I would just like to state categorically that I am against Canada's involvement in a war with Iraq. War must be a last resort. I share Canada's view that on matters of peace and security the international community must speak and act through the United Nations Security Council. The stakes in this situation are simply too high.

As the member of Parliament for Hamilton Mountain and speaking for the thousands of my constituents, I wish to express my strong opposition to Canada's involvement in any conflict with Iraq, except through a clear mandate of the United Nations.