House of Commons Hansard #49 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was first.

Topics

Shipping Industry
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Coast Guard is delaying releasing its decision on marine service fees for navigation and icebreaking. The shipping industry has been waiting for an answer since October 2001. This is an important financial issue, because the Treasury Board is threatening to double the bill from $7 million to $14 million.

Does the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans intend to accelerate negotiations with the industry, in order to avoid a very substantial potential increase in shipping service fees?

Shipping Industry
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his excellent question. This is extremely important to the shipping industry. Discussions were held with the Treasury Board and officials from my department. I personally met with people from the shipping industry from all over Canada. Negotiations are ongoing, and I hope that a resolution will be reached over the next year.

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, Canada is part of a global coalition to fight against terrorism. As such, we have collected millions of dollars to fight terrorism. Now we hear of possible foreign aid dollars going to banned organizations like Hezbollah or the Tamil Tigers.

What assurances can the minister give to Canadians that no Canadian foreign aid money is making its way to any terrorist organizations?

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Essex
Ontario

Liberal

Susan Whelan Minister for International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, we are very prudent when we are selecting our partners in development. We are working very closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Solicitor General. We verify that our partners are not on the United Nations' list or Canada's list of suspected terrorists or terrorists. We are doing our utmost to be prudent.

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, in her last report, the Auditor General of Canada urged the government to make the mechanism for setting the EI premium rates more transparent. That is what the government promised to do when section 66 was suspended.

When does the government plan to deliver on this promise to make the process of setting the EI premium rates transparent and more objective?

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Vaughan—King—Aurora
Ontario

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows that the EI fund, as requested by the Auditor General, was folded into the CRF, the consolidated revenue fund. As a result the hon. member would know very clearly that is where it is. There is really no cash per se. The account is used only to record transactions in the account.

Automobile Industry
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have seen thousands of jobs in the auto sector lost to the United States and Mexico because the government has a lack of commitment to provide serious assistance. Meanwhile, states like Georgia and Alabama have provided hundreds of millions of dollars to encourage companies to locate in those states in the U.S. There is no similar commitment here in Canada.

Discussions are now underway with DaimlerChrysler to locate a state of the art plant in Windsor. Both the union and the company have come to the table and reached satisfactory arrangements to keep that production here.

Will the Minister of Industry match that? Will he get--

Automobile Industry
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Minister of Industry.

Automobile Industry
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, Canada has the most attractive investment climate in the world. Given our economic circumstances, lowering taxes, stable and low interest rates, low inflation, productive workforce, it is a great place to invest.

Working with the Ontario and Quebec governments, we are continuing efforts to attract investment in the auto sector from around the world. In the last five years there have been billions of dollars in investment and reinvestment in the sector.

We will continue to ensure that Canada gets not only its share, but continues to be a world leader in the auto sector.

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

January 30th, 2003 / 3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the government House leader the business for today, tomorrow and next week.

Also, the ministers had many questions today about a possible vote on troops being deployed. I would like to ask him if he will guarantee to the House today, and all oppositions parties who want it, that a vote will take place in the House before any troops are deployed.

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, let me start with the parliamentary agenda.

We will continue this afternoon with Bill C-13, the reproductive technologies bill, followed by, if there is time, Bill C-20, the child protection bill, as well as Bill C-22, the family law bill.

Tomorrow, we will call third reading of Bill C-3 regarding the Canada pension plan. The next item will be Bill C-6, the bill regarding specific claims for aboriginal people.

On Monday, we would return, if necessary, to Bills C-6, C-20 and C-13. We will continue this business on Tuesday morning, but in any case at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, it is my intention to call Bill C-22, the family law bill.

I will be consulting with a view to returning at some point to debate on the Senate amendments to Bill C-10A, the Criminal Code amendments.

On Wednesday, we will continue the debate on Bills C-13 and C-19 if necessary, at whatever stages they are at then.

I wish to announce that Thursday shall be an allotted day.

Colleagues across the way particularly have asked about what they claim to be a principle that military intervention has a vote. I have a number of them here.

For Korea in 1950, there was no resolution in the House and no vote. For Sinai in 1956, there was no vote. For the Congo in 1960, a recorded vote was asked for but no division was held. For Cyprus in 1964, there was a debate before deployment, the motion was agreed to on division with no recorded vote. For the Middle East in 1973, the motion was agreed to with no division and no recorded vote. For the UNIFIL mission in 1978, there was no motion and no vote. For Iran-Iraq in 1988, the motion was agreed to with no division. For Namibia in 1989, there was no vote. For the Persian Gulf in 1990, it was debated after deployment, with a recorded vote and a division.

There were many cases where there were no votes, no debate, no uniformity.

We have established the coherent system which we enjoy today. We have utilized it as late as last night.

I am also prepared to offer to other parties, should they want it at some point, perhaps as early as next week, yet another evening to debate the situation in Iraq. I know many colleagues on my side of the House would like that. We are quite prepared to offer that.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-13, an act respecting assisted human reproduction, as reported (with amendments) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 5.

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and an honour to enter the debate on Bill C-13. I know we are debating certain amendments, but I wish to address my remarks to the entire bill because a lot of the amendments deal with various provisions of the bill.

I would like to suggest that the seven principles that are enunciated at the beginning of the bill are rather comprehensive. I would like to summarize them as reading them in detail would take too long.

First, priority must be given to the health and well-being of children in the application of assisted reproductive technologies; second, in the application of assisted reproductive technologies the health, safety and dignity and rights of humans must be protected and promoted; third, the health and well-being of women in particular must be protected; fourth, free and informed consent must be promoted and employed in the use and application of assisted reproductive technologies; fifth, there must be no discrimination against those who undergo assisted reproductive procedures; sixth, the productive capabilities of men and women must not be exploited for commercial ends; and seventh, the human genome, human individuality and diversity must be preserved.

Those are lofty and worthwhile principles. I would like to look at the implications of the application of those principles to the body of the bill and the legislation that follows it as presented to the House.

The first principle states that the well-being of children must be preserved. It means, among other things, that all children are created equal. That does not mean that they are all the same. It means that they are equal in the basic rights and freedoms before the Constitution and the law. This means they have at least three fundamental rights: the right to life, the right to liberty, and the right to the pursuit of happiness. They also enjoy or should be given four freedoms: the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom of every person to worship God in his or her own way, the freedom from fear, and the freedom from want.

Three rights and four freedoms should be there for all children. I think principle number one clearly implies those kinds of freedoms. Are any of those rights and freedoms denied in the body of the bill? No, they are not. I think the bill is consistent in that area. Does that mean I find each of the other six principles to be that consistently applied throughout the bill? I do not think so.

Let us examine principle number four, which is subclause 2(d). It states:

the principle of free and informed consent must be promoted and applied as a fundamental condition of the use of human reproductive technologies;

The phrase free and informed consent deserves further investigation. Free and informed consent is considered as a principle that must be promoted and applied as a fundamental condition. Let us look at that in some detail. What are the provisions of the bill with regard to the application of that?

The first of these is the prohibition of certain activities. They are found in the bill as a general provision and I think that is good. There are certain activities with regard to reproductive technologies that are prohibited. Second, the bill would create an agency to enforce the bill and the provisions of the bill. I think that too shows foresight and recognizes that a bill like this, complicated as it is and difficult as the implications might be, does require a good and solid administrative structure.

At this point it is essential that we look at what constitutes the conditions under which this agency must carry out its responsibilities. Interestingly enough, as one goes through the operation of the agency, one discovers quickly that almost all of the agency's administrative provisions or obligations are subject to the regulations of the governor in council. That is an interesting provision. This is an agency that is to carry out the administration of this act but subject to the regulations of the order in council.

Let us look at the regulations with regard to free and informed consent. Free and informed consent, as far as the orders in council are concerned, are not the subject of consultation, and are not the result of the intense seeking advice and assistance from persons or experts outside of the government.

In fact, in a parliamentary system the government represents the people. The free, open and informed consent is the Government of Canada which is elected by the people, not the governor in council. The governor in council is the cabinet which is the arm of the Prime Minister.

How would this work in terms of the agency doing its work? Clause 65 of the bill has 28 subclauses. It states that the governor in council may make regulations in 28 particular areas.

I am going to look at this particularly as it affects clause 8. Subclause 8(1) reads:

8(1) No person shall make use of human reproductive material for the purpose of creating an embryo unless the donor of the material has given written consent, in accordance with the regulations, to its use for that purpose.

Under subclause 65(1)(b) it states:

  1. (1) The Governor in Council may make regulations for carrying into effect the purposes and provisions of this Act and, in particular, may make regulations

(b) for the purposes of section 8, respecting the giving of consent for the use of human reproductive material or an in vitro embryo or for the removal of human reproductive material;

We must observe here that the consent must be written by the donor for the use of human reproductive material for the purposes of creating an embryo in accordance with the regulations.

The regulations, if any, may be made by the governor in council. However there will be somebody immediately who will say “the agency shall require written consent and the governor in council may make regulation”. One could argue what if there are not any regulations? Then any form of consent literally would be recognized.

Is it realistic to assume that to be the case? I doubt it very much. For example, written consent might be the result of coercion of some form or it might not be current or there might be any number of reasons under which written consent might occur and it would have to be regulated according to the governor in council. I can see all kinds of reasons why the governor in council might make some regulations. I can see also why the agency might want to make them.

The point I am trying to make here is that the regulations themselves are secret. They would be created in secret and then perhaps made public, but they would not be the result of checks and balances in the debate of the House.

I would like to look at clause 10, although the regulations cover clauses 10 and 11. Subclause 10(1) states:

10(1) No person shall, except in accordance with the regulations and a licence, alter, manipulate or treat any human reproductive material for the purpose of creating an embryo.

Subclause 65(1)(c) states:

  1. (1) The Governor in Council may make regulations for carrying into effect the purposes and provisions of this Act and, in particular, may make regulations

(c) for the purposes of sections 10 and 11, designating controlled activities or classes of controlled activities that may be authorized by a licence;

Interestingly further down subclause 65(h) states that the governor in council also decides what the rules and regulations are with regard to a licence.

Therefore the business of allowing these kinds of activities would be determined not by the agency, but by the regulations first of all with regard to the activities and with regard to a licence. A person wishing to do this kind of manipulation would have to have both a licence and have the regulations as well.

We have a double whammy here as the governor in council would virtually be controlling the whole operation of the agency. Who would be in control? Would it be the agency or the governor in council? It is pretty clear by now that it would be the governor in council. It would run roughshod over the House of Commons because it would not have to consult the House. With regard to this kind of arrogance Jefferson in the declaration of independence said:

...to secure these rights, [the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness] Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,--That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The bill should be reconstituted before it is brought to the House so that indeed we can have free and informed consent as to the provisions for assisted human reproductive technologies.

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Madawaska—Restigouche
New Brunswick

Liberal

Jeannot Castonguay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to the amendments in Group No. 5.

First I would like to remind this House that Bill C-13 addresses the wish of all Canadians to know that the use of human embryos will be subject to the strictest supervision necessary. The use of an embryo, without exception, will require authorization from the Assisted Human Reproduction Agency of Canada.

Motions No. 6, 81, 82 and 86 are not necessary because they do not add anything to the agency's ability to decide who will be granted or denied authorization, and why. Let us not forget that researchers will have to convince the agency that the use of an embryo is necessary for the research they want to conduct. Bill C-13 will allow research using an embryo as long as it is in accordance with the regulations. These regulations are intended to allow beneficial research. This is also a government responsibility. That is the balance struck by Bill C-13.

With this bill, the door to research using embryos is locked. Only the agency will have the key to open that door. The agency will have to be accountable to Parliament and to the Canadian public any time it does so. Without Bill C-13, the door is wide open to research using embryos. At the present time, anything is allowed because there are no controls. This is a huge void that we wish to address, and that we must address.

There is one thing I would like to make clear. The purpose of Bill C-13 is not to control research with embryonic stem cells, let alone adult stem cells. The purpose of Bill C-13 is to control the use of surplus human embryos. That is the objective. For example, we want to control whether or not a researcher may derive stem cells from a surplus embryo. It was created for reproductive purposes. The couple can decide that they no longer need it for reproductive purposes and allow it to be used for research.

When stem cells are derived from the embryo, they lose they initial essence in that they can no longer become embryos. This is a scientific impossibility, as indeed are the polyspermic embryos addressed by Motion No. 9.

Since derived stem cells cannot become embryos, they do not, therefore, come within the scope of Bill C-13. The source of embryonic stem cells, meaning an in vitro human embryo, does.

I would add a word here about the need for research using the two types of stem cells, adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells. Bill C-13 does not hinder research on adult stem cells. It does not change existing government subsidies for this type of research.

The government is hearing what scientists are requesting, which is that all types of stem cell research be allowed. I shall quote Dr. Freda Miller, an internationally renowned adult stem cell researcher, who appeared before the Standing Committee on Health and said:

My...fear...is that my work with adult stem cells...would be used as a rationale for halting the work on human embryonic stem cells. Then, if the adult stem cells don't come to fruition, we're left with nothing...but by allowing the co-development of both sources, you're expediting the potential therapy that will be derived from adult stem cells, so that maybe one day we don't have to use the embryonic stem cells therapeutically.

I would like to be clear about Motion No. 88. If it is passed, doctors will be required to treat each of their patients the same way. This is an unacceptable approach that could put the health and even the life of some Canadians at risk. Motion No. 88 is reckless. It goes well beyond the scope of Bill C-13.

In terms of the guidelines for Canadian Institutes of Health Research, even the criteria and requirements set out in the document entitled Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Research: Guidelines , will be subject to the regulations of the Assisted Human Reproduction Act.

The legislation does not have to comply with the guidelines; rather, the reverse. That is not the case right now because such legislation does not exist. Therefore, it is important to pass Bill C-13 as soon as possible.

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on this group of amendments to Bill C-13. This is a very important group of amendments pertaining to the agency that will in fact provide ongoing oversight and a regulatory framework for developments in this field. We can see that the agency is a critical part of the legislation, and amendments pertaining to the powers and makeup of the agency are critical.

It was very interesting earlier today to hear the Minister of Health give her account of why she felt the motion, presented by me on behalf of the New Democratic Party to ensure the highest standard pertaining to conflict of interest matters, was entrenched in the bill.

It is to be noted from earlier discussions that the amendment was proposed by the NDP at the committee stage of the bill. The Standing Committee on Health agreed with the recommendation and the bill was printed with that amendment, which is, as read into the record, subclause 26(8). It clearly calls for guarantees that no appointment will be made to this new board of directors that has “any pecuniary or proprietary interest in any business” relating to this field of reproductive technologies.

The wording that was selected for this amendment was based on other legislative initiatives. It is not a new and imaginary approach to the issue. It is based on standard law and legislative wording pertaining to this issue about conflict of interest.

The minister today has tried to suggest that the wording of the amendment is so problematic and so difficult that in fact it might lead to the ludicrous situation whereby someone fixing the air conditioner in an office might be in a conflict of interest because that is part of the whole operation. The minister knows that this is not the intent of the amendment, that this is not how it would be interpreted, and that in fact it is precisely worded in a way to ensure that vested interests are prevented from having an influence over decisions pertaining to something as fundamental as the reproductive health and wellbeing of women.

There is no question: a bill can always be improved. I would certainly look to the Minister of Health or any one of her colleagues for better wording if there is a problem in any way with the proposal made by me and adopted by the committee, but for the minister to simply suggest subclause 26(9), which refers strictly to the licensee and spells out requirements in terms of vested interests in that regard, is not sufficient. We are not just talking about the actual fertility clinic or health institution that has been licensed to provide a service. We are not just talking about the front line delivery in this field. We are talking about the whole range of developments and discoveries pertaining to reproductive technology, most of which we cannot even anticipate because the science is changing so rapidly.

Therefore, it is ludicrous for the minister to leave the impression that what is in the bill, minus the good work of the committee and my amendment, is sufficient. There are no guarantees in terms of future developments. In fact when it comes to the responsibilities given the agency under the legislation, they are very extensive. It is not limited only to licensee activity, as foreseen in the amendments supported by the minister. It goes far beyond to include advising the minister on critical issues, to enforcing the law as it is written and will be proclaimed, to inspecting and monitoring developments in this area, and to offering general oversight and surveillance. So any amendment that is strictly limited to licensing provisions will not do it, will just not cut it. We still have a fundamental problem about the possibility of vested interests determining the direction of policies and practices in this very important area, an area of fundamental and critical importance to the women of this country.

Anything we can do to strengthen the agency in this bill is an important responsibility on the part of members of Parliament. It is certainly a role taken seriously by the health committee. Let me say, as many other observers have said, that the success or failure of our work in this area will really come down to the features of this new assisted human reproduction agency. As I have mentioned already, not only will it license clinics and research on human reproductive activities, it will also advise the minister on developments in this area and will be involved in monitoring, enforcement and surveillance. It will have responsibility for providing advice to the Minister of Health on a whole range of assisted human reproduction issues and will play a powerful role in shaping the future of Canada's regulations in this expanding area of social, health and economic policy.

Our concern today, the question we are asking, is this: Will this agency be absolutely independent? Will the directors be free from any ties to the interests of biotechnology companies or fertility clinics? These are fundamental questions. They are critical to the issues at hand.

In fact I would suggest to members in the House that the influence and profits of multinational biopharmaceutical companies are enormous. To presume a lack of interest on their behalf in this burgeoning field of technological innovations and genetics is absolutely naive. It flies in the face of the pharmaceutical industry's own declared intention to direct its activity to genetics products and sciences.

It is also worth nothing that the government's original version of the bill provided absolutely no conflict of interest protection at all, none, so it is not surprising that we are disputing the issue today. Conflict of interest is a concept on which this government has a curious track record. For instance, it does not recognize that there is the possibility of a conflict of interest when a person who is the director of a major provider of a for profit nursing care facility, Extendicare in this case, heads up a government study of health care options, including policy choices that could lead to more business going his way. It is not that someone is personally applying for a licence or a contract; it is that he has responsibilities to shareholders that could, and I say could, influence his policy decisions.

This amendment was approved by an all party committee. It ought to be upheld by Parliament. We ought to register our grievances to the government for the Minister of Health's interference and regrettable actions.

Let me also say that when it comes to the issue of women's involvement on the board, the government's actions have been equally offensive. The committee I worked on accepted an amendment put forward in good faith to ensure that there be at least 50% women on this board of directors that has so many important powers and responsibilities, for very good reason. We put that amendment forward because we knew that in this area that is so important to women's health and wellbeing, women must be represented on at least an equal basis and the expertise and knowledge that women bring to this field must be acknowledged and included in the process.

For the minister and the parliamentary secretary to suggest that they want to be open to all qualified people and that they do not want to discriminate is an insult to women. It is contrary to the notion of women's equality. I would suggest to members on the government side that they rethink this issue and come back to the House with a motion respecting the fundamental issue of gender parity and equality between women and men.