House of Commons Hansard #134 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was human.

Topics

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Accordingly, the recorded division will be held on Wednesday, October 8, at the beginning of private members' business.

Privilege
Private Members' Business

October 6th, 2003 / 12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question of privilege relates to Bill C-13, an act respecting assisted human reproductive technologies and related research, which is the order of the day. I rise now because I believe a matter has occurred that impinges on the rights and privileges of all members of Parliament.

Last Friday I rose in the House to ask unanimous consent of the House for a reprint of Bill C-13, which would reflect the significant changes that were made during report stage last April. We have not had a reprint of the bill. In fact, if members were to ask for a copy of Bill C-13 today, they would receive the bill that came out of committee with only committee amendments reflected and it would be dated December 12, 2002.

I sponsored about 54 amendments at report stage and I believe as many as 100 amendments were proposed at report stage. During the debate at report stage a number of those amendments were carried on voice vote and did not require a recorded division. During the votes for other report stage motions, for which deferred recorded divisions were requested, there were over 20 amendments on very significant matters which were adopted by the House. For example, there was one amendment with regard to surrogacy for profit in certain cases.

I believe this is a matter of privilege because members of Parliament, for the first time since April 10, were asked on Friday and again today to appear in the House for the final debate on Bill C-13. The House leader moved a motion that the question be now put, which means no other amendments can be made. Now is the time that final speeches must be given.

However members could not possibly go back and look at report stage motions in isolation and understand what they mean. They have to be in the context of the clause to which they relate. It is a complex bill which is why the House decided to split it after significant debate.

Therefore I believe the issue of privilege is that members do not have the information in front of them in a form that permits them to make reasoned debate at third reading concurrence on Bill C-13. I believe this also relates to the hon. members in the other place, as well as to the Canadian public, to understand exactly what is being debated, what are the elements and what is there or not there. Not only can we not debate it but we are being asked to vote on it.

I ask for a reprint of the bill that reflects the numerous and significant changes that have been made. It is available. It only has to be adjusted on the first page. I am told by the Table that it would not show the information that is normally associated with a concurrence motion. It would simply be whited out or blacked out. It is available and I believe members should have that in order to do a proper job as members of Parliament.

Privilege
Private Members' Business

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The member raises some very serious points. On the same question of privilege, the hon. member for Yellowhead.

Privilege
Private Members' Business

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, we have argued long and hard in the House. I think April 10 was the last time we actually debated this bill in the House. However we really were arguing long and hard about some of the complexities of the legislation. We fought in committee. It was a unique piece of legislation because it went to committee prior to going to first reading in the House and on to second reading and committee work for the second time. We worked on it at the committee stage. We had the best witnesses from across Canada and around the world. It is very complex legislation. We actually recommended that it be split because it follows two trains of thought: one on the scientific and the other on building families and assisting individuals to reproduce because they have difficulties doing so.

From our perspective, because of the complexity of the legislation, now that we are through committee stage, where we put forward over 100 amendments and at report stage where we asked that 66 or more amendments be considered, we need to know what is before us. I think we spent two or three hours one evening voting on some complex amendments, some of which were passed. However, now that we are at the third reading stage with something similar to time allocation being called, we need to understand exactly what it is we are debating here. It is important we have the opportunity to read exactly what we are here to debate at third reading.

It is absolutely imperative that we do that and I ask the Speaker to consider it.

Privilege
Private Members' Business

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I will take the question under advisement. The Speaker will look at the arguments and will bring in his ruling. In the meantime, the House will now proceed to orders of the day.

The House resumed from October 3 consideration of the motion that Bill C-13, an act respecting assisted human reproduction, be read the third time and passed, and of the motion that the question be now put.

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, often I begin my speeches by saying that I am honoured and pleased to stand in the House to debate an important issue but this time I have to say that I am not very pleased to be debating this bill under these circumstances.

I think it is absolutely deplorable that the Liberal government would, in the face of a large amount of controversy and a lot of details that still have to be worked out, take steps to stop the debate on this bill and to force a vote, which is, in effect, what it is doing.

Having moved the motion “that the question be now put” precludes any further amendments. That is atrocious. Here we have a matter of life and death in the highest possible terms in the meaning of life and the Liberals are flippant about it. I hesitate to say that but they are very inadequate in the way they are doing this.

I heard my colleagues talk about splitting the bill. I do not know why the Liberal government would not do that. Why not deal expeditiously with items which are urgent? Even as we speak a debate is taking place at the United Nations on human cloning. There are some motions being debated, one of them being that all human cloning be banned. That is my position. I think it is an affront to the dignity of humanity and certainly of individuals to say “well, we will just make another one of you”.

Experimentation in human cloning should be totally banned. I know others disagree with that. Why can we not have a debate on it? Meanwhile, we see that Canada's position at the United Nations is ambiguous at best. We seem to be saying, “well you know, we do not really know about human cloning. Maybe it is okay for therapeutic purposes”.

Can anyone Imagine bringing into being a new human life to create spare parts for someone else? Since when have we had in our society the way of thinking that one human life is dispensable in order to provide for the life of another?

The dilemma arises from false assumptions. There are those who claim that the unborn child is not a human. I would simply ask, if it is not human, then what is it? It is not a monkey. It is not a cow or a pig. It is human and yet they say that this unborn child is not human. We have the dilemma in Canadian law that we can be fined or jailed for destroying the egg of a whooping crane which is a protected species and yet we have no such legislation protecting the uncompleted embryo of a human.

Is a human not worth as much as a bird? That is the dilemma. Why government members would just simply bulldoze through and say that they are doing it, they do not care, makes me almost conclude that there is such a moral deficiency over on the government side that they do not have a handle on it.

The bill should have been split so that those very necessary prohibitions could have been dealt with expeditiously. We then could have spent more time getting the other part and doing it right.

I remember one of my colleagues at the college where I taught had a little plaque on his bulletin board which said, “if you don't have time to do it right, when will you find time to do it again?” That is what we are dealing with here. For some reason time is running out, arbitrarily, and we are not doing it right. How can we ever find time to fix it up and do it again?

One of the primary dilemmas is that this is an unprincipled government. Hence, this very important bill, Bill C-13, expresses no principles in the preamble or elsewhere.

I would have liked to have seen in the preamble an overriding principle. It should have said somewhere in there that in Canada there is a profound respect for human life. This is absent in Bill C-13. The government does not even have the moral fortitude to put in the bill, which deals with life and death, a guiding principle that says we have respect for human life.

Sometime I will ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you are a father and a grandfather and all those good things. I am and it is wonderful. My wife and I have three wonderful children. We have two in-laws that have married into the family. My wife Betty and I now have five beautiful grandchildren. They are the best, our grandchildren in Regina, Dallas, Kayla and I am thinking of Noah, my little six year old grandson. What a neat little guy. I could not even take him for a motorbike ride yesterday because I had to leave to come here. He was somewhat disappointed, but I will do it next time. And there is little Hannah and little Mica, who is only six months old. What a beautiful little baby.

When we look at these little children we cannot help but say that somehow in a profound way humanity and the divine have come together in the fact that we have the capacity to produce new life. And here Bill C-13 talks of cloning and all sorts of other procedures even, if necessary, taking the life of children before they are born.

I always say that the conclusions we reach are a function of two things. They are a function of our initial proposition or assumption and the function of our thought process or analysis as we go along. Those are the two things which determine our conclusions.

If we conclude that the unborn is not human, then no matter what kind of reasoning we use, we are going to come to a conclusion which does not respect human life. I do not care how it is cut. That is the assumption that is made and in my view it is a false assumption.

I remember reading a report of a researcher who was helping infertile couples. He was talking about beginning the life cycle in a Petri dish. The egg is put in the Petri dish right out in the open. It is not inside the woman's body. The male element is added and all of a sudden, the cells start dividing and that document said explicitly that life has begun, that cell division has begun.

I know the debate today is not about where does life begin, but that was a secular non-religious person saying that life had just begun at the moment of conception. Yet this country is ready with that Liberal government over there to deny that very important scientific fact and somehow dull our senses and our ethical standards to the point where just about anything goes.

I reiterate that we need to have in this type of a bill that underlying principle that says we have a profound and a deep respect for human life. We should have in Bill C-13 a provision that when ethics and science collide, ethics should prevail. How can we call ourselves good people if we allow some scientific ability to override our ethical standards? I like the phrase, and I do not know who said it, but it is something along the lines that just because we can do something does not mean that we should do something.

I contend that in this bill, as in all of our considerations on these topics, we ought to say that ethical standards and measures take pre-eminence over simply a scientific ability to do things.

I could go on for another two hours. I would like to ask for unanimous consent for me to have another five minutes.

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is there unanimous consent?

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-13 is extremely important because we have already had this debate when it appeared as Bill C-56. My colleague, the hon. member for Drummond, was a visionary and had in the mid-1990s suggested that parliamentarians should consider such legislation. She introduced a private member's bill that sought to prohibit human cloning for reproductive and therapeutic purposes.

I am extremely saddened—I do not know if it shows; I remain calm at all times—by what is happening here today. When we left for our ridings in June, I asked the Minister of Health to ensure that the Bloc Quebecois could support this legislation. We are not being politically correct with regard to this legislation. We are not debating abortion in terms of pro-life or pro-choice. This is not what we are doing; we will have other opportunities to do so.

We agree that the Criminal Code which is a federal responsibility must contain provisions prohibiting various practices on humans that, for ethical reasons and humanist reasons are unacceptable. We are talking about cloning, transgenesis, gender selection and the possibility of playing with prenatal diagnoses, in short, any and all considerations that we agree need to be federally legislated.

The problem is that this legislation contains a proposal to establish a regulatory agency responsible for implementing any regulations. This regulatory agency and the regulations, established under Bill C-13, would be incompatible with about a dozen provincial laws.

We must not forget the starting point, which is that one out of five couples in Canada experiences some degree of infertility. This is the premise. Obviously, some people, like Louise Vandelac, a UQAM researcher, say that this legislation should focus more on preventing endocrine disruptors in the environment, which cause infertility in humans.

If we look at the bottom line, we can see that the problem with the future regulatory agency is that it will not take into account a number of laws duly passed by the Quebec National Assembly.

If Bill C-13 is passed, it should be divided into two bills. In fact, upon our return in January, with its usual the sense of responsibility, the Bloc Quebecois asked for that specifically. All my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois would have been only too happy to vote in favour of a bill focussing exclusively on prohibited activities. I am sure that our colleagues from the Canadian Alliance, the NDP and the Progressive Conservative Party would have too.

This bill would have the federal government regulate the provision of services in private clinics and hospitals. Under section 112 of the Quebec Act respecting health services and social services, the Quebec Minister of Health and Social Services is responsible for determining which facilities will provide artificial insemination services and other forms of medically assisted reproduction services.

So, if the bill, and subsequently the related regulations, were passed, this would mean that the federal government could then override the right of the Quebec Minister of Health and Social Services and the National Assembly to establish the conditions under which health professionals will provide medically assisted reproduction services.

Bill C-13 is incompatible with the Quebec Civil Code, the act respecting health services and social services, the act respecting the protection of personal information, the act respecting medical laboratories, the charter of human rights and freedoms, the medical code of ethics, the guidelines of the Quebec health research fund, and the ministerial action plan for research ethics and scientific integrity.

On Saturday morning, I met with the Fédération québécoise de planification des naissances. This Quebec group knows Bill C-13 well, and has been interested in issues having to do with planned parenthood for many years. The political attaché to Mr. Couillard, Quebec's health and social services minister, was also present.

We seemed to be reading the bill the same way. I know that the Government of Quebec has not yet announced its final position on this issue. It will do that soon. But the Government of Quebec—which is not a sovereignist government, we know—was very worried about the precedent that might be created.

I explained matters to the researchers, the feminist groups and the federation. There are groups in Quebec who have been waiting for such a bill for 15 years. One of the people at the meeting was Louise Vandelac, a researcher who had worked with the Baird Commission. She withdrew from that commission, as did the wife of the hon. member for Calgary Centre. We know that these people went as far as the Federal Court to protest some of the activities of the Baird commission.

And yet, the political attaché to the minister of health and social services was aware, as are the members from Quebec—those from the Bloc Quebecois anyway, but perhaps not the Liberal members from Quebec—that if this bill is adopted, we will be creating a precedent allowing a regulatory agency to intervene directly in establishing and regulating services provided in hospitals and private clinics.

If, as Bloc Quebecois members, we pass Bill C-13, since we do acknowledge the need for legislation on banned practices—so much so that the member for Drummond introduced a bill on it as far back as 1995— this means the federal government is going to conclude that it has leeway to get involved in early child education and palliative care. It will take advantage of this precedent, unfortunately, to interfere in health and social services, beyond the limits of its jurisdiction.

We have worked very hard on this issue. There is nothing partisan about it. People with fertility problems who want to have a child go through a lot of turmoil. We have received all kinds of testimonials, and I could talk about them for hours. So I asked the federal health minister: “Why did the federal government not split the bill?” I went on to say “If you are convinced you are not ultra petita , not outside your area of jurisdiction, why do you not table a letter from the Quebec minister of health, and one signed by yourself as federal health minister, acknowledging that, regardless of what agency, and what regulations are adopted by the Government of Quebec, this will be the law applicable to Quebec.

Equivalency will be acknowledged right from the start. It is possible that there could be an equivalency agreement in the bill. This must, however, be evaluated by federal officials, and what guarantee do we have that everything done by the Government of Quebec, which had provisions in its civil code as far back as 1994, will be acknowledged?. What guarantee do we have that any agency and legislation created subsequently by the National Assembly will be recognized?

I say again to the minister, if we get that letter, that guarantee, we will vote in favour of this bill at third reading. If we do not, however, believe me, we will not keep quiet and allow jurisdictions to be trampled over in this way.

Given the urgency of the situation and the fact that I, as a Bloc member, have followed this issue from the start in the Standing Committee on Health, could you, Mr. Speaker, find out whether, in the spirit of camaraderie that ought to exist in this Chamber, and given the importance of the issue, I might not have an additional 15 minutes to complete my speech? I would see that as a sign of true camaraderie.

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is there unanimous consent from the House to allow the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve an additional 15 minutes?

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.