Assisted Human Reproduction Act

An Act respecting assisted human reproduction

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.

Sponsor

Anne McLellan  Liberal

Status

Not active, as of May 28, 2002
(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.

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2002 / 4:20 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Progressive Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

It is the same thing. My colleagues from the Bloc are correcting me, and I thank them for that. I was saying that the Liberal members of the committee get on any bandwagon, knowing that their work and their decisions will amount to nothing anyway. It is not only the opposition that was taken in; so were our friends across the way. They accepted an amendment, and were slapped on the wrist for it. The government told them “Do not do that. You have no right. We do not agree with that”. They apologized and promised to correct their mistake in the House. They will all vote in favour of Motion No. 7, despite the fact that all committee members approved the amendment. This is not serious. It is terrible.

People complain about the rigour of the committees. The Liberals, especially those in the back, close to the curtains, are saying that the members must have a role to play in committee. When they play their role, they get slapped on the wrist. Then, they say “We made a mistake. We did not think that this would make such an impact”. Perhaps they should read more about history.

That being said, let us talk about the second motion that was approved. It changes an amendment which we proposed. It is scandalous. Is it the lobby of big business that put their backs to the wall in only a matter of days?

What was said is very simple. There were two elements, clauses 43(4) and 43(5), which were to apply together as far as protection of confidential information is concerned. Clause 43(5) refers to components and then adds “of health or environmental concern”, and we are not doing anything to that. What is this bill about? Is it for businesses or individuals? All we did was add an and. The government's reply was “No, we are going to put back the or”. This gives an out to companies that do not want to make public confidential information that might have an impact on the environment and on health.

I recall certain Liberals on the committee talking about the necessity of “looking after pregnant women and unborn babies. We must think about future generations”. I think that thought was given instead to “present and future businesses”. It was simple and we are very much disappointed.

They were taken in as far as the Senate and the joint committee were concerned. This proves their inability to connect with reality. Now they are changing and heading off to spend the summer at home, saying “We were wrong, we would have liked to give the House of Commons more power but we are not entitled to do so”.

Lawyers came before the committee, people who are experts on parliamentary procedure. We could have asked them the question but were told “No, it is fine. They are right and we agree.” This is very disappointing. It has taken 30 years to review this legislation.

One thing is clear. There are advertisements on the radio and on TV, or in the newspapers, there are campaigns. They say “What do you have against bugs?” A person goes into a store and ask the clerk “What do you have against bugs?” meaning “to use against bugs” and the answer is “Nothing”. “What do you have against dandelions?” “Nothing”.

This has two meanings, since it can also mean “What objection do you have to bugs?” It shows that people are already starting to be more careful about the use of chemicals. Some will say that there are advantages to use, that is true.

The issue of cosmetic use and the issue of the precautionary principle were both rejected. All they wanted to do was bring the law up to date, but we are still ten years behind what the public wants to see, and what it already knows, ten years behind what the municipalities and provinces are doing.

I have said it often before and I will repeat it: the Liberals only have one single vision, one single strategy, it is for the Liberal party. They have no vision, no strategy for the country. Look at the legislative program, it is paltry.

In committee, people work like dogs to try to get some good work done. Nothing, absolutely nothing happens. All they want is to save this government and this political party.

With all due respect, Liberal members are simply machines; machines that say yes or no. Why did the committee members not stand up to the minister, who wanted to undo what they had voted on in committee? Why would they not stand up to her?

I believe that the time has come to reform the committee system, the House and parliament. However, more importantly, it is time to change governments.

For many people, Bill C-53 may not be a big deal, but again, this is ample proof of all the work that can be done in committee and all the trust that can be built in committee. There is another bill, Bill C-56 on reproductive technologies, being considered in the health committee. We will try to begin the debate before the House recesses for the summer.

When I look at the work that I did on behalf of my party, there were arguments for and against. We have been trying to build trust between the different opposition parties, and also between all of the parties, including the government party. Amendments have already been passed, and we have principles that we would like to discuss and adopt, if possible, in order to speed up the process.

We know that clause by clause consideration is slow. It is very slow. We go about this in good faith. We wanted the labelling to be more complete, but we were defeated on this point. We forgive them. They have no vision, but they are forgiven for it.

However, when we are able to agree on an amendment, which is passed, we expect all of the committee members to defend this amendment, every one of them, from both sides of the House.

Unfortunately, once again, the relationship of trust that was established in committee disintegrated, and this does not bode well for the trust between the people of this country and the government for the next few years.

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2002 / 3:50 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Canadian Alliance Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to address Motion No. 1. My hon. colleague mentioned that it adds the information that would be allowed for confidential business information. This is also specified in the bill. In the original framing of the wording in the bill, we understand that companies which have developed many different products, are rather nervous about the information already available. Also a reading room will be made available for people to read through the information but no information can be written down. Therefore this amendment makes them a little more nervous.

It is important to understand that the bill is not only about pesticides and what pesticides can or cannot come into the country or go out of it, it is also about health and safety There are two sides to the argument. The extreme side says that no pesticides should be allowed into Canada. The other side says it is difficult for us to be competitive with our neighbours to the south and other international countries because of our slowness in and restrictions on allowing pesticides into the country.

Many of the new pesticides which are being restricted are much safer and better than the ones we presently use. This kind of negative incentive to the companies that would bring products into Canada would be put in jeopardy many of our farmers and our agricultural community. They are not looking for a competitive edge. They are looking for a level playing field with many of our trading partners. Therefore it is very important for us not to entrench this confidential business information any more than that we already have. That would be a difficult one for us to support.

We discussed Motion No. 7 in committee in a pretty significant way. It is a very important amendment because it goes to the root reason of why we are here. That is to represent the people who put us in office, to express their will and to conduct business of the nation in a way that is respectful and representative of the people for whom we speak.

The amendment says that on a seven year review, the legislation could go directly to the Senate and a Senate committee for review. The Senate is unelected, unrepresentative and friendly to a prime minister of the government in power. Therefore it is not a sober second thought. It goes against the fundamentals of democracy when a review of a piece of legislation as important as this does not come back to the committee of the Commons that dealt with it originally.

We talked about this at some length at the committee. It was very important because as the debate went around, all parties in the committee agreed with the change to the bill. They agreed that when the bill came up for review that it should not go to a Senate committee but rather to a committee of the House of Commons. It is very important that we not jeopardize the democracy for which we fought so hard. It is very important that committee work be dealt with in a respectful way. That subamendment was considered with forethought and with definite ideas that it was important to the legislation.

We might think that this might have been originally an oversight in the bill. However Bill C-56, which deals with the ethics of the nation, uses exactly the same language. That bill is subject to a three year review. It too could go directly to the Senate for review, an unelected, unrepresentative group of individuals who are friendly and appointed by the prime minister, instead of parliament and the health committee.

This amendment must absolutely not be accepted. We must be allowed to continue in the manner in which the health committee recommended. I strongly oppose Motion No. 7.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2002 / 5:45 p.m.
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The Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading of Bill C-56.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 27th, 2002 / 5:20 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to compliment the previous speakers for their remarks, which I think were very good and right on the money.

This whole thing seems ironic to me. We are talking about a bill that is a response to the assault of September 11, and it turns out that like so many bills the Liberals have now it is an assault on parliament. It tries to restrict parliament's control and role in so many things. Just a few minutes ago we talked about Bill C-56 and the same concerns were raised in that debate. The same concerns were raised with the bill prior to that one. The problem is that the government is trying to restrict parliament from doing its duty and is trying to remove the role of parliament from many aspects of government legislation.

It is ironic that Bill C-55 is here only because parliament complained so much about Bill C-42 that the government withdrew it and replaced it with Bill C-55. I believe that is proof positive that parliament does play an important role in reflecting the interests and concerns of Canadians. However, this bill again restricts the role of parliament in so many ways and it goes along with so many actions by the government to adopt and establish agencies that are out of the reach of parliamentarians and committees. It has adopted foundations that distribute money and has privatized organizations like Nav Canada so that we can no longer have access to information for reports on safety and on the aspects of aviation that are so important to Canadians. This is a constant thing. Every single bill that comes forward seems to have an element in it that takes away our role in parliament, even though the very existence of this bill is proof positive that parliament does play an important role.

The bill takes tremendous powers from parliament and gives them to a minister. It is hard to believe that the government has even proposed such a bill. The interim orders that a minister can establish can remain secret for 23 days. They can go 45 days without cabinet approval. A minister can create a military security zone and not even seek cabinet approval for 45 days. What can possibly be the excuse for that? Why would it take 45 days to get the cabinet together if there is an emergency that justifies such a measure? Why is that not a few hours? Someone has proposed 72 hours. Why is that not acceptable? Why do we have to wait 45 days to get cabinet approval, much less keep it secret for 23 days? This is just absolutely amazing and there is no need for it. It must be an attempt by the Liberals, or the officials working for the Liberals, or someone, to establish power, maintain it and take it away from our parliament.

If we compare this to the Emergency Measures Act, which is designed to do much the same thing, only for different reasons perhaps, it really brings out the differences, the anomalies and the unacceptable conditions in Bill C-55. The emergency measures must go to parliament within 7 days, not 45 days. They must come back to parliament and we must vote on them here in parliament. Under the actions in Bill C-55 we would never vote on that. Why? Why would the Emergency Measures Act require a vote in parliament and Bill C-55 not require a vote in parliament?

Parliament could actually turn down an emergency measures recommendation or order by a minister. Under Bill C-55 parliament cannot even touch a recommendation. Under the Emergency Measures Act every regulation must come back to parliament and must be reported within two sitting days. Under Bill C-55 they never have to come back to parliament. Bill C-55 would come into effect immediately. There is not even a declaration of the implementation required under Bill C-55. There does not even have to be a petition to bring it in. Bill C-55 must be reported only 15 days after the House returns to sit again. If it does not sit, this is not reported at all. There is no requirement. There is no debate, no accountability, no nothing. It cloaks every aspect of Bill C-55 in secrecy. Parliament is left literally completely out of the loop.

This is a public safety bill but we should almost have a parliamentary safety bill to protect parliament. We should bring in a bill to protect parliament and our role to make sure that we still have a role in issues such as these, issues such as security and safety, a role that the bill tries to take away from us.

As the privacy commissioner said, as reported by the previous speaker, he takes total exception to this and says that the Liberals are trying to create a totalitarian society. Their response is to attack the privacy commissioner. This is a new strategy of the Liberals. They recently had an array of members of parliament attack the auditor general when she came out with a report they did not like. Now they have attacked the privacy commissioner. The Liberals establish these positions and support them, but if these people do not agree with them, they attack them. Then there is the ethics counsellor, who just does exactly whatever the Prime Minister wants him to do.

It is a serious issue. Many Canadians are concerned about the direction the government is going in. They are concerned about the intrusion of the United States on our sovereignty with this whole security aspect and the demands of the Americans to have their customs throughout Canada at our ports and in our airports. They want to take over our military by creating a perimeter security philosophy. What they really want to do is to control it; they do not want to share it. They want to control the customs officers in Canada. Again it seems that the Liberals are falling for this and going along with it. Although the United States is a very important friend to Canada, we must maintain our distance and our sovereignty. I hope that we do not move any closer and comply with some of the requests that the Americans continually are coming up with.

Our industries are now finding that the Americans are changing the rules every day. When truckers arrive at the border with a load of goods or even seeds or agricultural products, they find that the rules have changed and that they cannot proceed in the same way they did last week or the week before. The Americans are trying to control trade, security, the police and the military. This is a very dangerous direction to take and Bill C-55 plays into those hands.

Under the bill, the powers given to a minister require that cabinet be notified only after 45 days. I come back to that again because I think it is so unacceptable that cabinet does not have to approve some of these actions that a minister can take. It puts tremendous power in the minister's hands. That should be changed, if nothing else.

We support the amendment today because of these actions, because they put so much power in the hands of a minister when it is not necessary. I have no idea why the Liberals have come up with these conditions in the bill for transfer of the power to ministers. It is not necessary. They have lost total respect for parliament. They want to keep parliament out of the loop. They want to have just a very small number of ministers over there, not even the entire cabinet, making all the decisions and having all the power, and they want to have all the Liberal members stand up like trained seals and say yes, that they support it and they will do it. It is amazing that they continue to do this.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2002 / 4:35 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise again to debate the issue in the main motion. It is an issue that crosses all party lines. Its is so valuable and important I hope the government and all House leaders will see fit to give members the opportunity to vote as they see fit and according to their consciences. It would be unconscionable for party discipline or any other force to silence people on this important issue.

We in our party have had an opportunity to look at Bill C-56 and are concerned about a number of issues contained in it. The bill is about improving human life. The Canadian Alliance strongly supports research to this end whenever it is compatible with the dignity and value of human life. As I said when we were debating the amendment, that is absolutely the key issue. Everyone must come to this place with great courage and look at the issue of the dignity and value of human life. It is something the Canadian Alliance will strive to protect.

Bill C-56 is about the best interests of children born of assisted reproductive technologies. The Canadian Alliance will work to protect them. The bill is about access by prospective parents to the best assisted reproductive technologies science can ethically offer. The Canadian Alliance will work to preserve this. As I said at the outset, MPs from all parties should have a free vote on the bill at all its stages.

Clause 40 of the bill says human embryos could be harvested if the new agency was satisfied it was necessary for the purpose of proposed research. The discretionary power must be reduced by defining in the bill what constitutes necessary. In my public life people have come to me to talk about various decisions that have been made in the legal system. Not being a lawyer, one of my frustrations has been looking at legislation and seeing the words necessary or intent suddenly appearing in it. Such words may be common to members of parliament but what they mean in ordinary discussion can be totally different from what they mean in an court of law. That is why the word necessary must not be left to regulations or the agency to define.

The purpose of research on human embryos is not specified in the bill. It must be restricted to creating medical therapies that assist in healing the human body. More importantly, we are looking for a delay in the passage of the bill because of the rapid changes in research that are happening as we speak. Rapid change is taking place within the whole medical community in terms of what we can learn from adult stem cells as opposed to embryonic stem cells.

The modification of the phrase from the majority standing committee report should be replaced in clause 40 of the bill with the following: “Unless the applicant clearly demonstrates that no other category of biological material could be used from which to derive healing human therapies”. This is not an incidental amendment. It is an absolutely key amendment because we must respect human life, and embryo life is human life.

To stop licensees from producing more embryos than are necessary with the ulterior motive of harvesting them for research, a new clause should be added: “No licensee will produce more embryos than are reasonably necessary to complete the reproductive procedure intended by the donors”. Again, this goes to the issue of respect for human life.

We are creative. I am dating myself when I speak about the fact that I can recall turning up to work early one morning and seeing the headline at the newsstand “Man on the Moon”. We have moved so far past that point it is unbelievable. The concept of being able to safely go to the moon, land on the moon and walk on the moon as Armstrong did was beyond my comprehension. How much further are we than that? We are 100 or 1,000 times further than that with our research.

Again, there are possibilities for research. Although it is essential research, possibilities can happen in the context of adult stem cell research, placenta cell research or other materials that do not get to the issue of terminating human life.

Bill C-56 specifies that consent of the donor would be required to use a human embryo for experimentation. The bill would leave it to the regulations to define donor. However there are two donors to every human embryo: a man and a woman. Both donors or parents, not just one, should be required to give written consent for the use of a human embryo. Both the woman and the man have the right to consent or not consent to the use of the embryo.

This is where we seem to be drifting apart as a society. We seem to be drifting away from the concept of procreation between a man and a woman in a marriage situation which results in children and what is called the nuclear family. We are now into recreational sex, which is fine. However talking about sex for procreation is considered old fashioned. That is what God created it for in the first place. If we talk about donors why do we not use the correct term which is parents? That is what they are. If one parent dissents the embryo should not be harvested for experiments.

One thing that bothers me as much as anything when it comes to legal jargon or interpretation, particularly in the political realm, is the use of euphemisms. To harvest embryos for experiments sounds terribly scientific, does it not? However what we are doing is taking human life. We are not harvesting it. We are taking human life, experimenting with it and then discarding it. Even the word harvesting is somewhat problematic from my perspective. That is why language is important. To accord the dignity and respect due to the human embryo the word parents should be substituted for the impersonal word donor wherever the bill refers to both male and female contributors to a viable embryo.

There are concerns about experiments with human beings. Stem cells derived from embryos and implanted in a recipient are foreign tissue and thus subject to immune rejection, possibly requiring years of costly anti-rejection drug therapies. Stem cells taken from embryos and injected into rats grew brain tumours in 20% of the cases. Dr. Roger Barker, a researcher from Cambridge University, said:

I don't think this will be a treatment in humans for quite some time.

In an editorial in September, 2001 the editor in chief of Stem Cells magazine stated:

I continue to think that clinical application is a long way off for at least two reasons. Prior to clinical use of embryonic and fetal stem cells, it will be necessary to thoroughly investigate the malignant potential of embryonic stem cells. In addition, a much more comprehensive elucidation of the immune response is necessary to provide the basis to prevent transplanted stem cells and their progeny from being rejected by the transplant recipient.

This is important to note. There have as yet been no successful therapeutic applications for embryonic stem cells.

We seem to be rushing forward at light speed. The health minister has said that she wants the bill through the House of Commons and on to committee so it can be considered over the summer. I am saying that we should hold on a second because there have not as yet been any successful therapeutic applications for embryonic stem cells. Therefore, why are we rushing forward at this light speed?

I think one of the greatest lessons I have learned is that when legislation comes to the House not infrequently it ends up slowing down.

In conclusion, I have appreciated the opportunity to speak to this and I look forward to the debate from the other members.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2002 / 4:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for this opportunity to address this bill, which deals with very personal values and moral issues on which every member of parliament must reflect before taking a position which, in the end, will not necessarily be a party position, but a personal position based on all the values that we inherited through our education and that we developed throughout our lives.

What is the object of the bill on assisted human reproduction? This legislation deals with the use of embryonic stem cells. As we know, this is a very controversial area in medical research.

What are stem cells? They are cells that have not reached maturity and that have the ability to either specialize to form various human tissues or organs, or reproduce themselves. According to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, these cells have huge potential to help better understand human development and to treat degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and multiple sclerosis.

Stem cells used for research can come from three main sources: embryos that are at a very early stage of development, fetal reproductive organs, which also have stem cells that could potentially be used for a number of purposes, and adult tissues, such as skin and muscles, which are stem cells with limited possibilities.

There are pros and cons about this. This is not an issue that is easy to settle. However, it is obvious that the lack of legislation in this area opens the door to possible abuse. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and not legislate in this area. This is why it is appropriate to have this bill before us.

In recent years, the Bloc Quebecois has been pushing this issue in a significant way, particularly through the hon. member for Drummond, who once introduced a bill, which was considered but died on the order paper before an election.

We then decided not to introduce a new bill, because the government had pledged to introduce legislation. It took a long time, but it now before us and we must evaluate it.

In my opinion, a vote at second reading stage will be a vote to indicate whether or not we want legislation in this area. The details and the position need still more study. I plan to hold a roundtable in my riding, which will enable me to get advice from experts as well as to sound out the public on this reality.

Because in certain aspects—as has been shown by the arguments in favour—as a historical argument, in the 1970s, DNA research was strongly objected to. After the establishment of government guidelines, however, not only was there a good framework but this also made it possible to develop human insulin for diabetics.

There are therefore some aspects such as these which need to be addressed in order to see whether indeed a more advantageous situation will not be created which will make it possible to cure disease, to remedy situations and to improve the lot of human beings in general. On the other hand, this must not be unconditional and without a very specific framework.

Many of those who argue in favour state that research on embryonic stem cells has a very high potential for curative medicine. As a humanitarian argument, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation has pointed out that research is indispensable if the situation of those with diabetes is to be improved.

A number of experts have pointed out that hundreds of frozen embryos are being allowed to thaw out in Canada's fertility clinics because they are no longer needed, while they could be used to discover treatments for such diseases as cancer, diabetes and Parkinson's disease.

It can be seen from this example that this is a not a black and white situation, but rather a grey one. It deserves some framework in order to avoid potential excesses.

There is one other argument in favour. This is that certain women's groups and certain legal experts argue that, in our current legal framework since 1988, the supreme court has been obliged to recognize that not only is a fetus not a human being—which civil law also acknowledges—but that it could not be considered viable before the 20th week of gestation.

If a fetus is not a human being, then tissues from it are not tissues from a human being. This shows just what very basic concepts we are dealing with, the basic values of individuals.

There are opposing arguments. This research on stem cells from human embryos stirs up controversy, particularly because it leads to the destruction of the embryo. This is a reality we have to come to grips with.

According to the Catholic Church, the creation of embryos for research purposes and the use of embryonic stem cells are actions contrary to the will of God, for whom reproduction must always be a conjugal act. This position does not perhaps reflect the general public perception, but it gets us thinking deeply about fundamental issues, such as that of the belief in God, which can have repercussions. Members of this House may have different beliefs. That is all the more reason for a free vote. In these circumstances, I believe that the assisted human reproduction bill, which has been some time in coming, deserves to be considered.

In order to ensure the health and safety of those who turn to assisted reproduction, this bill stipulates that individuals thinking of donating an ovum or an embryo for assisted human reproduction or research purposes must give their informed consent in writing before any procedure. In effect, a certain form of charlatanism is avoided if consent is required.

Children born through the use of reproductive material will have access to medical information on donors, but will not necessarily have access to their identity, donors being free to decide whether or not to divulge their identity. Many issues will have to be considered by the committee. The committee will hear from experts and determine whether, in fact, the bill goes far enough. I think that we must really take the time to consider this bill, get opinions and determine what Quebecers and Canadians want in this regard.

The legislation would also prohibit unacceptable activities, such as the creation of human clones for any reason whatsoever, i.e. for purposes of reproduction or for therapeutic purposes. The legislation would also prohibit creating an embryo for purposes other than creating a human being or improving assisted reproduction techniques, creating chimeras for reproductive purposes, or providing financial inducements to a woman to become a surrogate mother. This situation exists in our society. We want there to be a clear framework, and a debate is therefore relevant.

There is also a very important aspect of the bill in terms of regulating assisted reproduction techniques. As far as I am concerned, it is very important to have the resulting regulations and guidelines on the most contentious aspects of the legislation in short order, so that we know what the regulations will actually contain.

Given that this is a very sensitive bill with long term repercussions that will undoubtedly establish the foundations of a policy that will be in place for many years, it is important to ensure that the regulations do not contradict the will of legislators. We must be careful to study this issue in depth and be able to see the regulations beforehand.

The bill contains a number of the main recommendations of the Standing Committee on Health, made in December 2001, which the Bloc Quebecois supported. We have already spoken to these recommendations contained in the bill.

However, Bill C-56 does have some deficiencies. For example, it states that Health Canada will consult with the provinces regarding regulations on research and activities related to assisted reproduction. We must ensure that this promise is kept. We must give the bill some teeth to guarantee this measure.

It is critical that Canada's policy is developed in co-operation with the provinces and that there be an unequivocal recognition that this is an area of shared jurisdiction.

This is a bill that touches on fundamental questions. I believe that all members of the House should be allowed to vote on this according to their conscience, that it be a free vote. This does not prevent discussion in caucus or speeches in the House, but at the end of the day, we must have legislation that the House of Commons can be proud of and that reflects our society's vision on such a controversial subject.

In closing, I would invite all of my colleagues to reflect on this bill and to participate in the different debates that will take place. I personally intend to organize a roundtable on this issue in my riding.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2002 / 4:05 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise for a second time in debate, at the second reading of Bill C-56. In my initial remarks on the bill, I outlined at some length my objections to the approach taken, or rather not taken, in the bill to the protection of embryos from manipulation and destruction in the process of research.

I suggested, as have many of my colleagues, that the government take note of the enormous potential presented to medical science through the experimentation with and research on adult stem cells. By adult stem cells, I mean essentially non-embryonic, non-fetal stem cells. Even stem cells taken from the umbilical cords of newborn babies provide enormous potential for the sort of scientific advances that the advocates of embryonic stem cell research seem so interested in.

I would like to yet again endorse the principle of the Standing Committee on Health in its report: that stem cells ought only to be harvested from living embryos if there is clearly no other option. That high standard set by the all party committee is not reflected in the legislation before the House today.

In fact the legislation today takes no position. Rather, it leaves this matter entirely in the hands of a self-governing agency, which will presumably be made up, in part, of research scientists who, frankly, have a professional and personal interest in the acquisition and manipulation of embryonic stem cells, whose first and greatest concern when they approach this tremendously sensitive matter is not necessarily the moral consideration of the sanctity of human life but rather the utilitarian ethical framework that governs the drive of so many scientists to use life for the purposes of research.

In those earlier remarks, I also suggested that the government should be proposing at least a three year moratorium on embryonic stem cell research in order to allow the scientific community more time to demonstrate the enormous advantages presented by non-embryonic stem cell research.

In fact I would go a step further and suggest that the government, if indeed its objective as stated in the bill is to in part advance such research, ought to be increasing funding to and making a high priority of the development of non-embryonic stem cell research, so that three years hence we could as a parliament revisit the question of whether in fact embryos must be created, collected, manipulated and destroyed in order, purportedly, to advance medical science.

In that speech I also responded to the point raised by the hon. Minister of Health in her remarks in defence of the bill when she first introduced it, at which time she said that if embryos created and frozen for in vitro fertilization purposes are not at some point used for research or implanted in their mother's uterus, at some point they are thrown in “the garbage”. She suggested, I think erroneously, that these were the only alternatives: either research or, as she would have characterized it, wanton destruction of these nascent human lives.

I think that she and her advisers fundamentally have missed a third option, which is for us to embrace and promote the emerging new field of embryonic adoption. At first that sounds like a somewhat absurd idea, but indeed it is not.

Let me just address three reasons. The strongest pragmatic objection would be, as the minister has said, that these conceived embryos simply are thrown in the garbage. Let me offer three arguments against this.

First, if there are a significant number of embryos left over at in vitro fertilization clinics, then the real question is not what to do with extra embryos but why so many extra embryos are being created in the first place. At a minimum under this legislation, IVF clinics should be restricted to producing the least possible number of embryos necessary to result in successful conception. Research to allow IVF clinics to reduce the number of embryos that have to be created for successful implantation should be promoted vigorously. Clinics that seem to be producing too many embryos should be sanctioned by the agency. This is an entirely legitimate point, because many researchers have provided evidence to the Standing Committee on Health that IVF clinics are producing far more embryos than are necessary for implantation. This raises some very serious ethical concerns.

Ideally, every embryo created by IVF could be implanted successfully in the womb. This should be the goal of IVF research and undoubtedly some day the technology will improve to the point where this is the case. When this occurs there will be no leftover spare embryos to speak of. At that point, does the minister envisage biotech firms and research labs suddenly deciding that they do not need or want embryonic stem cells any more? No, instead they will still want embryos to be created, but this time solely for research purposes. Already scientists are saying that the bill is too restrictive and that if we are really to have success with the research we will need therapeutic cloning as well.

Therefore, the minister's position that the only embryos being used are leftover embryos that would otherwise be destroyed is in fact a red herring. On the one hand, improving the technology eventually will reduce or eliminate the supply of extra IVF embryos. On the other hand, the government is creating a demand in the research community and the biotech industry for embryonic stem cells. If the supply of IVF embryos is choked off, they will be back in a few years demanding that the government allow new embryos to be created or cloned solely for research.

Second, I would argue on moral grounds that allowing non-implanted embryos to die need not imply a lack of dignity. It is far more dignified to let human beings who cannot survive without artificial support die naturally than it is to destroy them while stripping them down for spare parts. Even in the case of dying people donating organs, medical ethics requires that we wait until they are brain dead and therefore no longer capable of consciousness before organs are removed. Even then, the rest of the body is disposed of with great dignity and care. An embryo is not a dead body but a living human being. It can be nothing else: it is a living being of human parentage. It is a living human being. It is more in keeping with its dignity that if an embryo is outside of the womb and cannot survive by natural means it be allowed to die rather than simply be used as an object for research. What I am suggesting is that what the minister so eloquently described as throwing in the garbage need not be the means of disposal of these human embryos. A natural death is a natural death at any stage of human life.

Third, there is another alternative to allowing an embryo to die or using it for research, to which I alluded earlier, that is, the growing support for embryonic adoption. The government's overall purpose in this bill is to provide hope and to help infertile couples. If that is truly the government's objective, then surely rather than promoting the use of spare IVF embryos for research the government should encourage couples who successfully conceive through IVF to donate them to other infertile couples in the same situation.

Last summer when the U.S. senate was gripped by the same question we are now facing, one of the senators who favoured embryonic stem cell research argued that destroying an embryo was not ending a life. He held up a piece of paper and drew a tiny dot on it with a pencil saying that was how big an embryo was, but there was a couple providing testimony that day who had, crawling around the committee room, a live baby who had been born through the process of embryonic adoption. Many hundreds of children have been born thanks to the gift of an embryo from a fertile couple to a completely infertile couple.

In closing, I would ask that the government please not open this door to using a utilitarian, relativistic ethic to justify the creation of life in order to allow its manipulation and destruction when other dignified and life giving options, such as embryonic adoption, are available to us.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2002 / 3:45 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Canadian Alliance Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, it pleases me that I am able to speak to the Bill C-56 amendment where the words are inserted:

--this House declines to give second reading to Bill C-56, an act respecting assisted human reproduction, since the principle of the Bill does not recognize the value of non-embryonic stem cell research which has had great advancements in the last year.

This past weekend this very issue was brought to light through the Pembroke and area diocese of the Canadian Catholic Women's League. It brought forth the following resolution which bans human embryonic stem cell research.

Whereas The Canadian Government will soon formulate legislation on reproductive technologies including human stem cell research, and

Whereas the compelling moral, ethical and scientific issues surrounding embryonic stem cell research needs clear guidelines to avoid the dehumanizing and the utilitarian premise that the end justifies the means, and

Whereas human embryos, tiny human beings are being killed to obtain stem cells, and

Whereas killing of human life at any stage of development is intrinsically evil, and

Whereas no amount of public benefit can ever justify the deliberate killing of a human being, especially since the scientific literature demonstrates that stem cells from sources other than from human embryos are being used successfully for therapeutic benefit in human; therefore, be it

Resolved that the Ontario Provincial Council of the Catholic Women's League of Canada, in the 55 Annual Convention assembled, urge the Federal Minister of Health to formulate legislation which would ban human embryonic stem cell research under the Criminal Code of Canada, and be it therefore

Resolved that this resolution be forwarded to the National Council of the Catholic Women's League of Canada for consideration at the Annual Convention in 2002.

Submitted by Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, CWL Council.

Members of the regional council diocese are: president, Margaret Maloney; vice president, Andria Dumouchel; secretary, Inie Schlievert; treasurer, Silvia Smith; past president, Irene Perrault; and resolutions chair, Donna Shaddock. They will be bringing this forth and it will eventually reach the federal level. However, if the bill goes forth now, Canadians in this one area alone will not have had a chance to speak.

I would like to expound upon the issue brought forth by Wesley Smith and the conclusions drawn by the Catholic Women's League, that when research advances occur with embryonic stem cells, the media usually gives the story big treatment. Whereas when researchers announce even a greater success with adult stem cells, the media reportage is generally less intense and a stifled yawn.

As a consequence, many people in this country continue to believe that embryonic stem cells offer the greatest promise of developing the new medical treatments involving the human body cells. This is know as regenerative medicine. While in reality, adults and alternative sources of stem cells have demonstrated much brighter prospects.

This misperception has real societal consequences, distorting the political debate over human cloning and embryonic stem cell research and perhaps even affecting levels of public and private research funding that embryonic and adult stem cell research therapies receive.

For example, this media pattern was again very evident in the reporting of two very important research breakthroughs announced within the last two weeks. Unless people made a point of looking these stories, they might have been missed.

Patients with Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis have received significant medical benefit using the experimental adult stem cell regenerative medical protocols. These are benefits that the supporters of the embryonic stem cell treatments have yet to produce even in the animal experiments they have been doing. Yet adult stem cells are now beginning to truly alleviate the suffering in human beings.

We have celebrities like Michael J. Fox and Michael Kingsley really promoting embryonic stem cell research in the Washington Post and on Crossfire . Yet these major advances are being almost totally disregarded by the American press and less so by the Canadian press.

In case some members may have missed the story I will repeat it again. A man in his mid-50s had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease at age 49. The disease grew progressively leading to tremors and rigidity, especially in the patient's right arm. Traditional drug therapy did not help. Stem cells were harvested from the patient's brain using a routine brain biopsy procedure. They were cultured and expanded to several million cells. About 20% of those cells matured into dopamine secreting neurons. People suffering from Parkinson's disease are short of the neurotransmitter dopamine. In March 1999 these cells were injected into the patient's brain.

Three months after this procedure the man's motor skills improved by 37%, and there was an increase of dopamine production of 55.6%. One year after the procedure the patient's overall unified Parkinson's disease rating scale had improved by 83%. This was at a time when he was taking no other treatment for Parkinson's disease. That is an astonishing and remarkable success story. One would have thought that story would have set off blazing headlines across the country and around the world. Had the same treatment been achieved with embryonic stem cells we would have seen those headlines.

Unfortunately, reportage about the Parkinson's success story was strangely mooted. It is true that the Washington Post ran an inside the paper story and there were some wire service reports, but overall nobody has really heard about this.

Multiple sclerosis patients have also benefited from adult stem cell regenerative medicine. MS is an autoimmune disorder in which the patient's body attacks the protective sheaf surrounding the patient's neurons.

A study conducted at the Washington Medical Center in Seattle involved 26 rapidly deteriorating MS patients. First, physicians stimulated the stem cells from the patients' bone marrow to enter the blood stream. They then harvested the stem cells and gave the patients strong chemotherapy to destroy their immune systems.

Finally, the researchers reintroduced the stem cells into patients hoping they would rebuild healthy immune systems and alleviate the MS symptoms, and it worked. Of the 26 patients, 20 stabilized and six improved. Three patients experienced severe infections and one died.

This was a very positive advance offering great hope but rather than making headlines the test was lost. This test received less attention than the successful studies using animals on embryonic research. The Los Angeles Times and the New York Times ran articles but they were only minimal reports.

Meanwhile, in Canada younger MS patients whose disease was not as far advanced as those in the Washington study have shown even greater benefit from the same procedure. Six months after the first patient was treated, she was found to have no evidence of the disease on MRI scans. Three other patients have also received successful adult stem cell graphs with no current evidence of active disease.

The Parkinson's and MS studies have offered phenomenal evidence of the tremendous potential effects of adult stem cell research and the regenerative medicines offered.

It is worth underscoring and re-emphasizing the fact that adult stem cell research is providing cures. It is not necessary to go into the zone of creating life only to destroy it.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2002 / 3:35 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise today to contribute to the debate. This debate could be easily sidetracked by special interest considerations and sectarian concerns over religion and morality.

As parliamentarians, we have a duty and obligation to address the bill from the perspective of balance. We all have strongly held views on abortion and other fundamental issues of faith and morality. In that regard I must admit that I am impressed by the level of decorum and respect that has been given all members who have contributed in the House to the debate.

Members from all sides of the House have spoken eloquently and from the heart about their belief systems and personal accounts on this issue.

It is not uncommon for debates on controversial issues to digress into the realm of heckling and disrespectful exchanges. I congratulate my colleagues in the House for rising above partisanship and truly respecting Canada's pluralistic reality. I hope that the high level of decorum remains throughout the life of Bill C-56. I believe that this exercise can serve to bring Canadians together by finding common ground.

I state for the record that Bill C-56 addresses the status of an independent embryo outside a woman's body and as such the bill has nothing to do with abortion or issues of choice.

Like it is all members, there are a number of factors that will influence my decision. As a libertarian I believe in the fundamental right of the individual over the jurisdiction of their bodies and property. As a Muslim I believe that life is sacred. The saving of a life is a duty and the taking of a life is a grave sin.

Islamic bioethics also permit organ donations and in vitro fertilization. In terms of origins of life, most Muslim scholars agree that ensoulment occurs 120 days after conception. Most important, I am a parliamentarian committed to consulting with my constituents and voting their will. I state for the record that I have yet to decide how I will vote on the bill.

I have several questions pertaining to a number of issues arising from the debate. To answer these concerns I will be consulting with my constituents and studying the issue in greater detail. I hope to have a number of my questions answered throughout the legislative process of Bill C-56, and most likely during the summer.

At first glance, the issue of assisted human reproduction conjures up Orwellian images of sterile laboratories where future generations are determined through genetic manipulation. The legislation bans cloning, human-animal hybrids, gender selection and all other taboos popularized by science fiction. In reality AHR provides people with reproductive challenges the opportunity for dreams of having children, a service of immeasurable societal value to those affected.

Recently two of my staff members became parents. I see how fulfilled their lives have become as a result of having children and how much they cherish parenthood. I believe that we should do all we can as parliamentarians to ensure that as many Canadians as possible can realize their dreams of becoming parents.

The inevitable question is how far we go to reach that goal. I believe that the report of the standing committee on the subject was balanced and represented the opinion of the majority of Canadians.

Bill C-56 must balance ethical scientific advancement and the rights and liberties of Canadians. Most of all, it must be accountable and transparent.

The agency proposed in the legislation is only accountable to parliament through the minister and we all know how accountable ministers have been lately. I believe that the agency must be accountable directly to parliament to ensure that the concerns of Canadians on this sensitive issue are addressed in the House.

My colleague from Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca is dedicated to the cause of organ donation and has done a considerable amount of work in raising public awareness for this cause. Organ donation is widely accepted and deemed to be an honourable act. From every death new life can be given to several people through the donation of vital organs. We consider it a tragedy when healthy human tissue that can help others is buried instead of being utilized through a transplant.

Current in vitro reproduction practices involve the destruction of left over embryos. As the embryos are disposed of so too is the possibility of saving lives and curing diseases. I do not understand the rationale used by those opposed to embryonic stem cells who condone destroying embryos but not using them for medical research.

Like most issues, stakeholders on both sides of this debate have a vested interest. Those on the side of medical research would have us believe that embryonic stem cells will cure every ailment known to men and women. Those opposed to embryonic stem cell research counter these claims with what basically amounts to mass rejection of embryonic tissue. Somewhere in the middle lies the facts.

I believe that research should continue on embryonic stem cells. I believe that the progress of this research should be monitored by the House and reviewed every three years. By doing so, we can ensure that the legislative framework is keeping up with the technological advancement and also ensure adequate funding.

I am not a parent nor have I tried to start a family. However, I want to have as many choices and therapeutic options available to me when I get to that stage in life. I applaud the legislation in that a parent has the choice in determining the outcome of unused embryos. We must ensure that parents are given every opportunity.

I am a staunch advocate of privacy rights. Many have criticized the legislation's lack of disclosure of donor identification. I do not believe that the identity of a donor should be required. I believe that if such a requirement were to be established, a direct reduction in the number of donors would result.

Although the agency would hold information on donor identity, children conceived by AHR would have no right to know the identity of their parents without their written consent to reveal it.

That being said, I do believe that information other than the identity of the donor should be made available, including family medical histories and predispositions to disease and ailments.

I have questions pertaining to the prohibition of commercial surrogacy contained in the bill. Pregnancy and childbirth have long lasting, debilitating effects on a woman's body. I fail to see the harm in providing fair compensation over and above the actual expenses of a surrogate mother. Rather than a prohibition, I believe that clear regulations and guidelines should be developed to address the issue of compensation. Such regulations should be automatically referred to the health committee to ensure public scrutiny and transparency. The minister must be obligated to consider standing committee recommendations and not ignore them as is the current practice.

I, like most Canadians, am enticed by the ability of people to manipulate life. At the same time, I am apprehensive of the consequences. Canada is a world leader in innovation. The ingenuity of our citizens is limitless. It is our role as parliamentarians to not only ask the question can we do it but should we.

The bill must not be fast tracked. It must be carefully studied, voted upon freely and open to amendment. The debate can be a healthy exercise in public policy development but only if it is truly open and transparent.

As I said in the outset of my speech, I have not yet decided how I will vote on the bill. I will consult with my constituents and personally study the issue in greater detail before I come to that determination.

As well, it is healthy to see that in this place, on this bill, parliamentarians are in fact coming together to express their opinions, their own moral beliefs and their views on this issue as we are all becoming more aware of its consequences. We are not being heckled, criticized for those views or being unfairly discriminated against . This will have grave consequences on future technology, on health and on future generations.

It is clear that we need to come together as parliamentarians. We need to be able to express our views openly and honestly. We need to make decisions based on sound science and on what we fundamentally believe. I am glad to see that sort of spirit can exist in the House when the commitment is made on behalf of all members to do so. It does not happen as often as we would like but it is happening on this bill, and I applaud that.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2002 / 3:15 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Canadian Alliance Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, every once in a while in the course of human history it becomes incumbent upon us as legislators to make difficult decisions involving life, death, ethics and morality. Such is the position we find ourselves in today. As a representative of a constituency of individuals I feel a responsibility to ensure Bill C-56 strikes a proper balance between ethics and science.

It seems the more one seeks to know about stem cell research the more complex the issue becomes. However I take comfort in knowing I am not the only person grappling with this ethical dilemma. It was with great interest that I read the speech given by President Bush last fall when his nation was creating legislation on stem cell research. In his speech Mr. Bush called the issue one of the most profound of our time. I will read some excerpts from his speech:

The issue of research involving stem cells derived from human embryos is increasingly the subject of a national debate and dinner table discussions. The issue is confronted every day in laboratories as scientists ponder the ethical ramifications of their work. It is agonized over by parents and many couples as they try to have children, or to save children already born.

The issue is debated within the church, with people of different faiths, even many of the same faith coming to different conclusions.

As I thought through this issue, I kept returning to the fundamental questions: First, are these frozen embryos human life, and therefore, something precious to be protected? And second, if they're going to be destroyed anyway, shouldn't they be used for a greater good, for research that has the potential to save and improve other lives?

At its core, this issue forces us to confront fundamental questions about the beginnings of life and the ends of science. It lies at a difficult moral intersection, juxtaposing the need to protect life in all its phases with the prospect of saving and improving life in all its stages.

These are the questions we in the Canadian parliament are asking ourselves. It is important that we create coherent laws in the area as soon as possible. Canada must not stray too far behind the rest of the world on the issue. Although it is a contentious issue we as members of parliament must work through it and come to a conclusion as soon as possible. If we do not, we risk getting ourselves into a situation where we will be reactive instead of proactive in creating well thought out legislation.

That said, I will take the opportunity to outline some of my concerns with the legislation as it currently stands. I want to state unequivocally that I am a firm supporter of science, research and technological development. I have concerns that the legislation would allow research on human embryos if their use was necessary. It is significant that necessity is not clearly defined in the existing legislation. I will therefore spend the remainder of my speech on the notion of scientific necessity.

Scientists and advocacy groups have recently brought forth evidence that there are credible alternatives to embryonic stem cells for the treatment of some of humanity's most debilitating diseases. Carrie Gordon Earll, a bioethics analyst, has documented several promising medical successes using alternatives to embryonic stem cells. Such alternatives can be found in adult stem cells that come from areas in the developed human body such as bone marrow and umbilical cord blood. These do not require the loss of human life or potential human life. In her work Mrs. Earll cites the following examples:

Researchers at Harvard Medical School used animal adult stem cells to grow new islet cells to combat diabetes. Researcher[s] [said they] had reversed the disease without the need for transplants. Plans for human trials are underway.

Thirty-six-year old Susan Stross is one of more than 20 MS patients whose conditions have remained steady or improved after receiving an adult stem cell transplant. The same results are reported with several hundred patients worldwide.

In addition to the obvious moral advantages of using adult stem cells, research also seems to be proving that they are safer than fetal cells. Dr. Helen Hodges, a British researcher, recently found that adult stem cells travel to areas that need repair whereas fetal stem cells remain where they are injected. She says that because patients can donate their own adult stem cells for treatment their immune systems will not reject them.

In 1999 the journal Science quoted a Professor Prentice who wrote:

In the last two years, we've gone from thinking that we had very few stem cells in our bodies and recognizing that many (perhaps most) organs maintain a reservoir of these cells.

Professor Prentice went on to say that adult stem cells have shown themselves to be scientifically more successful than embryonic stem cells because of the variety of different tissues they can become and because they are more readily available.

In contrast, embryonic stem cells have not yet alleviated or cured any diseases. Indeed scientists are telling us now that embryonic stem cells can sometimes be a bit too flexible, often differentiating into all kinds of tissue, some of which are desirable and some of which are not. In some cases, when injected under the skin of certain mice, they grew into tumours consisting of numerous tissue types, from guts to skin to teeth.

Women in my constituency from the organization REAL Women of Canada raised this issue in their fall 2001 newsletter. It states:

It strikes us as curious that intense pressure is now being placed on the potential of experimental use of embryo stem cells when there are already proven alternate sources of stem cells from bone marrow, umbilical cord, placenta, human fat tissue, skin and even the brain cells of deceased adults, to name just a few, which makes embryo stem cell research unjustified. This is especially so since these alternate sources eliminate the difficult problem of rejection of foreign material by the body caused by embryonic stem cell implantations. In contrast to the successful use of adult stem cells, human embryonic stem cells have never been used successfully in clinical trials.

It is very important to note that the mainstream scientific press is also taking notice of the potential of adult stem cells. A recent article from the New Scientist titled “Ultimate stem cell discovered” states the following:

A stem cell has been found in adults that can turn into every single tissue in the body. It might be the most important cell ever discovered.

Until now, only stem cells from early embryos were thought to have such properties. If the finding is confirmed, it will mean cells from your own body could one day be turned into all sorts of perfectly matched replacement tissues and even organs.

If so, there would be no need to resort to therapeutic cloning--cloning people to get matching stem cells from the resulting embryos. Nor would we have to genetically engineer embryonic stem cells to create a “one cell fits all” line that does not trigger immune rejection. The discovery of such versatile adult stem cells will also fan the debate about whether embryonic stem cell research is justified.

It is notable that some of this groundbreaking research is being conducted right in our own backyard at Montreal's McGill University.

Canada should commit itself to continuing to be a leader in this groundbreaking research and technology. It is to these activities that we should be channeling our money and efforts.

Finally, I am ever mindful of the opinions of the constituents of Blackstrap who have taken the time to write me about their opinions on this topic. I would like to share some of what they have to say.

Andrew and Louise Novecosky of Viscount wrote to me stating the following:

Regarding stem cell research, it is our hope that this not be allowed. It will lead to the harvest of stem cells. I am afraid this is likely already happening, but allowing the research will increase the harvest of young humans.

Mrs. Donna Hundeby of Elbow, Saskatchewan wrote:

I am writing to voice my opposition to any form of medical research that results in the taking of human life. Because I believe that an embryo is a human life, and human life is sacred, I urge you to ban the destruction of human embryos for stem cell research.

Kevin Dyck of Saskatoon wrote me to say:

I am writing to you today with a great sense of urgency. With the new legislation on assisted human reproduction passing through the Commons soon, I see a great need for the leaders of our country to speak out against the dangerous and often unethical practices proposed by researchers and clinics across the country.

In summary, I would like to underscore the most important point of my message. We must act quickly yet cautiously when forming legislation on such a profound moral issue.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2002 / 1:45 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Canadian Alliance Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments from my colleague.

I will speak to the amendment to Bill C-56, which states:

...this House declines to give second reading to Bill C-56, an act respecting assisted human reproduction, since the principle of the bill does not recognize the value of non-embryonic stem cell research which has had great advancements in the last year.

As my colleague pointed out, this is really one of the main points which was in the official opposition report to the health committee that studied the draft bill: that we have a three year moratorium on embryonic stem cell research, that we proceed with caution on these serious and grave ethical matters, and that in areas like adult stem cell research where the potential is quite frankly limitless at this point and is unknown, let us use these three years to really examine those alternatives. As the former leader of the opposition, Preston Manning, used to say, where there is an ethical route and a scientific route that converge, that is the route that should be taken.

I do want to quote extensively from an article in the New York Times of March 7, 2002, because it does point to some of the potential of adult stem cell research. It stated:

Adding an important piece to the rapidly changing picture of human stem cells, researchers have found that cells from the blood can regenerate not just the blood supply, but tissues of the skin, liver and gut.

This means that adult stem cells may actually be very potent, which was previously thought to be a criteria that applied only to embryonic cells.

The finding strengthens the emerging view that the body may possess a cache of universal repair cells that could patch up almost any damaged tissue. These repair cells, probably located in the bone marrow and fairly easy to harvest, can move out into the bloodstream and help regenerate any tissue that signals it is in distress.

Such a theory is far from proved, but if true could lead, some scientists believe, to new therapies aimed at enhancing the natural process.

This could be a possible answer to the pleas from people who, as all of us do, know people who suffer from degenerative diseases like Parkinson's. This could be the hope for them. The embryonic stem cells are being held out as the only hope for them when in fact there could be another hope for them in dealing with these diseases.

The article goes on to quote Dr. Helen Blau, a stem cell expert at Stanford University, who stated:

This appears to be a regenerative response we were never previously aware of. It suggests there may be a repair mechanism that goes on throughout life but is insufficient in major disease. If we could amplify this mechanism it could become a whole new form of medicine based on using the body's own cells to treat disease.

Some researchers even say that we should do the embryonic stem cell research because we need that as a comparative study for adult stem cell research, but again, in an area ethically fraught with danger, we believe we should proceed with caution.

I want to continue quoting this article because it is interesting. It stated:

The new finding is based on patients who received transplants of blood-forming cells from relatives after cancer treatments that had destroyed their own bone marrow cells.

...In a similar study reported this January, patients' own cells were found to have become incorporated in transplanted hearts. But this is the first report that human donor stem cells, presumably from the bone marrow, can populate several different kinds of tissue.

There is another quote, from a Dr. Donald Orlic of the National Institutes of Health, the advisory board to the president, who stated:

What is so good about this study is that it is showing bone-marrow derived stem cells demonstrating a high degree of plasticity because they have repopulated three organs.

Stated the article:

Plasticity is the stem cell's ability to become several types of mature cell.

Biologists have believed until recently that each tissue in the body has its own dedicated source of stem cells that repair just that tissue. While this idea still seems true, bone marrow has begun to emerge as a source of general purpose stem cells that work to repair damage wherever it occurs. It is not clear if the system of stem cells found in particular tissues is entirely separate, or somehow dependent on the bone marrow system.

What does seem clear is that the bone marrow stem cells are far more versatile than the tissue specific stem cells.

Physicians have already learned how to make the blood-forming stem cells rush out of the marrow into the bloodstream by injecting a person with a natural factor or cytokine called GCSF. The stem cells can then be harvested from a donor's bloodstream and used instead of a marrow transplant.

The patients studied by [this] team received blood-borne cells harvested from their donors in this way. Though the cells that contributed to the patients' skin, gut and liver presumably came from the donors' bone marrow, this has not been proved.

This suggests that there needs to be more research in this area to see exactly what the potential is.

The article went on and stated:

But experiments with mice have revealed the bone marrow as a source of versatile stem cells that can incorporate into several tissues, including the heart.

Bone marrow stem cells may in fact repair many, if not all, tissues and perhaps on a daily basis. But the repair system obviously fails to cope quickly enough with major damage, such as the loss of tissue in heart attacks. Perhaps, with the use of cytokines like GCSF, the marrow repair system could be brought to bear in many types of disease.

The...researchers said they were considering several such approaches, including collecting marrow cells from a donor's blood and injecting them directly into a damaged organ. “We might see the first clinical data in two or three years,” Dr. Körbling said. Dr. Orlic is working along these same lines and plans to see if GCSF-induced marrow cells can reverse heart attacks in rhesus monkeys before testing the approach in people.

It seems to me that particularly when we are embarking upon this new area of research where we have great potential in adult stem cell research, we ought to focus our efforts and resources in that area rather than embarking upon the ethically fraught area of embryonic stem cell research. That brings me back to a point I made in my previous speech. The bill fails to include or refer to arguments of first principle, that is, we are discussing issues on the surface without defining some of the most fundamental things before we get into those arguments.

The official opposition has asked that the preamble be amended by including the phrase “the dignity of and respect for human life”. That needs to be in the bill. It was in the Liberal majority report. It was in the official opposition's minority report and it needs to be in the forefront of the bill. It also needs to be in clause 22 of the bill as the primary objective of this new assisted human reproductive agency. It needs to have that as a guideline.

I come back to the whole issue that was highlighted, as I mentioned before, in the discussion between Preston Manning and Ms. Françoise Baylis from Dalhousie University. Ms. Baylis stated:

The first thing to recognize in the legislation and in all of your conversations is that embryos are human beings. That is an uncontested biological fact. They are a member of the human species. What is contested is their moral status. The language we use there is technical and that's where we talk about persons.

Therefore, the distinction for her is the distinction between a human being, which an embryo is, and a human person, but what has to be done in the bill and throughout the land on all of these life issues, I think, is that we then must distinguish between a human person and a human being, if there is a distinction. Maybe there is not a distinction. That is the debate we need to have in this place.

Ms. Baylis stated:

I think what becomes very clear is that when you're talking about embryos, you don't need to have a debate about whether or not they're human or human beings. The answer's yes. That's a biological claim. The term “person”, however, is not a biological term. It is not a term about which there are facts. It's a moral term. It's a value-laden term about which people will disagree, and they will then point to facts to try to tell you that their definition is the right one.

It seems to me that this is the main issue for us to debate here. Quite frankly I am not one who will stand in the House and say I know all the answers as to what exactly makes up a human person and a human being, but I have studied the issue. I have read the words of people like George Grant, one of the most pre-eminent Canadian philosophers of all time, who said this is the most fundamental question for any society because it impacts on so many other pieces of legislation and it impacts on how we value human life. He said that we have to decide what it is that is common to human beings and yet unique to them, so that we can stand up and say we have a charter of rights that says human persons have a right to life.

If human persons have a right to life, then we had better justify why it is they have that right to life. Is it the exercise of reason? Is it the capacity to exercise reason? Is it free will? Is it the capacity to exercise free will?

We have to decide exactly why it is we say that human beings or human persons have a right to life and the right not to be deprived thereof, or that for certain things such as an embryo, even an excess embryo created through IVF, somehow we can destroy that life and use it for research purposes. We need to answer that very fundamental question and debate that question in the House before we decide on what particulars the bill will have. That is the main point. That is why the official opposition has introduced this amendment, quite frankly: to ensure that this issue and this debate receive full deliberation and to ensure that in this very sensitive area we move very cautiously and prudently.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2002 / 1:30 p.m.
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Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased I have an opportunity to again reply to a speech by the member for Nanaimo--Cowichan because we are having a very important dialogue here. What is before the House is a bill dealing with a high moral issue. It is proper for parliament to debate a high moral issue when morality comes into interface with science or other aspects of society.

I note that the member for Nanaimo--Cowichan called for a free vote on this piece of legislation and I take him at heart on that because I will give him an argument that I hope he will consider when he comes to vote himself.

There are two givens in this argument. First, one should accept, for this bill, that life begins at conception. Second, one needs to accept that to arbitrarily take life away is murder. We are not talking about collecting embryonic stem cells deliberately by creating individuals and then killing them.

The collection of embryonic stem cells for the purposes of research into Parkinson's, or whatever else, is only in the context of where the embryonic stem cells would be discarded otherwise, either from a fertility clinic or, and the bill does not mention this, presumably from spontaneous miscarriage, or wherever there is fetal material that as a result of a proper hospital procedure results in embryonic material being available.

The moral argument from my point of view is that the ultimate good is to preserve human life. My difficulty is with the proposals coming from the opposition and members of my own side. They suggest that we should delay implementation of allowing embryonic stem cell research as proposed in this legislation until we see whether adult stem cell research can have the same effect. My problem with that, as I mentioned earlier, is that we may be condemning people to death or to disability who we might otherwise save should embryonic stem cell research be fruitful as a means of curing things like Parkinson's, ALS and others.

I would like to put it again in a human context. In my village there is a couple in our church who we know very well. The wife is suffering severely from Parkinson's disease. The husband comes to me and says, “John, please support Bill C-56 because if there is any chance that embryonic stem cells can be developed as a cure for Parkinson's I would like it in time to save my wife who is in a great deal of difficulty right now”.

So, the basic moral dilemma from my point of view: even if embryonic stem cell research only has a 5% chance of being more successful than adult stem cell research, I do not feel I have the moral right to delay that research if it means it could possibly save some lives of people out there who are suffering from these terrible diseases.

The member for Nanaimo--Cowichan, after our interchange before, came over to me and said, “John, I listened to you very carefully”, and he is a very good member if I may say so. We really want to get at the truth here. He said that the problem from his point of view is that the embryo does not have a choice. He alluded in his speech just now to the fact that of course we encourage transplants. We can donate our kidney, our liver or whatever else. We can sign a form and when we are in an accident and killed that body part can be used to save another life. We agree that is a good thing. However, the problem is, as the member opposite has observed, an embryo does not have that choice. If we assume that a person is created at conception and that person inevitably dies--because we are only talking about a situation where that person as an embryo dies--that embryo does not have the choice of creating new life.

We agree that creating new life is a good thing. As a matter of fact, it is the highest moral good that we can think of. Now, this is where the really subtle moral distinction comes in. I do not want to get into religion and that kind of thing, but I think there is a very strong feeling that those who are alive, those who are persons before birth, are the ultimate persons of innocence. In other words, if one is a person between conception and birth, all of us would agree that as a person one is morally pure in every sense.

If we take that principle and apply it to the logic that to give life in death is one of the highest goods that one can give then surely an embryo, as a person who is the ultimate in innocence, would want to choose the highest good, and that highest good is, instead of being discarded, instead of being destroyed, to be part of giving new life and new opportunity to the living.

That to me is the ultimate ethical dilemma. It is not whether life begins at conception or not. The ultimate ethical dilemma we must face in this parliament is the fact that we have to make a choice for those who cannot choose, and we have to make the right moral choice for those who cannot choose. An embryo cannot choose, but we know in its innocence that what it would do in death is want to give life.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2002 / 1:20 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, once again it is a pleasure to participate in this important debate today now that we have an amendment before the House stating that the House declines to give second reading to Bill C-56, an act respecting assisted human reproduction, since the principle of the bill does not recognize the value of non-embryonic stem cell research which has had great advancements in the last year.

The amendment gives me an opportunity to further expand on some of the comments I made earlier today in terms of my concern that the bill, as it is presently before the House, does not represent the broad bases of science that are available to us in Canada and around the world particularly relating to stem cell research. Those of us who have concerns about the bill would like to bring to the attention of hon. members that the legislation should be sent back to committee for a more balanced approach in terms of the best science we can get from embryonic and adult stem cell research.

All of us want to see cures for some of these debilitating diseases, diseases that can be terminal such as ALS and others. I would not want to be responsible for not allowing the science to go forward within some kind of regulatory framework that would allow for a cure, if indeed there was a cure, to be found through adult stem cell research. We do have an ethical dilemma surrounding the use of embryonic stem cells. We do not have the same kind of dilemma with adult stem cell research.

I must say I was struck by the comments of my hon. colleague from Hamilton, a former McMaster graduate who I went to school with. I was taken by his comments about the use of adult and embryonic stem cells and particularly, the fact that we would not want to see any stone left unturned in this whole debate to allow the science to go forward. Indeed, he made the comment that if a life had to end to give new life to someone else, he would be in favour of that.

I am in favour of seeing tissue and organ donation come forward. The only thing I want to say to him about that is that the fetus and embryo do not have a choice. They do not have the opportunity to make a choice as to whether or not they will be a donor, in effect giving life to someone else through their death. We do have an ethical concern surrounding that issue and we need to spend more time on that. I am sure hon. colleagues will take that into consideration when they are thinking about this issue.

We have talked about the issue of ALS, Parkinson's and others. An article in the Reuters News Agency on April 8, 2002, stated:

A transplant of his own brain cells have treated a man's Parkinson's disease, clearing up the trembling and rigid muscles that mark the disease, researchers reported on Monday.

The researchers believe they isolated and nurtured adult stem cells from the patient's brain, cells that they re-injected to restore normal function.

“We definitely need to do more studies,” said Dr. Michael Levesque of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, who led the study. “This is the first case that shows a promising technique may work. It is an experimental procedure and has to be investigated further before it becomes accepted procedure.”

More than two years after the experimental treatment, the man has no symptoms of Parkinson's, an incurable and fatal brain disease that starts with tremors and ends up incapacitating its victims.

That is fantastic. If indeed we are seeing those kinds of advances in medical research today and if in this case, as in some others we could cite, it has come about because of medical research with adult stem cells, then it is incumbent upon us as parliamentarians to ensure we do all we can to bring all of the research available in this field into the legislative equation. We must not go overboard on one aspect of stem cell research which seems to be the case in the present legislation.

There is also the whole business of donor consent. Those children who are born through artificial insemination do not at the present time have access to the medical records or the background of the donors. The legislation is absolutely faulty in that regard.

I recently spoke on the telephone with a constituent back in Nanaimo. This young lady is 20 years of age. She is wonderfully healthy and a productive member of society who is the result of artificial insemination. Her concern is that she does not have access to the medical records and histories which could be helpful to her as she goes into adulthood and wants to raise her own family.

The government, through this legislation, is unwilling to open the door to this particular kind of thing. Her suggestion was, and I pass it on to the rest of the members of the House and particularly to the committee, that we should only be considering donors who are willing to be identified to those who, at the age of majority, need to have this kind of information about their birthing parents in terms of artificial insemination.

There are a number of considerations that come into play. When we compare it to adoption there is indeed legal recourse for finding out this kind of information. People who at this point in their lives want to find out where the egg or the sperm came from that created them through artificial insemination need to have the same access to that kind of information that people who were adopted have. Indeed there should be a level playing field in that area.

There is a real need to clarify some important points in this legislation. We are hoping that when it goes back to committee it will indeed be prepared to accept amendments that bring this legislation into an even stronger position to protect those who are looking for protection in the bill and who are looking for cures that at this point are not available.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2002 / 1:10 p.m.
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Mississauga South Ontario

Liberal

Paul Szabo LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-56 has to do with reproductive technologies and related research. I would think that most members would agree that the vast majority of the bill has some important provisions which should be supported. However, there are a few items which should be considered for amendment.

One of the areas has to do with stem cells. Stem cells in lay terms are cells which can be adjusted to become virtually any healthy cell in the human body. This means that those cells could be used to repair damaged cells.

Stem cells can be harvested from embryos. They can also be harvested from aborted fetuses, umbilical cords, umbilical cord blood, placentas, amniotic fluid, in fact from virtually every organ in the human body. They are readily available but the question does come up as to whether or not it is ethical to harvest embryonic stem cells from the human embryo.

There is a saying in ethics that when the ethically unacceptable and the scientifically possible are in conflict, the ethical view must prevail. I also cite Dr. Françoise Baylis, who is a bioethicist at McGill University. In her testimony before the Standing Committee on Health, I believe it was on May 31, 2001 she said “An embryo is a human being. That is an uncontested biological fact. It is a member of the human species”.

I do not believe that in terms of the ethical view there is a disagreement with regard to whether or not an embryo is a human being. However, there are ethical arguments about whether or not that human being is in fact a person. It is a deep ethical argument into which I do not have the time to go. There is some basis for having concern about embryonic stem cell research.

The province of Quebec, on hearing the direction in which the Canadian Institutes of Health Research was going, immediately called for and imposed a ban on all embryonic stem cell research in the province. That was in January.

In February there was another important development. The secretary of human and health services in the United States introduced an amendment to a regulation which defines child. For health purposes, child in the United States is defined as a person under 19 years of age, including the period from conception to birth. It is a very significant change in the United States in terms of its policy with regard to the unborn.

The big debate has to do with an ethical argument surrounding when life begins. Human embryos can provide stem cells but uniquely from those stem cells there is an ethical problem in that to harvest the stem cells the embryo must be destroyed. That is an important point. Also, because the stem cells taken from an embryo would be of a particular DNA foreign to the ultimate patient, that means there will be immune rejection problems and the requirement for lifelong anti-rejection drug treatment which is a difficult situation.

In addition, embryonic stem cells which are injected under the skin have a tendency to create spontaneous tumours. They are very difficult to control. In a monograph I wrote, “The Ethics and Science of Stem Cells”, I related an example where embryonic stem cells were injected into the brain of a Parkinson's patient. After the person died about year later an autopsy showed that there was hair and bone growing in the person's brain. It gives an idea of the kinds of things that should concern people about what can happen when we start to play with genetic engineering.

On the other hand, with adult stem cells, there is no ethical problem. Because they would come from the patient, there would be no immune rejection problem nor the requirement for drugs. The stem cells would be readily available. Instead of being injected into a person's damaged area, they are simply injected into the blood and they have the ability to migrate to the damaged area.

It makes a great deal of sense to expand the research with regard to embryonic stem cells. This was the point of the motion made by the hon. member, to amplify the importance of adult stem cell research as the health committee indicated.

The whole issue has to do with research on surplus embryos from fertility clinics. If there was no surplus, there would be no question here. Let me give the House an idea of what happens.

Dr. Baylis, to whom I referred earlier, indicated there were about 500 frozen embryos in all fertility clinics across Canada. Currently about 250 of those are being utilized for reproductive purposes which leaves 250. In her presentation she also indicated that half of the frozen embryos will not survive thawing. They will die simply because of the process. That leaves 125. She went on to say that of the 125 embryos left, only nine of them will have the capacity to produce any kind of stem cell and only about five of those will actually produce stem cells which are of a quality necessary for research purposes. This means that only five out of 250 embryos are useful, but 250 embryos have to be destroyed just to get five that are going to be useful for research. That is 2%, which is an unacceptable threshold for scientific research. We have to do something about it.

What can we do about it? If there were no surplus embryos from fertility clinics, the question would be moot. We would be dealing with a motion that states that embryos can be created specifically for research and then put that question to the House.

The bill suggests that we use surplus embryos which should not exist. That is trying to get through the back door what research cannot get through the front door, that is, to have embryos for research. We should deal with that question directly. I wish the House were able to deal with that motion.

We can do something about this. There has been extensive research with regard to the process of storing women's eggs. Fertility clinics drug women very heavily to make them hyperovulate. This makes them produce a whole bunch of eggs. Ten to 20 eggs would be harvested. All of those eggs would then be fertilized. Some would be used for in vitro fertilization. The balance would be frozen for future in vitro processes. If the first process worked and the couple did not want a second child and they did not want to donate the egg to another person who wanted it, the embryos would become surplus.

What happens if we store women's eggs? It means that only a few will be harvested. Those needed for the in vitro fertilization process will be fertilized and stored. Once the first process is done and more eggs are required for the next process, they simply are thawed out, fertilized and then implanted. The bottom line is there would be no surplus. It is very important that more be invested in the process of storing women's eggs.

In a previous speech I indicated my concern about the whole question of commercialization. On May 24 I received from Dr. Timothy Caulfield, who appeared before the health committee, a response to my concern about commercialization. He said:

In particular, I too am concerned about the impact of the commercialization process in this context. Much of my work has sought to highlight the potentially adverse implications of commercializing genetic research, e.g., the creation of unique conflicts of interest, the skewing of university based research, contributing to the narrowing of the social definition of “normalcy” and a broadening of the notions of disease and disability.

There are very many issues involved with this legislation, including things like patentability and the idea of having an agency to whom we would second the responsibility for defining an ethical framework for research. The bill needs a lot of work. I want Canadians to know that there is no group, no organization, no individual who is opposed to stem cell research. The question is will we get them ethically?

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2002 / 1 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Canadian Alliance Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to go back a year and explain the process that went on with the legislation. It is very important that we look at exactly what we have in Bill C-56 and understand why it is in there. It all started a year ago on May 4 when the bill went directly to committee. It is the first piece of legislation that has ever gone directly to committee. It went right to committee, and I commend the minister at the time for doing that. It is a very contentious issue which is important to all members of the House and all Canadians.

Putting it before committee was a very wise thing to do, before entrenchment of partisan lines and before people said things in which they would entrap themselves before fully understanding the issue. For nine months the committee examined this issue. It had the best witnesses from across Canada and around the world tear the legislation apart and look at it from all sides; the scientific side, the ethical side and the family values side. At the end it was suggested that maybe it was named inappropriately and that it should be named building families.

There are really two parts. We have the part about the in vitro fertilization, the idea of what it takes when infertile couples cannot have children and what has to happen for them to conceive. We looked at what would assist them to build families, to build healthy new Canadians who would develop into prosperous individuals to help and grow society in Canada.

The other side is perhaps as some people would argue not even applicable to the bill. It is all on the scientific side which drives the idea that research should be done to ease the suffering of individuals, which has nothing to do with reproduction other than getting some of the material that could perhaps be used for stem cells in this area. That was important to understand.

We listened to everyone. For scientists, the success of in vitro fertilization is a brand new baby boy or girl. However for society it is much deeper than that. We had witnesses who appeared before the committee who said that who their parents were, where they came from, if there was an anonymous donor that they did not know anything about, left a void in their life which they could not handle later in life. It was very important that we understood the structure of the human body, which is very complex, and the psychological effects on many individuals. Success from the different perspectives was very different so we had to look at all sides of the issue.

On the embryonic stem cell side, if we are going to destroy an embryo, destroy life at its beginning to achieve stem cells by 14 days, kill it, take the stem cells and do research is an ethical minefield in the eyes of many people. We are taking human life at its very early and most vulnerable stage and destroying it. It is not an issue of whether life begins there or not. Biologically it does and whether we like that or not there is nothing we can do about that. The issue is how much value do we place on life at that stage. That is the ethical dilemma in which the House will be placed. It is something that we wrestled with as a committee for a year.

At the end of that, we recognized that there were other alternatives. We had scientists come to the committee who said that we should not go down that path. From the scientific research being done and the easing of human suffering, it was much more successful on the adult stem cell side of it.

In December the committee issued its report on its findings entitled, “Assisted Human Reproduction: Building Families”. This was an all party committee. The committee had a majority of Liberal members, and the other members of parliament were three Canadian Alliance, two Bloc, one NDP and one Progressive Conservative. After we listened to all the witnesses, we came up with these recommendations.

The recommendation states:

Research using embryos be a controlled activity requiring a licence. Even if all other regulatory criteria are met, no licence may be issued unless the applicant clearly demonstrates that no other category of biological material could be used for the purposes of the proposed research.

Prior to that, the preamble, we came to that conclusion because we heard that embryonic stem cell research presents some possibilities. Other sources, such as umbilical cord blood or adult stem cells are more available, are more easily obtained, are less ethically contentious. Some witnesses argued that research on stem cells using sources other than embryos might be sufficient to obtain the stem cell potential.

The committee was struck with the testimony that in the past year there have been tremendous gains in adult stem cell research in humans. We also heard that after many years of embryonic stem cell research in animal models, the results are not providing the expected advances. Therefore, we want to encourage research funding in the area of adult stem cells.

After nine months of listening to the best and the brightest in our land and in the world, the committee which had no vested interest said that there were two ways we could go. We could destroy life at its beginning and do research on the embryo which has very limited scientific possibilities at this time, or we could go on this other line which is the adult or non-embryonic stem cell research, which is umbilical cord blood, amniotic fluid and on and on. The committee decided to go there. The bill does not reflect that and therein lies the problem and the reason for an amendment. We need a piece of legislation that recognizes the value of the adult or non-embryonic stem cell research.

What has happened since December? As I reported a couple of days ago in the House, in the last 60 days there have been a number of different advancements that have happened involving Parkinson's patients. These results were not just proposed and looked hopeful; the patients were actually cured. It is the same thing for multiple sclerosis and autoimmune resistance and on and on. We have seen tremendous gains in the last 60 days compared to any other time in history. What has happened in this line of research in the last year has been absolutely phenomenal. The advancement is growing and growing.

What happens in the next 60 days or in the next year becomes something we have to recognize. We have to be very cautious of going down the ethically charged line of destroying life at its beginning. All of this is important.

What is interesting is that because of this research we see actual cures coming from adult stem cell research. This was in an article on the fourth or fifth page of the Globe and Mail . If the research had been done on embryos and it had been embryonic stem cells that had cured the Parkinson's and MS patients, it would have been a shot heard around the world.

The drive of the scientists and society to get to the embryos is absolutely astounding. We do not have enough information on this whole area. It is very important that we take our time. We have to deliberate. Society has to wrestle with the same things we have wrestled with in committee so that we do not make mistakes. We must be wise in how we go down this ethically charged line.

The whole idea of patent law is not part of the bill because patent law comes under the industry minister. It is unfortunate. Something on patenting the human body should be placed in this legislation. Patenting the human body should not take place. The human body should be something that we cherish. How we find it may be patented, but certainly we should not allow ourselves to patent the human body.

The most important part of this legislation is not what we do with the embryo; it is what we do with the agency that licenses the research as we go forward in the 21st century. It must be accountable and garner the trust of Canadians if we are to truly have a piece of legislation and work in areas that are so ethically charged. It has to be looked at. It has to be changed. We have to make that as open and transparent as possible. I encourage all members to be wise as we deliberate in that area.