Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House of Commons to provide all hon. members with what I believe to be a summary of some of the substantive reasons why I do not support Bill C-13.
First, the bill does not ban all forms of human cloning. Dr. Ronald Worton testified before the Standing Committee on Health and said that many of the definitions are in error or problematic from a scientific perspective.
In addition, we had the opinion of Dr. Dianne Irving, formerly of the University of Georgetown in Washington, who stated that the bill mixed up medical and science definitions. She also said that Health Canada had made an amendment to a definition to add the reference to a deployed chromosome from a single living person or a previously deceased person.
The bill says that no person shall knowingly create a human clone. However, human clone is a defined term in the bill. It says that a human clone is an embryo, not someone walking around the streets. It is an embryo that contains, as a result of the manipulation of human reproductive material or an in vitro embryo, a deployed set of chromosomes obtained from a single living or deceased human being, fetus or embryo.
This is suspiciously complex--members would agree--and it begs the question, why does it not say that a human clone is simply an embryo which is genetically identical to another living or deceased human being or human embryo? That is very straightforward. Why is it so complex? Why does it have so many adjectives and conditions?
Dr. Irving identified four methods of human cloning which are not covered by the definition because of that word “single”; getting cells from a single person rather than from one or more. The United States legislation uses the phrase “one or more” because there are proven techniques which use cells from more than one person.
If we do not ban all forms and techniques of human cloning, then we really miss all of them. All they need is one.
Dr. Irving lives in the U.S. and was called as a witness two days prior to the U.S. Thanksgiving and could not appear as a witness when called. No one has ever challenged Dr. Irving's opinions that the bill does not ban all forms and techniques of human cloning for any purpose.
Despite the assertions of armchair media, Bill C-13 does not ban all forms of cloning and therefore the bill, as it stands, does not ban human cloning at all.
The United Nations is currently debating a resolution to ban all forms of human cloning for any purpose. Canada is not supporting that resolution. There is an alternative resolution sponsored by the French and the Germans to ban cloning for human reproduction purposes and to permit human cloning for research and experimentation. Not only is Canada supporting this limited ban on cloning, we are actually a co-sponsor of that resolution before the UN.
Canada, therefore, has one position at the UN and a different position in Bill C-13 which is totally unacceptable.
Alternatively, we could say that the UN position is in fact precisely the same as in Bill C-13 which is that Canada supports human cloning for research and experimentation. This is also unacceptable. Never has Health Canada said that we would support human cloning of any type and yet we have that same resolution being supported at the UN.
Based on the unrefuted testimony and opinions of Dr. Worton and Dr. Irving, it is clear that Bill C-13 would ban human cloning for reproduction but would permit human cloning for research and experimentation. This is unacceptable.
As an aside, a human clone is arguably a human being. The definition in the bill of a human clone is that it is an embryo. By logic, that means that human life begins at conception, that is, when there is an embryo. This will make for an interesting debate when the question of when human life begins is again before the House.
As I indicated, medical and scientific definitions are a problem. One of them was chimera. It has been changed from the established medical and scientific definition without disclosure of that fact. That is unacceptable.
Chimera refers to the combination of human and non-human life forms. The medical and scientific definition states that it is the implantation of human reproductive material into non-human life forms or the reverse, that is, implanting non-human reproductive material into humans.
The bill itself has a definition of chimera which is different. It refers to the implantation of non-human reproductive material into humans but does not include the reverse. As a consequence, the bill would in fact permit the implantation of human reproductive material into non-human life forms creating animal/human hybrids.
Dr. François Pothier of Laval University told a parliamentary round table that he can see animal/human hybrids being granted personhood status in the future. Can hon. members imagine an animal/human combination being granted personhood status? How bizarre; how scary. Permitting animal/human hybrids for research has never been a stated objective of the bill. I believe that this is a sleight of hand in drafting and assumes that no MPs would ever have picked up this difference when doing their homework.
The next area I wanted to comment on is the fact that there are insufficient surplus human embryos from fertility clinics to sustain meaningful research. Dr. Françoise Baylis testified that in Canada there were less than 10 surplus human embryos that would meet the research quality requirements. She concluded that there were not enough embryos available for meaningful research in Canada and last November she announced a research study to more thoroughly survey the fertility clinics in Canada.
Her application for funding was pending approval from the Canadian stem cell network which the government funded. To date, we have heard absolutely nothing on the study because it would prove that the only way to get enough embryos to sustain meaningful research is to permit human cloning for research and experimentation, as is done in the UK, which is also, incidentally, a co-sponsor of the partial ban resolution at the UN.
The UK has already killed 40,000 embryos in doing embryonic stem cell research and there is not one shred of positive evidence coming out of its research. The only way it got that many embryos is that its legislation permits it to clone human embryos and create them for research purposes, which is apparently contrary to the position of this government in Bill C-13.
The definition of human clone in Bill C-13 does not cover all forms of cloning. To allow this to proceed would violate the ethical guidelines for research on humans as laid out in the tri-council policy statement which covers all medical science and research professionals in Canada. It is also contrary to the position of the Royal Commission on Reproductive Technologies.
Members cannot say that there are no guidelines on cloning because there are. The only difference is that in Bill C-13 there are criminal sanctions. In the ethics of medical science and research professionals, the only sanctions would be the professional sanctions, possibly to lose status in the profession.
The next item is the fact that the bill will not improve the accessibility or safety of fertility treatment. One of the fundamental principles of the bill is that human reproductive materials are not commodities to be commercialized. The bill specifically prohibits the purchase or sale of sperm, eggs or embryos.
However, Canada has a shortage of sperm for fertility treatments and a Health Canada spokesperson testified before the health committee that today we import about 30% of our sperm from other countries, including the U.S., and some of it even comes from U.S. prisons.
By cutting off the ability to purchase sperm through imports or through for profit sperm clinics in Canada, the accessibility of fertility treatments in Canada will actually decline. If we do not have enough sperm and we have to import it today, but we cannot import it after Bill C-13 becomes law, we will not have enough sperm to provide for the demand of fertility treatments.
Health Canada has a solution. The solution is to establish an altruistic system like blood donation. However, it did not disclose this fact or explain why it thought it would be successful. Basically, it thinks people would donate out of the goodness of their hearts to help others with fertility problems.
If there are no commercial transactions permitted then how can researchers get surplus embryos from fertility clinics without some sort of compensation? Health Canada had a response to that, too; however, it said it had not figured it out yet. How do we get things going from fertility clinics into the hands of third party researchers? Its response was that it had not figured it out yet, but it would work it out and deal with it in the regulations.
Non-embryonic stem cells can in fact do anything that embryonic stem cells can do. In June 2002 Dr. Catherine Verfaillie of the University of Minnesota Stem Cell Institute published verified research that non-embryonic stem cells can do anything that embryonic stem cells can do. In fact, Dr. Pothier, who I mentioned earlier from the University of Laval, said that despite the ethical and immune rejection problems of embryonic stem cells, researchers want to use them because there is no money in non-embryonic stem cells.
The only reason they want the embryonic stem cells, in my view, is the commercial benefit. Researchers get their money from private interests substantively, from biotech firms and pharmaceutical companies. They want to use the embryonic stem cells because they are subject to immune rejection problems which require lifelong immune rejection drugs. Dr. Pothier was honest with the roundtable. There is no money in non-embryonic stem cells.
The final area that I want to comment on--and it was a theme that I thought was quite appropriate because it happens far too often in this place--has to do with the notion that some people think that MPs are nobodies.
The Standing Committee on Health reviewed the draft bill and made 34 recommendations. It asked for a response from the government within 150 days and there was no response forthcoming. The fact that there was no response makes me ask, why? The answer is because somebody thinks that MPs are nobodies.
The committee made three substantive amendments to Bill C-13 during clause by clause study. However, at report stage, the minister had her own motions to reverse all three and they passed. As a consequence, all of the work of the committee was effectively dismissed as wasted time. Why? Because somebody thinks that MPs are nobodies.
The definition of human clone is faulty and actually permits certain forms of human cloning. Health Canada did not think anybody would pick it up in the scientific definitions. Why? Because somebody thinks that MPs are nobodies.
Bill C-13 would change the medical definition of chimera to only prohibit the implantation of non-human life forms into humans but not the reverse. Nobody thought that MPs would catch that. Why? Because somebody thinks that MPs are nobodies.
Either Canada has one position at the UN and a different position in Bill C-13, or in fact the position at the UN to allow cloning for research and experimentation is identical to what it is in the bill. I agreed that it is the truth. Either way, it is unacceptable.
Nobody thought that we would find out about what we were doing at the UN, that we had a different position than what was being told to Parliament. Nobody thought we would find it. Why? Because somebody thinks that MPs are nobodies.
The bill has 28 areas in which regulations must be promulgated and details that are significantly important to the bill in order for members of Parliament to know what they are voting on. The bill has so many blanks in it because the detail will be in the regulations. This is the way we always do it. Why? Because somebody thinks that MPs are nobodies.
We are not nobodies. We should never be treated like that by anyone. We are entitled to have our questions answered and to be respected for our work. The House of Commons starts off each day with a prayer that we make good laws and wise decisions.
To conclude, let me assure all hon. members that I have spent two years doing my homework on Bill C-13 and it is my opinion that the bill is not a good bill but a fatally flawed bill.
Furthermore, since the government has closed the door on any consideration of amendments, I believe that the wisest decision is to defeat Bill C-13. We can and should do a better job on behalf of all Canadians.