Madam Speaker, it always pays to persevere in life.
I was saying that every member of the Bloc Quebecois understands the importance of the issue of reproductive technologies. I am aware that this type of bill concerns one couple in five on average, since 20% of people experience reproductive difficulties at some point or other in their life.
However, we do have some real concerns, concerns that are shared by the Government of Quebec, led by Bernard Landry. Quebec's minister of health sent a letter to his federal counterpart, the federal Minister of Health, outlining some of these concerns.
What we would like, is for the federal government to use the valid constitutional power that it has, under section 91.27 of the Constitution Act, 1982, to criminalize certain practices around which there is consensus for ethical reasons and because of our values.
In the time I have left, I will come back to the prohibited practices and the need to criminalize them. Remember that, since 1997, the Bloc Quebecois with its sense of responsibility it has always had, and through the member for Drummond, whom I would like to commend, has introduced a private member's bill three times, to criminalize cloning for reproductive and therapeutic purposes.
Back then, members will recall that the government had turned a deaf ear to the member for Drummond. If it were not for the member for Drummond, who is part of a too small group of visionary people who really paved the way for the government when it comes to reproductive technologies, I believe this government would never have acted with the diligence that we should expect from the members opposite.
We would feel quite comfortable voting in support of a bill that would maintain the 10 prohibited practices in Bill C-13 as it now stands.
We cannot be a party to an attempt to invade a provincial jurisdiction. Let me explain. With Bill C-13, a federal regulatory agency is established, which will administer an annual budget of $10 million and—who would have guessed?—regulate the medical profession. It will determine under which conditions physicians will be authorized by regulation to perform medical procedures related to insemination or other activities related to reproductive technologies. In Quebec, in the Act respecting health services and social services, section 112 confers that power to the Quebec health minister. So, let us not mix two debates and two issues that should be kept separate.
As a society, we may say that certain activities are immoral, unethical, and as lawmakers, we may not be prepared to condone them; we have no problem with that. We may want to prevent potential manipulations and such practices in government or private laboratories; we are willing to follow the government in that direction.
All our fellow citizens may not be aware of this, but I can sense the Chair's contagious interest in this matter. Still, clause 5 of the bill lists 10 activities prohibited under Bill C-13. Once again, we hope this will be enacted in legislation, as was recommended by the hon. member for Drummond, who is ahead of her time in this field. Under clause 5, it is prohibited to create a human clone for reproductive or therapeutic purposes.
We believe that each human being is unique, that each has a personality of its own, and therefore we do not want cloning to be made possible.
It is also prohibited under the legislation to:
(b) create an in vitro embryo for any purpose other than creating a human being or improving or providing instruction in assisted reproduction procedures;
It is also prohibited under the bill to:
(c) --create an embryo from a cell or part of a cell taken from an embryo or foetus or transplant an embryo so created into a human being;
It is prohibited to:
(d) maintain an embryo outside the body of a woman after the fourteenth day of its development--
This 14th day is the recognized time when the formation of the nervous system begins.
It is prohibited to alter the germ line, that is to:
(f) alter the genome of a cell of a human being or in vitro embryo such that the alteration is capable of being transmitted to descendants.
This means that we cannot create custom made human beings. We cannot say, “I want a girl with blue eyes and I want all her descendants to have blue eyes”. It is not possible to use genetics for such purposes.
Under the bill, it is also prohibited to:
(g) transplant a sperm, ovum, embryo or foetus of a non-human life form into a human being.
It is easy to understand the need for such a prohibition. Under the bill, it is prohibited to:
(h) for the purpose of creating a human being, make use of any human reproductive material or an in vitro embryo that is or was transplanted into a non-human life form;
Under the bill, it is prohibited to:
(i) create a chimera, or transplant a chimera into either a human being or a non-human life form;
Finally, it is also prohibited under the bill to:
(j) create a hybrid for the purpose of reproduction, or transplant a hybrid into either a human being--
If the government had been logical, had introduced Bill C-13 and had limited its scope to these 10 prohibitions, we would have immediately given our support to this legislation.
However, when it comes to health, the federal government wants to engage in nation building, it wants to interfere and get involved in provincial jurisdictions. The Kirby report is indicative of this trend. The national forum on health, which proposed a national pharmacare program, is also a case in point. On Thursday, we will see what the Romanow report recommends, but we think it is going to be more of the same.
The Quebec government, which is one of the best to have presided over the future of Quebeckers, examined all the acts that would be deemed incompatible, totally or partly, with Bill C-13.
I will tell you about this, if I may. Our Civil Code—one of the things that is most distinctive about Quebec, since the rest of Canada has the common law tradition—this most important legal system prohibits such things as payment for the services of surrogate mothers, as well as reimbursement of surrogates or donors for certain expenses.
The Civil Code, the legislator and the National Assembly have taken stands on this issue, stating that donors and surrogates must live with their choices. Donation must be a purely altruistic act, and that is why under the Civil Code no reimbursement of any kind is allowed.
Bill C-13 makes an exception to this principle and acknowledges that certain expenses might be reimbursed with ministerial authorization. The bill proposed to us is therefore incompatible with the wishes of the Quebec legislator.
There is also incompatibility with Quebec's Act respecting Health Services and Social Services. As I have said, section 112 of this legislation empowers the minister of health to determine those facilities which will provide services relating to infertility and reproduction. Any issues relating to the approaches to be used in this service delivery are determined by the legislation.
The regulatory agency would, therefore, be superimposed, adding another condition which is central to health and social services, although these are a provincial area of jurisdiction.
I trust that the government House leader will bow to this logic. It is not too late to influence the Minister of Health, a lady who must be treated with kid gloves because she can sometimes be a bit obtuse. But I am counting on him.
There is also incompatibility with another piece of Quebec legislation, the Act respecting the Protection of Personal Information in the Private Sector. If the regulatory agency did come into being, it would be possible, admittedly only with consent of the parties involved, but nevertheless possible, to disclose identifying information. In Quebec, in such cases, such information cannot be disclosed under any circumstances.
It is therefore clear why it is important for all references to the assisted human reproduction agency of Canada to be deleted from this bill and for the provinces, which already have legislation on this, to be left to do their work.
The list of legislative measures is a lengthy one. It is a great shame that such a bill has been allowed to see the light of day. The government is going to pay dearly for its desire to centralize.
So, as I said, it is incompatible with the Civil Code, with the Act respecting health services and social services, the act respecting access to documents held by public bodies and the protection of personal information, and the act respecting the protection of personal information in the private sector, the act respecting medical laboratories, organ, tissue, gamete and embryo conservation, ambulance services and arrangements for corpses, and last, but least, it is incompatible with Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
I cannot mention Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms without getting emotional. First, because the charter was one of the first ones in North America. It was adopted in its final version in 1977—the work on it having been started by the Liberals with Jérôme Choquette at the National Assembly—but it was really the Parti Quebecois government, a government that has always been progressive, which was the first to give the charter its shape, and make it the envy of other parliaments.
Of course the charter contains provisions regarding the protection of life and the equality of citizens. However, the charter also contains the right to confidentiality and the right to privacy. Section 10 of the charter also contains provisions on social condition. I have had the opportunity to speak to this on several occasions; there are only three provinces, and the federal government, that do not have provisions regarding social condition in their charters of human rights.
However, rest assured that I am here, keeping an eye on the situation. I have sponsored a bill that has been chosen that would allow us to amend the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to include social condition. While the government has done nothing, the Bloc Quebecois is fulfilling its responsibilities.
So, the bill is incompatible with Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, with the medical code of ethics, with the guidelines of the Quebec health research fund, better known to people in the field as the FRSQ as well as with the ministerial action plan on ethics and scientific integrity.
So clearly, the Government of Quebec has not waited for the federal government to get to work on the issue of assisted reproduction. The Government of Quebec took action. It has already established practices. Civil law has rules on a number of issues, but despite all that, the federal government once again wants to stick its big nose into areas that are not under its jurisdiction.
I have had the opportunity to meet physicians such as Doctor Bissonnette, not to mention names. This is a physician who is involved with the firm Procrea. They cannot see why, with the expertise we have in Quebec and what Quebec is doing, and doing well, in the field of reproduction technology, another structure, one which is cumbersome, inefficient and complicated, would be superimposed on the existing one.
Let me touch on this briefly. There are at least 15 good reasons to defeat Bill C-13. If passed—thank goodness, this has not happened yet, and we will not let it be passed as it stands—Bill C-13 would block any new initiative by Quebec to manage assisted reproduction techniques, even if Quebec has made strides in that field in the past decade.
The assisted human reproduction agency of Canada would superimpose a cumbersome and expensive structure on a system that has been tested and is already operational in Quebec.
It is important to note that the Quebec government's approach is to empower the stakeholders, an approach which is not always compatible with this desire to make certain procedures illegal, except for the ones listed in clause 5, with whose prohibition we agree.
Again, the saddest thing about Bill C-13, and we will never tire of pointing it out, is that it infringes on the power vested in Quebec's Minister of Health and Social Services concerning the exclusive delivery of services under section 112 of the Act respecting Health Services and Social Services.
This is a direct infringement upon a provision of the legislation passed by the National Assembly, under which Quebec took its responsibilities.
Again, criminal sanctions are created for medical procedures that have been enshrined in our civil law. I addressed earlier the whole issue of paying surrogate mothers. Bill C-13 interferes with provisions of the Civil Code, particularly with respect to the whole issue of consent to treatment—the government House leader will recall that this is covered in articles 10 and 11 of the Civil Code—and that of the relationship of parentage as it regards adoption, and articles 538 to 542 of our Civil Code.
Seventh, Bill C-13 does not reflect the positions taken by Quebec, particularly as regards adoption when we dealt with civil union. As hon. members know, Bill 84 was unanimously passed. It is rather unusual in our parliamentary system to have a bill that is unanimously passed. That was the case at the National Assembly with Bill 84, which instituted the civil union and which established new parentage rules.
Bill C-13 creates discrimination between children who were born through the use of new reproductive technologies and the others, since there will be a national register in which information will be available. This information will not necessarily be made available to adopted children.
One of the saddest aspects of the bill is that it interferes with the confidentiality of assisted human reproduction files.
I could go on and on, but I am asking hon. members to do something sensible and to allow this bill to be split, so that we can all vote as one. We know how beneficial this is for society. The bill could be quickly passed if it only dealt with prohibited activities. Let us leave it to the provinces, since it is their responsibility, to the extent that it relates to the delivery of health and social services, to adopt the practices relating to these issues, which are covered by clauses 25 to 39 of the bill.
I think such a measure would reflect common sense. It would be respectful of our constitutional law and it would allow us to move forward very quickly on issues which, again, are extremely important from an ethical and moral point of view.
Since my time is almost up, I am asking the House to unanimously agree to this motion.