Assisted Human Reproduction Act

An Act respecting assisted human reproduction

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in November 2003.

Sponsor

Anne McLellan  Liberal

Status

Not active, as of Nov. 7, 2003
(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.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 6th, 2003 / 12:10 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PrivilegePrivate Members' Business

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

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2003 / 10:45 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Larry Spencer Canadian Alliance Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, this bill is a very controversial subject across our land. It is probably third only to the recent bills that we have seen go through this place, one on the question of marriage and the other being Bill C-250. There are hundreds of people who have written who are concerned about Bill C-13. They are concerned about the view that this Parliament would reflect on humanity itself, the value of life and the dignity of life if we embark upon some of the measures provided for in this legislation.

Someone has said that this is not an issue of religion or conscience. I would suggest it really is an issue of conscience whether one is religious or not. I was reminded of that remark recently in the United States when we heard of someone who was fined something like $25,000 for destroying an eagle's egg. I am remembering the burrowing owls that we have in Canada and the endangered species legislation that we are looking at where people could be fined for even destroying the habitat or the nesting grounds of species in this country.

Would we punish them for destroying an egg of a bird or the burrow of an owl? Would we punish them for that and say it was sacrilegious to destroy them, or are we being religious for passing laws to protect endangered species? No one accuses us of being religious for doing that. Why would they want to accuse us of being overly religious for passing laws to protect the dignity and the safety of the human race?

Our party supports a number of aspects of the bill. We support the bans on reproductive and therapeutic cloning, the bans on animal and human hybrids, the bans on sex selection and the bans on buying and selling embryos. We recognize that these are the good aspects of the bill. As so often is the case, we get caught between a rock and a hard place when we deal with legislation. So often, there are parts of a bill that are good, as are these points that I have mentioned in this bill, and then there are parts that are weak or bad and cause us to have to violate our conscience to support that part of the legislation.

With regard to cloning, the Canadian Alliance opposes human cloning as we believe it is an affront to human dignity, individuality and rights. We have spoken often and for a long time against human cloning. We have been urging the federal government to take a stand and bring in legislation. It has been over 10 years since the report first came out that we should deal with these kinds of things. The Liberals have put it off and waited. It is my understanding that some companies in Canada announced recently that they were tired of waiting and that they were going to go ahead with some of this research. It is a shame that we have waited this long to deal with these kinds of issues.

The practices that are still allowed in this bill are not acceptable to some of us. The bill does say that the health and well-being of children born through assisted human reproduction must be given a priority. We believe in that and we believe in it very strongly. In fact, the health committee itself in its meetings came up with a ranking of the interests that should be made around this bill.

First of all, it said children born through assisted human reproduction should have priority in the decision making; second, adults participating in that procedure; and third, the researchers and physicians who conduct AHR research. They did not mention it, but I guess fourth would be the society in general that would benefit from anything that came out of this kind of research.

Even though children are mentioned as the ones who are to be considered first when we talk about these procedures, we have a way of saying something and then quickly forgetting what it really means. In the bill, children born through donor insemination or from donor eggs are not given the right to know the identity of their biological parents. How can we say that we are considering the needs of the children first when we refuse to even allow them to find out the identify of their biological parents?

In this day and age we know there are many cases where it is very valuable information medically to have a knowledge of who one's parents really are, where they came from, what were the diseases they had, what were their traits and characteristics. We do not allow for that in the bill.

The bill does not provide an acknowledgement of human dignity or respect for human life. The government makes some statements that are sort of related but it refuses to make a statement about the dignity or the sanctity of human life. The bill is intimately connected with the creation of human life, human life that will in its end be used strictly for research.

The minority report recommended that the final legislation would recognize the human embryo as human life and that the statutory declaration include the phrase “respect for human life”. I heard already this morning in this debate that the human embryo is not human life. Is it life at all? I think it can be proven scientifically that it is life. The cells are already beginning divide. It is growing and only living things grow. Certainly we must know that it is human. It is not another kind of animal. It is not a plant. It is not a vegetable. It is in fact a human life.

The bill also allows for experiments using human embryos under four conditions. Only in vitro embryos left over can be used. Written permission must be given by the donor. It does not say donors, it just says donor. We believe that every human embryo by scientific evidence would have to have two donors and not just one. There should be the recognition of both donors in this case and that both donors should give permission and not just one. The bill also allows for research on human embryos if the use is necessary. Necessary is undefined. In vitro fertilization requires the creation of human embryos and the bill says it is only as many as are necessary, but when the end comes, when the implantation is made I think we will find that many embryos have been destroyed that were not necessary and unused only to speed up the process. We are in such a hurry to see things happen. We cannot wait to see one or two eggs fertilized at a time so that a couple can bear children.

Sometimes we forget that Bill C-13 would allow the creation of embryos for reproductive research. Canadian law will now legitimize the view that human life can be created solely for the benefit of others and sacrificed in the name of research.

I come back to the fact that the human embryo is life. Whether it is a senior adult, a young adult, a child, a baby, a fetus or an embryo, I must conclude that it is human life.

I will close by quoting Suzanne Scorsone, a former member of the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies, who said “The human embryo is a human individual with a complete personal genome, and should be a subject of research only for its own benefit”. She also said that many people hold to the idea that to destroy the embryo or utilize it as industrial raw material is damaging and dehumanizing not only to that embryo but to all of human society.

I maintain that that is the right position.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2003 / 10:25 a.m.
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Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-13 is very important. As we know, it concerns assisted human reproduction. I can understand that there are divergent opinions on this matter. I know that some members of the House oppose this project for religious or other personal reasons. I do not share their views. However, we must divide the issue and see the positive and the scientific side of assisted reproduction. As I was saying, it is not simply a religious question or a question of conscience; one very important aspect is that, with assisted reproduction, we can help families or people who truly need help.

I will give the House a little scenario. For some years now, a cluster of technological developments have made the headlines. From Dolly the sheep to the debate about cloning human embryos for therapeutic purposes, the exciting buzz of biotechnology is taking us down previously unexplored paths. The fact that today we have some ability to deconstruct matter and, to some extent, reconstruct a living being, means that we are confronted with new problems, whose extent we still do not comprehend. These new possibilities require increased vigilance and solid ethical examination, in order to ensure that we do not overstep certain boundaries. In order to do this, a new legal language, new concepts and a new political approach are required.

Over the years, many parliamentarians, including a number from the Bloc Quebecois, have exposed the legal vacuum surrounding assisted reproduction. Again and again, we have revived the debate by calling on citizens and experts to express themselves and by demanding that the federal government impose socially acceptable limits as soon as possible. Still, we must admit that it is difficult to strike a balance between a solid ethical position that respects human dignity and the need to meet therapeutic needs.

We must decide overall how we view life and what kind of technological progress we want. Society has to make some choices, and it is high time for this debate to move into the public arena, so that everyone can have their say. Recently tabled legislation on assisted human reproduction by the federal government is a good first step in stimulating this discussion and, at the same time, relaunching a social debate temporarily shelved.

I want to review the highlights of this legislation. On May 9, the Minister of Health introduced this highly anticipated legislation on assisted human reproduction. It seeks to protect the health and safety of individuals using assisted reproductive technologies to start a family, to prohibit unacceptable activities, such as human cloning, and to regulate assisted reproductive technologies and related research. The assisted human reproduction agency of Canada, which will be created under this legislation, will issue licences for research, monitor such activities and oversee the application of the legislation on assisted reproduction.

Safety must, to some extent, be ensured. 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. 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.

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 in vitro embryo for purposes other than creating a human being or improving assisted reproduction procedures, creating chimeras or hybrids for reproductive purposes, providing financial inducements to a woman to become a surrogate mother, and buying or selling human embryos or providing property or services in exchange.

I would like to present an overview of the pros and cons as set out in the various arguments we have heard throughout the discussions on human cloning. The arguments of those in favour of stem cell research fall into four main categories: historical, medical, humanitarian and legal-political.

Let us begin with the historical arguments. In the 1970s, there was vocal opposition to DNA research. After the establishment of government guidelines, however, not only was there good monitoring of research, but research also led to the development of human insulin for diabetics.

As for the medical arguments, many are of the opinion that embryonic stem cell research has a huge potential for curative medicine.

Humanitarian arguments are usually advanced by associations such as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, based on their belief that such research is indispensable to improving the situation of those with the disease. Some experts point out that there are hundreds of frozen embryos in fertility clinics throughout Canada that have become useless, whereas they could have been used to help find treatments for such diseases as cancer, diabetes and Parkinson's disease.

Now for the legal-political arguments. Certain women's groups and certain legal experts argue that, in our current legal framework, the Supreme Court has been obliged, since 1988, to recognize that not only is a fetus not a human being—which civil law also acknowledges—but that it cannot be considered viable before the 20th week of gestation. Thus, if a fetus is not a human being, then tissues from it are not tissues from a human being.

Now for the arguments against. Research on human embryonic stem cells is controversial, mainly because it involves destruction of the embryo used. 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. Since the embryo is a potential human being, according to the Church it must have a special moral status. Moreover, numerous associations have expressed the fear that cloning, initially justified as a means to a cure for certain very rare diseases, will eventually become widespread and lead to the production of designer babies.

I will give a background on where we stand. The Bloc Quebecois has been studying this issue for several years; we have had major discussions and extensive debate to ensure that the bill would protect human beings, and that the use of embryos would stop short of human cloning. At the same time, certain jurisdictions must also be protected.

Now, for our party's position; we have been defending this issue and talking about it amongst ourselves for many years. We also realize that Bill C-13, if adopted, would interfere in Quebec's jurisdiction with respect to health. That is unacceptable to us.

My colleagues from Hochelaga—Maisonneuve and from Drummond have done extraordinary work in the Standing Committee on Health. They tried to move amendments to ensure that Quebec's jurisdictions would be left alone, but, to no avail, since they were all lost.

For us, this is not a religious question, but a question of jurisdiction and the administration of justice. We do not want this bill to change the rules for health in Quebec. Quebec manages its own affairs quite well and we want it to stay that way. We are against this bill.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2003 / 10:15 a.m.
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Liberal

John O'Reilly Liberal Haliburton—Victoria—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, I certainly also want to join in on the debate on Bill C-13 at third reading, even though basically there is now a move to invoke closure on the bill.

I think we have to take some time because the bill actually does represent life itself, and the information on this technology is certainly evolving. As time goes on, there is more and more in the technology coming forward that causes us to stop and to be concerned. The intent of the bill two years ago was certainly not the technology that is available today to support it.

I think the legislation could be passed very quickly if the bill were split and the controversial items in it taken out; they are very few and I do not understand the minister's reluctance to do this.

It bothers me that a committee of the House of Commons would make recommendations that would be completely ignored by the minister.

As we looked at changing the structure of the House of Commons, something in which I have been involved in the last few years, I was looking forward to the fact that committees would actually have some relevance, that they would not be partisan and that they would not be just carrying out the wishes of the government. I thought that committees would actually follow the recommendations that come from all parties during the debate and upon listening to the various witnesses who came forward.

In looking at this particular legislation, I notice that pretty nearly all the recommendations of the committee have been ignored, not necessarily on the things we all agree with, but on the things we disagree with.

The committee conducted very extensive hearings on the draft bill. It presented 34 recommendations, some of which the member for Mississauga South recommended and brought forward and which I seconded. I thought the recommendations had some basis for and merited discussion. I am sorry to see that the minister chose not to appear before the committee or not to listen to the committee. The minister chose instead to blindly go forward without any basis in fact on the actual bill itself.

As the committee went through clause by clause at report stage, the minister basically proposed three motions that reversed all three of the committee recommendations. I think that maybe the committees of the House of Commons in the next Parliament should be re-examined, reformed and looked at in the light of their relevance. Because if the government is just going to blindly pass legislation without input from the committees, if it is not going to refer the bills to committees and then take the recommendations of expert witnesses, I find I am in a quandary about how I can support such legislation going ahead.

Mr. Speaker, you will know that it was a legislative committee which did some of the work on the anti-terrorist legislation. Many of the recommendations came forward from witnesses, some of which were questionable witnesses, the ethics counsellor and some others, but the fact is that those recommendations were taken into consideration. Changes were then made to some of the 22 pieces of legislation before that committee.

We now have a bill with 28 areas in which regulations have to be developed, and the bill itself is flawed in many instances, to say the least.

I find that this is a bill dealing entirely with what I would consider the life of a baby. Even the Minister of Health, in recommendations on when life begins, has now come out with labelling on cigarette packages which states, “Smoking during pregnancy can harm the life of a baby”. That does not say a fetus. That does not say something which does not exist. It says a baby. So on one side of its recommendations the department admits that life begins at conception, and on the other side it is saying it does not.

I find a contradiction here. I am at odds with the minister on this, because as a pro-lifer, which puts me in the “God squad” as I am told, whatever that means, it means to me that I stand up for what I believe. I do not intend to change my mind. I do not have any science to indicate that I should change my mind. Nothing has been brought forward to indicate that I am wrong, in my mind of course, as in some people's minds I am dead wrong on almost everything. That is what happens when one is in an adversarial situation with the Government of Canada and representing a large rural riding.

On Bill C-13 and the actual closure legislation that has been brought forth, it allows us an hour to debate a bill that should be debated at far greater length. Speakers should have been allowed to come forward, as the member for Mississauga South has indicated, like many groups appearing before the committee that have not been heard in Parliament and have not had their views brought forward.

Members of Parliament are uninformed about the bill. They have made up their minds based on what the minister has told them to say. I find that reprehensible in regard to the way I operate. I believe we should look at every bill, examine bills as members of Parliament, listen to all the evidence or at least have the courtesy to read the evidence, come to our own conclusions and then be judged based on our conscience as to how we in fact vote on a bill.

I was not prepared to speak on the bill this morning. I felt that it would follow its normal course. It would have a lot of debate on both sides, there would be input at third reading and I would be able to represent the views of my riding, which are, by the way, mixed. I think the views are mixed because the evidence brought forward is not evidence that in fact has reached a conclusion and it is not a basis for fact.

The difference between a disease and a syndrome is an inconclusive body of evidence. I believe that what we are dealing with here is indeed an inconclusive body of evidence. Technology changes almost hourly as laboratories do more work on reproductive technology and as people delve into the problems that come with this type of legislation, in which, as I said earlier, we deal with life itself.

We are facing a moral dilemma as to how we should deal with reproductive technologies, particularly the related research that goes with it. I believe there are medical doctors on all sides of this legislation that would allow for a difference of opinion and allow more technology to be considered. Also, not splitting the bill and not listening to the committee troubles me. I think that committees should have more input and more relevance and should be able to function separately from the House, bring back their reports and have those reports considered.

I am disappointed that the minister has chosen, first, not to appear before the committee, which I think is a travesty of justice. I think all ministers owe it to committees to appear, to put their voices forward and to explain to the committees why in fact they support a piece of legislation or why in fact they brought it forward. That bothers me.

I will conclude by saying that there are certain parts of the bill I support wholeheartedly, but there are areas that need further study and need to be looked at in their entirety, and the technology that is coming forward needs to be studied.

Therefore, I want to express my disappointment that this process has in fact been instituted by the minister.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2003 / 10:05 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am not pleased to speak under the current circumstances. The government House leader has effectively brought closure on this matter of great importance.

The field which we are addressing in the bill is a dynamic field of science where the facts are changing on a weekly, if not daily basis. It is rare that we can open a newspaper without seeing some startling new scientific success and discovery with respect to the potential of adult and non-embryonic stem cells.

The science in the field of non-embryonic stem cells is increasing almost exponentially. We are now in a world of potential in terms of the research and application of non-embryonic stem cells. I would suggest that this is dramatically different in concrete terms than it was when the bill was first tabled by the Minister of Health.

In that time, in the ensuing two years since the original tabling of the bill, we have yet to see a single concrete application or useful research discovery with respect to embryonic stem cells, which is explicitly authorized in the bill.

That is why this matter deserves further consideration, not to delay for the sake of delaying. I recognize fully that there are aspects of Bill C-13 which are not controversial and have broad consensual support across the political and partisan spectrum in the House. There is also consensual support across the research and ethical spectrum of opinion for provisions in the bill that seek to ban human cloning and with respect to maternal surrogacy.

However, I believe, and I have heard members of the Liberal caucus argue in the House and members of all parties suggest, that there would be overwhelming consensus to pass a bill swiftly which would incorporate the non-controversial elements such as the ban on cloning which do not raise ethical concerns.

Following the review of the draft legislation tabled by the previous health minister, that is precisely why the majority of members from all parties on the Standing Committee on Health recommended that the bill be split between those elements, including the ban on cloning, which carry broad consensual support, and those elements, particularly the authorization of embryonic stem cell research, which raise grave ethical and moral questions.

It is regretable that the government ignored the advice of its own members on the Standing Committee on Health by refusing to split the bill between those aspects which were broadly supported and those aspects which remain highly controversial because of the ethical and moral concerns in respect of creating human life in order to destroy it, which is essentially what is contemplated in the process of embryonic stem cell research.

As I say, this is a dynamic field, which is precisely why we ought to listen to those voices. Many witnesses at the health committee called for a three year moratorium or a moratorium of some reasonable period on embryonic stem cell research to prohibit this troublesome procedure and to allow us to assess the development of science in this field. This is a procedure which involves the destruction and manipulation of a unique nascent human life and which therefore offends, I believe, the ethical and moral principles upon which liberal democracies such as Canada are founded without a consequent scientific or health benefit.

There has not been a single assertion of a demonstrated scientific empirical benefit from research on embryonic stem cells.

Why then would we authorize the manipulation and destruction of a nascent life even from the utilitarian perspective given that there is no utility in that material demonstrated by scientists to this point?

That is the fundamental question which we now face. That is why many members would like further consideration of the bill unless the government is prepared to listen to the health committee and split it.

Let me point out a peculiar and strange contradiction with respect to government policy in relation to this bill. The government claims that the language in the bill would ban all forms of human cloning, both therapeutic and reproductive, and I hope that is the case. Some testimony was presented in health committee which suggested that the definition found in the bill with respect to human cloning was not sufficiently broad and was too narrow to cover all forms of human cloning.

I am not a scientist so it is difficult for me to make that assessment. However, I am a politician and I hear the government stating on the one hand that it wishes to ban both therapeutic and reproductive cloning in the bill, but currently is taking a different position at the United Nations where it has supported the ratification of a draft treaty which would explicitly ban only reproductive cloning but not therapeutic cloning. That raises serious questions for me.

If the policy of the government, as reflected in Bill C-13, were to honestly and sincerely ban all forms of cloning as it claims, then why would that the same government, in New York today as reported in newspapers across the country, be advocating in favour of the legalization of reproductive non-therapeutic human cloning?

There is a dichotomy in the government's position with respect to this issue which raises reasonable doubt as to the intent of those who drafted the relevant sections of Bill C-13 to actually ban all forms of cloning, both therapeutic and reproductive. That is why the bill requires further and closer scrutiny.

Is it really the position of the government not to ban all forms of human cloning--an odious, nightmarish procedure, which gives man the power to play God and create the kind of nightmare society that writers like Aldous Huxley imagined and described--or is it the position of the government to recognize the miracle of human life and not try to replicate it ourselves?

If the latter is the case, then why is the government today taking the position at the United Nations that we should legalize internationally,--and not just in Canada--through the instrument of a UN treaty, the cloning of human beings for so-called therapeutic purposes, a procedure which is itself grossly offensive to any thinking person from a rational ethical perspective? Why is the government taking the position that unique individual human lives should be created to offer spare parts as science experiments and replicated, each possessing an unviolable dignity, to be used in the same fashion as used cars thrown out in a junk yard?

It is deeply offensive, however that is the position of the government as reported in today's Ottawa Citizen and Southam newspapers across the country.

I would ask all members to reflect seriously on exactly what Bill C-13 says. I would ask them not to take at face value the claims being offered by the health department which do not seem to be reflected by the government at the UN negotiations today in New York.

I would also encourage members to look very closely at the false, specious, unproven assertion that there is some putative health benefit from research on human embryos which requires their production and then destruction.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2003 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the last time this bill was called was April 10. Prior to that we went through a period of report stage motions. There were many that were passed on voice votes during the debate at report stage, and several that were passed where a recorded division was requested.

I would like to seek the unanimous consent of the House to request a reprinting of Bill C-13 that was returned from committee because members are now being asked for the last time to speak on Bill C-13. It would be very useful for them to see exactly what bill they are debating and what the specific provisions are.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2003 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

The Deputy Speaker

No, this is not an isolated debate. We will proceed with the debate on Bill C-13, with interventions being 10 minutes without questions or comments.

On a point of order, the hon. member for Mississauga South.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

October 2nd, 2003 / 3 p.m.
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Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I guess this is the supplementary question to the lead-off of her leader earlier this day. He wanted to know the business of the House as well.

I am pleased to inform the House that we will continue today debating the Alliance motion endorsing Dalton McGuinty's election platform, which we have been doing for the day. Later tonight Mr. McGuinty will be the premier.

Tomorrow we will resume third reading debate of Bill C-13, the reproductive technologies bill. When this bill is completed, we will then turn to Bill C-32, the Criminal Code amendments.

On Monday, should it be necessary, we would return to Bill C-13 followed by third reading of Bill C-36, the Archives and National Library bill.

We would then proceed to the report stage of Bill C-19, the first nations fiscal legislation. If necessary, I would then return to Bill C-32, the Criminal Code amendments, followed subsequently by Bill S-13, the census records bill.

I will be seeking also cooperation of colleagues across the way to further our discussion on Bill C-41, the technical corrections bill that we discussed informally earlier this day.

On Tuesday, we will debate the third reading of Bill C-17, the public safety bill.

Starting on Wednesday, I hope we will be in a position to deal with bills that have come out of committee, as well as dealing with any of the business just listed that has not been completed.

I would also like to indicate to the House that we have had conversations about the future of Bill C-38, concerning the use of marijuana. We also intend to put this bill before the House in the very near future.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

October 1st, 2003 / 3:25 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Gerry Ritz Canadian Alliance Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, in my second petition, the petitioners call upon the government to introduce in Bill C-13 that non-embryonic stem cells be used. Adult stem cells have shown significant research progress in dealing with some of those diseases.

This is an excellent petition.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

October 1st, 2003 / 3:20 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Canadian Alliance Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, my last petition is signed by 108 petitioners who are against Bill C-13, assisted human reproduction.

HealthPrivate Members' Business

September 30th, 2003 / 6:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to congratulate the member for Yorkton--Melville for bringing the issue before Parliament. It is an important issue that has seized parliamentarians and countries around the world.

As the House will know, in 1988 the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the abortion laws of Canada. In that decision, it was not a matter of whether the unborn child was a human being. It was a matter of whose rights came first, and the courts decided the mother's rights were to be respected in advance of the rights of the unborn child.

This is an issue that will be with us I am sure for some time, but the motion does raise another element of consideration and of development as it relates to the issue of human health.

As the previous member stated, the motion asks the Standing Committee on Health to examine, study and report to Parliament on first, whether abortions are medically necessary for the purpose of maintaining health, preventing disease or diagnosing or treating an injury, illness or disability, and second, the health risk for women undergoing abortions compared to women carrying babies to full term.

With regard to the aspect of medically necessary, there is an obligation, under our publicly funded health care system, that medically necessary costs shall be covered under the Canada Health Act and under the provincial jurisdictions that basically deal with the provision of publicly funded services.

I will not go through it but at this point there is no list. It is basically a conceptual issue of what constitutes medically necessary. However medically necessary is basically driven by what the provinces have decided to either include or exclude. Over time issues could come where they would find deletions or exclusions from what would constitute medically necessary in a province, which would give the federal government and Health Canada some problem, and that action could be taken. Therefore this is a very interesting motion which has been brought forward.

I also wanted to mention that in the past year the U.S. secretary of health and human services amended the definition of child for U.S. health services purposes. The definition of child in the United States today is a person under the age of 19, including the period from conception to birth.

In the United States the unborn child from conception to birth is considered to be a person. The U.S. secretary of health and human services did this because the unbelievable procedures now being done on the unborn child in terms of health services previously were not covered under insurance programs and under Medicaid. By virtue of that change, it basically provided an opportunity for those services, to treat an unborn child with a detected malady, to be covered under an insurance plan. There has been an evolution and there are things in this regard.

Additionally, the tri-council policy statement, which came out in 1989 and is updated annually and is also part of our current bill under consideration, Bill C-13, protects the unborn child, being the embryo, from the 14th day forward. Why do they do that? They do it because even the medical profession acknowledges that the 14th day is when the primitive streak occurs. It is when twinning is not possible. It is when there are some physical features, pain can be felt, et cetera. Even the medical profession does not agree with the legal precedent, which is a person is not a human being until it is born and severed from the umbilical cord.

So there are different things going on that I thought were relevant to this debate.

Similarly, Dr. Françoise Baylis, the vice-chair of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research board of governors, testified before the health committee. She has written a number of articles in which she declares clearly that the human embryo is a member of the human species and that is an uncontested biological fact. This is the medical opinion.

Having said that, I want to comment very briefly with regard to medically necessary abortions and also the impact of abortions on the health of women.

There was an article by Mr. Lorne Gunter in the Ottawa Citizen on September 22, just a week ago. He referred to an article in the summer issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons , in which author Karen Malec laid out the case that induced abortions raise women's risk of developing breast cancer by 30% to 100% or more, whereas miscarriages do not.

Mr. Gunter went on to state, “The key is the artificiality of on-demand abortions”. He went on to explain some of the more technical aspects. He also pointed out, “Cancer societies, government research institutes, pro-abortion politicians, even medical associations continue to deny the increasing bulk of evidence” concerning the relationship between abortions and breast cancer. He stated that of the 40 or so major studies on the ABC, abortion-breast cancer, link, nearly three-quarters have shown a statistically significant correlation

There is unquestionably a growing body of evidence that there are medical impacts on abortion. They vary depending on the number of abortions as well.

Every year in Canada over 100,000 abortions are performed. Assuming an average cost of $1,000, we are talking about $100 million and more. I am sure it is much more.

The consequences of this issue, whether it be to women's health, whether it be to the health of an unborn child who is recognized as an uncontested biological fact to be a member of the human species, is enormous and growing. The fact that the U.S. will recognize the unborn child from conception to birth as a person entitled to protection means that things are changing.

Let me conclude by simply saying that this issue is a divisive issue, I understand, but this is the place in which members should not hesitate to stand and represent their beliefs and their concerns about the rights of the unborn, the future of Canada, who will never have a chance, those who have no voice in Canada.

SupplyGovernment Orders

September 30th, 2003 / 1:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier I do believe that this is an important debate to have because it is part of the process of informing Canadians. I would like to compliment the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle who has been a longstanding advocate of considering some form of proportional representation for the consideration of Canadians. It is very helpful.

I also want to thank him for answering the question that I asked about how PR enhances the achievement of the goal of gender parity. Neither of his colleagues could answer the question. Neither of them did answer the question. Neither of them understood it; neither of them could answer the question. It really surprises me to get platitudes without having the succinctness that the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle had.

The member for Winnipeg North Centre knows that I was one of the strongest advocates supporting her objectives on Bill C-13 for women's health issues and for women's representation on the board. I continue to work for that even though the member has abandoned her support for that already because she has some ulterior motives. I guess it shows that if one asks a straight question, sometimes one does not get a straight answer.

With regard to the motion, there are two elements. The first part calls for a referendum within a year to determine if Canadians wish to replace the current electoral system with a system of proportional representation. The second part is if it is the will of Canadians to look at a method of proportional representation, that there be a commission to consult with Canadians on the model, the process and the implementation.

The motion is probably in reverse of what it should be. It is extremely difficult to ask Canadians in a referendum to respond to a question, hopefully a clear question, if they do not have all the information they would need to be able to make an informed judgment. That can only come with public education and consultation with Canadians, et cetera, which is what is being proposed after a referendum. On that basis alone, it surprises me that they were in that order. I am not sure why, but I think that it is somewhat problematic.

Notwithstanding that, the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle has given a number of speeches over the years on this issue. The phrase that continues to stick is that every vote should count and no vote should be wasted. As a general premise, that is something with which Canadians would tend to agree. Every vote should count.

There are other problems. Some of those problems are with regard to people who do not respect their opportunity, their right and maybe their civic duty to exercise their franchise, to exercise that vote. That is another problem in itself. There is the issue of voter turnout. It has come up often in debate that my goodness, only 61% of people turned out to exercise their vote in the last election. The answer that has been given is it is because the system is bad. There is not a simple answer.

The House of Commons just received a report from the Chief Electoral Officer on the voter turnout by age. It addressed specifically the question of why youth have not been voting. The report showed that of youth 20 years of age and under who were eligible to vote, I believe it was only 18% of them actually voted. Eight-two per cent of the eligible voters 20 and 19 years of age did not vote in the last election. When it was plotted by age group, it was found that the per cent turnout went up very proportionately until it got to voters who were in excess of age 70, which had the highest turnout for an election.

It shows something, and I would like to think that it is reflective of another situation. Part of that situation is historically, and I know my colleagues are all going to be listening to this, the turnout pattern tends to be somewhat related to turning to our elders for wisdom. It is something attuned to that.

Another aspect I found very interesting in that report about the turnout situation was that in recent years Canada depended heavily on immigration policy to sustain the need for a growing population in Canada because the birthrate had gone down.

Many people who come to Canada come from countries where their political experiences have been negative. Their involvement in the political process has been discouraged. They have come from Communist countries, dictatorial countries, places where they have not had the nurturing of the civic duty, the civic pride and the openness to participate without having some sort of reaction. In fact some of the research has shown that many new Canadians are reluctant to participate in the electoral process and this is continuing to grow. I think very slowly we are seeing more and more new Canadians starting to get involved in the political process but it will take time.

It is not just cynicism about government. It is not just cynicism about politics. Part of the reason, I think most would admit in this place, is the fact that there is no government in waiting, and there has not been a government in waiting since 1993. No other party in this place, other than the government party, had enough people or enough representation to form a government in which the people of Canada would have confidence. If the people feel they have no choice of who their government will be, I would expect that that would have a negative impact on turnout. They would feel their vote would not matter because there was no alternative to the Liberal Party.

We do have some situations which will sustain this kind of a situation. We have the Alliance Party, which is predominantly a western party and which continually favours western issues over national issues. We have the Bloc Quebecois, which is exclusively dedicated to Quebec issues and the provincial sovereignty issue. That focuses an awful lot of attention away from the national issues.

I was looking back at a prior speech of the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle. One of the assertions he made was that proportional representation would force parties to have a more national vision. He may recall that. It would promote national vision. However, it has not.

In fact the experience of New Zealand, as one of our colleagues relayed to us, was that the system of proportional representation was bringing out more parties with more special interests, more regionalist views and less national views. There are many countries in which they have some sort of proportional representation, but I think we should look at it and maybe get the facts about whether it has created a system whereby many people have tried to move away from the nationalist vision and have tried to create a situation in which there are governments in waiting, people who can actually govern the country.

People could come to this place and argue as strenuously as they could for their narrow views on certain restricted issues. However when asked to participate in this place, to comment and to vote on issues of national importance, they would have no platform. They have no direction but they could be in a position to affect votes. We know that from a recent vote in the House when there was a tie. There is a problem.

I would not summarily dismiss proportional representation as being irrelevant for Canada and not applicable or not possible. However I would also say that I do not think that there is a system that will be perfect. I do not think there is a system that will satisfy all, that will ensure that 50% of the people in this place are women, and that all other interest groups, such as the member for Winnipeg North Centre said, aboriginal groups, are appropriately represented in this place.

Yes, we need to show a balanced team, a representation of the constituency and that is very important. However it is not something that can be legislated, mandated or forced because a democracy is about real choices.

If we said that we needed quotas for this group and that group, it would in fact be an anti-democratic philosophy. It does not recognize that any member in this place can speak credibly and effectively on behalf minorities or special interests or whatever. We are Canadians first. If we do have this national vision, then obviously it is important that we have a sensitivity to all interests of Canadians at large, even though those interests may in fact be regionally based.

Any party that is not sensitive to the regionalization in our system today makes a fatal error. I think it is being experienced by the Canadian Alliance now and it is endemic in the Bloc Quebecois.

This place was operating much better without a pizza Parliament, without five parties. Three parties were better. The NDP played important roles in past governments, whether it was a minority or majority government. There was this focus on being a national party with a national vision and trying to balance the interests of Canadians, which sometimes come into conflict.

There are many aspects to this. It is an important question to look at. It is not as simple to totally dismiss our current British parliamentary system of electing candidates in 301 ridings and have those people in the riding. We know Canadians do not all vote for the same reason. Some people will vote for the party. I think that dyed-in-the-wool, “I am this party and I have been that way all my life”, has been diminishing substantially. I think the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle would agree that dyed-in-the-wool any party is an archaic term which probably is not terribly applicable today.

On leadership, who is the leader, who shall be the spokesperson for Canadians on the national stage and on the international stage? For some people, “who is my spokesman” is very important and they will give weighting to that. For some people, it is the platform. It has to be a national platform. It has to be a national vision. It has to address regional imbalances. It has to represent what we will do for those who are unable to help themselves and care for themselves. What will we do to have intergenerational equity? What will we do to deal with the gap between the rich and the poor? What will we do to ensure child poverty is a thing of the past? What will we do about so many of our social issues?

These are the things that Canadians want to hear. I do not think it is a valid argument to suggest that by changing the method of voting or election will somehow solve some of these problems. It may change the mix in this place. We have to think about it, and I think the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle had made an argument and an example that we could possibly have a mixed proportional representation system.

It would be a system whereby there would be perhaps 200 ridings in Canada instead of the current 301, as an example. Every party would run a candidate in each of those 200. The balance of the seats, approximately 100, would then be filled based on the party preference of the people who had voted on the riding basis, by lists of people who were submitted by each of the parties, however those lists were created, whether the party elected them in its own internal processes or they were simply appointed by the party. I do not know exactly. There would be these people who did not run in the election, did not have their name on a ballot but would be eligible to become members of Parliament because they were on someone's list.

I started to think about that and it struck me that if we have 301 seats now and I have 110,000 constituents, then all of a sudden, under the proportional representation system which the member suggests might be appropriate for Canada, I now have 50% more constituents. Instead of having 110, I am up at 165. I now have 50% more constituents with whom I must deal.

Then there is this other group, about one-third of the House of Commons, who would be people who were not elected specifically but were basically the designates or appointees of a particular party so we could achieve a seat level that was distributed in proportion to the votes the various parties received.

Look at this place then. All of a sudden, we have two classes of members of Parliament. We would have those who now have a riding that is 50% larger, 50% more workload for the member of Parliament. That means one-third to one-half less time to address the specific or individual needs of constituents simply because of the 50% increase. It would mean our job, our ability to deal with our constituents would be impaired to the extent that we can service people now.

On the other hand we would have another group, one-third of this place, of people who simply would be appointed. They could be the elite, the backbench hacks. They could be on the list for a particular party for a variety of reasons. There are many reasons why somebody might be on the list.

Is this democracy? No, it is not. We would have people in this place who would be elitist. Because they were on the list, they would automatically be in the House of Commons. They would not have to take care of constituents. What would they do? They would do other things. They would ensure that they were organized in a way which would polarize. It might put us in a situation where this place would not only physically two classes but in terms of thinking and collaboration, we would have a polarization of those who were elected by people and those who were appointed by parties.

This is proportional representation. It is not exactly a pure model of democracy. It is quasi-democracy but it does achieve the objective that the member is proposing, which is every vote would count. It would not count for every elector because it helped to get their person elected. Where it would help though, is the party for which the person they voted for belonged would at least get a proportional number of the seats. The member presumes and the system presumes that Canadians voting for candidates of a particular party prefer that party as opposed to them voting for candidates because they are a darned good and they are the people they want to represent them.

There is this slippage or leakage in terms of the logic. It is not perfect and our current system is not perfect. However I would suggest that it is probably better than the alternative. I used the example of Italy, and I was not aware that it was a bad example, that it has had 48 elections out of the last 50 years under proportional representation. Maybe that is an extreme case.

Let us look at another case. How about the Nazis in Germany. They came to power under a proportional representation. They could not have under any other system. It really does come to that.

I see my time is almost up now. I would simply like to close with a further statement with regard to the issue of gender parity. I am not sure that proportional representation is the only solution, but I want to again be on the record that I believe that this place would be a better place with a more equitable balance of men and women in this chamber.

Parliament of Canada ActGovernment Orders

September 15th, 2003 / 12:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, it is great to be back to make a couple of speeches on the first day of the autumn session of Parliament. I would like to welcome everyone, especially the new pages. I would like to assure my constituents in Yukon that the new pages have already completed the most important part of their training and fully understand that Yukon is the best constituency in the country.

Before I go into details on the amendment to Bill C-34, the previous speaker discussed the general legislative climate this fall. I would like to follow up on that because it is a very aggressive and detailed legislative agenda and I hope people do not lose track of that.

There are many bills that we are in the midst of bringing forward and must continue with such as, Bill C-34, which we are talking about now; but also Bill C-13, assisted human reproduction; C-22, family law; C-38, marijuana; Bill C-45, which I hope to talk about later today concerning the Westray bill for worker safety; Bill C-46, market fraud; Bill C-19, resource taxation; Bill C-6, first nations specific claims resolution for the economic development of first nations; archives legislation; bills related to child pornography and the sex offenders registry; citizenship; as well as urgent veteran's needs.

And then of course all the committees are working. The finance committee will be doing its pre-budget work. There are always important issues in foreign affairs. The health committee has to work on the West Nile virus and the agriculture committee on mad cow disease.

This is a very detailed agenda and continues to be one of the most productive legislative agendas we must get through. I hope people do not get sidetracked in the House or in the media about other things or go off these important changes that affect real people in Canada.

I am pleased to address the NDP amendment at report stage with respect to Bill C-34, a bill which would establish an independent ethics commissioner reporting to Parliament. The amendment proposes the deletion of clause 38 of the bill in its entirety.

This clause would change subsection 2(2) of the Federal Courts Act by adding references to both the ethics commissioner and Senate ethics officer so that the activities of the ethics commissioner and Senate ethics officer are not subject to review by the Federal Court, whether by judicial review or by appeal.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader has already explained why the NDP amendment is inappropriate and should be rejected. I want to comment on the need to preserve the House's privileges in this area.

The House and its members have traditionally been responsible for their ethical conduct. This is a tradition we in the House have had since Confederation and which we share with other parliamentary democracies.

Let me set out how the bill preserves this tradition of parliamentary privilege and ensures the House's accountability to Canadians.

Clause 38 amends a provision in the Federal Courts Act which itself exists for greater certainty to ensure that the activities of Parliament and parliamentarians are excluded from review by the Federal Court. Given the role of the ethics commissioner and the Senate ethics officer in dealing with the conduct of parliamentarians, it is logical that those provisions be extended to these two officers of Parliament.

This clause is but one of several provisions in the bill intended to ensure that the House, and not the courts, continues to have the ultimate responsibility, and accountability, for the ethical conduct of its members. For instance, the bill would create an ethics commissioner as an officer of the House.

Section 72.05 includes express recognition that the ethics commissioner “enjoys the privileges and immunities of the House of Commons and its members in carrying out his or her duties and functions”. This section also provides express recognition that the bill does not in any way limit the powers, privileges, rights or immunities of the House or of its members.

Further, Section 72.12 would ensure that the ethics commissioner and his or her staff could not be taken to court in respect to their official activities. This section also acknowledges that the commissioner and his or her office are protected by the privileges and immunities accorded to Parliament as an institution. Similar provisions have been made for the Senate ethics officer throughout the bill.

Collectively, these provisions, including clause 38, are essential if we are to create an ethics commissioner who, in respect of matters pertaining to members of the House, is to function as the legislation requires and is accountable to the House.

In this regard, the bill states that the ethics commissioner's functions in relation to members would be carried out “under the general direction of any committee of the House of Commons that may be designated or established by the House for that purpose”.

Canadians expect members of the House to establish and abide by ethical rules. This is only proper because as parliamentarians we are ultimately accountable to the public, both for our own ethical behaviour and for the steps taken by the ethics commissioner as an officer of Parliament.

In our view, the proposed amendment would seriously undermine Parliament's long standing privileges, the ability of the House to properly assign duties and functions to the ethics commissioner, and the House's ultimately accountability for the ethical conduct of its members.

It would undermine the ability of the House to govern its affairs and would open up the possibility that the courts might be called upon to second guess or review the actions of the ethics commissioner.

Canadians have every right to expect that the House would create and enforce the highest ethical guidelines for members. They know and expect that the House and its members are ultimately accountable for the ethical code it will implement. They do not want parliamentarians to transfer this responsibility to the courts. Accordingly, I would encourage members of the House not to support the amendment.

I want to conclude by again referencing the previous speaker's speech when he commented on the tremendous potential leadership awaiting in the wings for the country and how popular that is with Canadians. We will have a great transition to even more exciting times, but as I was saying at the beginning of my speech I hope that the important things that affect the lives of Canadians, which I mentioned and the number of bills that we will be dealing with throughout the fall, winter and spring, would not be lost in the simple transition of politics.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

June 12th, 2003 / 3 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I usually answer about the legislative program in the House and that is what I will do now.

This afternoon we will continue with the business of supply, with votes scheduled for 8 p.m., pursuant to the arrangement made earlier.

The business that the government will put forward before the House tomorrow, pursuant to another agreement which I will be submitting to the House a little later this afternoon, will be Bill C-42, the Antarctic agreement, Bill C-44, respecting compensation for certain military personnel, and then Bill C-35, the military judges bill. If there is any time left, we will then consider Bill C-34.

The program for next week would be Bill C-7, first nations governance, Bill C-17, public safety, and Bill C-13 respecting reproductive technologies, as well as other legislation which has returned from committee, for instance, legislation such as the sex offender registry and bills like that.