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

April 10th, 2003 / 3:30 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate concerning Bill C-13 and its previous nomenclature, Bill C-56.

This is a complex piece of legislation from a scientific and ethics perspective. This is pioneering legislation that we have not seen in a Canadian context in our history. The science has been evolving at a rapid pace and thus the reason for this legislation. About 10 to 20 years ago legislation of this sort was not required, but it is our duty as legislators to ensure that legislation is in place that will keep up with the ethical issues surrounding the scientific developments that we have had in this time period.

I approached the parliamentary research branch and had the Library of Parliament prepare a comparison for me of the legislative framework that exists in the United States and the United Kingdom, and benchmark it with Bill C-56 and Bill C-13, the legislation we have before us today.

I would like to compare those three approaches, but before doing so I would like to talk a little more generically about the bill itself.

Bill C-13 would give Canada its first comprehensive and integrated legislation dealing with assisted human reproduction.

There are three components to the bill: first, it would ban human cloning; second, it would give the government authority to regulate activities such as embryonic stem cell research; and finally, it would create an agency, the assisted human reproduction agency of Canada, to oversee the regulations set out in the act. In the absence of this legislation, no rules would exist to govern assisted human reproduction.

The first component of the bill would ban human cloning. It would prohibit unacceptable practices such as creating a human clone for any purpose, reproductive or therapeutic. Currently in Canada, human cloning is legal in the absence of legislation. If Bill C-13 were passed, human cloning would be banned.

The second component of the bill would give the government authority to regulate activities such as embryonic stem cell research. A main challenge in the matter of research on human subjects, including human embryos, is the necessity to strike the necessary balance between the need to seek the causes and cures of disease and disability, and the responsibility to ensure that our public policy framework can keep up with the science. Research has moved ahead faster than anticipated, and other governments have ensured through legislation that these discoveries truly advance the public interest.

The third component of the bill addresses the creation of an agency to oversee the regulations set out in the act. This agency would be called the assisted human reproduction agency of Canada. It would licence, monitor, and enforce the assisted human reproduction act and its regulations.

The Progressive Conservative Party was concerned with this issue, and that is why we encouraged the government to proceed with legislation as quickly as possible. The House may recall that over a decade ago our party commenced the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies. That was the predecessor to ensuring that we had a legislative framework that could keep up with the science and the ethical issues that were developing during that period.

Bill C-13 is an extremely important piece of legislation that could have been managed better by the government. For example, of the three components of the bill, there was broad support among Canadians to ban human cloning. The government should have moved faster on introducing legislation that would ensure that end. A more effective manner of dealing with this wide-ranging bill would have been to divide the bill into two sections. One section would deal with banning human cloning and the second section of the bill would address assisted human reproduction procedures in a thorough and considered manner. By dividing the bill, each component would have been addressed individually.

The fact remains that Bill C-13 is a complicated piece of legislation. Even though the government could have done a better job managing the bill, it is a step in the right direction. After all, it is the first comprehensive and integrated piece of legislation dealing with assisted human reproduction in this country. Modern technologies and research in the field of science and health are quickly advancing. Rules, laws and regulations must be established to ensure that science does not move beyond human ethics. Clearly, research should not continue in a vacuum, regardless of one's position on the issues at hand. Many members in the chamber would agree that regardless of political, religious or social standpoints, we cannot continue without a legislative framework on this issue.

As I stated earlier, at my request the Library of Parliament prepared a brief synopsis comparing similar legislation in both the U.S. and the U.K. While this document provides only a peripheral view, it does highlight some important issues we may wish to consider. The proposed law in Canada is more conservative than the legislation in the United States and United Kingdom. I have the document comparing the legislative approaches of those two countries which I would gladly share with any member in the House.

As I have said, the legislation is complex because it deals with detailed issues that must be stewarded by strong legislation. Without any regulation or legislation on the issue of assisted human reproduction, the doors would be left wide open for scientific experimentation and interpretation.

I believe that the bill is a step in the right direction. I am not amenable to letting the ethics of these issues be left purely in the hands of scientists. We have a duty as legislators to ensure that there is a framework and that there are boundaries which are acceptable. Having no legislation is actually a policy. That policy would mean that the free enterprise market would dictate what ethics would govern these issues.

The government should be commended for moving forward with this legislation although the issues could have been managed in a better way.

I would like to illustrate my point. When I referred to the differences between the legislative approaches, I was referring to the document prepared by the Library of Parliament comparing the legislative frameworks of the U.K. and the U.S. with Bill C-56 and Bill C-13. There is even a chart at the end of the document.

Would embryonic stem cell research be permitted under this act? Yes, it would. It is also permitted in the U.K. and the U.S. Would a licence be required for such research? Under this act, yes. Under the U.K. act, it is; in the United States, it is not. Is the creation of embryos for stem cell research permitted? Under this act, it is not. In the U.K., it is, if properly licensed. In the United States, it is, if it is privately funded, and there are the bucks to do it.

Going through the document even further, it comes down to the fact that one could read the bill in terms of the act that was prepared by the U.K. in 1990. The British legislation may be perceived to be permissible in terms of the framework, but it is guided by finite regulation. The United States has had a protracted debate among its populace on this particular issue. In essence, even though it has had a stronger debate, it does not have legislation on these particular issues at the moment. The Canadian legislation is then a compromise between the two.

Ironically, the U.K. may appear to have the most permissive approach on embryonic stem cell research but in reality, its legislation imposes tight regulatory controls and compels the research community to proceed cautiously.

In the United States on the other hand, while there have been debates on embryonic stem cell activities and the appearance of related funding restriction, the reality is that the research community faces no legislative prohibitions or controls.

Canada has combined much of the cautionary approach evident in the U.S. debate over embryonic stem cell research with the U.K. example of placing more emphasis on the legislated controls with publicly funded research. The Canadian legislation has actually tried to adopt the best of the provisions that the United States has and that the U.K. has. I do not think we should have these issues in a legislative vacuum. We need to have legislation in place.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 10th, 2003 / 3:20 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise again on behalf of the residents of Surrey Central to speak to Bill C-13, an act respecting assisted human reproductive technologies and related research.

The government stated that the legislation would protect the health and safety of Canadians using assisted human reproduction, that it would prohibit unacceptable practices and that it would regulate assisted human reproduction activities and related research.

Specifically, the bill is supposed to create a regulatory framework for fertility clinics, ban human cloning and commercial surrogacy, and restrict research using human embryos.

Key provisions in the bill include: prohibitions on human cloning; the creation of human-animal hybrids; and sex-selection of babies. It also includes payments to egg and sperm donors and so-called “rent-a-womb” contracts where women profit from carrying babies for infertile couples. It also would create a new agency to regulate how scientists and infertility clinics use human reproductive materials. It would issue licences to both research and treatments involving in vitro embryos.

We are dealing with an issue that will have a profound effect upon the lives of Canadians. It deals with the creation and death of human life. Needless to say, this field therefore requires some measure of public oversight and regulation.

It has been a decade since the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies issued its report called “Proceed with Care”. The report was four years in the making and contained nearly 300 recommendations. The commissioners listened to the opinions of 40,000 Canadians. Four different health ministers have been involved in the debate. Since the bill was first introduced, I have heard from literally hundreds of my constituents. I would like to thank them for their opinions. Undoubtedly, this is an issue on which consensus is nearly impossible. Everyone has an opinion.

Pro-lifers, ethicists, fertility doctors, researchers, sperm banks, people who have trouble conceiving babies the usual way, children conceived in laboratories and people suffering from diseases, all have different points of view on the issues.

The common consensus is that the bill requires important amendments. I fully support bans on reproductive or therapeutic cloning, chimeras, animal-human hybrids, sex selection, germ-line alteration, buying or selling of embryos and paid surrogacy.

We in the official opposition recognize and support the need for regulating this field. I also support an agency to regulate this sector, although I want changes to it. Sometimes regulations are not good but in this particular field the regulations are the most important thing because in that way we can have oversight on this particular sector.

I will now turn to various areas of Bill C-13 with which I have special difficulty.

First, there is embryonic stem cell research. The bill would allow for experiments using human embryos under different conditions. There are four different conditions but I will not go through them. However, by allowing the creation of embryos for reproductive research, Canadian law will legitimize the creation of human life solely to be used for the benefit of others.

Embryonic research is ethically controversial, as demonstrated by the numerous petitions tabled in the House which are probably gathering dust on the shelf. All the petitions called for embryonic stem cell research to be seriously reviewed.

Another concern is that embryonic stem cell research results in the death of the embryo, which is early human life. For many Canadians this violates the ethical commitment to respect human dignity, integrity and life. The Canadian Alliance opposes human cloning as an affront to human dignity, individuality and human rights. We have repeatedly spoken out against human cloning, urging the federal government to bring in legislation to stave off the potential threat of cloning research in Canada.

Embryonic research constitutes an objectification of human life, where life becomes a tool that can be manipulated and destroyed for other ends. In September 2001 we tabled a motion in the health committee calling upon the government to ban immediately human reproductive cloning. We are pleased that Motion No. 13 was passed last week at report stage to foreclose any possibility of new cloning techniques from getting by the bill's cloning prohibition.

Adult stem cells are a safe, proven alternative to embryonic stem cells. Sources of adult stem cells include umbilical cord blood, skin and bone tissues. Adult stem cells are easily accessible, are not subject to immune rejection, and pose minimal ethical concerns. Adult stem cells are already being used in the treatment of various diseases such as Parkinson's, leukemia, MS, and many other conditions. Meanwhile, embryonic stem cells have not been used in the successful treatment of a single person.

The focus on research should be on adult stem cells, being a more promising and proven alternative to embryonic stem cells. To that end, our minority report called for a three year prohibition on experiments with human embryos. Let us stop until we have enough resources and opportunities given by adult stem cell research. Our amendment to this effect was defeated in the health committee.

Bill C-13 proposes the creation of the assisted human reproduction agency to: issue licences for controlled activities, collect health reporting information, advise the minister, and designate inspectors for the enforcement of the act. The agency's board of directors would be appointed by the governor in council.

Clause 25 would allow the minister to interfere and give any policy direction to the agency. If the agency were independent, it would be answerable and accountable to Parliament and political interference would be more difficult for the minister. The entire clause should have been eliminated.

The Canadian Alliance proposed amendments specifying that agency board members be chosen for their wisdom and judgment, so that they could pursue the greater good for the sake of humanity. While regulating in that field, board members should not have commercial interests in the field of assisted human reproduction or related research, like fertility clinics or biotech companies. Conflicts of interest must be prevented.

Another area of concern is donor identity. The proposed assisted human reproduction agency would hold information on donor identity. Donor identity is important because children have the right to know who their parents are even without their written consent to reveal it. We must end the secrecy that shrouds donor anonymity and denies children knowledge of an important chapter in their lives.

In its review of the draft legislation, the health committee recommended an end to donor anonymity. The Canadian Alliance minority report clearly stated that where the privacy rights of the donors of human reproductive materials conflict with the rights of children to know their genetic and social heritage, the rights of the children shall prevail.

We must not deal with this issue lightly. It is an important issue and we must ensure that we get this right. All members should be allowed to have a free vote in the House so they can vote according to their conscience. This is an issue of life and death.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

April 10th, 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, we will continue this afternoon and tomorrow with consideration of Bill C-13, the reproductive technologies legislation, followed by Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and the Senate amendments to Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Criminal Code.

When we return on April 28, in addition to the bills I have just listed, if any remain, we will consider the legislation on RCMP pensions introduced earlier today—I believe it is C-31—and the Criminal Code bill that will be introduced tomorrow by one of my hon. cabinet colleagues. After that, we will move on to third reading of Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, if that stage has been reached.

I am looking forward to a number of committees reporting legislation in the near future and it would be our intention to proceed with report stages of those bills as quickly as possible, once the reports have been received.

The chief opposition whip has asked the House what is happening with the government motion concerning Iraq. Of course, we have debated Iraq this week and last week, and we even took a vote this week. As I indicated, during the next five days of the session at least—but that will depend on the progress we make—I do not intend to bring that motion back before the House. After that, we shall see.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 10th, 2003 / 1:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to stand and speak in support of this bill. The bill is a result of a royal commission having spent over two years travelling this country, bringing about recommendations that would lead to the making of the bill. That was over 10 years ago. During those 10 years, three subsequent ministers of health in this government also consulted with groups, with experts and consulted broadly among themselves in an effort to bring about this bill. The bill also was discussed by the Standing Committee on Health, which also made recommendations.

This bill is a composite of all the best advice that the government could get in balancing a technology that has been in existence now for over 15 to 20 years, that has been completely unregulated, that has no ethical barriers or boundaries on it and that is continuing to carry on without any restrictions or regulations whatsoever.

It is important that we do not delay any longer, over the 12 years that we have been dealing with this issue, and that we get onto at least a set of regulations and guidelines.

The bill is not perfect. I would hazard to say that I know of no bill that is absolutely 100% perfect. However it has struggled to take all the advice of all of the groups, including the Standing Committee on the Health, to bring about the bill and to find a balance between the good that this technology and research can do against the risk of harm and unethical behaviour. That is what we must always seek to do. That is why I support the bill. I think it has managed to find that clear balance to deal with some of these issues.

The bill took the advice from the Standing Committee of Health of which I was a member. The advice and the recommendations, many which were made by the standing committee in its amendments, were extremely important. For instance, the committee made significant amendments on the establishment of the assisted human reproduction agency of Canada. It raised the age limit for surrogate mothers to 21. It made it explicit that the health and well-being of children be a priority. It added an anti-discrimination clause. It rejected cost recovery in the issuance of licences. It enhanced parliamentary oversight to include a review of regulations and a mandated three year review of the legislation. It removed the ability of the board of directors to delegate licensing decisions. It added a specific authority to regulate the number of children that could be born from a single gamete donor. It strengthened information requirements to ensure the agency must provide to the public on risk factors that may lead to infertility. Those are substantial amendments which the committee made and which were incorporated in this bill.

Some members criticized the government by trying to overturn only three substantive amendments that the standing committee put forward on Bill C-13. Having accepted so many amendments, those three were not accepted. The member who brought up the concern about this was also known to say that he was very impressed with the quality of work that was done by the committee and that the report on the draft bill was the best report he had ever seen.

Why did the member put forward over 51 motions at report stage that in effect would have completely overturned the work of the committee and the long 13 years of work of the royal commission, of the minister and of public hearings?

Let me just touch on some of the concerns people have had on this bill.

They are concerned that research comes out of the work on reproductive technology such as stem cell and embryonic stem cell research. There is an argument that we should not allow for that research to occur or we should only allow adult stem cell research to occur and not allow embryonic stem cell research.

I know been many quotes from a lot of people who have done this research that have been used to suggest that these researchers do not want embryonic stem cell research. However I would quote from those same researchers.

Dr. Alan Bernstein, president of the CIHR, said that he thought this legislation was a model for the world. He said that it balanced the ethical and social concerns that the Standing Committee on Health had expressed with the potential or promise of these cells to cure disease.

Dr. Freda Miller, who does research on adult stem cells said:

--my fear is that my work with adult stem cells, which may not come to fruition, would be used as a rationale for halting the work on human embryonic stem cells...if the adult stem cells don't come to fruition, we're left with nothing.That is my biggest fear as a scientist, that my own work won't pan out and will be used as justification to stop something that actually does look like it will pan out, because embryonic stem cells have been put into adult animals and shown to generate the right cell types.

The work of embryonic and adult stem cells has the potential for in fact stopping a great deal of human disease, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, and for being able to regenerate and doing a whole lot. Most important, they have the ability to stop mortality and morbidity in human beings.

Knowing this is the good work that comes out of this research, we must continue to do the research. Recognizing that as always in any science there is the good and there is the potential for harm, we must clearly build an ethical and regulatory framework that would allow the research to go on but that would protect and prevent the harm that could come out of this research. The bill finds that exact balance.

I wanted to also say that the member for Yellowhead has quoted Dr. Catherine Verfaillie from the University of Minnesota whose leading edge work is demonstrating increased flexibility in adult stem cells. Dr. Verfaillie has reached the exact opposite conclusion. She agrees that we must continue to use both types of research, both embryonic and adult stem cell in order to move forward.

The member for Mississauga South stated that Worton, who is the CEO and scientific director of the Ottawa Health Research Institute, is likely to become a Nobel laureate for his research in health. His work is much respected in Canada, and certainly by the health committee. I agree with that statement, so let me quote Mr. Worton on his November 19 presentation to the Standing Committee on Health. He said:

--the most likely scenario...is that no one cell type will be the magic bullet for all types of therapy...therefore it would be premature to eliminate research on one of the most versatile cell sources to date, and that is the embryonic stem cells.

We can see that all researchers, even the ones who have been quoted here, are very much in favour of continuing this basic research on the two lines of stem cells, but with strong regulations.

We have heard that the bill will allow cloning, chimera and pathogenesis. The bill specifically prohibits it. In my last speech regarding this issue in the House of Commons, I spoke to the scientific data and the scientific truth of how the bill would ban cloning, pathogenesis and chimera. Therefore some of these fears are not really true.

The bill states that there is a concern that the bill will lead to commodification. The bill specifically bans the commercialization of donors of any kind, whether they be ova, sperm or gametes. One thing I did was bring forward an amendment to the House, which the hon. member from Mississauga suggested was a most unusual thing to do. However the hon. member from Mississauga brought 51 amendments in the same way, over the same period of time and in the same manner that I did.

My amendment does not commodify surrogacy. It recognizes that only in a very limited and clearly prescribed instance, when during the process of a pregnancy there is considered to be medical harm to the fetus or to the mother and if a physician specifically intervenes with bed rest and that person has to take time off work, that on certification from that physician and specifically and only when the mother and the fetus are at risk, that person should be reimbursed for time lost from work. That is all that my amendment does.

Finally, the bill seeks to keep the balance that our own Charter of Rights and Freedoms seeks and that is to assist and recognize the disadvantage of minorities and balance it with the public good, and the bill does that. If it is not passed we will be left with nothing and we will have people continuing to do this research and reproductive technologies with no regulations or guidelines.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 10th, 2003 / 1:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-13 is a very important bill. It is a bill which still has some controversy surrounding it in terms of whether or not cloning is actually banned in all its forms and all its techniques.

There is still some controversy surrounding the efficacy of drugging women to the max to harvest embryos and create surplus embryos for research. This is a major concern to people in terms of surrogacy for profit and also in terms of embryonic stem cell research which requires the destruction of embryos.

I have quite a number of questions for the member. If other members want to ask questions that is fine, but there are more questions I would like to ask.

My question has to do with some provisions that are not in the bill but which I believe should have been included in it.

In terms of conflict of interest, the bill provides a provision whereby if a board member of the agency has a relationship with either a licensee or an applicant for a licence, that person cannot be a member of the board. The health committee changed the bill to expand it to anyone who had a pecuniary interest in downstream activities so there would be no conflict of interest. The report stage motion put forward by the minister overturned the committee's work, and we are now back to someone who has a relationship with a licensee or an applicant for a licence.

My concern is with regard to the board members who will license and authorize research. In its present form after the reversal of the committee's work, Bill C-13 would permit pharmaceutical companies and biotech companies to be represented on the board of directors. This concerns me.

I will leave my question at that and ask the member for his comments. If there is time left, I would like to ask him another question.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 10th, 2003 / 1:25 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Canadian Alliance Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is good to rise to speak today following the member for Lac-Saint-Louis and his comments on his personal situation. I have heard this before from the member. He has a unique outlook on the protection of those in our society who cannot protect themselves.

I am not sure how much belief he has that the Senate will do the right thing with this bill. I would have more confidence if the Senate were not loaded up and appointed to such a degree that there is a majority in the Senate who support the government's wishes. I believe if the Senate were elected and equal we perhaps would have a chance to do something here, but I am not sure that will happen under the present situation.

Bill C-13 is a very troubling to speak to because there are things we support and things we oppose. We have had thousands and thousands of names on petitions tabled in the House on this issue. Many Canadians have become involved, have made themselves knowledgeable on the issue and have offered input. We certainly do appreciate that.

When we get into the protection of human life and the creation of life to destroy it for the benefit of another life, it becomes very complex and gets into the whole idea of respect for life and respect for health situations. When we get into cloning we talk about ethical issues. It gets more and more involved as we go on.

This goes back 10 years to the royal commission's report on new reproductive technologies. However, in the early stages, it was brought to the House by the former member, Preston Manning. He was our lead on this, and I have mentioned this before. He brought together experts from across North America I believe, if they were not all from Canada, to talk about the human genome and the mapping of the human being. It was a very informative session. It was not a committee meeting. It was an exploratory meeting, a seminar type of issue. People were brought forward to give their various views, and there were various views. Even with the scientific and medical communities, people had diverging opinions on this issue.

At that point in time I became aware of the complexity of the entire issue, especially when we start dealing with ethics, morals, science, health, the good of man and all of these issues. When one boils it down to try to make it into a piece of legislation, it is not an easy thing to do.

I do want to thank all those across Canada, and certainly in my riding, who brought their opinions forward on this bill on both sides. Some support some aspects of it and some do not support other aspects. It is not cut and dried as to the opinions that are brought forward for various reasons.

One of the things we keep hearing from members is the fact that this bill should have been split up. The things that we all agree on, we could agree on quickly and get into legislation. The other issues, which are controversial, we could spend more time on and have more public debate and input so we could really come to a conclusion after a more indepth analysis of the situation.

I would like to mention a few things. There are many issues in this bill, but in the short time I have I will try to deal with some of the things we do support, some of the things we do not support, some of the reasons we do support them and some of the reasons we do not support them. One of the things we fully support, of course, is the ban on reproductive or therapeutic cloning: chimeras, animal-human hybrids, sex selection, germ line alterations and the buying and selling of embryos. Those are cut and dried. The banning of those items is something that I think we would be able to quickly put through the House because there would be a vast majority of Canadians who would support the banning of all of that.

This may seem strange coming from a party that believes in less government, but in this instance we do support a regulatory body to monitor and regulate fertility clinics. However we want to see some changes in the bill. This is important. If we get into a situation through fertility clinics where more embryos are created than are needed to satisfy what then becomes a market driven issue, a supply and demand type issue, we get into the whole issue of creating life for profit, which would go into research that would destroy life.

We do oppose the human cloning aspect of it because we feel it is an affront to human dignity, to individuality and to the rights of a person. I have tried to wrestle with this. We have dealt with animals being cloned, but for the life of me I cannot understand why anybody would want to clone a human being. I think some of this lends itself again to creating what could be considered a half life, somebody who just has organs and the things that can be harvested for transplants, but would not be considered a full human being. That is of deep concern to me. I do not think we should ever start down that road.

We brought forward a motion back in September 2001 and tabled it at the health committee. It called on the government to immediately ban human reproductive cloning. However that was dismissed. The government preferred to have an indepth bill brought forward to deal with all the issues of reproductive technology, so here we are today with a bill that we are struggling to get through, to understand and to point out that some of it we respect and support and some of it we do not.

In the preamble of the bill some of the highlights are that the health and well-being of children born through assisted human reproduction must be given priority which, of course, almost goes without saying, and that human individuality, diversity and the integrity of the human genome must be preserved and protected. This is what is in the preamble. The concern we have with some of it is that some of it sounds good, but if we look at it closer, without definition and without more clarification, it becomes somewhat confusing.

We support the recognition that the health and well-being of children born through assisted human reproduction should be given absolute priority. The health committee came up with the ranking of whose interests should have priority in decision making around assisted human reproduction and related issues. These are listed in what the health committee considered to be their priority. Number one of course is children born through AHR, assisted human reproduction; adults participating; and researchers and physicians who conduct the research.

While the preamble recognizes the priority of the offspring, other clauses of the bill fail to meet this standard. Children born through donor insemination or through donor eggs are not given the right to know the identity of their biological parents. We will get into that a little bit further. That is important as a person progresses through life.

In my personal situation, we needed to find out, for health reasons, who were the parents of an adopted member of my family just to be sure we could understand some of the things that were going on. Doctors like to know too what our parents and grandparents went through so they know what to watch for and what problems may arise. It is important, when needed, to be able to find out who they were for health reasons.

The preamble of the bill does not provide for an acknowledgement of human dignity nor respect for human life. That is important. It should be in the bill. It should be clarified. Without question, it should be addressed.

The bill is intimately connected with the creation of human life, yet there is no overarching recognition of the principle of respect for human life. We feel that is a great deficiency that needs to be addressed.

Our minority report attached to the committee report states that the final legislation clearly recognize that the human embryo is a human life and that the statutory declaration include the phrase “respect for human life”. We have included that in our minority report. It was not part of the main report; it was part of our party's attachment. We believe that the preamble and the mandate of the proposed agency should be amended to include reference to the principle of respect for life.

When we get into the research using human embryos, the bill states that it would allow for experiments using human embryos under four conditions.

One, only in vitro embryos left over from the IVF process can be used for research. Embryos cannot be created for research, with one notable exception. They can be created for the purposes of improving or providing instruction in assisted human reproduction procedures. That is where we get into the whole regulatory issue. How many embryos would be produced for the IVF processes? Would there be more produced than necessary knowing that there would be a market for them?

Two, written permission must be given by the donor. We think it should say “donors”. It takes two to create an embryo. That singular term is troublesome and should not be there. It should be plural.

Three, the bill would allow research on a human embryo if the use is necessary. Necessary is a broad word which is not defined and it should be.

Four, all human embryos must be destroyed after 14 days if not frozen.

That is what is in the bill. Those are the four instances where a human embryo would be allowed to be used in experimentation.

I will expand on some of our concerns. Embryonic research is ethically controversial and divides Canadians. Numerous petitions have been tabled in the House on this issue. Most of the petitions that I tabled asked that we explore the use of adult stem cells first before ever going into embryonic stem cell research. We also actually called for a three year moratorium on any embryonic stem cell research while the adult research was further investigated. Embryonic stem cell research inevitably results in the death of the embryo, early human life. For many Canadians this violates an ethical commitment to respect human dignity, integrity and life.

There are some other issues having to do with the research using human embryos. Adult stem cells are easily accessible. They are not subject to immune rejection and pose minimal ethical concerns. Embryonic stem cell transplants are subject to immune rejection because they are foreign tissues. Adult stem cell use for transplants typically are taken from one's own body.

That is something that we do not really consider when we are looking at it. If we use an embryonic stem cell and put it into another body, that is foreign tissue and anti-rejection drugs would have to be used forever.

Actually there has been no successful use of an embryonic stem cell but there has been lots of good progress using adult stem cells. They are being used today in the treatment of Parkinson's, leukemia, MS and other conditions. It is important to note that is happening and is successful. We should put our emphasis there.

We should explore all avenues of expanding adult stem cell research before we ever go near the other. It states in our points that embryonic stem cells have not been used in the successful treatment of a single person.

We did call for a three year moratorium or a prohibition on experiments with human embryos and this corresponded with the first scheduled review of the bill. Our amendment to this effect was actually defeated at the health committee.

There are a number of issues to deal with regarding adult and embryonic stem cells, such as their differences and in which direction we should go. We have clearly stated our position that we should be dealing with adult stem cells. More experimentation needs to be done to explore the advantages that can be derived from that before we go any further into the embryonic stem cell area.

There is also the issue of donor anonymity. That is an important issue to me for personal reasons and for many other various reasons. The bill states that although the agency will hold information on donor identity, children conceived through donor insemination or donor eggs will have no right to know the identity of their parents without their written consent to reveal it. That seems a little strange to me. Then it states that donor offspring will have access to medical information of their biological parents.

In order to get into that research to find out who one's parent were and what their situation was, one would have to have written consent from them. It does state that there would be access to medical information if required, but I will have to clarify that as it is a little confusing.

Donor offspring and many of their parents want to end the secrecy that shrouds donor anonymity and denies children knowledge of an important chapter in their lives. The Liberals claim to want to put the interests of children first, but in this case think the desires of some parents should trump the needs and interests of the children. We say it should be the other way around.

In our minority report, we stated:

Where the privacy rights of the donors of human reproductive materials conflict with the rights of children to know their genetic and social heritage, the rights of the children shall prevail.

We went on further in our report and stated that the government attaches a higher weight to the privacy rights of donors than to the access to information rights of offspring. In my mind this is backward.

An identified donor is a responsible donor. If all donors were willing to be identified, then people would donate for the right reasons. Today, one main motivation for anonymous donation is money. Here we get into the whole aspect of this becoming a profit driven industry, and all for the wrong reasons.

There are other points that we in the Canadian Alliance have issues with. We feel that this is an issue of conscience, an issue of ethics and an issue of morality. There must be a free vote by all parties on this issue. We as members of Parliament must be given the opportunity to vote on this according to our conscience. I know Canadian Alliance members will be given that opportunity. To date that indication has not come from the government side. I believe there is a lot of support for this on that side of the House. This should be a free vote. All members should be allowed to vote as their conscience dictates.

I do not know if there will be another opportunity to speak to the bill before the debate collapses. I appreciate the opportunities I have had. I have risen to speak to this piece of legislation three or four times. It is not an easy issue. Hopefully as it progresses further through the system we will still have an opportunity to amend it and make it better and more acceptable to all Canadians.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 10th, 2003 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

In my view, Mr. Speaker, the upper house is there to review bills and make sure they become watertight if by any chance there are loopholes left by the House of Commons.

I know of many bills, and many of them are of far less importance than this one, that have been looked into deeply by the Senate. Witnesses have been called. Sometimes bills have lagged on for months in the Senate. One current example is the cruelty to animals act which has been tied up in the Senate for many months.

It would seem to me that on an issue as fundamental as this one, especially in light of the suspicion that the definition of human cloning, among many other issues, is incomplete and leaves gaps, that the least the Senate can do is to carry out a very thorough examination of the bill, including calling witnesses, such as Dr. Irving, and other objective specialists, as my colleague suggested, who can shed light on this key question and not only this key question but all the other issues relating to the bill that have been controversial in the House of Commons and have left us with many questions in our minds.

I think it would be terribly sad on a bill of this importance if the Senate were to whitewash it and say “Oh, well, the House of Commons has pronounced itself. It's fine. We need it. Let's pass it overnight and that's it”. That would be a tragedy because if there is one bill that has a key importance, not just for us here but for all Canadians, and which sets certain guidelines for the future in a difficult ethical and moral areas, it is Bill C-13.

I agree completely with my colleague from Mississauga South that the Senate should do a thorough review of the bill, including calling witnesses on the definition of human cloning and all the other issues for which we have been left with many questions.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 10th, 2003 / 12:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have spoken twice on this subject. Before I do so again, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Mississauga South who has done a tremendous job of research to try to make us aware of various details in the bill that need to be looked into much more thoroughly.

The last time I spoke I mentioned the fact that all of us here certainly would draw a consensus in regard to human cloning. Without exception, I think all parties and all members in the House would agree that human cloning as such should be banned.

The last time I spoke I suggested there was a debate as to whether the aspect of human cloning, which is one of the key features of the bill upon which we all agree as a principle, might not be defined closely enough in the bill so as to leave no possibility of some form of cloning taking place. We suggested that amendments be made to tighten the definition of human cloning.

Unfortunately, the bill as it stands today leaves open this debate. It leaves open the possibility that the definition in the bill, as put forward by many who feel this definition is not thorough and complete, should be reviewed and revised.

I really hope if the bill should go forward, as I hope it does not in its present form, that this whole subject be reviewed completely and thoroughly by the upper house when it reaches there, if it does. I hope this whole question is reviewed thoroughly by calling witnesses so we can be completely aware. To pass a bill, which one of the main purposes is to prohibit human cloning, and not ensure that the definition is tight enough to completely ban cloning, would be to fail our duty as legislators and parliamentarians.

I know I clearly stand in a minority here, certainly a minority in my party. I probably stand as part of a minority among Canadians at large. If polls were taken today, most Canadians would support embryonic cell research. Some of my closest friends have written moving letters to me, asking me to back the bill because they believe embryonic cell research will change the lives of suffering relatives, a child in one case.

I am extremely conscious of the fact that human suffering has to be allayed and that we cannot dismiss research that will help do that. At the same time, I have this fundamental belief which is anchored in the fact that I believe human life starts at conception and includes an embryo. To destroy embryos willy-nilly, whether it be for a lofty purpose or a lesser purpose, is something I cannot accept in my convictions and in the belief system to which I hold.

I know how difficult it is when I am faced with omnibus legislation that contains some parts with which I agree totally, for example, the prohibition on human cloning, or the research on adult stem cells. To refuse to accept the whole bill because some parts of it are fundamentally against one's basic beliefs is not an easy decision to make. At the same time this is a decision I feel that I am bound to make because the very essence of this bill, as it relates to human life in all its forms, is denied when we say that research involving embryos in large numbers will happen because we will sanction it through this bill.

Were we to admit that embryonic stem cell research would be valid ethically, which in my case I do not, the least we could do in that case would be to adopt the recommendation of the health committee that ethical criteria be set within the bill so that research in embryonic stem cells be surrounded by parameters, by bounds, and by constraints so that there would be a set of markers and ethical guidelines in the use of embryonic stem cells.

This is what the health committee recommended. It certainly does not go as far as I would want because I do not want embryonic stem cell research in the first place. But even then, this suggestion, which to me is perfectly logical assuming that one accepts in the first place that embryonic stem cell research is acceptable, was rejected by the government.

There was also a suggestion made that a stem cell bank be set up. If a stem cell bank were set up, it would have the effect of reducing the need for embryos to be used in research. It would lessen the impact of the bill on embryonic research. But that again was rejected.

A definite conflict of interest would exist in the new agency that would be set up to oversee stem cell research in that we would allow representatives of the pharmaceutical and biotech companies to be part of the board that would licence biomedical research including stem cell research. If that is not a conflict of interest, I do not know what it is.

The last time I spoke I suggested that ethical guidelines be set up to ensure that there would be a set of parameters, a set of markers to prevent conflicts of interest. Research in these key ethical areas, to some of us moral areas, should not be undertaken without constraints, without clear ethical guidelines and prohibitions. Again, that was rejected.

It must be admitted that in the society of 2003 people who hold the beliefs that I do, wherever they may be, in the House of Commons or in society at large, are a minority. That, I concede. It does not make that minority necessarily wrong. A minority of one may still have the right on his or her side.

What I find sad and unacceptable is to say that the minority opinion which believes deeply and convincingly in life from the time of conception must somehow be viewed as being from another planet, from another century, or from ages past. It is dismissed out of hand as if it does not count.

There are reactionaries out there, however, I do not believe I am a reactionary. I do not believe I belong to another age. At the same time, I strongly believe that there are ethical and moral issues which are extremely profound in our society even though they may be held today by a minority of Canadians or parliamentarians.

I do not believe that this ethical and moral position that people hold strongly, whether they be in a minority or not, has been listened to by the powers that be regarding the bill. Somehow any suggestions made, including those of the health committee, have been dismissed out of hand, as if the powers that be in ethical and moral judgment know best and we, because we are in the minority, do not count. I do not find that fair and acceptable.

Even though we may be smaller in numbers the votes that took place at report stage showed that a large body of opinion shares our point of view. It may not be a point of view that is popular. It may be a point of view that is viewed by many as regressive. Nevertheless, it is a point of view that strongly believes that in matters of life there are ethical elements which go far beyond legislation in black and white forms. These beliefs, the ways of life, and the ways of thinking that certain people hold must be taken into account with sensitivity and certainly consideration.

We have asked time and again to have the bill split so that the cloning part of the bill would be on its own. I think we would find overwhelming support for the bill to go through and it would go through so rapidly that at least it would show that there is a tremendous consensus on one large clause of the bill to ban human cloning. I think that it is important that it happen as soon as possible.

By making it an omnibus bill and joining controversial issues which the powers that be knew to be controversial from the start, and would present ethical and moral dilemmas for many members here, as was shown by the votes last week, it seems to me that in fairness there should have been far more regard and consideration to the points of view of that minority. There are, after all, a number of parliamentarians who represent a point of view which cannot be dismissed out of hand because it goes deep into belief, conviction, and a way of thinking that at least some of us think is right.

If this bill were to clear the hurdles because of the majority in place, then I would take my plea to the upper House because that is its role. Its role is not just to pass legislation rapidly, to simply obey the dictates and say Bill C-13 must go through as soon as possible because it is part of the big plank of the government. The Senate must do its work in looking at all the objections that many of us have brought forward here and not to be obstructive. From our point of view it must have objectivity and conviction in looking at these points of view, and review the bill and call as many witnesses as possible to address the fair points of view on the other side which we have brought forward.

For example, is the definition of human cloning really watertight or is it not? Are the people and experts who say that it is not completely invalid in their thinking or do they have a point? Should it be heard? Should we not find out before we pass a bill in its final form that we have heard all sides of the story? If those questions have to be answered once more, that is the job of the upper House. I ask it to find out whether we are going too fast into many areas, such as embryonic stem cell research, and all the pitfalls that have been brought forward by my colleagues, particularly the lack of ethical guidelines within the advisory board, et cetera. I ask it to look at all these things.

Once this bill is passed, so much is left to regulations that will take at least two years to be issued. We are accepting a bill with many phases of it still hidden in the dark. Certain regulations will not come forward until two or three years. These are the issues that we would ask the upper House to look into more deeply, if by any chance this bill were passed. We would ask it to do its work properly, call witnesses, and hear the points of view of all parliamentarians in the House who have brought forward their objections and convictions and, in fairness, be taken into consideration as well.

This is my plea today. I hope that Bill C-13, an important bill for most of us whatever our conviction, becomes a bill that represents the point of view of not only a majority but takes into account that many of us, and I am one of them, feel deeply that there are still many flaws in the legislation. Those concerns need to be addressed. Passing the bill just because of a majority will not be sufficient to allay the preoccupations, concerns and deep feelings that we are going in the wrong direction.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 10th, 2003 / 11:55 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

John M. Cummins Canadian Alliance Delta—South Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, the former president of the Czech Republic, Václav Havel, in a now famous speech at Stanford University in September 1994, “Forgetting We Are Not God,” reminded his listeners that the greatest human folly occurred in the 20th century under those leaders in governments who had failed to understand “how unbelievably shortsighted a human being can be who has forgotten that he is not God”.

We are engaged here today in a debate where it is well to remind ourselves of the folly of forgetting that we are not God, that when moral and ethical absolutes are lacking, great evil can be done, and if experience is our guide, almost surely will be done.

A fundamental failure in Bill C-13 is that it is ethically and morally neutral as to a preference between embryonic stem cell research and adult stem cell research. The bill does not, nor does the government, commit itself to substantial new funding for adult stem cell research. The bill and the government have tragically failed Canadians on this point.

First and foremost this is an ethical and moral debate because we are talking about human dignity. Much is at stake. We are shaping the future of what it means to be human in Canada. We cannot blindly follow the path of expedience, tailoring our understanding of human dignity to what is scientifically possible.

It is important to remember that scientific understanding does not render other forms of human understanding obsolete or irrelevant. The scientific understanding that the human body contains cells which in turn contain DNA does not trump a parent's understanding of a particular human as their child or a moral and ethical understanding of that child as a member of the human race.

Having a scientific understanding of the human body may be required to evaluate a proposed experimental medical treatment, for example, but it does not reduce a child to a collection of chemicals and cells.

In practice, any scientific understanding a parent may have is likely to make only a very minor contribution to their overall understanding of their child. Importantly, scientific information does not relieve even the most scientific parents of the obligation to make decisions regarding their children in the most comprehensive and just manner possible, as a scientist, as a parent and as a citizen, under the law and under God.

The same obligation holds on a larger scale for members of Parliament charged today with making legislative and policy decisions for society. Evaluating whether a highway should be built in Delta does not require a detailed understanding of how to pour asphalt in the rainy weather that we are often blessed with. Such an evaluation does require an understanding of where the road will lead and what purposes it will serve.

Similarly, evaluating public policy on genetic engineering, embryonic stem cells or human cloning does not require a detailed understanding of the underlying technology, but rather a willingness to weigh the issues raised by this technology in a broader social context without merely deferring to the judgment of scientists.

On moral and ethical issues, scientists are no more prepared to provide an intelligent answer than anyone else. In moral and ethical debates, the professional competence of the scientist is limited to a presentation of the facts.

Society has developed a collection of habits, customs and norms that assist us in making prudential and moral judgments when confronted with new experiences and situations. Prudential judgments are concerned with the practical assessments of risks and benefits: What are the most fitting means to achieve a desirable end? Moral judgments are concerned with the nature of right and wrong, with what should and should not be done in a free and democratic society. “Thou shalt not kill” is an example of a moral prohibition deeply ingrained in our culture that has led to the legal prohibition of murder.

In both prudential and moral and ethical matters, we have certain cultural guideposts that assist us in evaluating new situations as they arise. If someone proposed doing away with Parliament, we would instinctively know that this is an imprudent course of action. History tells us of the likely consequences of such actions.

If we witness one man shoot another on the street, we can rather quickly determine that one man killed another, and furthermore, if the shooting was not in self-defence, that this killing would be homicide.

In both cases we have clear cultural, historical and personal experiences that assist us in determining the proper course of action. But judgment based on past experience has its limits. As objects become further and further removed from the common experience, they also become further and further removed from the common wisdom that is culture.

Because modern science is in the business of discovering new things, it is constantly uncovering items that seem to defy our cultural coping mechanisms. Indeed, that is why we are engaged in this debate today.

Great claims are being made for the therapeutic and drug development potential of human embryonic stem cells and their derivatives. We are told that we are standing on the cusp of a medical revolution, if only the law will permit the necessary research on human embryos to be carried out.

The fundamental ethical objection is that the creation or use of embryos for research is wrong and their destruction indefensible. This implies two things: first, that embryos have a moral status; and second, that in a moral calculation we must appreciate that we violate the protected interest of embryos by deploying them for research or destroying them. Of these two points the first is critical, for, if this does not hold, the objection does not get to first base and it can only apply in an attenuated form.

The human embryo must be directly respected. It matters not that it cannot experience distress or make its own choices. It is not like a rock or a stone. It is a living thing and a member of the human species. As such, it must be protected by the overarching value of respect for human dignity. It has moral and ethical status and to treat it like a rock or a stone is to compromise human dignity.

Canada has always regretted doing the expedient thing rather than the right thing. We remember with shame the removal of Japanese Canadians from the fishery and the sale of their boats and equipment during the second world war. Similarly, we remember the refusal of our government to allow, in the days before the opening of the second world war, the entry into Canada of Jews desperately trying to escape Nazi Germany. Let us not repeat the errors of the past.

Why is a debate about embryonic stem cell research so fundamentally important? First, fundamentally the debate over embryonic stem cell research is about what a human being is, what rights a person has and what respect society owes that person. When people cannot agree on so fundamental an issue, terrible things can happen.

Second, this is an aging society about to confront many uncomfortable ethical dilemmas about vulnerable and unwanted people. What Parliament decides now about embryos sets a precedent for all subsequent legislation. It writes a guidebook for future debates about health and health spending.

The role of a scientist is to give facts. From the ethical and moral perspective scientists have done a marvellous job in giving us the facts, indeed all the facts we need to make an informed ethical judgment: embryos have a fully human genetic tool kit; given the right conditions an embryo will grow into a baby; and embryos are vulnerable and cannot survive without a favourable environment.

If the embryo is a person, it is the human rights, no matter how big it is or what it looks like. No person can be experimented on against his or her will. No person can be dissected for profit. This is a fundamental principle of a democratic society.

Regrettably, much of the debate on this issue has taken place on emotional grounds, pitting the hope of curing heart-rending medical conditions against the deeply held moral and ethical convictions of many Canadians. Such arguments frequently ignore or mischaracterize the facts. To arrive at an informed opinion on human embryonic stem cell research, it is important to have a clear understanding of precisely what embryonic stem cells are, whether embryonic stem cells are likely to be useful for medical treatments and whether there are a viable alternatives to the use of embryonic stem cells in scientific research.

A single stem cell line can produce enormous amounts of cells very rapidly. For example, one small flask of cells that is maximally expanded will generate a quantity of stem cells roughly equivalent in weight to the entire human population of the Earth in less than 60 days. Yet despite their rapid proliferation, embryonic stem cells in culture lose the coordinated activity that distinguishes embryonic development from the growth of a tumour.

Much of the debate surrounding embryonic stem cells should be centred on the ethical and moral questions raised by the use of human embryos in medical research. In contrast to the widely divergent public opinions regarding this research, it is largely assumed that from the perspective of science there is little or not debate on the matter.

The scientific merit of stem cell research is most commonly characterized as “indisputable” and the support of the scientific community as “unanimous”, rather like their support for Kyoto. Nothing could be further from the truth. While the scientific advantages and potential application of embryonic stem cells have received considerable attention in the public media, the equally compelling scientific and medical disadvantages of transplanting embryonic stem cells or their derivatives into patients have been ignored.

There is no scientific consensus about the need for human embryo experimentation. The letter from a group of leading medical researchers to the Australian senate committee studying a bill somewhat similar to Bill C-13 is instructive. It reads:

We the undersigned medical researchers submit the following points for consideration of our elected representatives:

  1. While accepting that the debate about destruction of human embryos for research purposes is primarily an ethical one, it is relevant that from a purely scientific point of view, arguments claiming the urgent need for embryonic stem cell research are not compelling.

  2. Undue expectations have been created in the community, particularly in those with various medical afflictions, as to the imminence and likely scope of embryonic stem cell therapy.

  3. The community has not been properly informed of the scientific difficulties involved in developing embryonic stem cell therapies, which include major obstacles of immune rejection and cancer formation.

  4. Research using adult stem cells, by contrast, avoids issues of rejection and cancer formation, and has the clear advantage of being able to use the patient's own cells to repair any deficits.

  5. Such research on stem cells derived from adult and placental tissues, which has seen great advances in the last three years is quite compelling in its clinical promise, and does not involve the destruction of nascent human life.

  6. In proper medical research, “proof of concept” must first be established in animal models before moving to human subjects. Such proof using embryonic stem cells has not been established in any conditions such as Alzheimer's, MS, diabetes and Parkinson's which are so often part of public discussion.

  7. Therefore it is scientifically premature and improper to move human experimentation at this early stage of research.

  8. Consistent with proper research principles, we advise that there be a moratorium on the destructive use of human embryos until, if ever, animal models are able to adequately demonstrate “proof of concept”, and human safety issues have been adequately addressed.

There are at least three compelling scientific arguments against the use of embryonic stem cells as a treatment for disease and injury.

First and foremost, there are profound immunological issues associated with putting cells derived from one human being into the body of another. The same compromises and complications associated with organ transplant hold true for embryonic stem cells. The proposed solutions to the problem of immune rejection are either scientifically dubious, socially unacceptable or both.

The second argument against the use of embryonic stem cells is based on what we know about embryology. Failing to replicate the full range of normal developmental signals is likely to have disastrous consequences. Providing some but not all the factors required for embryonic stem cell differentiation could readily generate cells that appear to be normal but in fact are quite abnormal. Transplanting incompletely differentiated cells runs the risk of introducing cells with abnormal properties into patients. This is of particular concern in light of the enormous tumour forming potential of embryonic stem cells.

The final argument against using human embryonic stem cells for research is based on sound scientific practice. We simply do not have sufficient evidence from animal studies to warrant a move to human experimentation.

While there is considerable debate over the ethical, moral and legal status of early human embryos, this debate in no way constitutes the justification to step outside the normative practice of science and medicine that requires convincing and reproducible evidence from animal models prior to initiating experiments on humans. While the potential promise of embryonic stem cell research has been widely touted, the data supporting that promise is largely non-existent.

To date there is no evidence, none, that cells generated from embryonic stem cells can be safety transplanted into adult animals to restore the function of damaged or diseased adult tissues. The level of scientific rigour that is normally applied and legally required under the Canadian Food and Drugs Act and its regulations in the development of potential medical treatments would have to be entirely ignored for experiments with human embryos to proceed.

As the largely disappointing experience with gene therapy should remind us, many highly vaunted, scientific techniques frequently failed to yield the promised results. Arbitrarily waiving the requirement for scientific evidence out of a naive faith in promise is neither good science nor a good use of Canadian taxpayer dollars.

Despite the serious limitations to the potential usefulness of embryonic stem cells, the argument in favour of this research would be considerably stronger if there were no viable alternatives. This, however, is not the case.

In the last few years, tremendous progress has been made in the field of adult stem cell research. Adult stem cells can be recovered by tissue biopsy from patients, grown in culture and induced to differentiate into a wide range of mature cell types.

The scientific, ethical, moral and, some would say, political advantages of using adult stem cells instead of embryonic ones are significant. Deriving cells from an adult patient's own tissues entirely circumvents the problem of immune rejection. Therapeutic use of adult stem cells raise very few ethical and moral issues.

In light of the compelling advantages of adult stem cells, what is the argument against their use? The first concern is a practical one: adult stem cells are more difficult than embryonic ones to grow in culture. There is a concern that scientists do not yet know how many mature cell types can be generated from a single adult stem cell population.

In theory, embryonic stem cells appear to be a more attractive option because they are clearly capable of generating all the tissues of the human body. In practice, however, it is extraordinarily difficult to get stem cells of any age to do what we want them to do in culture.

There are two important counter arguments to the assertion that the therapeutic potential of adult stem cells is less than that of embryonic stem cells because adult cells are restricted and therefore unable to generate the full range of mature cell types.

First, it is not clear at this point whether adult stem cells are more restricted than their embryonic counterparts. It is important to bear in mind that the field of adult stem cell research is not nearly as advanced as the field for embryonic stem cell research. With few exceptions, adult stem cell research has demonstrated equal or greater promise than embryonic stem cell research at a comparable stage of investigation.

Further research may very well prove that it is just as easy to teach an old dog new tricks as it is to train a wilful and unpredictable puppy. This would not eliminate the very real problems associated with teaching any dog to do anything useful, but it would remove the justification for age discrimination in the realm of stem cells.

The second counter-argument is even more fundamental. Even if adult stem cells are unable to generate the full spectrum of cell types found in the body, this very fact may turn out to be a strong scientific and medical advantage. If adult stem cells prove to have restricted rather than unlimited potential, this would indicate that adult stem cells have proceeded at least part way toward their final state, thereby reducing the number of steps scientists are required to replicate in culture. The fact that adult stem cell development has been directed by nature rather than by scientists should greatly increase our confidence in the normalcy of the cells being generated.

There is clearly much work that needs to be done before stem cells of any age can be easily used as medical treatment. It seems only practical to put our resources into the approach that is most likely to be successful in the long run.

In light of the serious problems associated with embryonic stem cells and the relatively unlimited promise of adult stem cells, there is no compelling scientific argument for taxpayer supported research on human embryos.

Embryonic stem cell research goes to the heart of how we view human life, both at its earliest and its final stages. As in the case for all matters of life and death, this research raises issues that are both painful and profound. Resolution of these issues should certainly not be based on unfounded speculation and emotional exploitation of those desperately hoping for a cure.

The bill opens the door to the use of human life as simply raw material, to make objects and commodities out of life.

It is written that Moses, after he presented to the people of Israel all the law that God had given him, said this:

I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life that you and your descendants may live....

Today we face the same fundamental moral choice. We must choose life.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 10th, 2003 / 11:30 a.m.
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Madawaska—Restigouche New Brunswick

Liberal

Jeannot Castonguay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her speech. As we know, there are embryos left over from the process of assisted reproduction. Obviously, with donor permission, the bill would allow research if that were acceptable. Some couples will opt for the other option, of merely allowing the embryo to thaw and to die.

The experts who spoke before the Standing Committee on Health in connection with Bill C-13 told us that embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells behave totally differently. They believe parallel research is necessary in order to learn more about how each cell functions. This could lead to health discoveries that would benefit mankind.

I would like to have the hon. member's opinion of the importance of parallel research using both of these cell types.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 10th, 2003 / 11:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with pride that I rise to speak to Bill C-13. The Government of Canada is providing much needed leadership by putting in place the legislative framework to ensure consistency in the measures governing assisted human reproduction for the one in six couples who have trouble beginning their families.

We hope the bill will finally lay to rest the fact that there have been charlatans, people who have preyed on some of our most vulnerable families in terms of promising them the world and delivering literally nothing.

The bill must go forward so that families trying to have a family can do so knowing that their safety, privacy and health will be taken into consideration, and that it will be conducted in a safe and ethical framework, which is what the bill does.

We must reaffirm the three objectives of the bill: to help couples build a family without compromising their health and safety; to prohibit unacceptable practices, such as human cloning; and to make sure that related research in infertility treatments and serious disease take place within a regulated environment.

It is imperative that all potentially beneficial research take place in a tightly regulated environment which is what the bill would do. The bill places Canada in line with the measures taken in many other industrialized countries. I think it is comprehensive, integrated and draws on the best practices and experiences from countries around the world. It is the result of extensive public consultation across Canada and it reflects a consensus on some of the most complex and challenging issues facing our society.

People must also understand, regardless of what commentaries have been made in the House, that the bill effectively bans cloning. The lack of scientific knowledge reflected in some of the speeches in the House was really upsetting to me. For people in the House to think that the bill does not prohibit unauthorized research on human embryos and that it would allow cloned embryos to be implanted in the embryonic stage and harvested, is just nuts.

The idea that we have parliamentarians talking about creating humans from mitochondria just actually lets us know that they have no idea of science. As I get to the end of my remarks, I want people to understand that it gives me some concerns about the need for a scientific understanding by members of any proposed agency for the conduciveness of the bill in terms of the research.

As a family physician I have always been impressed by the poignancy of the plight of the infertile couple. It is a medical problem, an emotional problem and a social problem but it is one of the few problems where people are told to get over it and forget it. However in my experience as a family physician, people cannot and do not get over it. The desire to have a family that is biologically related is huge. We need to ensure in everything we are doing in terms of progressive legislation that we do not have the unintended consequence of sending people, which is a normal instinct, underground or to the United States.

Ever since the royal commission's results came out I have had serious concerns about using the Criminal Code for issues regarding women and their bodies. I believe the Criminal Code should be used with respect to cloning and the scientists.

However, when it comes to the relationship between a woman, her physician and the specialists dealing with this, I have serious concerns about the donors in this bill. I personally will work on that as the bill goes to the Senate and in its review in three years.

It is interesting that the bill has had such a long gestation. I think Valerie Lawton's comprehensive article in the Toronto Star reminded us that the royal commission's report on reproductive technologies was titled “Proceed with Care”. It has been 10 years since that 1,300 page report resulting from consultations with 40,000 people and only now are we starting to fill that legislative void.

There is no question that the bill has been tough. As Ms. Lawton pointed out in her article, the opinions on the bill are sharply divided. The pro-lifers, the people who have trouble conceiving babies the usual way, children conceived in laboratories, ethicists, fertility doctors, sperm banks, researchers and the people suffering from diseases that could one day be treated or cured because of the research involving embryos, all have very different points of view. Therefore it has been very difficult to proceed in this way, to find effective compromises and a proper legislative framework.

It is important that the research on stem cells continue, both on embryos and on adult stem cells. I do not think one researcher in Canada has told us that we should not move forward vigorously on both files, that we cannot put all of our hopes on adult stem cells when it is very clear that at the present time there is so much promise in the embryonic stem cell lines.

We must continue to remind ourselves, as there has been this big debate around stem cell research, that the bill is actually about helping couples who need help. The bill is about assisted human reproduction. It is about creating a safe and ethical environment for couples having trouble getting pregnant.

It is important that this debate is around embryos that are left over after tormented couples decide they have had enough of an extraordinarily invasive and difficult time with in vitro fertilization, that they will not do any more cycles and there are a couple of eggs left over. It is, therefore, with their consent that they would, in this bill, be allowed to decide whether these embryos will go to the laboratory to be used to find cures for the difficult diseases like juvenile diabetes and muscular dystrophy, or whether that same frozen embryo goes into the basket. It is pretty clear. I think women and their partners have every right to choose whether those frozen embryos go toward saving lives and curing diseases.

As we look at the important parts of the bill and the overall benefits that exist in the bill, I want to comment on some of the issues that I hope will be dealt with in the Senate or at the review stage of the bill. We must realize that legislation such as this has to be made responsive and relevant to the emerging needs. The existence of an agency will help but, with the experience in England, the agency must be able to anticipate and move with the science, it must be able to comment and it must be able to regulate the emerging science.

I am a little concerned at the moment that the makeup of the agency precludes the people that know the most about this area. Patrick Taylor's op-ed piece in the Globe and Mail which says that war is too important to be left to the generals is a very interesting concept. Even members in the House have been so confused by the science. We need to ensure that the people on the agency have the scientific background to be able to interpret the information coming to them. Otherwise they will be at the mercy of the people briefing them when it comes to making those ever important decisions.

The infertile community is worried that the board of the agency could be constituted of people who do not understand what their problems have been. The reality is that a ban of gestational carriers or donors would mean that they would have to either go underground or go to the United States.

It is really important as we move on a registry that we move on the kinds of things that could really help. We must also have people who have had experience with adoption. In that way we can learn from their adoption experience and help couples move forward. There is a need for updated medical information in such a registry. We need the capacity to do this in an open way and in a way that will enable the tracking of genetic information and social information in terms of the offspring of the pregnancies.

I am worried about the word “mandatory” in reference to counselling which is in the bill. As a family physician who did a lot of this kind of counselling, I am worried for the couples who do not have a family doctor. I am worried about the capacity, even in a community like Ottawa, where there are only a couple of psychologists that are available. I am worried that we will pre-empt the ability of couples to get the help they need if we are too strict about the definition of counselling in the bill.

I am concerned in the interpretation that even couples who use their own eggs and/or their own sperm, in the technicality of the bill would be forced to go to counselling, even when the genetic material is their own. I am also concerned that anybody undergoing this sort of procedure in terms of assisted human reproduction would have to register in a registry even if it is their own eggs or their own sperm. I think that is an invasion of their privacy and I hope that will be dealt with in the regulations.

It is extraordinarily important as we move forward that the people for whom this bill is intended, the one couple in eight couples, feel they have been listened to. Some of the toughest moments in my practice have been when I have had to tell someone of a diagnosis that will mean they will never be pregnant, whether it was Turner's syndrome or cancer.

The double whammy of a bad diagnosis plus the inability to ever consider being pregnant cannot be emphasized too much. It is totally underestimated and is a huge secret in terms of the actual torment couples in our country go through. I have to think of when those women realize they are not pregnant again after all they have been through to try to have a pregnancy.

Husbands would sneak into my office without their wives knowing. They wanted me to know how tough it was on their wives, how tough it was on their families and how their wives were not able to function at work in the ongoing difficulty in trying to have their own biological children. It is very easy for people to say, “Get over it. Turn the page. Get on with your life”. That has not been my experience as a family physician.

I think that people who wanted to adopt would have adopted before going through the kinds of procedures that couples are going through, those who have chosen to try to have some sort of pregnancy of their own genetic line. It is not a luxury for these people. It is a medical problem they face. We as Canadians should support this extraordinarily important wish of these couples and help them to become parents and grandparents.

The bill is an important first step. I think it is comprehensive. I think it has done an important job in this legislative void. I think everyone will work to try to make it better both in the Senate and in its review in three years.

I also hope we will get the agency up and running as quickly as possible so that the much needed research is not delayed. I hope as Canadians we will start to have a better understanding of the extraordinarily large part of our society that is having trouble getting pregnant.

I will be proud to vote for the bill. I still hope that one day we can do a better job for the infertile community. I also hope that all members of the House will see how important this is and will get behind it and support the bill.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 10th, 2003 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

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

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to some of the issues surrounding Bill C-13. I want to speak in a fairly broad sense, not being a lawyer like our hon. colleague across who just spoke in a passionate and honourable way in addressing the bill.

I want to speak about the feelings and concerns I have heard from my constituents. These are based around moral attitudes, perhaps even with a religious base, but nonetheless they are valid considerations to enter into this argument.

In fact, this bill is so divisive because there are those who have these particular moral views and those who do not have that same type of view. We are not taking into consideration all the information if we do not take into account what the people in our ridings are feeling. They have demonstrated this over and over with the numerous petitions that have come through this place requesting that we emphasize post-natal stem cell research rather than embryonic stem cell research. Thousands of names have been added to those petitions that have come through this place. I may remind members of that more than once as I talk about the bill.

I support assisted human reproduction and stem cell research. I would support a complete ban on cloning, whether it be reproductive or therapeutic. I would support a ban on animal and human hybrids, which is taking a human egg and adding animal sperm. Sex selection, buying and selling embryos, and paid surrogacy are all dangerous steps that need to be banned.

I am not sure the bill adequately bans any of those and the hybrid human is one example. It is quite a familiar sight when we look at comic books or some of the entertainment features that are being published in today's world where there are mutations for the kids to watch. I think of the ninja mutant turtles where they not only took on humanistic characteristics, but some of the characters were part animal and part human. We find those examples going back in history. However, this is a dangerous area for us to get into and we should be sure that is banned altogether.

I support the recognition that the health and the well-being of children born through assisted human reproduction should be placed ahead of the interests of adults, physicians or researchers involved. We talk about doing things in the best interests of the children and we talk about that in the Divorce Act and in other places. Surely, if we are talking about assisted human reproduction, we can remember to take note of the interests of the children who are being produced and put them ahead of the interests of those involved.

Sometimes the reproduction of a human being is only incidental to what a researcher hopes to gain from the research. We live in a world that is selfish, where so many are willing to sacrifice the lives of other people in order to see their lives enriched in some way, whether it be by finance, fame or whatever. I believe we need to place the interests of adults and researchers involved as subordinate to those of the children who may be born by this process.

I support the protection of the uniqueness of all individuals, their right to life and human dignity. We come into this world with little enough dignity. We come in naked and penniless and will go out that way unless someone dresses us, cleans us up, and puts us in a fancy box. Human dignity is something that must be maintained and valued. To materialize or commercialize the making of embryos, whether it be for research or whether it be an overproduction of embryos, even for assisted human reproduction in a legitimate sense, goes beyond what I would like to see happening. I know that it is being done already.

We hear of multiple births. We hear of quintuplets, sextuplets and numbers of children being born and then without fail it is discovered that these are people who have been working with some fertility drug or some assisted human reproduction process of some kind. What we are not told is how many embryos were created that were left over and/or frozen, and/or disposed of in some way. This bill opens the door to that and, therefore, we lose the respect for human life and dignity when we commercialize these products.

I support the right of all persons to know the identity and the necessary biological information of their birth parents. I have already mentioned that we tend to be somewhat selfish. As the hon. member across the way pointed out a moment ago in his speech, it is extremely important for children to maintain the right to know their biological ancestry and to know the biological information concerning any disease that might have been in their family. This bill falls far short of that.

The selfishness to allow someone to profit, as in a $25 per shot deal, and not require the identity of that person is beyond me. No matter what form that takes, any donors who are willing to contribute to an assisted human reproductive process need to subordinate their desires to that of the children being born. We must take responsibility as adults for these children who will be born.

There are some common errors made in the arguments and ideas propagated by the proponents of embryonic stem cell research. Let me talk about the defence based on the opinions of people who do not believe in or do not hold any absolute principles of right or wrong. We find many times that people believe everything is relative. Simply because the human reproduction process is interrupted early in its life does not mean it is not a human being. It is, in fact, being hijacked and used in some other way. It does not mean that it is right simply because that human being has not yet seen the light of day or has not yet exited a mother's womb, as the Criminal Code requires.

We know that people hold to this idea that there is no such thing as right and wrong. There are thousands of people in this country who disagree with that. There are right and wrong principles. There are things that are right and there are things that are wrong. Just because, as human beings and because of our education and technology, we are able to interrupt the processes of life does not mean it is right.

I am thinking of the story that I heard recently people who challenged God on creating life. They decided to have a contest. So God said, “Okay. I did this from dirt”. The contestants said, “Okay. We will do it from dirt too”, and they began to gather up some dirt. God said, “Wait a minute now. You've got to get your own dirt”.

We are gathering up the particles that we did not create and then we are claiming the right and the ability to create life from these particles. I do not think that is right. We are interrupting a process that comes from somewhere else. I think there is an origin of right and wrong.

Every day in the House, as institutionalized and formalized as it is, we take a little bit of time at the beginning to acknowledge God. If God exists we would presume that God would have the power to create.

On Wednesdays we sing O Canada as we address the flag. As we sing “God, keep our land...”, we are acknowledging daily, even in this place, that there is a power that goes beyond us. That is where moral authority comes from.

It is wrong to create a life, or put together the ingredients in any scientific way, solely for its destruction or for the benefit of another. No matter what we say, those components that are put together were not created out of nothing by us. We took what is already here and put it together. To do it for our benefit and for its destruction should be absolutely wrong.

Embryonic stem cell research requires the intentional death of innocent human life. It should be an absolute. It is an error to ignore the genesis of human life or to ignore the right of all human life to be protected from harm and death as much as possible. It is an error to believe that the embryo is a potential human life. An embryo is human life with potential. We sort of reverse things once in a while and to make it sound better.

For example, notice how we say human embryo. We say human fetus because that makes the subject an embryo. It makes the subject a fetus and only the modifier is human.

I want to remind the House that when we talk about a wagon we talk about a red wagon, particularly in the English language and this may be different in the French language which has a different structure. In English we talk about a white elephant, a baby elephant, but we do not talk about an embryo human, a fetus human, or a baby human. We reverse those so that the subject is not human.

A former member of the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies stated:

The human embryo is a human individual with a complete personal genome, and should be a subject of research only for its own benefit....You and I were all embryos once. This is not an abortion question. When an embryo is not physically inside a woman, there is no possible conflict between that embryo and the life situation of anyone else. There are many across the spectrum on the abortion question who see the embryo as a human reality, and hold that to destroy it or utilize it as industrial raw materials is damaging and dehumanizing, not only to that embryo but to all human society.

That sums up what I wanted to say about that idea.

I will now address the fourth error. I believe it is an error to place the emphasis on embryonic stem cells when the scientific evidence points to postnatal stem cells as showing more promise without the ethical problems of embryonic stem cells and without the same problems of recipient rejection.

I am no expert on this subject but I understand that no one has ever been cured or helped from any disease by any embryonic stem cell. However I understand there are quite a number of people, and the number is continually growing, of those who have been helped by the implantation of postnatal, that is adult stem cells into their bodies.

I have a few personal conclusions to make. First, embryonic stem cell research should be avoided at this time. It is ethically controversial and it is strongly opposed by large numbers of Canadians, as is demonstrated by the tremendous volumes of petitions and signatures that have been tabled in the House.

Second, postnatal stem cell research should receive our complete focus for both medical and ethical, that is moral, reasons. If this has the greater potential, as science indicates at this point, why would a responsible government not give at least a three year moratorium, which the official opposition has asked for, on embryonic stem cell research and allow the postnatal adult stem cell research to develop as it should so there is not competition here? I believe it is because some people simply do not want adult stem cell research to win out over embryonic stem cell research, actually because that leads to life. It would be life-giving and the embryonic is not.

Third, a human life should be respected and protected in whatever stage it is observable. The dignity of human life must be preserved. Of all that we do for convenience and technological advancement, we do not do ourselves any favours, nor do we do our children down the line any favours, if we continue to allow the erosion of the dignity of the human being.

The fourth conclusion is that the truth about scientific and medical facts around stem cell research must be recognized and given without misrepresentation. It is unfortunate that such an emphasis on embryonic stem cell research has been put out there. It is made to sound almost as if people will die like flies if we do not sacrifice some embryos. That is not a good representation of the scientific truth.

Fifth, the rights of any child born because of assisted human reproduction should supercede the rights of any donor. Children must have the right to know their identity and their family medical history. It is only fair to the children being born.

The last conclusion I have is that the recommendation of our minority report, which states that the final legislation clearly recognizes the human embryo as human life and that the statutory declaration include the phrase “respect for human life”, should be included and should be a part of everything we do in this field.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 10th, 2003 / 10:40 a.m.
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Liberal

Tom Wappel Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the regulatory agency Patrick Taylor, MD, professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia's faculty of medicine and a past director of the infertility clinics at the University of Calgary and University of Manitoba, wrote an article wherein he called the bill a bad bill. Some of his reasons I agree with and some I do not agree with.

About the regulatory agency he said:

Now to this add some of the provisions of Bill C-13.... An assisted reproduction agency is to be established. On the principle that, “War is too important to be left to the generals”, there are no provisions for any representation on the agency's board from the physicians, nurses and scientists who are experts in the field nor from those most directly affected--the infertile. Yet this board will regulate almost all infertility care and research in Canada. Treating the infertile is no less a reputable medical procedure than caring for the victim of a heart attack. Would you like to have a lay cardiology agency dictating how much and what kind of care you could have if you suffered a heart attack?

Perhaps it is an overstatement, but it is food for thought.

A lot of Bill C-13 simply ignores legitimate concerns of a lot of stakeholders. It is not necessarily appropriate at the last minute to try to change various specific parts of a bill, although it is always a good attempt. These things should have been noticed by the government and the bureaucrats who advise the government. They should have made either the changes or a proper reasoned, debated case for why they rejected the changes.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 10th, 2003 / 10:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Tom Wappel Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-13 today. It is a very important subject matter and one that is not to be trifled with and one that is not to be decided lightly.

I will begin my analysis of the bill by dividing it into two steps. First is the analysis of the process by which we have arrived here. Second is an analysis of the substance of the bill.

As I proceed with my remarks the House will see that for a variety of reasons I will be unable to support the bill. I want to explain those reasons because, in my view, this is truly a very important bill in respect of the dignity of the human person.

I will begin with the process. I find the process that the bill took objectionable for four particular reasons. I would like to discuss each of those four reasons in some detail.

First, there are two aspects to the bill. Of course I am simplifying what is an extremely complicated bill. Some parts, in my opinion, one cannot understand unless one is a scientist or medical doctor. However, I am a legislator and a lawyer and certainly I can understand the legislative and legal aspects of the bill. One aspect of the bill is that it would prohibit certain activities, in this case cloning, and another is the portion which deals with the regulation of certain aspects of this particular medical practice.

When the bill was first being discussed by the then minister of health, now the Minister of Industry, there was a great deal of discussion, certainly within our caucus, as to the nature of the format that the bill should take. A lot of members of Parliament very strongly urged the minister to, in effect, split the bill so that there would be a separate bill dealing with cloning and another bill dealing with regulated activities.

I can say, with as much certainty as one can have, that if that advice had been taken and a bill had been brought in to prevent cloning simply by itself, leaving all regulated activities to another bill, that bill undoubtedly would have sailed through the House of Commons, likely in record time.

I do not say this simply because I am pulling something out of the air. I want to bring to the attention of the House the act in the United States that did just that. It could not be shorter unless it was a joke. It is really two sentences and a maximum of a couple of pages. Basically, it prohibits human cloning, end of story. It has very few sections but it is very clear. I will get back to the definition of human cloning a little later in my remarks but it defines human cloning very clearly and broadly as follows:

The term 'human cloning' means human asexual reproduction, accomplished by introducing nuclear material from one or more human somatic cells....

I underscore the words “or more”.

It could have been done. It has been done in the United States. There would have been no reason not to do it. One has to ask why it was not done. Why was a bill not presented to ban human cloning and then another bill presented dealing with regulated activities?

My speculation, as a member of Parliament, is that it was done to either entice or coerce. I will let members choose the word they wish to use. Members of Parliament who had great difficulty supporting certain aspects of the regulated part of the bill were reluctant to not vote for the bill because it also bans human cloning. We would be left with a situation where if we were to vote against the bill, because there were parts of it with which we could not agree in terms of the regulated aspect, we would also be voting against banning human cloning. How can we do that?

On the other hand, if I were to vote for it I would be banning human cloning, which is something we all want, but I also would be literally approving parts of the bill with which I cannot live. That was a very difficult thing for me to deal with. Because the bill was proceeded with in that way, for me that was strike one on the issue of process.

The previous minister of health, currently the Minister of Industry, asked a question of the health committee. I am not a member of the health committee but I commend its members for their work on the bill. It was an onerous task over many months. The minister asked the committee to examine a bill prior to second reading and make certain recommendations.

The health committee took that request very seriously and travelled across the country to hear witnesses who had many interesting and important things to say about the bill. The committee debated and basically did what the previous minister of health, now the Minister of Industry, wanted it to do, which was to examine the bill and present a report for the minister's consideration.

Sure enough, that was exactly what it did. The health committee requested a comprehensive government response to that report within 150 days. That is not unusual because if we look at Standing Order 109 it states:

Within 150 days of the presentation of a report from a standing or special committee, the government shall, upon the request of the committee, table a comprehensive response thereto.

It is not “may”. It is not “can”. It is “shall”. It is mandatory under our rules that the government, when requested, shall table a comprehensive response to the committee report in the House of Commons. Did that happen? No, it did not.

If we look at Marleau and Montpetit at page 886, under the subject “Government Response”, the learned authors state:

Speakers have consistently refused to define “comprehensive” in this context, maintaining that the nature of the response must be left to the discretion of the government.

That is fine. I have been in this place 14 years and I have enjoyed every minute of it. In my experience on numerous committees I have never seen a request for a comprehensive response by the government either ignored or, as I see it in this case, toyed with by saying “Our comprehensive response to your considered report is another bill”. That to me is a slap in the face to the work of the health committee and to the people and witnesses who contributed to that work.

Why is a comprehensive government response required? It is because the committee made numerous recommendations. If the government did not like the recommendations it would have been incumbent on the government to explain. Therefore when the committee studied the new bill old ground would not need to be rehashed. The committee would know and perhaps even agree with the government's reasons for not agreeing with some of its recommendations. If the government agreed with some of its recommendations, then there would be no need to talk about those recommendations.

In this case, on the 150th day after the request was made, the government tabled Bill C-13. That is not a comprehensive response by any definition in my opinion as a member of Parliament.

Marleau and Montpetit goes on to state:

The Standing Orders do not provide for any sanction should the government fail to comply with the requirement to present a response.

That is true. There is no sanction in the rules. However if we believe the government, in ignoring what it is supposed to do under our rules it has taken away our ability in committee to enact proper legislation for the country. Therefore the sanction each and every one of us can use is to vote against the bill and send a message.

Because the government did not table a comprehensive response to the committee report, that is, for me, strike two on process.

When Bill C-13 was called, it is my understanding that the present Minister of Health at no time appeared before the health committee to discuss the bill or its predecessor under the subject matter of the bill. I am not talking about an idle question or two when the minister appeared for estimates. I am talking about a minister of the crown appearing before a health committee, presenting the bill after it has been passed at second reading, discussing the issues, encouraging the committee to make whatever amendments it wishes to make or do whatever study it wishes to do, answer responsible questions of committee members and then allow the committee to proceed with its work.

When I have been on committees where legislation has been presented the ministers have appeared. I do not know whether the committee asked the minister to appear. If it did not it should have. It is inconceivable to me that a committee would proceed with a bill without asking a minister to appear to defend the bill. Let us assume the committee did and if it did then the minister did not appear despite being requested to do so. That is wrong.

If the committee did not ask the minister to appear that also is wrong but the minister should have appeared of her own volition. If one believes strongly enough in a bill one should be there to defend the bill in front of the committee. That to me, on process, is strike three.

After considerable study, the bill went through the health committee which made numerous amendments. One presumes that those amendments were thought out, debated, perhaps even hotly debated, a consensus eventually arrived at, and the bill was brought forward to the House with the committee amendments. What happened?

The government immediately filed amendments to negate the amendments that the hard-working committee brought forward and, for all intents and purposes, offered, certainly to me, very little guidance as to why I, with my limited knowledge of the bill, should overturn amendments thoughtfully brought forward by the health committee simply because the bureaucrats in the Department of Health did not like it. That is the wrong way to approach a bill. It has happened numerous times and I am sick and tired of it.

If there is some reasonable reason for a committee amendment to be overturned then let us hear in debate from the government why it should be overturned. We are being accused in the media all the time of being trained seals, getting up and doing what we are told. That is not true and it certainly is not true on this bill.

The government wants to overturn amendments thoughtfully brought forward by the health committee. It has happened with the environment committee and the justice committee, and it should stop. If the government wants to continue doing that then it had better provide reasoned responses as to why, not just a blanket statement saying that this is not required. That is, for me, strike four on process.

To go back to a comprehensive response, if the government had tabled a comprehensive response when I originally talked about it, some of the amendments might not have even come forward because the explanations would have been there. It is a self-defeating thing for the government not to provide a comprehensive response. That is four strikes on process alone, never mind the substance of the bill.

Let us turn to the substance of the bill. It is a complicated bill. I am not a scientist but we are legislators. We are required to pass this act. The bill reminds me, and I will paraphrase, of the example of a camel being the result of a committee being asked to design a horse.

The bill is a combination of clauses drafted by the Department of Justice, by the Department of Health and by scientists. It is a hodgepodge. It is very difficult to understand. As a lawyer, I look to certainty of wording and that is what I want to talk about. Let us look at the actual bill and the words therein. I do not need to go very far into the bill in order to demonstrate what I am talking about. Let us look at the definition of embryo:

“embryo” means a human organism during the first 56 days of its development--

Human organism is a new concept. Notice that it does not say “human being”; it says “human organism”. At least for once in our statutes we are actually acknowledging that upon conception, the product of conception is human. At least that is in the bill. It is human on conception; it is a human organism.

What is the bill going to do? It will allow experimentation on humans. I cannot agree with that. In any event, at least there is a definition. It says that an embryo is a human organism during the first 56 days of its development. What a human organism is after 56 days of development is another matter.

We then go to clause 5, prohibited activities. It says, “No person shall knowingly” and it goes through a number of prohibitions, many of them using the phrase “human being”.

Human being is not defined. Why is human being not defined? Because there is a logical disconnect. It makes sense that there is a logical disconnect because we get into the issue of life and when life begins.

The minister says there is no need to define “human being”, that it is well defined in case law and therefore there is no need to define it in the statute. This is the same minister who, when she was minister of justice and I brought forward a bill to put into statute the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, said to me, “Oh yes, the government supports that concept. It is clearly defined in case law. We do not need to enshrine it in statute because the common law recognizes what marriage is”.

What has happened is that advice that was given to that minister and previous ministers and subsequent ministers by the Department of Justice is wrong. It has been proven wrong. One or two judges on one or two courts can change 150 years of case law just like that. That is exactly what has happened.

All of the lawyers who gave that advice to those justice ministers that it does not need to be put into statute should be fired. Those lawyers should try and make their living on the streets because by giving that kind of advice they would starve to death.

If the government cannot define marriage because it is defined in case law and it will never change, and a year later we are into a huge discussion of what marriage is, can we imagine what the definition of human being is? In fact, there is a definition of human being and it is in the Criminal Code. The definition of a human being is:

A child becomes a human being within the meaning of this act when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother, whether or not it has breathed--

A child is not a human being according to the Criminal Code until the child is right outside its mother.

What does that mean? That means for example, in the bill a person cannot for the purpose of creating a human being make use of any human reproductive material. What if a person does not want to make a human being? What if someone just wants to make a human organism? Then there is no prohibition.

What about clause 5(1)(g):

--transplant a sperm, ovum, embryo or fetus of a non-human life form into a human being;

What if a person does not want to be transplanted into a human being as defined which is coming out of the mother's womb? What if a person wants to transplant it into something just before it comes out of the mother's womb?

There has to be a definition. Words have to be tied up. It is absolutely ridiculous to suggest that the common law will cover the term “human being”.

I did not think I would talk for 20 minutes and I am shocked that I did. However, I think I have given enough reasons that the bill has to be defeated.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

April 7th, 2003 / 3:35 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, there are a number of things I want to address regarding this rather complicated address that the opposition House leader has brought to the attention of the Chair.

His first argument was that this issue brought before the House by the Senate was not a stage of the bill. Obviously, no. It has been ruled by the Speaker on a number of occasions that the message from the Senate regarding anything inside a bill that amends it is a stage of the bill. Proof of that is if it had not been a stage of the bill in the past, the Chair would have not enabled either myself or my predecessors from moving a motion under Standing Order 78.

If it had been considered strictly a motion, I would have had to use Standing Order 57. In other words, I would not have been able to use time allocation. I would have been obliged to use closure. The Chair has already ruled on that. There is jurisprudence from the Chair on ruling that Standing Order 78 can be used. It has been used that way for a long time on amendments from the Senate. That is my first point.

My second point is that the hon. member was drawing some sort of parallel between the House providing a reasoned amendment to one of its own bills and the Senate providing an amendment to a bill when it sends it back to the House. That has never been considered to be an equivalent. No one has ever made that argument in the past because it is totally incoherent. As we all know, the stated purpose of a reasoned amendment is to either refer a bill back to committee so that it not be now read a second time and so on, or that it be sent over here to be divided, or whatever.

The hon. member is not correct in saying that until this item is disposed of we cannot continue the consideration of the bill. If the opposition provides an amendment, as it did the other day and perhaps it is still before us on Bill C-13 that we debated earlier today, the provisions under our Standing Orders, whereby the time is added up in order to arrive at 10 minute speeches, still count whether we are debating the main motion or one of its amendments. It is all bunched together and counts as part of the same debate of what has to be disposed of in terms of voting before we can actually vote on other matter, but that is a separate issue altogether. In my opinion, what the hon. member is alleging does not reflect reality.

The hon. member also raised the appropriateness of the Senate's message. The Senate's message has the effect of telling the House that the senators have amended the bill by dividing it. They could have amended it by removing a clause. They could have amended it by adding something. They have amended it by dividing it. The test of this is that if the minister's motion to concur in the amendment is passed, then Bill C-10A would be ready for royal assent. In other words, this is a stage of the bill considering the Senate amendment, and I go back to the initial proposition that I raised.

There are two final points that I want to bring to the attention of the Chair. If someone is now alleging that this motion is inappropriately before the House, I draw the attention of the Speaker to page XI of today's Notice Paper in which it says that two hon. members of the House have proposed to amend the motion that is in the view of the same party not properly before the House. This begs the following question to be raised.

This begs the following question, how could a group of MPs in the House pretend that the issue is not before the House properly and then move to amend that which should not be there according to the testimony we have just heard?

I do not believe this issue is properly in order before the House. The hon. member's point of order is not in order in itself. In order for the Chair to entertain that point of order, it should have been made before the Speaker put the motion. The motion has been put. Not only that, it has received an amendment from the same political party, but perhaps that is an aside. No one member sought that particular point prior to the motion being put. The Chair allowed it to be put which makes it in order in that regard.

The House has even entertained an amendment to that particular motion and to make the point even stronger, it was made by members of the same political persuasion as the hon. member who has raised this now.

In conclusion, the motion is properly before the House. The House will deal with it and vote, in its own time, on the amendment, if hon. members still wish to have a recorded vote on that amendment, and on the main motion. Then, of course, the matter will be disposed of. Any intervention similar to either the one that has been raised now by the hon. member or anything similar would have had to have been made at the appropriate time and it was not.