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.

Speaker's RulingClimate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

May 12th, 2008 / 11:05 a.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

There are four motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-377, An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change.

The Chair does not ordinarily provide reasons for its selection of report stage motions in amendment. However, in light of the point of order raised on Thursday, May 8, 2008 by the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh and the subsequent intervention of the hon. deputy government House leader, I would like to convey to the House the reasoning involved in considering these motions.

In his submission, the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh described the particular circumstances surrounding the committee consideration of Bill C-377.

During its consideration of the bill, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development presented three separate reports. In the first of these reports, presented on April 14, 2008, the committee described procedural difficulties it had encountered in the course of its study of Bill C-377 and recommended some action that the House might wish to take.

On April 29, 2008, in its second report relating to this bill, the committee reported Bill C-377 with eight amendments. On the same day, the committee presented a third report. This report explained that having begun its clause by clause study on March 3, 2008, prolonged debate on clause 10 of the bill resulted in an impasse; and that as no further progress seemed possible, the committee turned to the consideration of a motion, the effect of which was to deem adopted the remaining parts of the bill and to agree that the bill be reported to the House without further debate or amendment. This motion was adopted on division by the committee.

The hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh also referred to previous Speaker's rulings where motions in amendment at report stage were selected on the basis that members involved did not have the opportunity to present motions during the committee consideration stage. Specifically, he cited a ruling given on January 28, 2003, regarding Bill C-13, An Act respecting assisted human reproduction, and a ruling given on November 6, 2001, regarding Bill C-10, An Act respecting the national marine conservation areas of Canada.

In his intervention on Friday, May 9, 2008, the hon. deputy government House leader also reviewed the sequence of events surrounding the committee consideration of the bill and referred to the two rulings just cited. He went on to argue that, in his view, the committee's decision to report the bill back to the House prior to the May 7, 2008 deadline represents a conscious decision of the majority of the committee not to make full usage of the time remaining and thus to forego further opportunities to propose amendments at the committee stage. On this basis, he concluded that the motions at report stage should not be selected.

Four report stage motions have been submitted. These motions are identical to committee amendments which were not considered due to the impasse, as described in the committee's report and the adoption by the committee of the motion to report the bill. The motions relate to clauses of the bill which were deemed carried at the committee stage, quite clearly as a way out of the impasse.

The Chair is now faced with the matter of selection. The note accompanying S. O. 76(5) reads, in part: “The Speaker ... will normally only select motions which were not or could not be presented [in committee].”

Having carefully reviewed the sequence of events and the submissions made by the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh and the hon. deputy government House leader, the Chair is of the opinion that we are facing very exceptional circumstances. The committee recognized that the impasse was significant and wanted to bring that situation to the attention of the House. It did so in a report which states in part:

Given the impasse, the Committee opted not to consider the remaining clauses and parts of the Bill....

Therefore, I am satisfied that these motions could not be presented during the committee consideration of the bill, and accordingly I have selected them for debate at report stage. Accordingly, Motions Nos. 1 to 4 will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting pattern available at the Table.

I shall now propose motions numbered 1 to 4 to the House.

HealthOral Question Period

November 5th, 2003 / 2:40 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Canadian Alliance Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, an important vote on human cloning will be held tomorrow at the United Nations. There are 65 countries that will be supporting a resolution that would ban all forms of cloning. However, there are 23 countries, including Canada, that will back a weaker proposal that would allow therapeutic cloning.

It is strange that the government would be supporting therapeutic cloning at the United Nations, even though Bill C-13 aims to ban human cloning.

Why would the government be supporting a resolution that does not reflect its own legislation?

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 28th, 2003 / 6:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, just to clarify, there are two motions on Bill C-13. The first is a procedural motion and I believe there is consent to apply. There will be a standing vote on the second motion on third reading of the bill.

I would ask that you seek the consent of the House that those who voted on the previous motion be recorded as voting on this motion now before the House, with Liberal members voting yes.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 28th, 2003 / 6:20 p.m.
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The Speaker

The House will now proceed with the taking of the deferred recorded division on the previous question at the third reading stage of Bill C-13.

Assisted Human ReproductionStatements By Members

October 28th, 2003 / 2 p.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, for too long Canadian women and their children have waited for Parliament to pass legislation on assisted human reproduction and genetic technologies.

Bill C-13 is the result of more than a decade of careful consideration and consultation that is designed to protect the health and safety of women and the children born to them through assisted human reproduction.

This legislation is all about hope: hope for couples struggling with infertility and hope for Canadians with disabilities such as Parkinson's, MS and leukemia. And let us not forget the children born with juvenile diabetes, who would benefit from research into the use of stem cells to treat these diseases. An open letter released on October 25 by 65 leading health care experts calls on Parliament to pass Bill C-13.

As parliamentarians, we have a responsibility to put in place a framework to regulate aspects of reproductive technology and to act now in the best interests of hundreds of Canadian families who have waited so long for this to happen.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2003 / 4:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House of Commons to provide all hon. members with what I believe to be a summary of some of the substantive reasons why I do not support Bill C-13.

First, the bill does not ban all forms of human cloning. Dr. Ronald Worton testified before the Standing Committee on Health and said that many of the definitions are in error or problematic from a scientific perspective.

In addition, we had the opinion of Dr. Dianne Irving, formerly of the University of Georgetown in Washington, who stated that the bill mixed up medical and science definitions. She also said that Health Canada had made an amendment to a definition to add the reference to a deployed chromosome from a single living person or a previously deceased person.

The bill says that no person shall knowingly create a human clone. However, human clone is a defined term in the bill. It says that a human clone is an embryo, not someone walking around the streets. It is an embryo that contains, as a result of the manipulation of human reproductive material or an in vitro embryo, a deployed set of chromosomes obtained from a single living or deceased human being, fetus or embryo.

This is suspiciously complex--members would agree--and it begs the question, why does it not say that a human clone is simply an embryo which is genetically identical to another living or deceased human being or human embryo? That is very straightforward. Why is it so complex? Why does it have so many adjectives and conditions?

Dr. Irving identified four methods of human cloning which are not covered by the definition because of that word “single”; getting cells from a single person rather than from one or more. The United States legislation uses the phrase “one or more” because there are proven techniques which use cells from more than one person.

If we do not ban all forms and techniques of human cloning, then we really miss all of them. All they need is one.

Dr. Irving lives in the U.S. and was called as a witness two days prior to the U.S. Thanksgiving and could not appear as a witness when called. No one has ever challenged Dr. Irving's opinions that the bill does not ban all forms and techniques of human cloning for any purpose.

Despite the assertions of armchair media, Bill C-13 does not ban all forms of cloning and therefore the bill, as it stands, does not ban human cloning at all.

The United Nations is currently debating a resolution to ban all forms of human cloning for any purpose. Canada is not supporting that resolution. There is an alternative resolution sponsored by the French and the Germans to ban cloning for human reproduction purposes and to permit human cloning for research and experimentation. Not only is Canada supporting this limited ban on cloning, we are actually a co-sponsor of that resolution before the UN.

Canada, therefore, has one position at the UN and a different position in Bill C-13 which is totally unacceptable.

Alternatively, we could say that the UN position is in fact precisely the same as in Bill C-13 which is that Canada supports human cloning for research and experimentation. This is also unacceptable. Never has Health Canada said that we would support human cloning of any type and yet we have that same resolution being supported at the UN.

Based on the unrefuted testimony and opinions of Dr. Worton and Dr. Irving, it is clear that Bill C-13 would ban human cloning for reproduction but would permit human cloning for research and experimentation. This is unacceptable.

As an aside, a human clone is arguably a human being. The definition in the bill of a human clone is that it is an embryo. By logic, that means that human life begins at conception, that is, when there is an embryo. This will make for an interesting debate when the question of when human life begins is again before the House.

As I indicated, medical and scientific definitions are a problem. One of them was chimera. It has been changed from the established medical and scientific definition without disclosure of that fact. That is unacceptable.

Chimera refers to the combination of human and non-human life forms. The medical and scientific definition states that it is the implantation of human reproductive material into non-human life forms or the reverse, that is, implanting non-human reproductive material into humans.

The bill itself has a definition of chimera which is different. It refers to the implantation of non-human reproductive material into humans but does not include the reverse. As a consequence, the bill would in fact permit the implantation of human reproductive material into non-human life forms creating animal/human hybrids.

Dr. François Pothier of Laval University told a parliamentary round table that he can see animal/human hybrids being granted personhood status in the future. Can hon. members imagine an animal/human combination being granted personhood status? How bizarre; how scary. Permitting animal/human hybrids for research has never been a stated objective of the bill. I believe that this is a sleight of hand in drafting and assumes that no MPs would ever have picked up this difference when doing their homework.

The next area I wanted to comment on is the fact that there are insufficient surplus human embryos from fertility clinics to sustain meaningful research. Dr. Françoise Baylis testified that in Canada there were less than 10 surplus human embryos that would meet the research quality requirements. She concluded that there were not enough embryos available for meaningful research in Canada and last November she announced a research study to more thoroughly survey the fertility clinics in Canada.

Her application for funding was pending approval from the Canadian stem cell network which the government funded. To date, we have heard absolutely nothing on the study because it would prove that the only way to get enough embryos to sustain meaningful research is to permit human cloning for research and experimentation, as is done in the UK, which is also, incidentally, a co-sponsor of the partial ban resolution at the UN.

The UK has already killed 40,000 embryos in doing embryonic stem cell research and there is not one shred of positive evidence coming out of its research. The only way it got that many embryos is that its legislation permits it to clone human embryos and create them for research purposes, which is apparently contrary to the position of this government in Bill C-13.

The definition of human clone in Bill C-13 does not cover all forms of cloning. To allow this to proceed would violate the ethical guidelines for research on humans as laid out in the tri-council policy statement which covers all medical science and research professionals in Canada. It is also contrary to the position of the Royal Commission on Reproductive Technologies.

Members cannot say that there are no guidelines on cloning because there are. The only difference is that in Bill C-13 there are criminal sanctions. In the ethics of medical science and research professionals, the only sanctions would be the professional sanctions, possibly to lose status in the profession.

The next item is the fact that the bill will not improve the accessibility or safety of fertility treatment. One of the fundamental principles of the bill is that human reproductive materials are not commodities to be commercialized. The bill specifically prohibits the purchase or sale of sperm, eggs or embryos.

However, Canada has a shortage of sperm for fertility treatments and a Health Canada spokesperson testified before the health committee that today we import about 30% of our sperm from other countries, including the U.S., and some of it even comes from U.S. prisons.

By cutting off the ability to purchase sperm through imports or through for profit sperm clinics in Canada, the accessibility of fertility treatments in Canada will actually decline. If we do not have enough sperm and we have to import it today, but we cannot import it after Bill C-13 becomes law, we will not have enough sperm to provide for the demand of fertility treatments.

Health Canada has a solution. The solution is to establish an altruistic system like blood donation. However, it did not disclose this fact or explain why it thought it would be successful. Basically, it thinks people would donate out of the goodness of their hearts to help others with fertility problems.

If there are no commercial transactions permitted then how can researchers get surplus embryos from fertility clinics without some sort of compensation? Health Canada had a response to that, too; however, it said it had not figured it out yet. How do we get things going from fertility clinics into the hands of third party researchers? Its response was that it had not figured it out yet, but it would work it out and deal with it in the regulations.

Non-embryonic stem cells can in fact do anything that embryonic stem cells can do. In June 2002 Dr. Catherine Verfaillie of the University of Minnesota Stem Cell Institute published verified research that non-embryonic stem cells can do anything that embryonic stem cells can do. In fact, Dr. Pothier, who I mentioned earlier from the University of Laval, said that despite the ethical and immune rejection problems of embryonic stem cells, researchers want to use them because there is no money in non-embryonic stem cells.

The only reason they want the embryonic stem cells, in my view, is the commercial benefit. Researchers get their money from private interests substantively, from biotech firms and pharmaceutical companies. They want to use the embryonic stem cells because they are subject to immune rejection problems which require lifelong immune rejection drugs. Dr. Pothier was honest with the roundtable. There is no money in non-embryonic stem cells.

The final area that I want to comment on--and it was a theme that I thought was quite appropriate because it happens far too often in this place--has to do with the notion that some people think that MPs are nobodies.

The Standing Committee on Health reviewed the draft bill and made 34 recommendations. It asked for a response from the government within 150 days and there was no response forthcoming. The fact that there was no response makes me ask, why? The answer is because somebody thinks that MPs are nobodies.

The committee made three substantive amendments to Bill C-13 during clause by clause study. However, at report stage, the minister had her own motions to reverse all three and they passed. As a consequence, all of the work of the committee was effectively dismissed as wasted time. Why? Because somebody thinks that MPs are nobodies.

The definition of human clone is faulty and actually permits certain forms of human cloning. Health Canada did not think anybody would pick it up in the scientific definitions. Why? Because somebody thinks that MPs are nobodies.

Bill C-13 would change the medical definition of chimera to only prohibit the implantation of non-human life forms into humans but not the reverse. Nobody thought that MPs would catch that. Why? Because somebody thinks that MPs are nobodies.

Either Canada has one position at the UN and a different position in Bill C-13, or in fact the position at the UN to allow cloning for research and experimentation is identical to what it is in the bill. I agreed that it is the truth. Either way, it is unacceptable.

Nobody thought that we would find out about what we were doing at the UN, that we had a different position than what was being told to Parliament. Nobody thought we would find it. Why? Because somebody thinks that MPs are nobodies.

The bill has 28 areas in which regulations must be promulgated and details that are significantly important to the bill in order for members of Parliament to know what they are voting on. The bill has so many blanks in it because the detail will be in the regulations. This is the way we always do it. Why? Because somebody thinks that MPs are nobodies.

We are not nobodies. We should never be treated like that by anyone. We are entitled to have our questions answered and to be respected for our work. The House of Commons starts off each day with a prayer that we make good laws and wise decisions.

To conclude, let me assure all hon. members that I have spent two years doing my homework on Bill C-13 and it is my opinion that the bill is not a good bill but a fatally flawed bill.

Furthermore, since the government has closed the door on any consideration of amendments, I believe that the wisest decision is to defeat Bill C-13. We can and should do a better job on behalf of all Canadians.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2003 / 4:05 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-13. In fact I am one of the few members of the health committee who is in Ottawa today. The committee is on a cross-country tour on the pharmaceutical industry. I wanted to be here for this debate, as did other members, but sometimes I guess it is a question of one's priorities. As I have not spoken at third reading, I thought it important to be here.

This is an example of how a bill can go wrong. From the very beginning there was quite a bit of enthusiasm for this bill. This stems back to the royal commission on reproductive and genetic technologies about 10 years ago. Legislation concerning this subject has been before the House many times under different Parliaments and has yet to be passed.

There is a level of support for some clauses of the bill, those which pertain to reproductive technology. I do not think there is any question that there is support in the House for that. Our concerns are with some of the darker sides of the bill, which have been addressed by members today and which have to be acknowledged by the government.

It is the heavy-handedness of the government which put itself in the position of playing cat and mouse on the bill in terms of whether or not the bill will actually survive a vote on the floor of the House of Commons. There are many members on the government side not to mention on this side who are clearly upset with the direction the legislation is taking.

Many members will remember Hubert Humphrey, a famous American politician of a generation of politicians just slightly ahead of us. In fact at one time he was vice-president of the United States. He had an expression that the true measure of a government was how it cared for the elderly, the poor, the disenfranchised. I am paraphrasing, but basically he was saying that how a government looks after those people who need looking after is the true measure of a government. If that test is applied to this bill, it is a flawed piece of legislation.

It reminds me very much of the 1989 abortion bill that was on the floor of this House, Mr. Speaker, just shortly after you and I entered this place in 1988. I may be wrong, it may have been 1990, but somewhere in that timeframe we came into the House on a very contentious piece of legislation which many of us thought was flawed. We had an opportunity to vote on it.

My position always has been that I would never support any legislation that would basically destroy human life. I would only support abortion if the life of the mother was clearly endangered. Members of Parliament were under a lot of pressure to pass that legislation. Despite that pressure I stood and voted against the government on that bill and I have never regretted it.

On this bill, truly we are looking at just about the same dilemma. We do not want to deny the advancement of science which is really what the bill is founded on. It is a very wide-ranging bill. I will get into some of the banned practices later. Some members have mentioned them and maybe there is no need to go over them precisely.

It is interesting to note that nowhere in Bill C-13 is there an acknowledgement that its purpose is to stop infertility. That was supposed to be the focus of the bill. There is no mention in the bill of genetic testing of embryos and fetuses or how that would impact upon people with disabilities. There is nothing in the bill prohibiting the patenting of human genes. Therein lies the problem. The bill leaves openings big enough to drive a Mack truck through, as was mentioned by the member for Scarborough Southwest.

If we go through the minute detail of Bill C-13, the question becomes does it in fact prohibit cloning? I do not think any of us here in the House could claim to be experts on this subject, but there is no question in the minds of many experts that the bill would not stop cloning. It does not prohibit the very thing it says it would prohibit. The member pointed that out as well as he stepped through some of the details of the legislation.

Where does that leave many of us? None of us wants to be perceived as stopping the advancement of medical science. We know there is a balance between ethical concerns, moral concerns, philosophical concerns, religious concerns and so on against the advancement of medical science. We have to be sensitive to those concerns that haunt many of us.

I was stricken with cancer a number of years ago. I am probably one of the few members in the House who has had a stem cell transplant which basically translates into a bone marrow transplant. Through the advancement of medical science, individuals do not have to wait for a perfect match within their family where the risk is somewhat diminished versus the risk involved with someone outside the family. Over the last number of years stem cells can be harvested during the chemotherapy process when one becomes “cancer free” and has no cancer cells in the body. I am abbreviating much of the procedure because it is very complicated and I cannot pretend that I understand all of it.

I am here because of that advancement in medical science. My stem cells were harvested. Once I went through the bone marrow transplant, those stem cells were put back into my body thereby reducing the possibility of cancer reappearing. I am the recipient of that huge advancement in medical science in that particular area.

Some members may say that I should be the last person to object to some of the advancements that might take place because of the experimentation on the embryos. What concerns us is the ethical dilemma that we are in where these embryos, which are basically the beginning of human life, will be destroyed in the process.

Our party will have a free vote on this issue. I will be voting against it because of some of the concerns I have just outlined. Bill C-13 is flawed legislation. The government has had 10 years to get it right and it is not right yet.

I want to thank some of the government members opposite on the good work they have done on that, particularly the member for Mississauga South and others, including the member from Scarborough who just spoke.

I will conclude with that. I have appreciated the opportunity to put a few words on the record.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2003 / 3:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Tom Wappel Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address the House on this very important bill. I have talked about the bill before, but unfortunately I ran out of time. Therefore, I want to make a couple of comments on a couple of specific issues.

I want to begin where the hon. member for Wild Rose left off. He was talking about definitions and what we were talking about here. I just want to remind everybody that there is a definition of the word embryo in this statute, and I will read it.

--“embryo” means a human organism during the first 56 days of its development following fertilization or creation...

That means that by the very terms of the bill, by the very words of the bill, it is confirmed that an embryo is a human being. It is right in the act, so what are we talking about?

Of course it is a very complicated bill. There are many things in it. It has been partly drafted by lawyers, partly drafted by doctors and partly drafted by bureaucrats. However, there are many important fundamental considerations that must be addressed when we are talking about the bill. One is what are we doing when we are talking about experimentation on embryos, which by definition are human? It strikes me as utterly macabre to be talking about legislating permission to experiment on humans. Ultimately, that is exactly what we are talking about.

Experimentation on humans has occurred before, much to the distress of the world community. It is a question of where in the development of the human being this experimentation would take place. Here we are trying to have a regime where it will be possible to experiment on human organisms from the time they are conceived up until a certain defined time. That to me is something that we must not rush into.

I am heartened in my resolve by a survey which was recently conducted. The survey results were released on October 21. I would like to talk to members and to Canadians about the results of that poll.

I for one am a person who does not believe that we should legislate by polls, because after all if we legislate by polls, we do not need to be here. Everybody could ask the questions by polls and the legislation would occur. However, it does give us an opportunity to find out where Canadians stand on questions. I do know that whatever government is on this side of the House at any time, it will always stand when polls are favourable and say “The polls show that our policies are favourable to Canadians”. Of course the polls are ignored when they are not favourable.

Be that as it may, this poll was conducted by Léger & Léger. It was conducted between October 6 and October 13. It has a maximum margin of error of 2.5%, 19 times out of 20. The poll asked 1,500 Canadians a question. Basically they were asked if they thought it was acceptable to use human embryos for stem cell research or if they thought it would be preferable to use other sources of stem cells which did not involve loss of life or harm. The results are pretty clear. Only 21% thought it was acceptable to use embryonic stem cells, 33% said that it was not acceptable, while 37% said that it would be preferable to use other sources. What does that mean? It means that 70% of the people polled favoured ethical alternatives to embryonic stem cell research.

That is an important statistic because once people are educated to what it is we are talking about, they realize that they do not want to go down that dark road where we authorize the permission to experiment on human organisms. That is a very dangerous path which we must not follow.

There are numerous problems with this bill and one of them, which I would like to talk about, is the position of the government that says that the bill bans cloning. This comes up because there is a discussion going on right now in the United Nations. The United Nations delegates are considering whether there should be a resolution to ban cloning. One of the discussions is, should the ban apply only to reproductive cloning, or should it apply to therapeutic cloning or should it apply to all forms of cloning?

I do not know this for a fact, but it would appear as if the Canadian position at the United Nations is to favour a resolution which would ban only reproductive cloning. If that is true, it goes contrary to the stated position of the government in the House of Commons. On Monday, October 6, during question period, the Minister of Health was asked about this issue and about what was going on in the United Nations. I will quote her answer directly. While speaking about Bill C-13, she stated, “we ban all forms of human cloning”.

A supplementary question was asked and the Minister of Health answered, “Bill C-13 bans all forms of human cloning for any purpose, howsoever done”.

That is pretty darn clear. That is the same minister who, when she was minister of justice, indicated that there was no possibility there could be any interpretation of the definition of marriage other than that it was the union of one man and one woman. Wrong once, it is certainly possible to be wrong twice.

The definition in the bill of human clone states, “an embryo”, and that is a human organism:

--that, as a result of the manipulation of human reproductive material or an in vitro embryo, contains a diploid set of chromosomes obtained from a single - living or deceased - human being, foetus or embryo.

In my view this definition would cover a number of things, but would it cover everything, which is what the minister has told us it would cover in her answer. In my view, by using the word “single”, it would not cover pro-nuclei transfer. It would not cover the formation of chimeras and back breeding. It would not cover mitochondria transfer. It would not cover DNA recombinant germ line gene transfer or eugenics. All these kinds of cloning techniques have been described in several articles that we have been sent and, of course, that the committee has considered. To say categorically that all forms of human cloning have been banned, in my respectful opinion, is at best a mistake. I could go on.

It becomes a very complicated process to discuss this in medical terminology. However, suffice it to say, although I am not a doctor, I am a lawyer and I know that if definitions are not nailed down six ways to Sunday, someone will drive a Mack truck through that definition. We will see things happen that we did not anticipate and it will be too late to close the floodgates.

I urge the House to consider very seriously whether it wishes to pass this bill at this time. I am thankful for everyone's attention.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2003 / 3:45 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Progressive Conservative Perth—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will not take my full three minutes, but there is one thing I would like to say again on Bill C-13, the assisted human reproduction act. I wonder if it might not be prudent for the government to allow for a free vote on the bill as it is a conscience bill. That is all I want to say.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2003 / 1:50 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Progressive Conservative Perth—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-13, the reproductive technologies act. I have my reservations about this particular bill primarily because of the cloning aspect that might be perceived here.

Bill C-13 seeks to prohibit or control reproductive technologies such as cloning and establish a new federal agency to regulate and license fertility clinics and biomedical research involving human embryos. A bill solely addressing reproductive technologies would have easily passed over a year ago. However, since the vast majority of MPs would have voted to ban human cloning, it was thought that the bill would piggyback the ethically sensitive issue of destroying human embryos and still get passed.

Having underestimated the significant public backlash, the bill became the subject of intense public scrutiny. Initially, the concern was the ethics of destroying human embryos to harvest stem cells for research, but as time passed, many other weaknesses of the bill were discovered. I know a lot of those weaknesses have been discussed here today and I would wish that people would look into them even more.

Members should consider the following weaknesses. Despite the fact that Health Canada has already corrected one error in the definition of a human clone, the bill still does not ban all known forms and techniques of human cloning. I know, through much of my political career, that definitions are very important. One must look at all the definitions that could be described in this bill.

The bill would permit the implanting of human reproductive material into non-human life forms. The biomedical definition of chimera involves the implantation of reproductive material from a human into an animal or from an animal into a human; however, the definition in the bill only refers to the latter. I have friends who have had pig valves implanted in their hearts. I know that has been a very positive thing in life and in how things carry on, so I do understand that particular part.

Experts have estimated that there are less than 10 embryos available in Canada that would meet research quality requirements. The number of surplus embryos is not expected to increase since medical technology has improved. Comparatively, the U.K. has destroyed 40,000 human embryos without any positive research results.

The conflict of interest provisions are so weak that they would allow biotech and pharmaceutical companies to be represented on the board of the agency that would approve and licence research projects.

Significant clauses of the bill have been qualified by phrases such as “as per the regulations”. There are 28 areas in which regulations must be developed and these will not be known until at least 18 months after the bill has passed. Effectively, MPs are being asked to vote on a bill without knowing the full intent. Furthermore, MPs will not be permitted to approve regulations.

The Royal Commission on Reproductive Technologies and the health committee both recommend that paid surrogacy be prohibited. The bill would permit surrogates to be reimbursed for lost employment income if they get a doctor's certificate.

The bill ignores women's health issues by not establishing reasonable limits on the amount of drugs used by them or on the number of ova that can be harvested, or embryos that can be implanted.

The bill prohibits the purchase or sale of human reproductive material, but Health Canada does not explain how researchers would get embryos from for profit fertility clinics without paying compensation.

The bill does not establish uniform disclosure or informed consent practices to be used by all fertility clinics. Such disclosure would protect the interests of the infertile.

The health committee urged that the bill state what constituted necessary research. Specifically, the committee recommended that research on human embryos be permitted only if it could be demonstrated that that was no other biological material that could be used to achieve the same research objectives. The bill rejects the recommendation and delegates the decision to the federal agency.

The health committee made 30 such recommendations on the draft bill. The report received no response and most of the key recommendations are not reflected in Bill C-13.

The health committee heard from about 200 witnesses and received over 400 written submissions. As a result of that work, the committee passed three substantive amendments to the bill. At report stage, all three amendments were reversed, with the effect that the work of the health committee was virtually ignored.

I can relate to that particular situation. I have seen it happen with various other committees. I am a member of a couple of committees that have worked very diligently on various pieces of legislation. Being in the--

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2003 / 1:40 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-13, the assisted human reproduction act.

The recent history of the government has shown that the government likes to divide Canadians. We are already divided on lines of urban and rural demographics, and by regions. We are even divided on moral lines as witnessed by the proposed legislation regarding same sex marriage and some of the debate that has taken place in this House.

It is unfortunate that we spend so much time debating issues that divide this country.That is a question that this government and future governments need to address.

I believe this House is an instrument that should unite Canadians. If we cannot do the research and come to common sense positions, we should certainly not bring it into this House where it divides the country even more.

The other point I would like to make is that the work of the committees needs to be listened to by governments, not only today but down the road. There is no point in spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers' money, listening to witnesses and travelling across the country, only to end up with legislation that does not reflect at all the views of Canadians, the experts of this country.

It is so unfortunate that too often to talk about divisive issues in this House rather than issues that unite this country.

Again, this is one of those social-moral issues that the country wrestles with from time to time. We know that on the science side there are advantages and benefits to research. At the same time there are moral issues that need to be addressed by this country. We cannot just throw them into one pot and hopefully make a decision that makes all Canadians happy because that will not take place.

Maybe the first way to deal with this is to call for a free vote in this House. That way members of Parliament can represent their constituents. There are 301 constituencies in this country. We all come from different regions and locations. The makeups of our ridings are different in nature.

Our constituents have the last say. Certainly, in a represented democracy that is the key. The constituents sent us here and they should have a say in terms of how this country is run and the kind of legislation we should put in place.

Bill C-13 seeks to prohibit or control reproductive technologies such as cloning and establish a new federal agency to regulate and license fertility clinics and biomedical research involving human embryos.

A bill solely addressing reproductive technologies would have easily passed over a year ago. However, since the vast majority of MPs would have voted to ban human cloning--which I am sure would have taken place in this House--it was thought that the bill could piggyback the ethically sensitive issue of destroying human embryos and still get passed. Having underestimated the significant public backlash, the bill became the subject of intense public scrutiny. That is the conflict we have today.

Initially, the concern was the ethics of destroying human embryos to harvest stem cells for research; however, as time passed, many other weaknesses of the bill were discovered.

Despite the fact that Health Canada has already corrected one error in the definition of a human clone, the bill still does not ban all known forms and techniques of human cloning. I can assure the House that the people of Dauphin—Swan River do not support human cloning. The majority of my constituents do not support Bill C-13.

The bill would permit the implanting of human reproductive material into non-human life forms. The biomedical definition of chimera involves the implantation of reproductive material from a human into an animal or from an animal into a human. However, the definition in the bill only refers to the latter.

Experts have estimated that there are less than 10 embryos available in Canada that would meet research quality requirements. The number of surplus embryos is not expected to increase since medical technology has improved. Comparatively, the UK has destroyed 40,000 human embryos without any positive research results.

The conflict of interest provisions are so weak that they would allow biotech and pharmaceutical companies to be represented on the board of the agency that would approve and license research projects.

Significant clauses of the bill have been qualified by phrases such as “as per the regulations”. There are 28 areas in which regulations must be developed and these will not be known until at least 18 months after the bill is passed. Effectively, members of Parliament are being asked to vote on a bill without knowing the full intent. Furthermore, MPs will not be permitted to approve regulations.

The Royal Commission on Reproductive Technologies and the health committee both recommended that paid surrogacy be prohibited. The bill would permit surrogates to be reimbursed for lost employment income if they get a doctor's certificate.

The bill would ignore women's health issues by not establishing reasonable limits on the amount of drugs used by them or on a number of ova that could be harvested, or embryos that could be implanted.

The bill would prohibit the purchase or sale of human reproductive material, but Health Canada has not explained how researchers would get embryos from for profit fertility clinics without paying compensation.

The bill would not establish uniform disclosure or informed consent practices to be used by all fertility clinics. Such disclosure would protect the interests of the infertile.

The health committee urged that the bill state what constituted necessary research. Specifically, it recommended that research on human embryos be permitted only if it could be demonstrated that there was no other biological material that could be used to achieve the same research objectives. The bill would reject the recommendation and delegate the decision to the federal agency.

Let me close by saying that the health committee made 36 recommendations on the draft bill. Its report received no response and most of its key recommendations are not reflected in Bill C-13. In other words, why did we waste all that money doing the work that the committee did? The government still refused to listen to the committee. We will certainly oppose the bill.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2003 / 1:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski-Neigette-Et-La Mitis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak on this matter, because it is an extremely important issue in the current context. If we had more time, we could give the complete background of this issue.

Since we first came here in 1993, the Bloc Quebecois has many times very simply asked the government to pass a legislation regarding assisted human reproduction. We have asked the government to legislate within its jurisdiction, that isunder the Criminal Code, in order to allow provinces who wish to do so to deal with the administrative aspect of this issue once the federal government has decided to pass legislation in the area of assisted human reproduction.

Last spring, the Minister of Health finally decided to introduce Bill C-13. At one point, we asked her to split this bill, to settle the issue of the criminal aspect and to submit the issue of regulation to more extensive debate because there was no unanimous agreement on it, far from it.

So far, the minister has refused to split the bill in two. While we agree with some of the measures contained in this bill, the Bloc Quebecois members will be forced to vote against it. They will oppose the bill for numerous reasons.

Last spring, when we had a PQ government in Quebec, Mr. Legault was health and social services minister. He had clearly indicated his position. He said that in the present context of extremely rapid evolution in reproductive technologies and practices, the Quebec government agreed that there was a need to ban unacceptable practices such as human cloning. He wanted the government to act in this area.

The government went still further by saying that, unfortunately, it did not accept Bill C-13 because, once again, the federal government had not seen fit to stop where its jurisdiction left off. It was getting involved in areas under provincial jurisdiction. For ten years now we have been repeating this, and for ten years now the government has been turning a deaf ear. It acts as if it did not realize it was going beyond its limits. Then, it acts all surprised and describes the Bloc Quebecois as being opposed to everything. The Bloc is not against everything, but it is for defending the interests of Quebec. It is for defending the jurisdictions of Quebec and against the federal government's sticking its nose into our business. We have said this often enough, but the government does not want to understand.

For a variety of reasons, then, other colleagues will be rising this afternoon to speak out according to their conscience. Some others have already voiced their opinions and some of them will also be voting against the bill. I trust it will have the time to die on the order paper. This is an unacceptable bill as far as provincial jurisdictions are concerned. It represents a fundamental lack of respect for provincial areas of jurisdiction.

When we had a PQ government, perhaps the government across the way did not find it surprising that there was opposition to this bill. It told itself that this was not surprising, that sovereignists were totally against this bill because it was a federal bill.

Now, since April 14, we have a government in Quebec that has more of a federalist leaning, one that is a member of the same Liberal family as the one here. Yet this past October 8—not that long ago—the Quebec health and social services minister totally rejected Bill C-13. To have done the same as the Bloc Quebecois, and to reject this bill, he too must be a nasty separatist.

Our new branch office in Quebec City, which stands up for Quebec's rights, has also decided to stand up against Bill C-13. We made a commitment to the people of Quebec that we would come to Ottawa to defend the consensus in Quebec. What a wonderful consensus. This is what the health minister himself says, and I quote:

We have sent a clear signal to the federal government that we are very concerned about certain aspects of the bill, which we see as a clear encroachment on provincial jurisdictions.

What I think is interesting in what the minister is saying, is that he is using a word that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs like to use a lot, the word clear. He said that he sent a clear signal to the government that it was clearly encroaching on provincial jurisdictions.

The federal government must wake up and realize that, as far as we are concerned, it will not get very far with this bill. Even the Quebec minister himself would like the bill to die on the order paper, and would prefer that the bill not go forward, because it is far from ready and because, in terms of regulation, we already have a great deal of it in Quebec. We have a number of bills on this topic.

What did Minister Legault say last spring? He said that in Quebec, thought about assisted human reproduction and the development of related techniques began 15 years ago. He said that legislative and administrative measures, both for research and service delivery, had been implemented.

The provisions in Bill C-13 would change the process for designating institutions that deliver certain services exclusively. Under Bill C-13—should it be passed—the way Quebec's Civil Code views assisted human reproduction would be called into question and at least ten of Quebec's laws and regulations on this subject would be ultra vires.

We also have a different concept of access to information and the confidentiality of assisted human reproduction cases. The bill outlines qualifications required for professionals who practice assisted human reproduction and it sets out the authority to manage the storage of human reproductive material in the institutions. In some cases, the bill completely disregards the direction the Government of Quebec has taken in areas that are exclusively under its jurisdiction.

It is important for the federal government to understand that it must legislate criminal matters, because that is its responsibility. The issue of assisted human reproduction cannot continue to be left in a vacuum. The government has to change its mind entirely and get rid of clauses in the bill that encroach on provincial jurisdiction. It absolutely must do this and demonstrate good will.

The government has to realize that no matter what party is governing in Quebec, the moment the federal government interferes in Quebec's jurisdiction, Quebec's ministers and MNAs will stand up and speak out against the federal government for disregarding the Constitution that it signed. Even though we did not sign it, we are asking the government to abide by it.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2003 / 1:20 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-13 at this particular stage. I have had the chance to address it on a couple of previous occasions.

We in the opposition feel that regulation is needed in this field. We have heard that from a number of members debating this topic today. As many of my colleagues have said, there is concern about this because it deals with the creation and death of human life and requires some measure of public oversight on that regulation.

It should be noted that we do support a number of aspects of Bill C-13. We fully support bans on reproductive or therapeutic cloning, chimeras, animal-human hybrids, sex selection, germ line alteration and the buying and selling of embryos. We also support a regulatory body to monitor and regulate fertility clinics, though we want changes to the agency proposed in the bill.

As many of my colleagues have talked about the aspects of the preamble, I will focus specifically on some of the concerns we have with the bill in its current form. We support the recognition that the health and well-being of children born through assisted human reproduction should be given priority. In fact, the health committee came up with a ranking of whose interests should have priority in the decision making around the idea of assisted human reproduction and related research.

The three priorities were the following: first, children born through an AHR system; second, adults participating in AHR procedures; and third, researchers and physicians who conduct assisted human reproductive research.

While the preamble of the bill recognizes the priority of AHR offspring, and this is a good thing, other sections of the bill fail to meet the standard. Children born through donor insemination, from donor eggs, are not given the right to know the identity of their biological parents. I will address the issue of donor identity in a moment.

The bill's preamble does not provide an acknowledgement of human dignity or respect for human life. This is obviously a big issue for many people in Canada. The bill is intimately connected with the creation of human life and yet there is no overarching recognition of the principle of respect for human life. This is a grave deficiency that many people have identified.

The committee's minority report recommended that the final legislation clearly recognize human embryo as human life and that the statutory declaration include the phrase “respect for human life”. We believe the preamble and the mandate of the proposed agency should be amended to include reference to this principle of respect for human life. That would help to calm many people's fears because many people do feel that science and technology, reproductive technologies and the continuing on of research in many of these facets for improving Canadian's lives and the conditions of other people around the world is something that is very important. Clearly there needs to be some recognition of the importance of human life so people's fears that this will not be abused in the future can be calmed.

In the area of the regulatory agency, the bill would create the assisted human reproduction agency of Canada to issue licences for controlled activities, collect health reporting information, advise the minister and designate inspectors for the enforcement of the act. The board of directors would be appointed by a governor in council with a membership that would reflect a range of backgrounds and disciplines relevant to the agency's objectives. The bill in this area was amended at committee placing board members under conflict of interest provisions. That is something that is of importance.

At report stage the health minister succeeded, however, in undoing part of that amendment. Licensees remain ineligible to serve as board members but the minister removed the section requiring that board members have no pecuniary or proprietary interests in any business operating in the reproductive technologies field. That is an important change because we have seen over and over again many conflicts of interest, or alleged conflicts of interest, in this government. We would hate to see that happen in an independent body that is obviously overseeing the regulation pertaining to reproductive technologies.

Clause 25 would allow the minister to give any policy direction she likes to the agency and the agency must follow it without any questions. If the agency were an independent agency, answerable strictly to Parliament, such political direction would be more difficult. The entire clause should be eliminated in our opinion.

The Canadian Alliance proposed amendments specifying that the agency board members be chosen for their wisdom and judgment. This was a health committee recommendation in the report “Building Families”. We want to avoid an agency captured by interests and clearly, that would be a good thing. Members must be able to work together to pursue the greater good, not merely represent certain constituencies.

The Liberals rejected their own recommendation when our amendment came up during the review of Bill C-13 at committee. At report stage the health minister succeeded in deleting one of the clauses requiring board members of the assisted human reproduction agency to come under conflict of interest rules. On this point, I believe the health committee had it right. Board members should not have commercial interests in the field of assisted human reproduction or related research.

We can draw on examples here. Imagine an employee or an investor in a biotech company with a financial interest in embryonic stem cell research making decisions for Canadians on the regulations of such research, including the definition of the word necessary, as specified in clause 40. Imagine the director of a fertility clinic making regulations on limits on sperm and egg donations or number of embryos produced for IVF treatments. Such conflicts of interest need to be prevented in this legislation. This change obviously could rise in some of those unfortunate conflicts.

The health minister said that subclause 26(8) would prevent almost anyone from serving on the board, but this was clearly not the intent of the health committee in its spirit.

To move on to the issue of donor anonymity, I know it is something that many of my colleagues have addressed in the House. Although the agency would hold information on donor identity, children conceived through donor insemination or donor eggs would have no right to know the identify of their parents without their written consent to reveal it. Donor offspring would have access to medical information of their biological parents. Some of the concern with this is that donor offspring and many of their parents want to end the secrecy that shrouds donor anonymity and denies children knowledge of an important chapter of 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 children.

In its review of draft legislation the health committee recommended an end to donor anonymity. Even in the minority report, the CA position was that where the privacy rights of donors of human reproductive materials conflicted with the rights of children to know their genetic and social heritage, the rights of the children should prevail.

However, when the issue came up during the review of Bill C-13, the Liberals defeated an Alliance amendment to end anonymity in a close vote. I believe it was six to five on the committee.

The government attaches a higher weight to the privacy rights of donors than to the access to information rights of donor offspring. This is where the Liberals get it backwards. An identified donor is a responsible donor and if all donors had to be willing to identify, then people would donate for the right reasons. Today, one of the main motivations for anonymity is the money factor, which is unfortunate.

There are just a couple of last concerns I would like to address before concluding. One of the issues is with clause 71, which allows the grandfathering of controlled activities until a date fixed by the regulations. This clause would allow scientists to engage in a controlled activity before the act takes effect thereby avoid licensing requirements and prosecution provisions. This could result in a stampede toward controlled activities before the bill takes effect. An example would be embryonic research.

The other issue I would like to address is the chimera issue. This bill prohibits animal to human chimera. That means human embryos implanted with animal cells. However, it does not prohibit human to animal chimera, animal embryos implanted with human cells. The definition of chimera should have been amended to include both human and animal embryos in which cells of other species have been implanted. I believe Motion No. 5 to this effect was unfortunately defeated, at committee.

A Liberal motion passed at report stage would allow the reimbursement for loss of work related income for surrogates when a doctor certified that continuing to work would pose a health risk to the carrier of the fetus. We oppose the motion because it permits the commodification of human life, rent a womb, payment for children, and the health committee also wanted no such payment for surrogacy. This was another issue of concern for many people.

I conclude by saying that I hope the Prime Minister will allow a free vote on this issue. It is obviously a matter of conscience for many members and we hope that element of bringing in a free vote in this place will be respected.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2003 / 1:15 p.m.
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Miramichi New Brunswick

Liberal

Charles Hubbard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I listened with a great deal of interest to the speeches given not only today but over the months and years that we have been looking at the various aspects of Bill C-13.

I know Health Canada and various other groups have spent a great deal of time putting the bill together, and we as parliamentarians have listened with interest to the points of view of many different groups not only here in the House but also across the country.

I would like to mention three or four main concerns that many people have with the legislation, cloning being one. I am not sure who in our society wants to be cloned. I do not think society would benefit a great deal if I or the hon. member for Prince Albert were cloned. However, within the biological concepts that civilization is now discussing, there is the possibility that humans can be cloned.

We have been hearing about the great need in terms of reproductive technology. We know that many families have difficulty having children. As a result, our best medical people and many of our clinics are working toward the concept that couples who have trouble conceiving will be able to have children as a result of research and work that might be done as a result of Bill C-13.

One of the main concerns the people in my riding have is the matter of embryos. It appears that Bill C-13 does not really define what stage of life an embryo is. We know that an embryo begins at conception but in terms of the definition that we might want to use with the bill, when does an embryo change from one that may be used for scientific purposes to one that has the value of life and is allowed to develop into a human being?

The right to life groups are especially concerned that the embryo, really being the beginning of life, should not be part of any research that is being done. They believe that an embryo is the beginning of human life and should be allowed to continue to develop into a child.

More important, when we talk about producing embryos in terms of the legislation, we have to be concerned about what will become of the ones that are not used. When semen is matched up with an egg, the embryo results and if more than one is produced in terms of a couple wanting to have children, what becomes of the others? Can they be frozen and kept for later on in terms of creating a new life with a surrogate mother?

In terms of the whole concept, I hope we will debate the bill in the House and develop the best possible legislation that we can offer to the Senate. The Senate will then review the legislation at length. Hopefully, through sober thought in the other house, which is part of government, it will make changes that will be brought back to this House so we will eventually produce an act that will enable our country to have a good system of reproductive technology.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2003 / 1:05 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

John Williams Canadian Alliance St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate on Bill C-13 dealing with reproductive technology on which many people have waxed eloquently in this chamber on many occasions. I feel it is only appropriate that I add my voice to this very controversial and contentious yet extremely important debate.

It seems to me, when I take a look at the bill, that members of the government have not truly figured out where babies come from. Perhaps they still believe in the stork. They seem to differentiate between the way that we deal with embryos and life before birth and life after birth. I think that is totally wrong on the Liberals' part. I can understand their whole motivation because it seems to be the way that they do things.

Let us start with adults. Before adults, they were children. Before children, they were babies. Before they were babies, they were babies waiting to be born. Before they were fetuses, they were eggs and sperm. It is a fairly simple process of a continuum leading, hopefully once we reach old age, to death and the life hereafter, however we believe in that. The point is there is a continuum from inception all the way through gestation to birth and life.

We all know it has been the government's policy to leave a vacuum and to wait for the courts to fill that vacuum before it acts. Then the Liberals will say that society has moved in a certain direction and they just have to legitimize it through legislation. We have seen that on the same sex marriage issue that is currently being debated in the country.

We could go back a number of years to when the abortion agenda was fought at great length. The debate was heated. Finally the government of the day under Mr. Brian Mulroney said it did not know what to do as it could not come to a consensus, so it left a vacuum and the courts filled it. Today abortion is something that is just a normal occurrence. It happens hundreds of times across Canada each and every day.

Here we are again. The government wants to leave a vacuum in the legislation so that researchers can be allowed to use embryos as if they were just specimens cut from a piece of flesh and do their research and testing as if there were no consequences whatsoever. There are many Canadians who believe that human embryos are life in transition, life in the evolution to being a full born baby. As the previous speaker pointed out, we would never hand over our babies for research. We would never allow our babies to be slaughtered for research, although it did happen once before in history and many people died in order to put a stop to that.

Again here there is the notion that embryos, life in the womb, life before birth, are now going to be used by researchers just as another commodity. That debases all life and if it debases all life, it debases us, those who were elected to lead and make decisions on behalf of all Canadians. If we allow life to be debased, where does it stop? What do we stand on? Where do we stand? Do we believe in the right of every Canadian to freedom or only those who have been born?

The government has refused time after time to provide legislative protection for life before birth. It has always struck me as unexplainable that the day before a baby is born it can be aborted, and that is the end of that, yet if somebody kills it the day after it is born it is murder and subject to life in prison; 25 years and no parole. It is two days apart: the day before birth and the day after birth. What was different? Nothing was different in my opinion.

The government tends to leave human embryos before birth totally without legal protection of any kind whatsoever. The more the government allows this vacuum to remain, the more science starts to use these embryos for research and the more it becomes an everyday occurrence the more we just say “Well it is already here so let it happen”.

What does this place stand for if it is not as the voice of the nation, speaking out not only for those who are alive today but those who are being born today.

It reminds me of something, more on abortion than on embryos. I listened to Cross Country Checkup a few years ago when there was a debate on abortion. I believe it was Rex Murphy who had a panel of young people. One young gentleman said on the radio that life had been tough for him. He had a single mother and he grew up with nothing to speak of, no affluence or prosperity. They struggled along but he said that he was really glad that his mother had decided not to abort him. Even though life had been tough, he said that he would rather have that than no life at all.

Now that abortion has become commonplace, if we do not stop this now, embryos for research will become commonplace.

Do they feel pain? I do not know. I am not in the medical science business. However if they do feel pain and we start taking knives to them and doing whatever else we do to them, I cannot imagine the horrors we would be inflicting upon these embryos. We leave it to science and to the scientists who are performing these research tests to tell us whether they believe that an embryo can feel pain. When it is still at the very early cell state, perhaps not, but I am sure later on the pain actually becomes something that they can feel. I would imagine that it is not something that switches on, on a particular day. I would think it is something that evolves over time during the gestation period, and the concept of pain becomes something that an embryo can deal with.

Where does this human research stop and where does it start? What is allowable and what is not?

Going way back to the dawn of history, I think we realized that life begins before birth and therefore I think it is more in line that we bring in protection for life before birth, rather than allow it to be on the researchers' tables so that they can examine these cells underneath the microscope.

We do not know what is going to happen. We should always err on the side of caution. We should always err on the side of Canadians born and unborn, potentially born. To allow this type of process to become a normal process would be debasing to our society.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2003 / 12:55 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Philip Mayfield Canadian Alliance Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, during the last session I had the opportunity to address the House on what was then Bill C-56. Now I have the opportunity to continue to address this important piece of legislation which is now Bill C-13.

The number of the legislation has changed, but the concerns have not changed. Given that the legislation, when enacted, will govern human biological technology development for perhaps the next 50 years, the government's lack of care, caution and ethical integrity is both astounding and frightening. We know that the legislation goes right to the heart of the issue of what it means to be a human being and the relation of a human being to the state.

It is arguably the most important piece of legislation the House will ever deal with. Members of the official opposition have been mindful of this fact and I would like to acknowledge their hard work, especially on the health committee, in this regard.

The notion of what it means to be a human being sounds quite lofty and academic, but let us accept the fact that the bill is about children, about how people can be assisted in conceiving and having healthy children and about ensuring ethical technology around this important endeavour.

I last spoke about the issue of using adult stem cell research instead of the ethical minefield of embryonic stem cell research. The official opposition supports the bill's ban on cloning. We also support the ban on commercial surrogacy. However, this time I would like to keep my address to just two other important issues, first, the issue of the agency created by the bill and second, the identity of the rights of children born of such technologies. Indeed, the creation and responsibilities of the agency take up half the text of the bill itself and the identity rights of children created through these technologies is given precious little consideration.

The official opposition supports the creation of an agency to oversee any technology related to the assisting of people having healthy children. However there are problems with the relationship of the agency, parliamentarians and the public at large, just to name a few.

There are no provisions in the bill for regular reports by the agency to Parliament, but the agency itself will not be independent. Just like a government department, it will write its own performance evaluation. We know that many of the regular governmental department performance reports are rarely worth very much.

Another problem is that a minister of the crown can at any time give an order to affect any of the agency's powers. This is despite the fact that regulations must be laid before Parliament and can be referred to committee. This is not accountability; it is another expansion of ministerial power and the diminishment of accountability to Parliament.

Another problem is that the configuration of the agency falls under orders in council. That is a problem. We have all the usual concerns regarding this type of governance. Experience has taught us that the government does not have a stellar reputation in this regard.

What will be the ethical framework of the board of directors and the president of the agency? We know their mandate is to foster the application of ethical principles in relation to assisted human reproduction. I have no doubt that they will be scientifically and legally well informed individuals, but how much confidence will the public have if the appointments for such issues as life and death are made by orders in council? My guess is that ethicists will be add-ons to the list of what we call experts and stakeholders. The ethicists' role is crucial, but the government would be hard pressed to recognize an ethicist even if it fell over one. It is a telling sign of the times that we even have ethicists on call to help us with these complex issues.

It is lamentable that we cry “Canadian values”, and then fail miserably sorting out good and evil, necessary and unnecessary, and conflict of interest. What was once understood and recognized as being right and true has deteriorated into a collision of group rights versus individual autonomy. Ethics are based on longstanding tried and true principles, not on day to day polls on human values. It is no less true in the legislation.

We also demanded that any recommendations by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health should be considered seriously by the health minister. We know that the government likes to put most issues of process and accountability out of the reach of parliamentarians and the public through the creation of a myriad of bureaucratic regulations. However, the official opposition demanded that any regulations affecting the health of unborn children be referred to the health committee.

Regulations are only as good as they are achieved by consensus. That consensus includes the Canadian people through their elected representatives. Such consensus cannot be achieved in the dark by ministerial fiat.

These demands from the official opposition in no way undermine the research and science on this issue. The official opposition always supports the goal of health and well-being for Canadians.

As for the rights of the children conceived by the assistance of sex technologies, the goal is still healthy children, remembering that we have come a long way in the medical advancements for physical well-being of children. However, it has always been my contention that the bill does not deal with that other part of our lives that is so important to us. That is our identity.

Life is more than just physical well-being. It is important that the environment for children is both safe and loving and that the parents of children born through these technologies receive the best care in part because of the great effort taken to have them created. However, there is something more. It is our human connectedness to the past.

Many adoptive parents in Canada go a long way to ensure that their children know their heritage if it is different from the non-biological parents. Why do they do that? Because they realize the importance of culture and history as well as the biological roots.

We have whole sections of our society stratified according to their birth and heritage in order for certain rights and privileges. Whole government departments are dedicated to a section of our society because we recognize the importance of history.

Genetic and biological parental identity apparently is important to the government for particular groups of people, such as the aboriginal community, but for anyone with the assistance of this technology, the identity of the biological parents is not allowed to be considered as important. This bizarre and inconsistent policy, I believe, amounts to the commodification not of the child but instead the donors of sperm and ovum.

Sperm and ovum are called reproductive material in the bill. Yes, this material is the constituent entity of the continuation of human life, but we know and celebrate that human life is also the intricate web of relationships, cultures and histories.

We cannot nor do we want to escape the physical reality that there is a mother and a father to every human being who walks this earth. Children conceived by these technologies should have the opportunity to know who their mother and father are.

This is why we on this side of the House do not agree with the anonymity of human reproductive material. Anonymity degrades and commodifies such natural material. In fact, the United Nations recognizes the right for all children to know their biological identity and yes, that means the identity of the mother and the father, whether through birth or what they call “other status”. If the traditional adoptive processes of this nation are starting to recognize the importance of identity, why does this legislation not?

Donating sperm and ovum is not the same as handing over a child. The psychological impact of the two cannot be compared. Donations of human reproductive materials can result in hundreds of children with similar genetic heritage.

I am sure that members from all parties would agree with the United Nations on this particular issue of the right to identity for all human beings. Anonymity should not be an option. The fear is that the supply of donors will decrease dramatically.

Yes, we will no longer get university medical students or will we get donors of sperm compliments of the U.S. prison system. Instead we will get more mature adults who understand the plight of those wishing for a healthy child. The motivation is on completely different grounds. Sweden and New Zealand have both moved to a known donor system. We know that it can be done.

This biological material is not like a pint of blood or a kidney or a heart that means life to a patient. We are all somebody's child and so should those be who are conceived through this technology.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2003 / 12:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to speak to third reading of Bill C-13, the Assisted Human Reproduction Act. At the outset, I want to indicate that the Bloc Quebecois intends to vote against the bill. Our Liberal friends opposite are experts at confusing the public and twisting the policies put forward by other parties and the way their opponents vote.

First, for the record and for those who are watching us, I want to make one thing clear. The Bloc Quebecois does support a ban on cloning. However, we will oppose the bill in its present form, unless the government agrees to split it.

My hon. colleague from Hochelaga—Maisonneuve moved in committee to split the bill. The provisions concerning paid surrogacy and cloning would have been dealt in one bill. We would then have been able to support a ban on cloning and paid surrogacy and to forget about creating a new Canada-wide agency to control the operations of infertility clinics throughout Canada.

This is why we intend to oppose the bill if it is not amended. However, people should not try to interpret our opposition as meaning that we agree with human cloning. I wanted to put things in perspective from the outset.

As I was saying earlier, the bill would create a pan-Canadian agency to control fertility practices across the country. We consider that all this is strictly within the provincial governments' jurisdiction. This is another example of the type of federalism that is advocated and preached by the Liberal Party of Canada. This really is riding roughshod over provincial jurisdictions.

The members of the Bloc are sovereignists. There is no ambiguity there. We want to tell this government that the way it is acting only serves to confirm and reinforce the reasons for which Quebec should get out of the Canadian federation. Quite simply, the federal government is not content to stick to its own areas of jurisdictions, as they were set out in the Constitution Act, 1867, when Canada was born. The Bloc Quebecois members consider that this pact does not work any more. This is why we believe that the best way to get rid of this constitutional agreement is for Quebec to achieve sovereignty. We will then be able to take all of our responsibilities and to do as we see fit, as everything will then truly be under Quebec's jurisdiction.

This government is once again riding roughshod over provincial jurisdictions. This is why we cannot support this bill.

I believe that today's discussions on this bill are a clear illustration of what my colleague, the hon. member for Trois-Rivières, has presented in his motion, which will be voted on later this week, during private members' business.

That motion deplores this government's flagrant intrusion into areas that are under the jurisdiction of Quebec, which is the reason we say, and I repeat, that sovereignty is the way to put an end to this.

I believe the very eloquent speech of my colleague from Trois-Rivières, and those of the other colleagues who have spoken on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, clearly illustrate what is going on. Bill C-13 provides us with evidence of just how justified the motion introduced by my colleague for Trois-Rivières is.

As reinforcement of the Bloc Quebecois position, on Tuesday October 7, Quebec health minister Philippe Couillard confirmed his opposition to the controversial Bill C-13, because he felt—and still does—that it is clear interference into Quebec's jurisdiction.

I do not know if people will agree with me. Perhaps the Quebec health minister is re-examining his political career. This reputed neurosurgeon may be rethinking his federalist allegiance, since he is a member of the Liberal Party of Quebec, a federalist party, and the party that has formed the Government of Quebec legitimately elected by the majority of the population since April 13, 2003. So, we must acknowledge that the Liberal Party of Quebec constitutes the Government of Quebec. Yet, its Minister of Health has made clear his opposition to Bill C-13, because he considers it an encroachment on areas that fall under the jurisdiction of Quebec. As it happens, he objects to precisely the same provision that we in the Bloc Quebecois find problematic: the creation of this Canada-wide super-agency, which would administer, regulate and control practices in all fertility clinics across Canada.

For all these reasons, we in the Bloc Quebecois must pursue our efforts and representations. Perhaps the members of the Liberal majority will eventually see the light. Perhaps they could reconsider and just withdraw Bill C-13 or not go ahead with it.

Now that the member for LaSalle—Émard is firmly in the saddle, even though he has yet to be chosen at a convention, and that he is clearly in control of the legislative agenda, there are rumours of an adjournment on November 7. All one has to do is look at how long we are taking to debate in this place matters that could be resolved much faster.

The government is drawing things out. It does not have an agenda. It is keeping members busy at committee with various tasks that are not necessarily useful, while we would like to know what direction this government wants to take and what the position of the member for LaSalle—Émard, the phantom leader of the Liberal Party is. Witness the fact that he is never in the House, he is never here to answer questions. The member for Saint-Maurice, the current Prime Minister, is answering the questions while the other one is pulling the strings, with his informal cabinet meetings, and his informal pizza lunches. In reality, he is the one pulling all the strings.

We saw it last week, with respect to the high-speed train in the Quebec City-Windsor corridor. The henchmen, the Pontius Pilates of the member for LaSalle—Émard, used that issue to literally trash and question this government's commitment to invest $700 million in a high-speed train project.

And this is happening constantly. I think the government should show its true colours and withdraw Bill C-13. At any rate, we will be voting against it.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2003 / 12:40 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Canadian Alliance Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-13, the government's ill-conceived blanket legislation regarding reproductive technologies and human embryo research, two very distinct and very important issues rolled into one piece of legislation.

With regard to reproductive technologies, there are some positive elements to the legislation, including the fact that it addresses bans on reproductive or therapeutic cloning, chimera animal-human hybrids, sex selections, germ line altercation and the buying and selling of embryos.

Cloning is of particular concern to constituents in my riding. I have received numerous letters, postcards and petitions from residents asking Parliament to pass legislation that would stave off the potential threat of cloning research in Canada. They feel it is an affront to human dignity, rights and morality.

Research on embryonic human stem cells requires the destruction, the death, of the embryo. So far no disease has been cured or alleviated as a result of this research or the use of embryonic stem cells, despite early hopes that such therapies might be helpful for patients suffering neurological diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

In contrast, use of adult stem cells is a far more acceptable option to many people, and research suggests using adult stem cells may even be a favourable option.

Dr. Helen Hodges, a British researcher, has said that adult stem cells may be safer and more flexible than fetal cells. According to Hodges, some of the work she has done indicates adult stem cells travel to the area needing repair, whereas embryonic stem cells remain where they are injected.

Hodges also notes that because adult patients can donate their own stem cells for treatment, the cells are not treated as foreign objects by the body's immune system and rejected.

Other published research suggests adult stem cells are able to develop into a greater variety of different tissues than embryonic stem cells and are favourable because they are more readily available.

Earlier this year, writer Wesley J. Smith highlighted the story that appeared in the New York Times of a teenager whose heart had been pierced with a three-inch nail, causing him to have a serious heart attack. The teen was selected to take part in a clinical trial using adult stem cells to repair damaged hearts. A special protocol was developed and after extracting stem cells from the young man's blood they were injected into the coronary artery that supplies blood to the heart. A few days later the teen's doctor noted an incredible improvement in his heart function.

While not yet common, cases such as that one are far from isolated and are giving researchers hope for the potential of adult stem cell treatments.

As Smith noted in his article:

Money spent on embryonic-stem-cell research and human cloning is money that cannot be spent on [investigating] adult stem cells.

A new era appears to be dawning in which our own cells will be the sources of very potent medicine. Rather than having to choose between morality and the wonders of regenerative medicine, it increasingly looks like we can have both.

On behalf of my constituents, I have to voice the concerns my party and I have about the use of embryonic research, particularly when a viable alternative such as the use of adult stem cells looks so promising.

Bill C-13 would allow for the creation of embryos, especially for reproductive research. If put into law, this would legitimize the view that human life can be created solely for the benefit of others.

Embryonic stem cell research inevitably results in the death of an embryo, early human life. It is a scientific fact that an embryo is early life. The complete DNA of an adult human is present at the embryo stage. For many Canadians, this violates the ethical commitment to respect human dignity, integrity and life.

Embryonic research also constitutes an objectification of human life, where life becomes a tool that can be manipulated and destroyed for other, even ethical, ends.

Adult stem cells are a safe, proven alternative to embryonic stem cells. Sources of adult stem cells include the umbilical cord, blood, skin tissue and bone tissue. In fact just this weekend the headlines in our local paper, the StarPhoenix , indicated that the umbilical cord has saved the life of one of our young children.

Adult stem cells are easily accessible. They are not subject to immune rejection and they pose minimal ethical concerns.

Embryonic stem cell transplants are subject to immune rejection because they are foreign tissues, while adult stem cells used for transplants are typically taken from one's own body.

Adult stem cells are being used today in the treatment of Parkinson's, leukemia, MS and other conditions. Embryonic stem cells have not been used in the successful treatment of a single person. Research, resources and efforts should be focused on this more promising and proven alternative.

The bill specifies that the consent of the donor to a human embryo is required in order to use a human embryo for experiment. The bill leaves it to regulations to define donor, note the singularity of the term donor, but it is vital to remember that there are two donors to every human embryo: a woman and a man. Both donors, parents, should be required to give written consent for the use of a human embryo, not just one.

I have only just touched on some of the complex elements of the bill. The issues I have highlighted are the ones that are of the most concern to my constituents, and I am pleased to bring those concerns to the House.

Residents and organizations in my riding have expressed, categorically, opposition to the embryonic stem cell research. I have heard from my own constituents and from across the province, but specifically from towns, villages and the city of Saskatoon in my riding.

Residents and constituents from the towns of Allan, Bladworth, Bradwell, Burr, Colonsay, Elbow, Hanley, my own community of Kenaston, Lanigan, Loreburn, Outlook, Strongfield, Viscount and Watrous, including Young, all want to send a clear message. They do not want the killing of embryonic humans for the purposes of stem cell research. They believe this is immoral, unethical and unacceptable.

I ask that when it comes time to vote on this bill that my colleagues in the House will keep in mind the concerns of constituents from my riding and from across the country.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2003 / 12:30 p.m.
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Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this House today, at third reading stage of the bill on assisted human reproductive technologies, to draw the attention of the hon. members of this House to a common occurrence in this Parliament.

We saw it this morning, during private members' business, when we debated a motion about intrusion in Quebec's jurisdictions, which was put forward by the hon. member for Trois-Rivières. This is a case in point.

The assisted human reproduction bill was introduced a long time ago, and has been before this House for a very long time. It dates back to even before the April 14, 2003 election in Quebec. At the time, Quebec was opposed. Federalist members in this place may think that there was opposition because there was sovereignist government in Quebec City, but it is not so.

The new Government of Quebec, a federalist government led by Mr. Charest, and the health minister, Mr. Couillard, have spoken out against this bill. They did not address the substance, but wondered whether this was not a systematic encroachment on an area of provincial responsibility.

Therefore, the Bloc Quebecois cannot support such a motion. The current federalist Government of Quebec will not support such a bill either, and does not want it passed.

I remind the hon. members that Bill C-13 on assisted reproduction will make human cloning a criminal offence. That is not a problem, since the Criminal Code falls under federal jurisdiction. We therefore support this notion. The same is true of the ban on paid surrogacy.

The Bloc Quebecois, the Government of Quebec and all parties in the National Assembly of Quebec all agree, however, when it comes to the establishment of a Canadian agency to monitor the practices used by fertility clinics across the country. That is what the Quebec health minister, Mr. Couillard, is opposed to.

It is important for people to realize that the government is putting legislation through in an area over which it has, for a large part, no jurisdiction. In this respect, the Bloc Quebecois proposed that the bill be split, to ensure that federal jurisdiction was clearly defined, and that we would be voting on the matters of federal jurisdiction. As for the part that is more specifically a provincial jurisdiction, we should leave it to the provinces to look after it.

It was reported in Le Devoir that:

The position taken by the Charest government makes it even more unlikely that this very controversial bill will be passed in the House of Commons over the next few days.

Quebec understands what is going on here. When the Government of Quebec speaks out against the fact that the federal government is encroaching upon its jurisdiction, it is totally normal for Quebeckers to be united in seeking justice.

We often see this type of behaviour on the part of the federal government. We saw it with young offenders and with the millennium scholarships. Bills that interfere in Quebec's jurisdictions are being rammed through the House, which makes it obvious that this government does not believe in co-operative federalism.

Today, we know that the Government of Quebec, a federalist government headed by Jean Charest, is against this bill. It wants everything that comes under provincial jurisdiction to be removed from the bill. So why would the federal government not take the time to re-examine its bill and remove from it all aspects that are not under its jurisdiction, so as to respect the consensus that exists in Quebec?

We also know that members of the Alliance and a number of pro-life Liberal members are opposed to this bill. More specifically, they are opposed to the use of human embryos for stem cell research. This is not the thrust of the debate in which I am taking part this morning. Indeed, it is an area that needs to be regulated, but it must always be done with respect for provincial jurisdictions.

In fact, the Quebec health minister, Mr. Couillard, said that if the bill were defeated or died on the order paper, he firmly intended to deal with this issue. He said that this issue could not be left dangling, that a firmer regulatory framework was needed and that they would clarify the situation with their federal counterparts and then decide whether or not there was a need to legislate.

However, the federal government must first accept to take a step backwards and wait before passing this bill so there is no interference in provincial jurisdictions.

We know full well that Quebec has no jurisdiction in criminal matters, but it could have jurisdiction over the organization and management of fertility clinics. Mr. Couillard, the minister, said so himself, and I quote:

We will set up the appropriate legislative framework in our own jurisdiction, but I shall wait to see how the federal plan evolves before going any further.

Thus, we are in a system, the federal system, where each of the two governments claims jurisdiction over the same sector, from time to time. Here it is clear: the aspect relating to the Criminal Code is a federal responsibility, while the aspect relating to management of fertility clinics and all aspects related to health are under provincial jurisdiction.

Moreover, different approaches have become established in various provinces for some years. In Quebec, we hope to continue to be progressive in this field, to show leadership and adopt attitudes that reflect the will of Quebeckers. That is what is lacking today.

Often, there are situations that are difficult to assess; there must be legislation to manage the issues of cloning and surrogate motherhood. It is important to make laws in this domain, because if no one does, problems will be left unresolved and behaviours will become habits. Nevertheless, the federal responsibility is not to take a position in areas under provincial jurisdiction, but rather to pass a bill that deals with its own jurisdiction, as soon as possible.

If the federal government had taken this kind of attitude when the bill was first debated in the House—I think that was over a year ago—we would already have settled the issue. In fact, we could have split the bill and adopted it based on the elements that are federal government responsibilities. On that part of the bill, the Bloc Quebecois would probably have supported the federal government. As for the other part of the bill, which is not within federal jurisdiction, the Bloc cannot support the government.

The government led by Jean Charest, the Parti Quebecois, as official opposition, the Action démocratique du Québec, intervenors from the field, who are familiar with actual practice in Quebec, and the general public—although they may not all agree on the approach to be taken—all believe that the Government of Quebec has the responsibility, that it should shoulder that responsibility and that the federal government should stick to its own areas of jurisdiction.

We know that unacceptable practices such as creating human clones do exist now. There are also the fertility clinics' activities, for which Quebec is responsible. Bill C-13 contains a number of flaws that should be corrected. I still have hopes as far as opposition to this bill is concerned. The government has to correctly evaluate the situation. The government is responsible for passing legislation in areas under federal jurisdiction in order to deal with this problem.

If the government does not modify its current approach, the bill could very well be defeated by the House for a number of reasons. Many Alliance members are opposed in principle. The Bloc members, as well as all the federal Liberal members, should oppose this bill. The Quebec government, which represents all Quebeckers, has said through the health minister that it did not wand the federal government to adopt this kind of legislation and that it should take all the parts under provincial jurisdiction out of it.

We would like to think that the federal Liberals understand what the Quebec government is asking. It is no longer a sovereignist government asking. It is a federalist government, which has said that it was reaching out to the federal government in order to establish co-operative federalism. However, we see that the federal government across the way has not responded. It still wants to ram the bill through, despite the Quebec government's opposition.

I think that many federal Liberal members from Quebec who have already sat in Quebec's National Assembly should oppose the bill or make representations to their government to ensure that the part of the bill that concerns provincial jurisdiction is taken out of the bill in order to avoid confusion and to ensure that there is no intrusion into what is not under federal jurisdiction.

For all these reasons, the Bloc Quebecois intends to vote against the bill.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2003 / 12:10 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Canadian Alliance Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have an opportunity to speak on a bill that matters, in a medical sense. Bill C-13 is a complex bill. It is about assisted human reproduction. The bill has actually been in the House in various iterations ever since I have been here.

I had an opportunity to deal with infertile couples in my life prior to coming to Parliament. I would like to briefly talk about what drives couples who want a natural child. This is a significant issue to these people and they will do virtually almost anything they can to have a child.

The causes of infertility are quite diverse. They range from the husband being infertile, possibly caused by a low sperm count from infection or injury to, more commonly, a wife's infertility. The wife's infertility may be caused by hormonal reasons and a reduction in the number of ova she might produce, infection, the ovary not working, tumours, and often times unknown factors in relation to infertility.

Science has mushroomed in this area. When I graduated, this was not a huge issue, even on the horizon, but we now have a host of mechanisms to help infertile couples. These range from drugs to enhance egg production, laparoscopic surgery which extracts eggs, to mechanisms which concentrate sperm.

We can now join the eggs and the sperm outside the body. These are commonly known as test tube babies. We can implant them in the mother's womb, or in fact implant them in another womb.

We have sperm donors. We have egg donors. We have instances where there are more eggs being extracted than are necessary for the couple to use. We also have the opportunity to freeze these little embryos, keep them for a fairly long period of time and reuse them.

Most of these issues are not controversial. They are widely accepted by Canadians under the broad heading of assisted human reproduction. Of course, this is a vote that involves issues of ethics. I personally support Bill C-13 as it relates to these activities and therapies.

There are, however, some controversial items in Bill C-13 that do have more ethical and significant moral components to them.

One of them is cloning. Cloning is encapsulated by this bill. Cloning is a complex issue in itself. I would have liked to have seen the bill split to actually look at assisted human reproduction in one bill and the more controversial issues to be looked at and studied in another bill. We in fact put that forward as a proposition, but it was not accepted. That would have been my preference.

Cloning involves taking the nucleus from a cell, replacing that nucleus with another nucleus, and having an identical organism formed from the new cell.

There are two types of cloning. There is cloning for reproduction, which would be someone trying to clone me, heaven forbid, in order to make an exact copy. That copy would be identical in appearance and genetic makeup. The other type of cloning is therapeutic cloning. It is not so simple, but to make it simple, it would be to have spare parts or spare individuals in case of the death or demise of an individual.

This bill would ban both types of cloning: therapeutic and reproductive. I believe that these types of cloning should be banned. However, at the present time, there is a debate going on in the UN on this very issue. There, Canada's position is not the same as the position in this bill. That troubles me because the Canadian position, which is to ban all types of cloning, should carry right through to the international experience.

I have been told that the reason this is being done is that at the UN there is very little chance of passing a total ban on cloning, and I do not buy that. I do not believe for one second that this is a legitimate or valid reason.

The second and even more controversial issue underneath the big umbrella of the bill is stem cell research. Basic cells in the body are stem cells and are capable of becoming any cell. We call it differentiation. They can become any cell. The stem cell, then, could become a nerve cell. It could become a brain cell. It could become a hair cell. It could become skin or bone. These cells, the basic cells of the process of an organism, are the building blocks, so to speak, of our bodies.

Stem cells can be sought and used from two broad sources. They can be used from the adult source or from the embryonic source. The adult source of stem cells is bone marrow and umbilical cord blood, and research on these stem cells has tremendous benefit, in my view, for therapy of some complex illnesses.

The other source is from the embryo. Let us remember that I mentioned in my comments prior to this that extra embryos can be taken from infertile couples and used in the fertility process. Extra embryos can be frozen and then used for research if in fact they are not used by the infertile couple.

A stem cell from an embryo is quite different from the stem cell of an adult. The embryo does involve some significant ethical and moral issues. There are those who debate that the embryo, even when it is outside the uterus, is the fundamental of human life. There are those who say that it is not implanted in the uterus and it is not human life at all. Then there is a third category of people who say that for the embryo, until it is a fetus and born, that is the only time we then have human life.

From my perspective, and this is a perspective of looking at this from the moral, ethical and medical viewpoints, the complexity of fetal or embryonic stem cell research is such that if we had a preference, and we actually do have a preference, we are better to look at the adult stem cells. To that end, my party, the Canadian Alliance, has asked for a moratorium on stem cell research from the embryonic source for three years, which is the initial three years that this bill would then review. To my mind, that would remove the controversy that surrounds the stem cell research.

What promise does adult stem cell research show us? The promise is really quite significant. There are some advantages in that if I had diabetes and my stem cells could produce the cells from my body which produce insulin, there would be no immune reaction. It would be taking my stem cells from my bone marrow and using them for therapy for my system. Immune rejection is a significant problem with the research in these areas. There would also be no embryonic destruction involved, which would remove the ethical and moral decision and debate there.

Are there examples of success? Just this year in June at the University of Minnesota bone marrow cells from adults have been transformed into every single other cell type. This has enormous potential.

My preference, then, and I speak on this bill not just from the party perspective but from my own preference, with a medical background, is to split the bill in half, one the human reproduction half and one the cloning/stem cell half. My preference would be a moratorium on embryonic stem cells for three years, which is actually my party's position as well.

Another preference is that children born of assisted human reproduction would have a right to know their parents and have a right to know the place where the cells came from.

I would also like to see some limitation of the eggs extracted from couples going through assisted human reproduction.

I also will say that there is strong support from me for research on adult stem cells and the exciting therapies that are potentially there.

The bill has been full of controversy. As I have said, it and its predecessors have been around for virtually 10 years. That controversy and the way this is now being brought to the House, with a side deal to allow for an agency to have gender parity, seem to me to minimize the importance and ethical component of the bill.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on this important bill.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

October 23rd, 2003 / 3 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, insofar as the last part of the question, in fact such a motion would not change a law in any case. Let me first of all start by saying that this afternoon we will continue with debate on the opposition day non-confidence motion.

Tomorrow we shall consider Bill C-50, respecting veterans benefits, followed by the Senate amendments to Bill C-6, concerning first nations. Then, if we have time, we will consider Bill S-13, an act to amend the Statistics Act.

On Monday, we will consider bills left over from this week, as well as Bill C-32, the Criminal Code amendments, Bill C-13, the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, and Bill C-45, the corporate governance bill.

Tuesday shall be the last allotted day in this budget cycle.

On Wednesday and on subsequent days, we shall return to any unfinished business, adding to the list any bills that may be reported from committee. We will also start debate on Bill C-19, the First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act, and Bill C-43, an act to amend the Fisheries Act.

This is the part of the session when it would be normal for bills that have been in committee for some time to be reported back to the House. I am hopeful that committees, such as the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration and the Standing Committee on Transport, will soon complete their legislative work, so that the House may dispose of them in an orderly fashion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2003 / 1 p.m.
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Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, we realize that there is no legislative agenda left. There are only a few bills under consideration.

More bills may die on the Order Paper, like Bill C-38, decriminalizing marijuana, or Bill C-13, respecting assisted reproductive technologies. These bills may not be passed before the House adjourns.

It is clear that the hon. member for LaSalle-Émard is behind the scenes blocking various bills. This week, a caucus was held to discuss all these questions. Obviously, this does not allow the House to go about its business as usual. The whole parliamentary process is grinding to a halt.

With this, I would like my Conservative colleague to tell me whether he agrees that decisions are now being made outside the House, something which prevents the House from doing its work. I would also like him to tell me whether he thinks the motion moved by the Bloc is appropriate.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

October 23rd, 2003 / 10:55 a.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle Progressive Conservative St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from a number of people in St. John's East who make the point that non-embryonic stem cell research has already shown encouraging potential to provide medical cure and therapies and that adult stem cells have shown significant research progress without the immune rejection or ethical problems associated with embryonic stem cell research. The petitioners further state that Bill C-13 continues to permit people to kill human embryos.

They call upon Parliament to ban embryonic stem cell research.

The Income Tax ActGovernment Orders

October 9th, 2003 / 3:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Several officials, including those at the Table and perhaps yourself, have noted that when I gave my business statement and provided a copy, they were not the same. Just to correct the record, while I said Bill C-13 for tomorrow, that is not correct. It is Bill S-13 and the written copy I submitted said Bill S-13, respecting the census.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

October 9th, 2003 / 3 p.m.
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Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to answer that question. I think it is an excellent question.

This afternoon we will continue with the debate on Bill C-48, the resource taxation measures. We will then turn to a motion to refer Bill C-38, the cannabis legislation, to committee before second reading. If this is complete, then we would follow with: Bill C-32, the Criminal Code amendments; Bill C-19, the first nations fiscal institution bill; and Bill C-36, the archives bill, if we get to that. There is some discussion going on about Bill C-36.

Tomorrow we will begin with Bill C-19, if it has not already been completed, and then go to Bill C-13. If we have not completed the list for today, we could as well continue with that.

Next week is the Thanksgiving week of constituency work. When we return on October 20, it is my intention to call Bill C-49 to begin; that is the redistribution legislation, for the benefit of hon. members. When that is concluded, we would return to any of the business not completed this week or reported from committee.

Thursday, October 23, shall be an allotted day. That is the sixth day in the supply cycle.

Privilege

October 9th, 2003 / 10 a.m.
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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I will now give the ruling on the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Mississauga South on October 6. I thank the hon. member for raising the question, as well as the hon. member for Yellowhead for his comments.

The hon. member for Mississauga South argued that, in light of the complexity of the bill and of the number of amendments which the House had adopted at report stage, members required a reprint of the bill in order to be able to properly conduct debate at third reading. He pointed out that this need was all the more pressing given that the bill had not been debated since April 10 of this year.

The unanimous consent of the House was sought on March 31 and again on October 3 to permit a motion ordering a reprint of the bill to be put to a vote. The consent was denied.

I would like to remind the hon. member that it is not the practice of the House to have bills reprinted at third reading. In this regard I refer him to the ruling by the Deputy Speaker on the same point concerning Bill C-13 on March 31, at page 4922 of the Debates .

As the hon. member is fully aware, the House may, if it chooses, order a reprint of the bill. The unanimous consent necessary to allow such a motion to be put without notice has so far not been forthcoming.

CloningOral Question Period

October 8th, 2003 / 3 p.m.
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Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, Quebec health and social services minister Philippe Couillard has taken a stand against Bill C-13, the cloning bill, arguing that this bill clearly encroached on Quebec's jurisdictions.

Will the Minister of Health listen to her counterpart in Quebec and withdraw from an area that does not concern her by dividing her bill in two, to ensure that the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces are respected?

Library and Archives of Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 6th, 2003 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from the member for Mississauga South.

I want to begin my response by suggesting that whenever it appears that the government of the day has interfered with the work of a committee and has not respected the wishes of a standing committee of this place then it is a matter of concern for all of us. It is a theme that has run throughout these last couple of years in Parliament and one that we have raised on numerous occasions.

The member for Mississauga South will know that on a legislative matter that we held near and dear, Bill C-13, dealing with reproductive technologies, there was great concern expressed on our part and by other members about how the government refused to accept amendments made in committee by all parties and in fact interfered with that democratic process by not including those amendments in the legislative proposal.

However, as in that case, today we must make a judgment about the merits of a bill versus some of the changes that we wanted to see that are not there.

It is important to recognize, in the context of Bill C-36 when dealing with clause 21, that there was in fact agreement in committee to have this clause removed. I am not so sure who bears all the brunt of the blame for the fact that it is not there.

I was not in the House when the bill was debated at report stage, but I understand the fact that action was not taken on clause 21 was largely a result of human error and a lack of vigilance on this question. The members of the government side in committee did not move the motion pursuant to clause 21 when it was the appropriate time to do so, so it did not happen there. When the bill came to the House for report stage, the Official Opposition, who felt strongly about this happening, did not move the elimination of clause 21 in the House.

As a result, by human error and not deliberate intention, this initiative was not taken. The fact of the matter is that we now have to decide if we are going to hassle about that. Are we going to haggle over those terms and that history, and lose a bill which would make an important contribution to our society? Are we going to go forward and at least see that the merger between the National Library of Canada and the National Archives of Canada is allowed to take place? We must have a public policy vehicle to ensure that the work of those who create, the writers in our society, those who write stories based on personal histories and who pursue letters and documents from our archives are able to do so knowing, and that their work is secure and the documents are safe in a physically sound building?

The bottom line comes down to how we sort through that. For our part, we have decided to support the bill, despite any shortcomings with the bill and despite lack of assurances that in fact adequate funding will be there when this merger takes place.

We must give it a chance. We have to listen to the voices of those experts who have been sounding the alarm bells for years about leaky roofs, yellowing paper, and the loss of valuable documents because we did not have the physical capabilities to keep them.

This gives us an opportunity to do what is important in that regard and it also gives us a chance to redress a problem that was created with the last copyright legislation when we did not take into account the whole question of unpublished works and copyright protection.

Library and Archives of Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 6th, 2003 / 4:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member referred to the committee as the master of its own work. He was quite correct in identifying that with regard to a bill such as Bill C-13 where, after 200 witnesses and 400 submissions, the committee came up with only three amendments to the bill, and each one of those was reversed at report stage by the government because it was not in agreement with them.

The parliamentary secretary's position is always tentative, and members have argued from time to time that parliamentary secretaries should not even be on committees because they are almost serving two masters.

Could the member advise the House whether the issue about the deal has resolved itself to the extent that there is a consensus within committee?

Library and Archives of Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 6th, 2003 / 3:45 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to state at the outset that the parliamentary secretary is an hon. member of this House and any of my comments should not be inferred as to suggest otherwise. That having been said, I find a tremendous difficulty in that the entire House of Commons, whether it is in this chamber or in committee, works on negotiation between members. When that negotiation happens, there is an assumption on the part of both parties I am sure that once the persons negotiating arrive at an agreement, the agreement will be fulfilled. Clearly that has not happened in this instance.

What has happened is that the committee was overtaken by the member for Parkdale—High Park and others who are concerned about seeing that this particular omnibus provision was included in the bill. This was totally outside any agreement that had been made by us at that time.

We should be focusing as well on when the committee hearings actually took place. The Speaker might not be aware that the committee hearings actually took place after the House rose for the summer recess. When those committee hearings took place, the understanding on the part of the Bloc member, on the part of the Conservatives and certainly on the part of the official opposition was that the agreement that had been entered into by the parliamentary secretary on behalf of the heritage member and on behalf of the department officials was that those clauses would be removed.

There is goodwill that exists around the body of this bill and what this bill is actually about. There is goodwill that exists on wanting to get on with modernizing the library and bringing forward a proper archival situation in Canada. Because of that goodwill and because of the value of this bill, we did not see any reason to be worried about what would be happening at committee.

As I said directly to the parliamentary secretary, I understand that the events at committee ended up overtaking her and overtaking the commitment that she had made. To be very generous, I might even suspect that the member for Parkdale—High Park might not have been aware that this commitment had been made. Let us make that assumption, but that does not absolve the parliamentary secretary or the Minister of Canadian Heritage from the fact that a commitment had been made to members of her party, to members of the official opposition, indeed to all members of the House who were concerned about this bill.

This is scandalous behaviour. It ends up undermining the ability of us to do business. It means that all the suspicions and the worry about what the real meaning is of ministers and all the paranoia that there frequently is around the parliamentary process end up coming into reality.

The reality is that the heritage minister and her spokesperson, the parliamentary secretary, have not been prepared to follow through on a solemn commitment that was made in this chamber. Let me be very clear and totally transparent. This means that there will be a question in the minds of all parliamentarians when they receive a commitment from a parliamentary secretary on behalf of a heritage minister as to whether they actually have the intent to follow through.

We were dealing with Bill C-13 earlier today in the House. The health minister came to this House and overturned the work of the committee on Bill C-13. This is very common. It is an unfortunate happenstance because parliamentary committees should be independent. Parliamentary committees should be able to make changes to government legislation. But it is very common that ministers will come to this place after those changes have been made by committee and will overturn the changes. That is the reason I raised the example of Bill C-13.

We could go down a whole list of legislation where this has happened. Therefore, with the greatest respect, I say to the hon. parliamentary secretary that it is simply not genuine to say that the committee is master of its own destiny and therefore she and the heritage minister are incapable of making the change. I am sorry but that does not fly. That is simply not a valid argument.

I suggest what has happened is the heritage minister with her own leadership aspirations has taken her eye off her legislation, which is in front of the House now, and has basically left the parliamentary secretary hanging out to dry. Once again, on the issue of copyright law, the heritage minister has walked away from her responsibility and we have bad law. This was an omnibus bill that should never have been an omnibus bill.

Clause 21 should never have been included in the bill, as I said in my question to the parliamentary secretary. I have the Copyright Act in my hand right now. I understand the copyright law. It was very clear that there had to be changes in the Copyright Act for Bill C-36 to go forward. That is simple and very straightforward. What was not needed was Clause 21. Clause 21 in this bill is the opening up of copyright legislation.

She will know, as a member of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, that starting next week the standing committee will be briefed by parliamentary officials on a review of the Copyright Act. We will be briefed on Tuesday and again Thursday.

There is a whole situation around copyright law that desperately needs changes and I will address couple of them in half a second. The parliamentary secretary knows that. I do not know what went on behind the scenes. I do not know how in the world we ended up with clause 21 being surreptitiously put into the bill. It basically takes a current issue, a vital and important issue to certain copyright holders and advances it ahead of other people who are very concerned about clauses and provisions in the Copyright Act.

I draw to the House's attention subsection 30.8(8) and subsection 30.9(6) of the Copyright Act. This is the basis of me saying once again that the heritage minister has done a bad, totally inadequate, flawed job of copyright revision. By allowing these changes in Bill C-36, by surreptitiously putting them into Bill C-36, by falling back behind the rubric that committees are masters of their own destiny, once again she has done a totally inadequate job. When the new Prime Minister takes over, it will be very surprising to see if she manages to maintain her position as Minister of Canadian Heritage because she has absolutely dropped the ball on this issue as with many others.

In the case of sections 30.8 and 30.9 of the Copyright Act, the relevance here is that the actual provisions that had to be changed in Bill C-36 are in proposed section 30.5. We are talking about things that also need changing and we are very close: 30.5 versus 30.8 and 30.9.

What desperately needs changing is what was inserted into the bill back when we were in committee work in 1997. At that time we were looking at ephemeral recordings. That is when a radio station ends up making a recording for absolutely no reason other than a technical ability to more easily bring programming to air. There are exceptions all the way through in sections 30.8 and 30.9 that would permit the radio stations to do a job in a very efficient way.

As a result of the inclusion in section 30.8 of subsection (8), tens if not hundreds of people are losing their jobs or have lost their jobs this year as a result of this clause. The reality is subsection (8) stops the radio stations from either doing things efficiently in a modern, technological way or by doing them efficiently in a modern, technological way and having an unfair compensation go to the creators.

What it is all about is very straightforward. Nowadays just about all music comes to the radio stations in a digital format. It can come to the radio stations in a digital format on a CD or it can come to the radio stations in a digital format on some form of broad band. When that digital format is actually at the radio station, then a decision has to be made.

For example, on a CD there might be 12, 15, 18, 20 cuts or songs. What the radio station would decide is whether it would play cut number two, number seven or number nine. It does not need the rest of the CD. When the station does its programming, it simply lifts selections two, seven and nine from the CD and puts them onto a hard drive. When a particular song is played on air, it is in a different format and, as a consequence, it is automatically on the air.

As I have explained many times to the House, my daughter is married to a musician. I understand copyright. He is a composer. I understand why copyright exists and my daughter and my four grandchildren are supported in no small part by virtue of the fact that copyright law exists. I am in favour of copyright law. When value is exchanged, when the music is played, then my son-in-law and all other composers and authors and artists should be properly compensated. That is fine.

What goes on with so-called ephemeral recordings is it simply changes the format technically behind the scenes, possibly at a totally different location, and when it changes the format as a result of clause (8), a copyright fee is payable. The artists, the composers, the authors are not entitled to be paid simply because of a technological change.

The heritage minister is prepared to change the copyright law in clause 21 for specific copyright owners and holders or people who could receive value because of copyright law. However she is not prepared to protect the hundreds of people in the radio and recording industries who have ended up losing their jobs in the last year to 18 months.

The parliamentary secretary knows that. I believe her predecessor was with us when we were on the tour to take a look at this, among many other issues. We were in a radio station in downtown Montreal. We went through and saw what actually transpired. Does anyone know what it was? It was the push of a button. With that push of button there was no sound, no music, no playing and no value exchanged. There was simply the transfer of digital information at light speed from one format to another format and, as a result of that, there was a copyright payable. There are other problems within the copyright law at which we desperately need to be look.

Why did we end up with subsection (8) and subsection (9)? In 1997 the then parliamentary secretary, Guy Arseneault was negotiating with the Bloc Quebecois and at that point there were no collectives that could actually collect any copyright fee. The Bloc Quebecois critic, in negotiating with Mr. Arseneault, the parliamentary secretary, had those clauses included.

I hollered in a loud voice at that time. The recording industry and broadcasters could see this train coming into the station and we tried to make as big a deal of it as we possibly could, and good on the Bloc Quebecois.

What happened was this. Gaston Leroux, who was the critic for the Bloc Quebecois, knew there was a collective coming in Quebec and because he knew that, he wanted to wipe out the ability of the ephemeral rights exclusion and he got his way. Why? Because the parliamentary secretary of the day, acting on behalf of the then heritage minister, the current heritage minister, was prepared to negotiate that into this law, and it is bad law. Why? Because the heritage minister had made up her mind that Bill C-32 would be through Parliament, out of committee by Christmas and there was a deadline. That was a roadblock by the Bloc Quebecois.

This is fine. That is part of parliamentary procedure but it does not mean that we have to live with bad law that was created by the heritage minister who was simply trying to get the bill through Parliament.

Once again, we have a situation where this heritage minister, in Bill C-36, has gone ahead and made changes yet once again to copyright law that really should not have been made. I am really not sure what her motivation is nor will I try to guess. The fact is the heritage committee is now seized with the responsibility under legislation, which came to us through Bill C-32, to come to the House with a report on the shortcomings and the strengths of the copyright law and from that point to come forward with laws on a new copyright bill. There is no excuse for the fact that we are in that process and for the fact that this, which I believe is an erroneous part of Bill C-32 to begin with, is now part of Bill C-36.

There are other parts of copyright law that also require changing. For example, the so-called blank tape levy, again one to which I absolutely was opposed, is proving to become even more of a problem than what I have just explained about ephemeral right. Under the guise of ensuring that the artists would end up being properly compensated, the heritage minister brought into Bill C-32 the so-called blank tape levy, which is to presume that everyone in Canada is guilty of recording illegally and therefore we will extract a levy on all blank tapes.

First, that goes against anything I understand about law in Canada. Every Canadian is innocent until proven guilty. Under the blank tape levy we are saying that everybody is guilty, whether they record a sermon in church, or a speech, or something in a classroom, and they must pay a levy on that.

The interpretation by the copyright board has been that it is on the amount of information recorded, not on the length of the tape. The original idea that was floated, and I did not believe it for a second, was it only would be 25¢ a tape and that was really no big deal. In fact it has been substantially more than 25¢ a tape. Now that we have new technology and new recordings like the MP3s and others that have a tremendous capacity to absorb music, the cost of that new technology has gone through the roof.

It will mean for Canadian retailers, for people with whom I am familiar, that some people will quickly go across from southwestern Ontario to Buffalo or to Niagara Falls, New York. I am familiar with people in British Columbia who will easily go across to Spokane.

What it basically means is that an MP3 or another recording device that is available in constant Canadian dollars down there for $200 will be retailing in Canada for $400 or $600 simply because of this so-called blank tape levy.

The problem with Bill C-36 is not its intent, but the fact that the heritage minister chose to make this an omnibus bill, thereby being caught in changing unnecessary parts of the Copyright Act and as a consequence acting in a totally unfair way with other copyright holders.

I say, shame on the minister for putting the parliamentary secretary into the position that she did, in asking the parliamentary secretary to give my colleague and I, and others a solemn undertaking that the clause would be removed. Shame on her for not removing it when it came back here at report stage.

Library and Archives of Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 6th, 2003 / 3:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Carole-Marie Allard Liberal Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague is referring to another situation. I cannot comment on things I am not aware of. Thus, I will refrain from answering, because I do not know what happened during consideration of Bill C-13.

Library and Archives of Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 6th, 2003 / 3:45 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary, is it not true for example, on Bill C-13 which the House has been grappling with, that the minister came to this place and overturned the work of the committee? Is that not true?

If that is true and knowing that she and the parliamentary secretary on her behalf made that commitment to the official opposition and other members of the opposition and obviously other members of her party, why would the heritage minister and the parliamentary secretary not be prepared to follow through on the commitment that she made?

HealthOral Question Period

October 6th, 2003 / 2:50 p.m.
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Edmonton West Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, as far as I am concerned, the only attack on human dignity is perhaps the antics of the opposition in relation to their delay in passing Bill C-13, which in fact speaks to human dignity for families, for men and women in this country who would like to have families and cannot.

Let me reassure everyone in this House that Bill C-13 bans all forms of human cloning for any purpose, howsoever done. Let me also indicate to the House that we believe it is much better to ban reproductive cloning in the international community than to have no--

HealthOral Question Period

October 6th, 2003 / 2:50 p.m.
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Edmonton West Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan LiberalMinister of Health

In fact, Mr. Speaker, there is no double standard. Let me be absolutely clear that the hon. member is right, that in Bill C-13, which I would ask this House to pass with alacrity, we ban all forms of human cloning. However, achieving a broad international consensus to ban all forms of cloning may not be possible at this time.

But it is clear that the international community is ready to pass a ban on human reproductive cloning. I would suggest that Canada is supporting this effort. We should all support this effort because not taking that step at this time may mean having no convention at all.

HealthOral Question Period

October 6th, 2003 / 2:50 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Canadian Alliance Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, an international convention on human cloning is being debated at the United Nations. Many countries want to see a comprehensive ban on human cloning, both therapeutic and reproductive.

In fact, the government's Bill C-13 calls for prohibitions on both reproductive and therapeutic cloning, but our negotiators at the United Nations are seeking prohibitions on reproductive cloning alone. Why the double standard?

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 6th, 2003 / 1:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Eugène Bellemare Liberal Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to comment on Bill C-13, An Act respecting assisted human reproduction. I have a few concerns about this bill. I will read from a text that will help illustrate my concerns.

Initially, the concern was the ethics of destroying human embryos to harvest stem cells for research, but as time passed many other weaknesses of the bill were discovered. I would want the House to consider the following.

Despite the fact that Health Canada has already corrected one error in the definition of “human clone”, the bill still does not ban all known forms and techniques of human cloning.

The bill would permit the implanting of human reproductive material into non-human life forms. The biomedical definition of “chimera” involves the implantation of reproductive material from a human into an animal or from an animal into a human. However, the definition in the bill only refers to the latter.

The conflict of interest provisions are so weak that they would allow biotech and pharmaceutical companies to be represented on a board of the agency that would approve and license research projects.

Significant clauses of the bill have been qualified by phrases such as “as per the regulations”. There are 28 areas in which regulations must be developed and these will not be known until at least 18 months after the bill is passed. Effectively, MPs are being asked to vote on a bill without knowing the full intent. Furthermore, MPs will not be permitted to approve the regulations.

The Royal Commission on Reproductive Technologies and the health committee both recommended that paid surrogacy be prohibited. The bill would permit a surrogate to be reimbursed for lost employment income if that person obtained a doctor's certificate.

The bill ignores women's health issues by not establishing reasonable limits on the amount of drugs used on them or on the number of ova that can be harvested or embryos that can be implanted.

The bill would prohibit the purchase or sale of human reproductive material, but Health Canada has not explained how researchers would get embryos from for profit fertility clinics without paying compensation.

The bill would not establish uniform disclosure or informed consent practices to be used by all fertility clinics. Such disclosure would protect the interests of the infertile.

The health committee urged that the bill state what constituted necessary research. Specifically, it recommended that research on human embryos be permitted only if it could be demonstrated there was no other biological material that could be used to achieve the same research objectives. The bill rejects the recommendation and delegates the decision to the federal agency.

The health committee made 36 recommendations on the draft bill. Its report received no response and most of its key recommendations were not reflected in Bill C-13.

The health committee heard from over 200 witnesses and received over 400 written submissions. As a result of its work, the committee passed three substantive amendments to the bill. At report stage, all three amendments were reversed to the effect that the work of the health committee was virtually ignored.

There are many more deficiencies in areas such as patentability, adoption of embryos and the use of fetus parts, but the examples noted paint a clear picture of a bill that needs to be fixed or defeated.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 6th, 2003 / 1:40 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Canadian Alliance Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is good to get up to speak on Bill C-13 again. I have been up numerous times on the bill and I do not believe the government has listened very well to some of our concerns. As the debate goes on I am hopeful, as these issues are brought up time and again, that some of it will sink in and that some of the things we are pushing for will come to pass.

One of the most controversial things is the whole issue of embryonic stem cell research. Through my experience with office with emails, letters and phone calls, this is one of the most controversial aspects of the bill. People are very concerned about the use of embryonic cells because there has been very little science put forward to say that there is any benefit to using them or that any big steps have been made to improve human life by this type of research. Most of the benefits have been made through adult stem cell research, which is a totally different issue.

The thing I suppose that people key on is the fact that we are creating a life to be used in research and once one extracts cells from an embryo to use in research, the embryo and that form of life is destroyed. The specific creation of embryos to be used in research is the issue.

What has been said is that any embryos that are created through in vitro fertilization and that are left over may be used in research. It does not take too big of a step to then realize that of course, if there is a marketplace developed and a value put on these embryos, enough will be produced that there will be leftovers and they will be used in research. That is the problem many people have.

We had news today about the UN convention on human cloning and that the government may be changing its mind on the complete ban of human cloning to which it has agreed. It is something we have certainly pushed for all throughout the debate on reproductive technology. It looks now through the UN that there may be a shift in the government's policy.

We need to ensure that Canadians are aware that the government is considering doing something along these lines and this debate needs to take place. Canadians need to have input into the debate. They need to understand fully what the government is doing. Is it saying one thing in Canada, then it is going to the UN and saying something else? This is critical to the support that some people have offered to the bill. I think if it becomes clear that the government is going to change its position on human cloning, there will be a large shift in how people feel about Bill C-13 and many more people will oppose it. We have to be cognizant that the government is looking at a possible shift in that position and ensure that Canadians are aware of it.

Getting back to the stem cell research aspect of Bill C-13, if a body is put in place to oversee the operations of this entire industry and if it us up that body to define and apply the law which will be created if the bill passes, then it is up to us to ensure, and we have seen this in other cases of law, that as law makers we make it absolutely clear what the intention of the bill is.

Words like “all necessary steps” or “all necessary issues” need to be handled. We cannot leave any kind of weasel words in a bill such as this that could be interpreted in a way that was not intended by us as parliamentarians when it was put together.

I think that it is necessary to make sure that some of the clarification is there and that if the embryos that are created for in vitro fertilization are allowed to be used in research, that there has to be very strict rules put on those clinics to make sure that the number of embryos that are created do not suddenly multiple or swell in numbers so that there is an assured supply to researchers and particularly if there is a value put on those and it becomes a marketplace situation where they are bought and sold and bid on in the industry.

I would like to see greater clarity around the provisions on embryonic research described in subclause 40(2). The clause as currently worded states:

A licence authorizing the use of an in vitro embryo for the purpose of research may be issued only if the Agency is satisfied that the use is necessary for the purpose of the proposed research.

What are they going to base their decision on whether it is necessary? More than likely on the request coming from the researcher and based on little else. If the agency is structured properly so there is enough variance of opinion on the board and if it looks at all of the issues and ensures the letter of the law is followed, that would possibly help. However there is no guarantee that that would happen.

Therefore, the word necessary in “satisfied that the use is necessary for purpose of the proposed research” brings us back into the debate on whether we need embryonic stem cells when we could use adult stem cells. From all indications that we have been able to find, adult stem cells have brought forward the most development. There have been some tremendous advances on some of the most terrible diseases that afflict humans. However, that advancement has not been through embryonic research, it has been through adult stem cell research.

We need to apply the three year ban for which our party has been asking, an absolute prohibition on any embryonic research. Emphasis should be put on the adult stem cell research until it is clearly demonstrated that no further advancements can be made using them. That should be the only time we should consider creating life to use in research.

The other issues we have talked about at length.

On the whole issue of banning cloning, I remember going to a meeting on Parliament Hill with Preston Manning, who was leading the file on this at the time. He brought together some of the greatest minds in Canada and North America to discuss the whole idea of cloning, what good that would bring to the medical profession, the mapping of the human genome and some things that many of us do not completely comprehend or could even possibly scratch the surface to understand. The impression I got from these people was that a great deal of caution needed to be taken when we were dealing with the issue.

It has become an issue that many Canadians have become engaged in, many for moral and ethical reasons and many for the way they have been raised and taught over the years in their homes and in their churches.

We do not think placing a three year moratorium is asking an lot. It would give us a three year window where we could and should put emphasis on adult stem cells, supporting that area of research and seeing how far the advances can go when all our concentration is put in that area. Then if it does not become clear that adult stem cells meet the needs, we could reconsider. I personally believe that is where the advancements have been and where they will continue to be. There would be enough forward movement working with those cells that the necessity to create life to use it in research will not be there.

It is good to rise again to put another comment forward on the bill. I hope members on the government side is listening. I do not believe at this point in time that most of them are, but I hope as the debate goes forward more and more will sink in and they will see the light and vote against Bill C-13.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 6th, 2003 / 1:35 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, this is the second time I have risen to speak to Bill C-13 because of the very strong and serious concerns we have.

This is an area of uncharted waters and the bill can have very serious ethical and moral complications. Therefore, it is very necessary, before we pass the bill, to take a step back, look at it very carefully and then decide as a society what exactly we want to do.

My colleagues on this side of the House and a number of members on the government side as well have stated their objections to the bill. This issue affects everybody. We cannot take it lightly. As I said the last time I spoke to the bill, we have some very serious concerns because we see loopholes in the bill of which individuals could take advantage and which could start us off in a direction that later on we may regret.

Let me talk about what Bill C-13 is about. It is about human cloning. It is about reproductive technology. These are the issues now before the Canadian Parliament. A commission has looked into this, with the former prime minister's wife as one of the commissioners. Our former leader, Mr. Preston Manning, spent a huge amount of time studying this topic. Because of the concerns that have arisen with the bill and the loopholes that exist, members on all sides of the House of Commons, from all parties, are expressing serious concern.

As I mentioned, there are loopholes. They give us an uneasy feeling. I do not understand why we cannot have very tight controls on this until we are positive and we know in which direction we are going with research. Why would the government not put those controls in place? We do not know.

Even with what is happening at the United Nations, what the government is trying to do, we do not know. An international convention to ban human cloning is being debated at the United Nations right now. One resolution, which is backed by the U.S. and several other countries, calls for a comprehensive ban on all human cloning, reproductive and therapeutic. That would be consistent with what the government is trying to do with Bill C-13, which would prohibit the creation of human cloning by any technique. That is fair enough, but there is another resolution out there, which calls for a ban on only reproductive cloning. Strangely enough, the government is supporting that resolution.

On one hand the government is supporting a resolution that calls for a complete ban on cloning, but on the other hand it is supporting another resolution that says the ban is only for reproductive cloning. Why this double standard? What is the government trying to say? We just do not seem to understand the direction the government is taking.

As my colleague who spoke before me said, the government is now trying to ram through the bill because I guess the Prime Minister wants to leave a legacy. It is on his agenda and he wants to do it, but it may have serious implications in the future. We wonder why we cannot debate the bill. Why can the bill not go back to the committee? Why can all these loopholes we have indicated not be tightened? Why can it not be explained to us exactly what the government's agenda is? We seem to be getting conflicting reports.

For example, in May 2001 the former minister of health supported an international convention to prevent human cloning. The resolution said no more human cloning and everybody agreed with that. Speaking in Geneva at the meeting of the WHO, the former minister gave his support for a resolution condemning cloning as “ethically unacceptable and contrary to human dignity”.

We have conflicting messages coming from the government. It does not know in which direction it wants to go or what it wants to do. Therefore, Canadians are a little wary. We are wary of the bill. Where is the bill going? It becomes even more disturbing to us with the loophole I have mentioned.

Is it on the government's agenda to allow therapeutic cloning to go ahead? If it is on the government's agenda, then it should say that so Canadians can know exactly what the government means. What does the government want with the bill? Why create a bill that has loopholes? Why go to the UN with two different positions? Nobody knows where Canada stands on this issue. We have to wonder what the government's hidden agenda is. Even the government members who are opposing this legislation do not seem to know where their government is headed on this issue.

As I have said, human cloning, being a new technology, goes against all ethical and moral teachings in society. We of course do know that stem cells have a very strong research value. We also know that stem cell research is needed because of its very good therapeutic advantages. But those are adult stem cells.

It is time for us to take a step back and say we should not have human cloning but we should go ahead with adult stem cell research. That way, we will know precisely where we are going and when we go into these uncharted waters we will know in which direction we are going. Why would we try to navigate uncharted waters and find ourselves beached in an area where we never wanted to go?

We have all heard of the lady in Paris who said her group had attempted to clone the first human being, but we now know that story was not true. That lady in Paris said her group had done the first human cloning. I am certainly glad it did not happen. Of course we all know the story of Dolly the sheep. Do we really need to go that way?

I can say without a doubt that Canadians do not accept human cloning in any capacity. The majority does not. We do not want to go into that area. Since we do not, we need to stand up and say in the clearest terms that we will not accept any bill that has the potential, as Bill C-13 does, for loopholes that can lead us in that direction.

In conclusion, my party will not agree with Bill C-13 because of our reservations.

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October 6th, 2003 / 1:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Stan Dromisky Liberal Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Mr. Speaker, the debate has been going on in this House since April 4. By the comments that are coming across from the opposition, I think people are getting the impression that once the bill is passed everything is going to happen immediately. Nothing could be further from the truth. Also, the impression is being left in the minds of the listening public that this was a kind of impulsive act. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The royal commission in 1993 gave us instructions and gave us direction. We followed those instructions and recommendations. After many years of intensive research work done by people behind the scenes, a draft bill was presented to the health committee, of which I am a member. I attended every meeting and I know exactly what happened in those meetings.

A draft bill was presented in 2001. There were 34 recommendations that came from the committee. Bill C-13, then called Bill C-56, emerged on May 9, 2002. There were over 100 amendments dealt with by the committee at that stage. Those amendments clearly indicated, not only from the government side but also from the side of the opposition, that a tremendous amount of thought and dedication was devoted to Bill C-13 and the concepts contained therein.

Then it came back at the report stage with 84 more amendments. Those amendments were not identical to the first batch, again indicating that controversy was raging and that we wanted more clarification and improvements within the bill. That was done and since April 4 we have been debating this issue.

I am presenting that information simply because I want the listening public to realize that there was a tremendous amount of energy, not only from people within the House of Commons, people who work for the House of Commons, but from people all across this country and in other countries in the world who have communicated with the health committee, through telehealth and document after document giving us information, perceptions and scientific evidence over all these years.

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October 6th, 2003 / 1:20 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Art Hanger Canadian Alliance Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today on Bill C-13.

It has been interesting to follow some of the headlines as they appear on the debate on this issue.

There is no question that politics are being played out here when it comes Bill C-13. We can see it bounce back and forth not just between the opposition and government parties but between members within the government party and also between members within the opposition parties in the House.

There was one particular headline in a newspaper a few days ago which read “Vote on human cloning bill delayed: Bill C-13 'God squad' MP stages filibuster, debate stalls”. That is a very interesting headline. Obviously a member of the Liberal Party is considered to be part of what is called the God squad, or so it has been tagged. All of those who are opposing the proposed legislation might be tagged the same. I do not find that so unsettling. In fact, I would be proud to wear that as a badge if that applied to me by taking that position.

There have been other very strong members of Parliament. I will talk about one by the name of William Wilberforce in the great country of England in the United Kingdom. He was actually tagged the same way. He was a Christian MP who stood up against slavery. For years he fought that fight again wanting to better the lot of those who were enslaved in that country. As a result of his efforts, he and four or five other MPs were categorized as such. Because they believed in God, because they felt that there should be a stronger commitment on the part of legislators to better the position of others in society, they were tagged as such by their colleagues, the media and the opposition. They stood for something that would allow others to live in a better way and that is the tag that was placed on them.

For decades Mr. Wilberforce fought that egregious legislation to change it, to ban slavery completely and it spread throughout the free world.

Here we have another kind of legislation. It is an intrusion into human life. A whole series of unknowns are attached to this particular endeavour, that is human cloning. The House has faced the issue now for a period of time. Its intention is to set the ground rules for cloning, embryonic research and reproductive technologies. That is the bill. There are a lot of unknowns in it and it deals with human life.

The bill bans all human cloning, both reproductive, which would allow a cloned embryo to be implanted in a woman's womb and grown to a full person; and therapeutic, which would allow a cloned embryo to be used for research and medical purposes. That is the bill that is being advanced here.

For the most part the House should be applauded for that piece of legislation. However we cannot talk out of both sides of our mouths and expect to gain credibility or acceptance on one side if we are saying something different. That is what in fact is happening here.

Canada is preparing to work against some of the other countries whose efforts are to ban all forms of cloning. Belgium put forward a motion at the United Nations international convention dealing with this. Canada will support a competing resolution to what the government is even attempting to pass here in the House. How can the government do both? Explain that to me and explain that to the public. Who is to be trusted? It is inconsistent.

That is part of the politics of this particular legislation. Forty countries worldwide would like to see a total ban on reproductive and therapeutic technologies, cloning, yet Canada is now speaking out of both sides of her mouth. That would have to fall back on the shoulders of the government.

How does it play out further? The government would like to see an end to this debate. Our party has suggested that there be a moratorium or a cessation of debate until further research and information comes to light, but that is not the action the government is taking. In fact, as soon as this debate dies today, there will be no other mechanism to continue debate.

We are debating a motion introduced by the government House leader that the question be now put. This motion is known as the previous question. On page 556 of Marleau and Montpetit, the previous question is described as “at best an unpredictable method of curtailing debate”. We on this side cannot hoist it. Once we stop talking about it today, in other words, once the situation develops where no other member rises to speak to it in the House, that is it. We cannot extend it.

That is the method available to the government to curtail the debate. The previous question, time allocation and closure are all means, so this is a form of time allocation. Personally, the fact that the government would curtail debate by using this procedure is embarrassing.

Just for the record, the government has invoked closure and time allocation 82 times. There have been 73 time allocation motions and nine closure motions. If we factor in the number of times the previous question has been used, the number jumps to close to 100. The government has curtailed the action of debate in the House 100 times.

On one of the most important pieces of legislation which we are debating right now it has decided to use time allocation. It is disgusting.

Regarding the politics of Bill C-13, some of the opposition members have decided to support the government. One of the parties, of course the New Democrats, opposed the bill because it did not ensure gender parity on the board. The board is another issue altogether and we could speak for quite awhile on the lack of accountability on the board, or the weakness of the board which could in fact be overridden by the Minister of Health. We could speak for a long time to that issue alone.

The NDP has decided to side with the government and support the bill now, all because of one very weak argument. The government has assured the NDP with a written promise that gender parity on the board will be certain. How weak can that party get? Is that the NDP's sole argument on a matter as important as this one?

I think we should be re-examining the whole process of debate if that is as weak as the NDP is in its arguments to support a bill that is as serious as this one.

Our party has chosen not to support this legislation, for good cause, and I support the member for Mississauga South in his endeavour to bring all the issues to light.

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October 6th, 2003 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Julian Reed Liberal Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that Bill C-13 has engendered a lot of thoughtful debate in the House and a lot of careful consideration regardless on which side of the issue one ends up coming down on.

The bill has probably exposed some of the elements that could be improved. My colleague from Mississauga South has looked at it very closely and done a tremendous amount of work. He should be commended for his efforts.

The question of human cloning is one of the fundamental underlying concerns in the bill. His concern is that the bill does not ban all known forms of human cloning. That in itself presents something of a dilemma because as medicine progresses and the practice of medicine evolves over years and generations, what is unknown now will probably be known 20, 30 or 50 years hence.

I will repeat a story involving a fairly close relative of mine who was attending university in Toronto and was rooming with another young man. They were both studying medicine at the time. At that time two very prominent doctors were researching diabetes and how this scourge could be treated. One was Dr. Macleod and the other Dr. Banting.

My cousin and his friend were both looking for summer jobs. They decided that they would try and obtain work with these researchers. They flipped a coin and my cousin went to work with Dr. Macleod and Charlie Best went with Dr. Banting. At that time no one knew and no one had a breakthrough on how to deal with the scourge of diabetes. I am sure debate raged about what one should do and should not do in terms of research and in terms of developing the techniques that would look after that disease.

A part of Bill C-13 addresses not just human cloning, but the question of developing a fetus in the very early stages. In the process of human reproduction there are sometimes leftovers that are not used. The argument that has been put forward by researchers and so on is that it would be appropriate and practical to use these things in their research. The people who are opposed have taken the position that these are undeveloped human embryos and, therefore, should not be tampered with.

My colleague from Mississauga South has pointed out that the United Kingdom at one point destroyed about 40,000 human embryos without any positive research results. I am wondering, when we are considering the use of embryos, whether we should simply say that there are not enough of them that appear at any given time to do positive research on, or whether we should press ahead into the unknown. The other side of the argument has to do with the potential that stem cell research has to cure disease.

I very often think of my late mother who succumbed to Parkinson's disease. I wonder, if it was 15 or 20 years hence whether the stem cell research would not be able to provide something to arrest, cure or prevent the progress of Parkinson's disease. However the decisions are made, we should not close the door on any of these things.

I am totally opposed to human cloning. That is a given. I think virtually everyone in this chamber regardless of their party affiliation would share that point of view.

I ask that we proceed with great care on the bill so as not to inhibit medical advancement in the future. Let us look at the bill, let us look at its weaknesses and flaws. If the bill can be improved, it is our responsibility to improve it. Whatever we do, whatever conclusions we come to however, we should not inhibit human progress in this regard.

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October 6th, 2003 / 1:05 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, in looking at this legislation we are coming up against a number of legislative roadblocks that we encounter when we deal with legislation from the government. We hear concerns from the public and then we propose and find ways because of suggestions from the public on how to get around these roadblocks. However the government seems to ignore them.

We cannot play politics on something as important as cloning and embryonic and non-embryonic stem cell research. We must stick with the principles and look at the possibilities in order to address the possible roadblocks.

Clearly, something must be done in this whole area of reproductive technologies because it is advancing so rapidly upon us. It is somewhat pleasing to see that we do have members of Parliament from all sides of the House who are in agreement on ways to get around some of the dilemmas, not the least of which are the moral dilemmas.

We propose through our health critic, the member for Yellowhead, a way to take some legislative suggestions and break them into two areas or two bills, and look at addressing each of the two areas in a way in which we can make progress. We are talking about making progress, on behalf of Canadians with health needs, that has the potential of being met because of some of the exciting dimensions that are available to us in this area of technology. It can be done in a way that averts some of the technological dilemmas but moral dilemmas as well.

Our member for Yellowhead proposed that a bill come forward that is broken into two areas, one in which reproductive technologies could be covered as in the former Bill C-56 that members will recall, and another in which we would regulate the human embryo research and all of the implications with that.

A reproductive technology bill could cover such compelling issues as the prohibition on cloning which is very important. A number of countries have put a ban on cloning. What are we going to do about commercial surrogacy? What are we going to do about the question of the buying and selling of human gametes? What are we going to do about gender selection, germ line alteration and the creation of animal-human hybrids? What about the regulation of fertility clinics and the creation of a regulatory agency to observe all of these? That could all be dealt with under one bill and then a separate bill could look at regulating human embryo research.

I want to use an example of how, with discussion in this House and obviously drawing upon the incredible medical technology resource people that Canada has to offer, we put forward some suggestions. And it was important to do so. The issue of cloning, especially when it is being advanced for the purpose of meeting the health needs of people who are afflicted many times with disease, presents that very moral dilemma, as does the issue of stem cell research.

Many Canadians, myself included, believe it is simply wrong to create life for the purpose of destroying it because some part of that newly created life will go to help what might even be someone's significant health care problem.

There is a way of avoiding the whole dilemma and still getting the benefits of what this technology has to offer. The government must be clear and say that it will not proceed with and will not allow things to progress in the area of embryonic stem cell research. That is the type of research which would require the growing of embryos for the purpose of destroying them and rationalizing that it was for future health needs.

Many members, including myself, and millions of Canadians believe it is simply wrong to create life for the purpose of destroying it. How does one avoid that? The area of non-embryonic stem cell research is already making great gains.

As Canadians we are proud to see some of the breakthroughs that have been made in that particular area. In June 2003 Canadian scientists discovered that non-embryonic stem cells can trigger regeneration of severely damaged organs in animals. In this case, Canadian scientists injected bone marrow stem cells into diabetic mice which were cured or back to normal within 7 to 14 days.

We see that this can hold out great possibilities in terms of human health. We have other situations. Recently, Dr. Michael Rudnicki at the Ottawa Health Research Institute published a groundbreaking study showing how a population of adult stem cells or non-embryonic stem cells in muscle tissue contributed to muscle regeneration.

We have seen in the prestigious scientific journal called Cell that uncovered molecular signals that direct these non-embryonic stem cells could actually direct these cells to form new muscle.

We had a situation in September 2002 where a Montreal woman who was newly diagnosed with leukemia received a stem cell transplant from the umbilical cord of her new infant daughter. These are non-embryonic stem cells and seven months after the transplant, the woman was in full remission and considered cured.

Instructive on this particular point are the comments from Dr. Abdullah Daar of the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics. He said:

Should adult stem cells ever prove to be as good as [embryonic] cells, then why would anybody want to bother with embryonic stem cells?

These are the questions being put by the very leaders in technology in the field itself. Alan Bernstein who is president of the CIHR said:

Aside from the ethical issues, if one could take one's own adult... stem cells from bone marrow and use them to cure Parkinson's disease, you wouldn't have to worry about [immune] rejection problems. So this would be just a huge advance.

Immune rejection problems are very significant when it comes to dealing with and the exploration of treatment of embryonic stem cells.

Science itself is offering a way out of this cul-de-sac of debate, this moral dilemma in which the government continues to circle. Simply approve and move ahead with the area of non-embryonic stem cell research and regulate out the possibility of embryonic stem cell research.

When we look at Bill C-13, the government seems to be saying one thing in the House but says something totally different at the United Nations. We have a concern with that. The former minister of health stated in Geneva at meetings of the World Health Organization that “cloning for the replication of human individuals is ethically unacceptable and contrary to human dignity and integrity”.

He was condemning cloning. We happen to agree with that. But representatives of the government say different things at the United Nations when they discuss this and it is not reflective of what the government is saying to Canadians.

The bill also allows for “grandfathering”, if I can use that term in this debate, allowing scientists, who engage in such activity before the bill takes effect, to avoid licensing requirements and prosecution provisions? As a government, it cannot say it is opposed to something and in fact condemn something, as the former minister of health said, and then allow for it to happen. These contradictions cause us great concern.

We would like to see consistency on behalf of the government as if relates to Bill C-13. We would like to see if the former minister's statement is in fact the position of the government--“that it is ethically unacceptable and contrary to human dignity and integrity” to allow cloning to happen. Members of our party and I happen to agree with that as do many members of Parliament.

The government should bring forward the consistency of that statement into this legislation and into the regulatory process that follows. We should not allow for the door to be opened so that a violation of that clear principle of preservation of life can happen. If the government is serious about it, it should state it clearly and bring forward legislation that is consistent, and inform our delegates at the United Nations to speak in a like manner as well.

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October 6th, 2003 / 12:45 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, following the debate in the House is one thing, but it has also been interesting to follow the debate in the news.

Over the weekend I happened to notice that one of the members, who is not noted for his religious outbursts or anything to do with his faith, was questioned about the fact that because he was opposed to Bill C-13, he must be a member of the so-called God squad. He said that he was not a member of the God squad but that he was opposed and he listed the reasons why.

Where did this almost blasphemous term, the God squad, come from? It comes about as a result of the fact that there are people in the House who have a strong sense of their faith, their identity in terms of their relationship with a Supreme Being. Therefore, I would claim the privilege of being a member of the God squad.

The God squad is a group of people, if indeed it exists, who say there is an absolute standard in this world. There is an absolute standard of how I relate to my family and to people in my community. There is an absolute standard with which I came into politics and I did not check that absolute standard at the door when I walked in here. That, very simply, is a part of the problem, a part of the cynicism that seems to be developing around the bill.

We are concerned about the bill, not just because of what is contained in the bill but because of the way in which the Liberal government has conducted itself and is continuing to conduct itself outside of this chamber, not only in Canada, but outside of our great nation, in the world.

The member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine who just spoke made the point that in her vision, although people in the House have said there is not a ban on human cloning, there was a ban on human cloning contained in Bill C-13. Let us leave that for scholars and lawyers to decide. However at the same time, the Liberal government is attempting to ram the bill through the House of Commons, it is taking quite a significantly different position at the United Nations.

An international convention to ban human cloning is being debated at the United Nations. One resolution, backed by the U.S. and several countries, calls for a comprehensive ban on all human cloning, reproductive and therapeutic. That would be consistent with Bill C-13, which would prohibit the creation of a human clone by any technique. However there is another resolution currently before the UN which calls only for a ban on reproductive cloning. Strangely, Canada is supporting this resolution.

I and the Canadian Alliance oppose human cloning as an affront to human dignity, individuality and 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. Therefore, we find it suspicious that Canada's position at the UN suggests our government may have a hidden agenda in the support of therapeutic cloning. Why the double standard? Why the one standard when the government is attempting to get the bill through the chamber, and the other standard at the United Nations where it is in support of therapeutic cloning? Understandably, we are suspicious.

There is nothing more precious in this world than human life. It is the very breath that we breathe. It is the way that we manage to interact with each other. It is not an overstatement obviously to say that without life there is nothing. When it comes to a bill of this magnitude, to try to enact legislation of this type in a vacuum of ethics, morality and, I suggest, of religious standards is folly of the first order.

It has been interesting that as this bill has been before the House and before us as members of Parliament, it has perhaps made me even more aware of some of the standards that are held within our civilized societies. I notice that on soap operas coming to us from France, Australia and England, or even on our own soap operas, there is always conflict between people. That is what makes a soap opera. There is always back-stabbing between people, but the minute that one person's life is threatened, suddenly the plot thickens and that becomes the key issue.

Indeed, the reality is that without life there is nothing. Therefore, our concern about this bill is in part what is in the bill, the imperfections that are in the bill, but of equal or perhaps even greater importance, our concern, my concern, is what the ultimate objective is of the government and where it is going.

I started by talking about the almost blasphemous term the God squad. When I make these statements, I am thinking not just in terms of the most dominant faith in Canada, which at this point is Christianity, I am also thinking of the Muslims. I am thinking of the Sikhs. I am thinking of the Hindus. I am thinking of people who follow the teachings of Confucius, the Buddhists. I am thinking of all people of faith who have an absolute standard that is a reality in their lives, because for many Canadians, countless millions of Canadians, they have within their lives, at their very soul, at their very core, a belief in human life.

It defies logic to understand why the government would not have split this bill into the two obvious parts.

There are many procedures currently in place in Canada whereby human life is enhanced, that through adult stem cell research. We know of many advancements in being able to do away with or at least slow the spread of Parkinson's. We know of many advancements where there has been the removal of stem cells from an individual and those stem cells have been treated and put back into the same individual, so that there is absolutely no need for all the drugs that are necessary when a foreign body is put into a human being.

One of the most exciting parts of being alive and being a human being is the ability to be able to think, to conceive ideas, to be able to bring science to many of the tragic situations that face human beings in terms of their health. This bill, in terms of adult stem cell research, is going in the correct direction. What I am concerned about, and what many are concerned about, is the absolute lack of sensitivity, the absolute lack of understanding, when it comes to stem cell research other than adult stem cell research.

The distinctive of a civilized society is the respect of human life. That is why we find it so confusing within all of our civilized societies throughout the world when we are confronted with people who will not only take their own lives but in so doing will end up becoming suicide bombers and taking other people's lives. This is a value that is at the core of who we are in a civilized society.

This bill as it presently stands is wrong and we will do everything we can do to see that it is defeated.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 6th, 2003 / 12:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was among those who said no because I wanted to be sure to have enough time to speak.

I want to address Bill C-13, or reproductive technologies. This is the first time I have spoken on this issue. I have listened to, either in the House or while watching the debates live on television, or I have read the transcripts of just about everyone who has spoken to the issue in this House. I find that there has been a lot of misinformation that has been given about what Bill C-13 would do and what it would not do. I would like to just give a few pieces of information.

There are those who claim that Bill C-13 would not ban human cloning. This is incorrect. The legislation indeed would ban human cloning. The member for Mississauga South, who put forward a motion at report stage which was adopted, stated, when he spoke in support of his motion, that it would extend the prohibition of human cloning to include all types of human cloning. The House listened and adopted the motion that was put forward by the member and the legislation would ban all forms of human cloning.

In fact, Dr. Patricia Baird, the former head of the royal commission has stated, “Based on an incorrect understanding of the science, some have suggested that the bill doesn't ban cloning, but in fact on careful reading it clearly does”. Those are her words not mine.

She was quoted as saying that, in the Ottawa Citizen on March 27.

The issue as to whether or not the bill would permit the implanting of human reproductive materials into non-human life forms as well has been raised. It has been suggested in this House by numerous of my colleagues that the biomedical definition of chimera involves the implantation of reproductive materials from a human into an animal or from an animal into a human and that Bill C-13 would permit the implanting of human reproductive material into non-human life forms.

As is the case with any piece of legislation, a definition must be read within the context of the scope of that legislation. The scope of Bill C-13 is the human embryo and as such, the definition of chimera would be limited to those combinations that involve a human embryo. The definition used in Bill C-13 is scientifically accurate and has been reviewed and stated to be scientifically accurate by some of Canada's leading researchers.

Another claim that has been made in this House by members who oppose Bill C-13 is that there are less than 10 embryos available in Canada that would meet research quality requirements and that the number of surplus embryos is not expected to increase since medical technology has improved. Comparatively they claim, the U.K. has destroyed 40,000 human embryos without any positive research results. Those claims are incorrect.

In fact the number of embryos available for research purposes in Canada and their potential quality are unknown. Why are they unknown? Because the fertility clinics and the human reproductive technologies are not regulated at this time. Therefore, the government and from one clinic to another have no way of knowing how many embryos there are or the quality of the state or condition in which they are. We have no way of knowing.

The regulatory regime which would be established under Bill C-13 would lead to an accurate understanding of the number of embryos in storage and the number of embryos potentially available for research, and would control the type of research projects that could be undertaken.

Concerning the 40,000 human embryos that U.K. supposedly has destroyed without any positive research results, I cannot state how many embryos have been destroyed in the U.K. What I can say is the U.K. is one of the world leaders in the area embryonic research and significant advances in reproductive medicine has been made available by its research. In fact in vitro fertilization was first successfully carried in the U.K. in 1978. As of August 2002, there were 28 licensed projects in the U.K. involving the in vitro embryo, the majority of them focusing on improving infertility treatments.

For example, in the U.K. as we speak projects are underway to improve the maturation of embryos in vitro, to increase implantation rates as well as studies into improving egg freezing techniques. I believe that the claim that there have been no positive research results is inaccurate.

Another claim that has been made in the House by some members to justify their opposition to Bill C-13 is that the conflict of interest provisions are so weak they would allow biotech and pharmaceutical companies to be represented on the board of the agency that would approve and license research projects.

I would encourage those members to go back and read Bill C-13. The government's amendment to Bill C-13, which now constitutes paragraph 26(9), sets solid requirements for all prospective and serving members of the board. No board member may hold a licence or be an applicant for a licence or be a director, officer, shareholder or partner of a licensee or applicant for a licence. These requirements could not be more stringent or more appropriate.

It is however not the intention of Bill C-13 to exclude people from the board who have relevant experience, such as doctors, scientists, nurses, ethicists, counsellors et cetera. If we were to exclude these people we would be undermining the credibility of the board.

Paragraph 26(9) sets out solid conflict of interest requirements and the conflict of interest provision is in addition to the stringent conflict of interest and post-employment code principles, already binding all governor in council appointees.

Another claim that has been made in the House by opponents to Bill C-13 is that significant clauses of the bill have been qualified by phrases such as “per the regulations” and therefore members of the House who oppose Bill C-13 are saying that MPs are being asked to vote on a bill without knowing the full intent and that they will not be permitted to approve regulations.

First, all members of Parliament have oversight capacity over regulations. In addition, the House in conjunction with the other house, has a Joint Standing Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations that only scrutinizes regulations. However that does not preclude any standing committee of the House to scrutinize regulations.

Second, the act provides for parliamentary oversight of the regulations that would occur at the time of Canada Gazette Part I . It also calls for a review by Parliament after three years which would allow MPs to review again the appropriateness of the bill's provisions and associate regulations.

Finally, I can obviously not go through everything but I want to point out one thing. Bill C-13 prohibits commercial surrogacy on the grounds that it treats children as objects. It also treats the reproductive capacity of women and reproduction in general as economic activities.

Subclause 12(3) introduced at report stage and adopted by the majority of members of Parliament provides for the reimbursement of lost income for a surrogate mother which in no way contradicts the non-commercialization scheme. A surrogate mother may only be compensated for loss of income during pregnancy if she has a medical certificate stating that continuing to work may pose a risk to her health or to that of the developing fetus. It already exists in workmen's compensation in Quebec.

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October 6th, 2003 / 12:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-13 is extremely important because we have already had this debate when it appeared as Bill C-56. My colleague, the hon. member for Drummond, was a visionary and had in the mid-1990s suggested that parliamentarians should consider such legislation. She introduced a private member's bill that sought to prohibit human cloning for reproductive and therapeutic purposes.

I am extremely saddened—I do not know if it shows; I remain calm at all times—by what is happening here today. When we left for our ridings in June, I asked the Minister of Health to ensure that the Bloc Quebecois could support this legislation. We are not being politically correct with regard to this legislation. We are not debating abortion in terms of pro-life or pro-choice. This is not what we are doing; we will have other opportunities to do so.

We agree that the Criminal Code which is a federal responsibility must contain provisions prohibiting various practices on humans that, for ethical reasons and humanist reasons are unacceptable. We are talking about cloning, transgenesis, gender selection and the possibility of playing with prenatal diagnoses, in short, any and all considerations that we agree need to be federally legislated.

The problem is that this legislation contains a proposal to establish a regulatory agency responsible for implementing any regulations. This regulatory agency and the regulations, established under Bill C-13, would be incompatible with about a dozen provincial laws.

We must not forget the starting point, which is that one out of five couples in Canada experiences some degree of infertility. This is the premise. Obviously, some people, like Louise Vandelac, a UQAM researcher, say that this legislation should focus more on preventing endocrine disruptors in the environment, which cause infertility in humans.

If we look at the bottom line, we can see that the problem with the future regulatory agency is that it will not take into account a number of laws duly passed by the Quebec National Assembly.

If Bill C-13 is passed, it should be divided into two bills. In fact, upon our return in January, with its usual the sense of responsibility, the Bloc Quebecois asked for that specifically. All my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois would have been only too happy to vote in favour of a bill focussing exclusively on prohibited activities. I am sure that our colleagues from the Canadian Alliance, the NDP and the Progressive Conservative Party would have too.

This bill would have the federal government regulate the provision of services in private clinics and hospitals. Under section 112 of the Quebec Act respecting health services and social services, the Quebec Minister of Health and Social Services is responsible for determining which facilities will provide artificial insemination services and other forms of medically assisted reproduction services.

So, if the bill, and subsequently the related regulations, were passed, this would mean that the federal government could then override the right of the Quebec Minister of Health and Social Services and the National Assembly to establish the conditions under which health professionals will provide medically assisted reproduction services.

Bill C-13 is incompatible with the Quebec Civil Code, the act respecting health services and social services, the act respecting the protection of personal information, the act respecting medical laboratories, the charter of human rights and freedoms, the medical code of ethics, the guidelines of the Quebec health research fund, and the ministerial action plan for research ethics and scientific integrity.

On Saturday morning, I met with the Fédération québécoise de planification des naissances. This Quebec group knows Bill C-13 well, and has been interested in issues having to do with planned parenthood for many years. The political attaché to Mr. Couillard, Quebec's health and social services minister, was also present.

We seemed to be reading the bill the same way. I know that the Government of Quebec has not yet announced its final position on this issue. It will do that soon. But the Government of Quebec—which is not a sovereignist government, we know—was very worried about the precedent that might be created.

I explained matters to the researchers, the feminist groups and the federation. There are groups in Quebec who have been waiting for such a bill for 15 years. One of the people at the meeting was Louise Vandelac, a researcher who had worked with the Baird Commission. She withdrew from that commission, as did the wife of the hon. member for Calgary Centre. We know that these people went as far as the Federal Court to protest some of the activities of the Baird commission.

And yet, the political attaché to the minister of health and social services was aware, as are the members from Quebec—those from the Bloc Quebecois anyway, but perhaps not the Liberal members from Quebec—that if this bill is adopted, we will be creating a precedent allowing a regulatory agency to intervene directly in establishing and regulating services provided in hospitals and private clinics.

If, as Bloc Quebecois members, we pass Bill C-13, since we do acknowledge the need for legislation on banned practices—so much so that the member for Drummond introduced a bill on it as far back as 1995— this means the federal government is going to conclude that it has leeway to get involved in early child education and palliative care. It will take advantage of this precedent, unfortunately, to interfere in health and social services, beyond the limits of its jurisdiction.

We have worked very hard on this issue. There is nothing partisan about it. People with fertility problems who want to have a child go through a lot of turmoil. We have received all kinds of testimonials, and I could talk about them for hours. So I asked the federal health minister: “Why did the federal government not split the bill?” I went on to say “If you are convinced you are not ultra petita , not outside your area of jurisdiction, why do you not table a letter from the Quebec minister of health, and one signed by yourself as federal health minister, acknowledging that, regardless of what agency, and what regulations are adopted by the Government of Quebec, this will be the law applicable to Quebec.

Equivalency will be acknowledged right from the start. It is possible that there could be an equivalency agreement in the bill. This must, however, be evaluated by federal officials, and what guarantee do we have that everything done by the Government of Quebec, which had provisions in its civil code as far back as 1994, will be acknowledged?. What guarantee do we have that any agency and legislation created subsequently by the National Assembly will be recognized?

I say again to the minister, if we get that letter, that guarantee, we will vote in favour of this bill at third reading. If we do not, however, believe me, we will not keep quiet and allow jurisdictions to be trampled over in this way.

Given the urgency of the situation and the fact that I, as a Bloc member, have followed this issue from the start in the Standing Committee on Health, could you, Mr. Speaker, find out whether, in the spirit of camaraderie that ought to exist in this Chamber, and given the importance of the issue, I might not have an additional 15 minutes to complete my speech? I would see that as a sign of true camaraderie.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

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

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PrivilegePrivate Members' Business

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

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I maintain that that is the right position.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

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

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

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

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

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

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

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

Safety must, to some extent, be ensured. In order to ensure the health and safety of those who turn to assisted reproduction, this bill stipulates that individuals thinking of donating an ovum or an embryo for assisted human reproduction or research purposes must give their informed consent in writing before any procedure. Children born through the use of reproductive material will have access to medical information on donors, but will not necessarily have access to their identity, donors being free to decide whether or not to divulge their identity.

The legislation would also prohibit unacceptable activities, such as the creation of human clones for any reason whatsoever, i.e. for purposes of reproduction or for therapeutic purposes. The legislation would also prohibit creating an in vitro embryo for purposes other than creating a human being or improving assisted reproduction procedures, creating chimeras or hybrids for reproductive purposes, providing financial inducements to a woman to become a surrogate mother, and buying or selling human embryos or providing property or services in exchange.

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

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

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

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

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

Now for the arguments against. Research on human embryonic stem cells is controversial, mainly because it involves destruction of the embryo used. According to the Catholic Church, the creation of embryos for research purposes and the use of embryonic stem cells are actions contrary to the will of God, for whom reproduction must always be a conjugal act. Since the embryo is a potential human being, according to the Church it must have a special moral status. Moreover, numerous associations have expressed the fear that cloning, initially justified as a means to a cure for certain very rare diseases, will eventually become widespread and lead to the production of designer babies.

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

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

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

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

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

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

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

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

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

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

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

The Deputy Speaker

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

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

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

October 2nd, 2003 / 3 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

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

Gerry Ritz Canadian Alliance Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

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

This is an excellent petition.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

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

Bob Mills Canadian Alliance Red Deer, AB

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

HealthPrivate Members' Business

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

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SupplyGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parliament of Canada ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

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

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

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

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

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

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

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

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

May 29th, 2003 / 3 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, to answer the last question first, as to whether we need to have late night sittings, I suppose it depends on the co-operation on the part of the opposition, which is usually quite good, I must say.

Going to the substance for the next few days, we will continue this afternoon with the opposition day motion. The House does not sit tomorrow because of the Conservative leadership convention.

We are now entering June, the month when we try to wrap up the year's work and we will be consulting other House leaders on a daily, sometimes hourly basis, in order to determine the precise order of bills. However for the next few days we will be dealing mostly with report stages, third readings and consideration of Senate amendments to bills we have already passed.

The bills that will be considered next week will be, and I will start with the one on Monday, although we intend to have a minor conversation about another minor issue later, but generally speaking they will be as follows. We will start with Bill C-25, the public service bill. We will then move on to Bill C-31 respecting certain pensions for veterans and the RCMP. When that bill is completed I would hope to start Bill C-7 respecting first nations governance; and because they are all government days next week we are going to take them probably in roughly that sequence, Bill C-17 public safety; then Bill C-13, the reproductive technologies bill which is presently at third reading.

It would be my intention to then call Bill C-32, the Criminal Code amendments. When the bill is reported to the House, which hopefully will be one day next week, we could then commence Bill C-24, the political financing bill. We also have the amendments from the Senate which I understand might happen on Bill C-15, the lobbyist bill, and Bill C-10B, cruelty to animals.

At some point, we would also like to debate the second reading of Bill S-13, respecting the census, and Bill C-27, the airport bill.

As a matter of courtesy, I wish to indicate to colleagues that it is my intention to call the final supply day on or after June 12. This is not, of course, an official designation of that day at this point but that is why I say on or after, but at least to try and give an indication to colleagues in the event that they will not take other commitments at or about that particular time in order for them to be able to plan their agenda.

Canadian Institutes of Health ResearchOral Question Period

May 15th, 2003 / 2:50 p.m.
See context

Edmonton West Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member is well aware, we have been debating Bill C-13 in the House for some time now and that deals with, among other things, embryonic stem cell research. I would encourage all parliamentarians to pass this legislation as quickly as possible.

The CIHR is a body that operates at arm's length from the government. Last April it indicated it would not proceed with stem cell research for a one year, or 12 month period, whereupon it would put in place a steering committee which would then, at some time in the future, receive applications that would potentially deal with embryonic stem cell research.

As I understand it, it is in the process of putting that-

SupplyGovernment Orders

May 13th, 2003 / 7:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Chair, I accept the minister's idea, particularly since I asked her a question on the funding for Quebec because she was listing what had been passed in the budget, which we already knew. I know that she meant well by sharing that information with us.

I will, however, raise some other questions because this is such a golden moment, to have a direct contact with a minister who was not know for faithfully attending the health committee. I will ask two more questions, if she is agreeable.

I contacted her about cigarette smuggling. I had received information that this was a common practice in certain parts of Canada, including some reserves. I was on the committee when we revisited the whole matter of mandatory labelling. I presented her with examples of cigarette packaging that did not meet the labelling requirements, as the standing committee required. The minister looked into this, and was suppose to get back to me. Perhaps she could take advantage of this opportunity to bring us up to date and reassure everyone, manufacturers and consumer associations alike, that there will not be two standards, that everyone will be subject to the same laws and regulations.

I have a second question on this aspect. The previous Government of Quebec was one of the best that ever served. I know my good friend, the member for Verdun—Saint-Henri—Saint-Paul—Pointe Saint-Charles, may feel otherwise, but it was a good government. We will judge the new one according to what it comes up with. Can the minister tell us whether she has had representations to indicate whether the new health minister was any more kindly disposed to the reproductive technology bill than the old?

She will recall that, although serving as a go-between is not my style, I forwarded to her a letter in which the Government of Quebec opposed Bill C-13 on reproductive technologies. Has she received any representations that would indicate that the new government is any more in favour of it?

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

May 8th, 2003 / 3 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, we had the curious scene of having the weekly business statement made in the lead off question and the lead off question made during business statements this week. Nonetheless, we all have very much confidence in the opposition House leader.

This afternoon we will continue with the opposition motion.

Tomorrow we will resume debate on the third reading of Bill C-13 respecting reproductive technologies. This will be followed by the report stage of Bill C-17, the public safety bill, as I indicated earlier, around 2:15 p.m.

On Monday we will commence report stage of Bill C-28. When this is completed we will return to the business not completed this week, adding Bill C-36, the archives and library bill introduced earlier this day.

On Tuesday evening the House will go into committee of the whole pursuant to Standing Order 81 in order to consider the estimates of the Minister of Health.

Next Thursday shall be an allotted day.

In terms of when we propose to consider the report stage and third reading of Bill C-24, the election financing bill, I understand the committee is doing tremendous progress, thanks in large measure to Liberal MPs on the committee, and we hope to deal with that shortly after the House resumes.

Government LegislationOral Question Period

May 8th, 2003 / 2:15 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, it is rather unusual to have the House business question being asked as the leadoff in question period as opposed to at 3:00 o'clock. Be that as it may, I am pleased to inform the Leader of the Opposition that the very important Bill C-13 on human reproduction will be dealt with tomorrow. This will be followed by the equally important Bill C-17 on public safety. We will then, thanks to the report tabled in the House earlier today, on Monday deal with Bill C-28, the budget implementation bill. Then we will consider, if not completed, Bill C-13, the human reproduction--

Canadian Environmental Assessment ActGovernment Orders

May 5th, 2003 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Roger Gaudet Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today, at this stage in the study of Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, known as the CEAA.

Both the House and the committee worked very hard and have shown a great deal of goodwill in order to amend this bill to bring it into line with Quebec's longstanding environmental conditions and claims.

Let us recall the major elements of this bill. First, there are two new objectives: to promote cooperation and coordinated action between federal and provincial governments with respect to environmental assessment processes for projects; and to promote communication and cooperation between responsible authorities and aboriginal peoples with respect to environmental assessment. It would also subject the Canadian International Development Agency, CIDA, to the process and establish a federal environmental assessment coordinator for projects that involve several federal authorities or provinces. It also authorizes the use, as an assessment criterion, of local knowledge, aboriginal knowledge and traditions. The bill broadens the minister's discretionary power to get involved in projects in Quebec. It extends the participant funding program to comprehensive studies.

Allow me to talk about the issues for the Bloc Quebecois. Bill C-9, as it now stands, is not a bad bill. It is a considerable improvement on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, particularly by extending its application to CIDA and certain crown agencies.

Participant funding and the consultation of aboriginals are other very interesting features of this bill.

However, the problem lies with the very principle of the bill. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act interferes in Quebec's fundamental jurisdictions.

When it was introduced in 1992, the legislation was interpreted as an attempt by the federal government to reintroduce some discretionary leeway in its environmental assessment process.

Clause 22 of the bill clearly broadens the federal government's authority to interfere in one of Quebec's areas of jurisdiction. The minister reserves discretionary power for himself by adding:

Where no power, duty or function referred to in section 5 is to be exercised or performed by a federal authority in relation to a project that is to be carried out in a province and the Minister is of the opinion that the project may cause significant adverse environmental effects in another province, the Minister may refer the project to a mediator or a review panel in accordance with section 29 for an assessment of the environmental effects of the project in that other province.

Clause 8 provides for the creation of the position of federal environmental assessment coordinator. This shows clearly that the federal government wants to insinuate itself into Quebec's process. it is because the federal government intends to act in Quebec's area of jurisdiction that it has to create the position of coordinator. If the federal government stuck to its own area of jurisdiction, coordination would not be required.

Initially, some provincial governments, including Quebec and Alberta, were the leaders. They criticized the Canadian legislation and demanded major changes that would have made possible for provincial processes to be used in place of federal assessments, but there were few federal concessions.

The bill appears to introduce discrimination between the promoters of projects associated with federal authorities and those that are not. For example, a partially federal-funded project would be covered by the law, but as soon as the federal level is not involved, another system clicks in.

Let us turn now to Quebec's opposition. In 1992, under Mr. Bourassa's government, the National Assembly passed a unanimous resolution denouncing the federal government which was acting unilaterally without taking into account Quebec's representations. The motion read:

That the National Assembly stronly disapproves of the federal government bill, ...an Act to establish a federal environmental assessment process, ...because it is contrary to the higher interest of Quebec, and the National Assembly opposes its passage by the federal Parliament.

Quebec is also against duplication of the process by the federal government. This federal process can take place in addition to the environmental evaluation from the BAPE. It is a waste of resources which could be used more efficiently for environment.

One has to remember this historical event. It is important to remember what our position was at that time, in Quebec, in an effort to understand what we went through with the current legislation, which is now to be amended.

Bill C-78 became Bill C-13, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. I have here documents from 1992 where the Government of Quebec was saying, with regard to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and I quote:

There is indeed a risk that the latter will constantly be duplicated, disputed or subordinated to the application of the federal process. Yet, the Quebec procedure has been well established for ten years already; it is well known by the general public and the promoters from Quebec; and it has proven itself.

Let me repeat this quote:

There is indeed a risk that the latter will constantly be duplicated, disputed or subordinated to the application of the federal process. Yet, the Quebec procedure has been well established for ten years already; it is well known by the general public and the promoters from Quebec; and it has proven itself.

The Government of Quebec added that the areas where the federal authority can get involved are somewhat limitless. Therefore, in the view of the Government of Quebec of the time, the scope of this Canadian Environmental Assessment Act was limitless, given all of the provisions the bill contained to force obligatory reviews of projects by the federal authority.

That was our view, in Quebec, of Bill C-13, which became the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which we are amending today. At the time, Quebec was also worried that this environmental assessment process would create duplication. It did say that if Bill C-13 was passed as written—and I want to stress this because it is the basic legislation that we are amending here today—it would mean subjecting to federal assessment many environmental projects with an environmental impact, which have already gone through the environmental assessment and review process in Quebec. This situation would therefore create a serious duplication problem in Quebec.

The scope of our Bureau des audiences publiques sur l'environnement, or BAPE, is expanded to include various issues, and not only specific projects from proponents, something that is not possible in the federal process, which was enacted a few years ago and which we are amending today.

Therefore, the significance of the Quebec process must be recognized. As I said, Quebec did not sign the Accord on Environmental Harmonization because it was afraid at the time that there would be some bills that are not really intended to improve cooperation. As people often say, with an accord or a bill like that, you do not need to be married. Under these circumstances, we do not want to be partners. True partnership involves cooperation.

We do not see how the Government of Quebec could find a way to get application of these elements of the federal environmental assessment process delegated to it, although the process it has had in place in recent years is acknowledged as the most effective in the world. Not only do we say so, others do as well. Why undo what is being done well? If Quebec were not proactive as far as environmental assessment is concerned, I might just about be able to understand the Canadian government's desire to develop a federal process, because of the Quebec government's lack of stringency as far as environmental assessment is concerned. But why do they want to duplicate it when the Quebec process is recognized as working?

This is evidence of an increasingly centralist government in Ottawa, despite its preaching of cooperation and harmonization. People cannot say one thing out of one side of their mouths, and its opposite out of the other. They cannot say that cooperation and collaboration are necessary and then turn up with bills that could not be more centralist.

Political consistency is the one and only thing that will restore public confidence in the political system. Inconsistency and an approach of this type is what leads to Quebeckers and Canadians to lose interest in politics and politicians. To my mind, consistency is vital.

So why not give full rein to a Quebec process that allows a comprehensive study? That is what I cannot understand. Since the Quebec process allows comprehensive study, why, if the federal government wants to achieve good environmental assessment, not let this process be used to its full extent,since it does provide comprehensive study? But no, they want to consolidate a bill.

There is another fundamental problem. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act adopts a process of self-assessment, in that the federal authorities assess their own projects, unlike the situation in Quebec where we have our own Bureau des audiences publiques sur l'environnement to do environmental assessment. Often, under the Canadian legislation, departments do their own assessments.

So they are both judge and defendant. It is as if the oil industry or an industrial developer were told, “You will conduct your own environmental assessment”. What would happen? It would result in biases. What we really need is not a self-assessment process, but a truly independent process as afforded by Quebec's Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement.

We have some serious criticisms of several clauses of Bill C-9. First, clause 22 clearly gives the federal government greater authority to interfere in one of Quebec's jurisdictions. By adding “of the opinion”, the bill gives the minister discretionary power. So, the minister has the discretion to intervene.

Second, in clause 8, the whole part about the federal environmental assessment coordinator clearly shows that the federal government wants to interfere in Quebec's process. The federal government has to create this position because it intends to operate in one of Quebec's jurisdictions. If it stayed in its own jurisdiction, it would not need to do this.

Quebec is not opposed to a federal environmental assessment process, just as it did not oppose the federal species at risk legislation. Why was it not opposed to such legislation? Because, since 1990, Quebec has its own such legislation. It took the federal government 13 years to decide to adopt federal species at risk legislation and, 13 years later, we are being told that the federal legislation might eliminate Quebec's process and legislation.

The process in Quebec is more at arm's length, as compared to that approach. It excludes fewer projects, thus ensuring more comprehensive protection of the environment. It is less complex than the federal process. It is also more uniform, hence more predictable, since it comes under just one entity instead of various federal departments. Finally, it provides clearly set time limits, contrary to the federal process, which never gives any precise time limit.

I am not convinced that our fellow citizens are happy with the federal process, under which only 1% of projects are subject to a comprehensive study. I would be curious to ask the question to Canadians and I would be happy to do a public opinion poll to ask those who used the federal process if they are happy with the fact that only 1% of projects were subject to a comprehensive study, which means that 99% underwent a screening. I would ask them: are you happy with that? Do you believe that the process is transparent? Do you think that the self-assessment philosophy of the federal government is right? I am convinced that the results would be different.

It seems obvious to me that the federal government is trying to force a process on Quebec, which already has an effective process. This is my opinion, but it is also the opinion of others.

I also wish to say that in committee we strived to have the special status given to the Cree people in Quebec and recognized under article 22 of the Baie-James Convention, which provides for a distinct environmental assessment regime and process, recognized under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, as it is under the environmental quality legislation in Quebec. This was one of the major demands of the Grand Council of the Crees, namely thate this special status be given and that article 22 of the convention be recognized.

Their proposal on energy sates:

In order to guarantee Quebecers the hydro supply they will need in the near future, we intend to speed up hydro project development by quickly reaching an agreement with federal authorities in order to harmonize, and even delegate to Quebec the environment assessment process.

The Government of Quebec wishes to reduce waiting tperiods, among other things, for hydro projects. Hydro is the main economic generator in Quebec.

The past is an indication of what the future holds in store. Look at what this government has done with the environmental assessment project in the Toulnustouc project on the North Shore. It is important to remember that the interference of the federal government in the hydro-electric generating station on the Toulnustouc River in 2001 caused delays of several months on this key project for the region.

After reviewing the environmental assessment of the project, after public consultations in Baie-Comeau and Betsiamites, after 13 hearings involving some 650 people with 31 briefs having been presented, the BAPE gave the project its approval in June 2001. This hydroelectric power plant was going to generate employment for 800 people per year.

The federal government decided to enforce the federal process, skeptical of the BAPE's environmental assessment under Quebec's system, thereby delaying a sustainable development project for Canada, and also violating the principles of sustainable development.

The environment and society are equally important. I think that the proposal of the current Liberal government, to have environmental reviews delegated to Quebec, is completely warranted.

I find this reassuring and I have the following observation. We have often been blamed here in the House for not understanding anything. The Government of Quebec was often blamed for not understanding the situation and for not wanting to cooperate or harmonize environmental measures, because it was a PQ government, sovereignist and separatist—as the members opposite call us. Now, we can see that there was not just the issue of the fiscal imbalance that the Government of Quebec could not agree on. The current Liberal government in Quebec does not agree on this issue either.

I am truly convinced that when the newly elected government in the National Assembly sees this bill and studies and evaluates these major amendments, it will be consistent with Robert Bourassa's position in 1992 and support the drive to patriate these powers and have one single environmental review process for all projects.

In the end, I am convinced that the new government will remain faithful to Quebec's past demands and to the best interests of Quebec, as all of the governments in Quebec have done for decades.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

May 1st, 2003 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to note the lobby just put before us by the hon. member for Bill C-10A to be debated next week.

This afternoon, we will continue the debate on the opposition motion. Tomorrow, we will commence with Bill C-34, the long-awaited bill to amend the Parliament of Canada Act.

I have informed the House leaders of the other parties of my intention to propose, pursuant to Standing Order 73(1), that this bill be referred to committee before second reading. If this debate is completed by the end of the day, we will return to third reading of Bill C-9, which deals with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act; then we will go to Bill C-13, the reproductive technologies bill, but I would be surprised if we got that far tomorrow.

On Monday and Wednesday, we will return to the two bills that I just mentioned and we will add to that Bill C-35, regarding military judges, which I think was introduced this morning. Then we will complete, I hope, Bill C-33, dealing with the transfer of offenders.

On Tuesday, and again I am responding to the request made by my colleagues opposite, we will continue consideration of the Senate amendments to Bill C-10, respecting the Criminal Code.

Next Thursday will be an allotted day.

Canadian Environmental Assessment ActGovernments Orders

April 30th, 2003 / 3:50 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today at this stage of the consideration of Bill C-9, to amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, or CEAA.

We have worked very hard and with a great deal of goodwill, both in this House and in committee, to amend this bill to ensure it meets the historical demands of Quebec with respect to environmental assessment.

This is done in committee by trying to make changes to both the bill's preamble and its essential clauses, to achieve greater cooperation and collaboration, as indicated; that is what is sought by the accord on environmental harmonization, which Quebec has not signed.

Quebec has not signed this accord on environmental harmonization, and we should recall what Quebec said at the time, which was, “We will not endorse this accord as long as we do not have the assurance that legislatively, our environmental process and legislation will be respected when, for example, projects are carried out in our jurisdiction”.

That is what was said at the time, and I remember this was what Minister Bégin or Minister Cliche was saying when I was elected in 1997. This is also the wish historically expressed by every previous government, whether PQ or Liberal. I will come back later to the commitments the Liberal Party of Quebec made during the last campaign in Quebec concerning environmental assessments and the demands of the current Government of Quebec in terms of environmental assessment process. That is our position, and it is not that we do not want projects carried out within Quebec's jurisdiction not to be subject to an environmental assessment, far from it.

The first bill on this topic, Bill C-78, was introduced on June 18, 1990. A bill respecting environmental assessment was first introduced in 1990, while in Quebec an environmental assessment process was established back in 1975. In Quebec, we developed our own environmental assessment system by incorporating it in the Environment Quality Act in 1978. Well before 1990, some 12 years before the first federal environmental assessment bill was introduced, Quebec was already putting in place its own environmental assessment mechanisms and process.

This shows then that, when it comes to the environment, particularly environmental impact assessment of projects within Quebec, Quebec has already demonstrated its leadership.

By 1978, Quebec had set up its environmental impact assessment system, and two years later, it created the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement (BAPE) in Quebec. Even Canadian environmental groups have told us that the BAPE is doing excellent work. This office provides for public participation and much greater transparency and has reduced delays in getting an environmental impact assessment. In short, it ensures that proper assessments are done, while making sure that some projects are also cost effective, for example, some hydroelectric projects. So, by 1980, Quebec had created the BAPE.

By 1990, when Bill C-78, the first bill on environmental procedure in Quebec was tabled, Quebec and Robert Bourassa's Liberal government joined forces, and the Minister of the Environment, Pierre Paradis, wrote a letter to the federal Minister of the Environment, Jean J. Charest.

I should first talk about the time that Pierre Paradis, in a letter to Robert René de Cotret, indicated that it was essential for Bill C-78 to introduce some flexibility into Quebec's process and avoid any duplication. At the time, Quebec asked that this be ensured. However, the federal government refused to make the changes to Bill C-78 that the Quebec government was requesting.

On December 17, 1990, that same Minister of the Environment for Quebec, Pierre Paradis, wrote to Jean Charest, federal Minister of the Environment, to tell him that it could clearly be demonstrated that the bill infringed on Quebec's areas of jurisdiction. This was a clear indication that the federal government was meddling in Quebec's areas of jurisdiction.

Through all these processes, it seemed clear to me at the time that Quebec had a unanimous position on this issue. In fact, the environment minister of the day expressed it in a letter. On June 16, 1992, Pierre Paradis even made representations before the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources to indicate the impact that the environmental assessment process could have on the expertise that Quebec had developed and the experience that it had gained. But the government refused to listen to reason.

Seeing that the federal government was refusing to recognize Quebec's expertise and the legitimate demands of the Bourassa government, on March 18, 1992, the National Assembly of Quebec passed a unanimous resolution and a unanimous motion calling on the federal government to suspend its procedures.

In 1992, under the premiership of Robert Bourassa, both PQ members and Liberal members passed a unanimous motion voicing strong disapproval of the federal government's bill, an act to establish a federal environmental assessment process, because it went against Quebec's best interests. The assembly was therefore opposed to the federal Parliament passing the bill.

This shows that it was not only the Bourassa government that expressed its opposition to the process that was being put in place, and which is being amended today, but the whole National Assembly.

We must remember these historic moments. It is important to remember what we, in Quebec, thought at the time to try to understand the impact that the existing legislation, which we want to amend today, has had on us.

Bill C-78 became Bill C-13, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. I have here documents from 1992 where the Government of Quebec was saying, with regard to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and I quote:

There is indeed a risk that the latter will constantly be duplicated, disputed or subordinated to the application of the federal process. Yet, the Quebec procedure has been well established for ten years already; it is well known by the general public and the promoters from Quebec; and it has proven itself.

The Government of Quebec added that the areas where the federal authority can get involved are somewhat limitless.

Therefore, in the view of the Government of Quebec of the time, the scope of this Canadian Environmental Assessment Act was limitless, given all of the provisions the bill contained to force obligatory reviews of projects by the federal authority.

That was our view, in Quebec, of Bill C-13, which became the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which we are amending today.

I will come back later to whether the concerns of the Government of Quebec were justified. I will refer to the Toulnustouc hydroelectric project, on the North Shore, which my colleague has seen postponed. This is a hydroelectric project, not a gas pipeline or an oil project. This hydroelectric project, which would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, was postponed because of overlap and a federal environmental process that confirmed the conclusions already reached by Quebec's Bureau des audiences publiques sur l'environnement. I will come back to this later.

In its past claims, Quebec said that it was important that there be an acknowledgment. Such was also the view of Alberta, to acknowledge Justice La Forest's Supreme Court decision in the Oldman case. This ruling set out and recognized the federal government's jurisdiction for undertaking environmental assessments of projects for which a federal decision is required. Those words need to be stressed, “where federal participation is required”.

Justice La Forest also added something in his decision that clarifies the issue of the federal government's real powers. He stated that “the Guidelines Order cannot be used as a colourable device to invade areas of provincial jurisdiction which are unconnected to the relevant heads of federal power” by the federal department or the board.

Therefore, Justice La Forest set limits on the federal government's ability to intervene on environmental matters. He recognizes, of course, that the federal government has discretionary powers, given that it is a shared jurisdiction. However, he clearly states that this power is not limitless. This needs to be acknowledged.

At the time, Quebec was also worried that this environmental assessment process would create duplication. It did say that if Bill C-13 was passed as written—and I want to stress this because it is the basic legislation that we are amending here today—it would mean submitting for federal evaluation many environmental projects that had already gone through Quebec's environmental impact examination and assessment procedure. This situation would therefore create a serious duplication problem in Quebec.

At the time, we feared that the federal environmental assessment process would create duplication. It is not that we do not want some projects to go through the environmental assessment procedure. In fact, we would like an environmental assessment to be done on as many projects as possible. That is why we created, in 1980, our very own Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement which ensures that an in-depth environmental assessment is carried out if requested by citizens.

In many ways and quite often, Quebec's environmental assessment process is more thorough than the federal process. Under the federal scheme, only 1% of all projects go through some in-depth analysis, which is not the case in Quebec. Also, Quebec's process is transparent and allows every citizen who so wishes—as long as the request for an environmental assessment is not far-fetched—to obtain consultations, hearings and environmental assessments within a reasonable time frame. Assessments are not done only on projects carried out in a specific area. BAPE can also assess industrial and farming projects, like pig farms, if they are believed to have some environmental impact.

The scope of Quebec's BAPE extends to diverse issues, and not only to specific projects from developers, something that is not possible in the federal process which we enacted a few years ago and which we are amending today.

Therefore, we must recognize the significance of the Quebec process. I remind members that Quebec did not sign the Accord on Environmental Harmonization because it was afraid at that time that the accord was one of those pieces of legislation that are not really intended to improve cooperation. As people often say, with an accord or a bill like that, you do not need to be married. Under these circumstances, we do not want to be partners.

True partnership involves cooperation. What we are hearing today is a request that Quebec become a partner, that Quebec cooperate, but one of the partners will be more equal than the other. It is often said that everyone is equal, but in reality, in the federal system as it now exists, one partner is more equal than the other. That is the federal government, because it has assumed this discretionary power. I will come back to this point later. The government will now let the minister increase his discretionary power, and that is totally unacceptable.

Moreover, as was said at the time of Bill C-13, the Government of Quebec documents submitted to a Senate committee clearly indicated, and here I quote the words of the duly elected Government of Quebec in 1992:

We fail to see why the Government of Quebec should be interested in having the implementation of these elements of the federal environmental assessment process delegated to it, when the procedure Quebec has developed in recent years has been recognized as the most effective in the world.

Not only do we say so, but others say so, too. Why destroy something that is working well? If Quebec were not proactive in environmental assessment, then perhaps I could understand why the Canadian government would want to have a federal procedure, because Quebec was weak in environmental assessment. But why, when the Quebec procedure is recognized, does the government want to create duplicate procedures?

It is because of the will of an increasingly centralizing government in Ottawa, the same government that preaches cooperation and harmonization. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot say that you want cooperation and then bring in bills that increase centralization.

Consistency is the only way to go in politics, and it is the only way people will again have faith in the political system. Double talk is indeed the kind of approach and vision that makes voters in Quebec and Canada lose interest. In my view, consistency is fundamental.

As I often said, Quebec voiced its opposition to the bill for several reasons. Why? Because, among other things, there are several elements in the environmental assessment process that depend, for the most part, on the scope and complexity of the probable effects of a project.

The main tool is screening, which applies to 99% of assessed projects. Only 1% of projects, as I said before, are subject to a comprehensive study.

Why then is Quebec's process, which allows for a comprehensive study, not properly recognized? This is what I do not understand. Since the Quebec's process allows for a comprehensive study, why does the federal government want to have a better environmental assessment? They are not taking full advantage of a process that allows for comprehensive studies. Instead, they are consolidating the legislation.

There is another fundamental problem. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act favours self-assessment in that the federal government assesses its own projects. Unlike Quebec, where we have the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement which is responsible for environmental assessments, under Canadian law it is often the departments that do their own assessment. So they are both judge and jury. It is as if the oil industry or an industrial developer were told, “You will conduct your own environmental assessment”. What would happen? It would result in biases. What we really need is not a self-assessment process but a truly independent process as afforded by Quebec's Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement.

Finally, public hearings were held between January and March 2000. Over 1,200 stakeholders took part. A parallel consultation process was held by the first nations organizations. But Quebec did not take part in these discussion and did not make any comments, gbecause the bill denies Quebec's traditional demands.

This legislation has resulted in 5,500 to 6,000 environmental impact assessments per year. This is a lot. It is important to remember that these assessments are being done by the departments responsible for the projects and not by the agency. The agency could not, in any case, handle such a high volume.

We have some criticisms of several sections of Bill C-9. First, section 22 clearly gives the federal government greater authority to interfere in one of Quebec's jurisdictions. By adding “of the opinion”, the bill gives the minister discretionary power. So, the minister has the discretion to intervene.

Second, in clause 8, the whole part about the federal environmental assessment coordinator clearly shows that the federal government wants to interfere in Quebec's process. The federal government has to create this position because it intends to operate in one of Quebec's jurisdictions. If it stayed in its own jurisdiction, it would not need to do this.

Quebec is not opposed to a federal environmental assessment process, just as it did not oppose the federal species at risk legislation. Why was it not opposed to such legislation? Because, since 1990, Quebec has its own such legislation. It took the federal government 13 years to decide to adopt federal species at risk legislation and, 13 years later, we are being told that the federal legislation might eliminate Quebec's process and legislation.

I do not get it. There are members across the way who voted for this threatened species act when they were in Quebec in 1990. As we consider Bill C-9, to amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and allow the federal process to apply in Quebec, I have a hard time understanding how some members opposite who defended and adopted the Quebec process just a few years ago can now support this bill. I do not understand this double talk. They cannot have it both ways.

One cannot endorse a bill providing for environmental assessments in Quebec and, 15 years later, support a bill allegedly designed to improve, from a federal point of view, the current legislation and the original legislation.

As far as we are concerned, the position of federal coordinator reflects the federal government's desire to interfere in the process established in Quebec. As I said, we objected to that, and so did the Government of Quebec. Why? Because we have our own Bureau des audiences publiques sur l'environnement.

I want to stress that this widely recognized process is more transparent when it comes to public participation. It is at arm's length as compared to the federal government's self-assessment approach, which I described earlier, whereby departments assess their own projects.

The process in Quebec is more at arm's length, as compared to that approach. It excludes fewer projects, thus ensuring more comprehensive protection of the environment. It is less complex than the federal process. It is also more uniform, hence more predictable, since it comes under just one entity instead of various federal departments.

Finally, it provides clearly set time limits, contrary to the federal process, which never gives any precise time limit.

When we look at the Quebec process, and analyse its performance record, including the latest report of the Bureau des audiences publiques sur l'environnement for 2000-01, which I have recently examined, we might conclude that Quebeckers are finding that the process in Quebec is not working; that it is time for a double safety net; that the Bureau des audiences publiques sur l'environnement is not, Quebeckers feel, carrying out sufficiently independent assessments; that it is time then for the federal level to step in and patch up the Quebec process; that, basically, the Quebec process needs to be consolidated because it is no good.

Yet polls have been carried out in connection with the Bureau des audiences publiques sur l'environnement, because it is important to examine what is being done, in order to see whether it is appreciated and whether the process is a good one. Most poll subjects who attended a public information session by the BAPE, 91% in fact, found its presentation appropriate. As well, 92% found the various means used to inform and consult the public on a project useful.

I am not sure that the public would really find the federal process satisfactory, when only 1% of projects are subjected to a comprehensive study. I would be curious to find out. I would be pleased to carry out a poll of those who have used the federal process, and this is what I would ask, “Are you happy that only 1% of projects were subjected to a comprehensive study? That 99% were subjected to screening only. Do you agree with this? Do you feel the process is transparent? Do you think the federal self-assessment process is a good one?” I am sure that the results would not be the same.

Most of the people polled seemed satisfied with the process in Quebec. Most of them, 86%, felt that the commission lets them ask all relevant questions within a reasonable time limit. The first part of the public hearing makes it possible for them to gain clear and precise information on the impact of projects. Eighty-eight per cent of them say this is the case. For each of these two elements, 10% report that they are dissatisfied.

However, the proportion of those who are dissatisfied is higher with regard to the time provided for preparing briefs or oral presentations. It is 21%. Therefore, even though 21% of those polled expressed dissatisfaction in terms of the time provided for preparing briefs under the Quebec process, close to 80% are indeed satisfied.

Finally, satisfaction with regard to the inquiry and public hearing process is such that two out of five respondents think that it does not need any specific improvements.

Eight respondents out of ten, or 79%, totally or generally agree that the format and structure of the report make it easy to read, whereas 8% think the opposite.

I insist on these assessments, on these comprehensive studies as opposed to screenings—it is the terminology used by the federal government. In Quebec, they are called inquiries.

The annual number of public information and consultation mandates has gone from 15 in the 1980s, when the process was created, to 18 in the 1990s and to 25 in 2001-02. The average annual number of inquiry, public hearing and mediation mandates has also increased, going from 3 in the 1980s, to 7 in the 1990s and to 12 in 2001-02. There is also a steady increase in the number of mandate-days for information, inquiry and mediation periods, that number jumping from 1,543 in 1998 to 2,622 in 2001-02.

It seems clear to me that the federal government is trying to impose its process on Quebec when Quebec's own process is working well. This is my opinion and also one that has been widely expressed.

I also have to say that in committee we tried to have included in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, as it is in Quebec's environment quality act, Quebec Crees' special status recognized under article 22 of the James Bay Convention that provides for a distinct environmental assessment process and system. That was one of the major demands of the Grand Council of the Crees, namely granting them this special status and recognizing article 22 of the convention.

The federal government turned us down. We tried several times both within the bill before us now and in committee—the issue of the environmental assessment was also reviewed in committee—I have been trying and I am still trying to have the James Bay Convention, especially article 22 on environmental assessment, recognized by the legislation and the federal government. Unfortunately, it is turning a deaf ear to us.

Finally, I talked about the 1990s, under the government of Robert Bourassa , and I also talked about the PQ government from 1994 until very recently. In a few days, we will vote on Bill C-9 at third reading. It is important to try to understand and see whether the new Quebec government has a different vision in this regard.

I believe we must take stock and try to understand what this legitimate new government, recently elected in Quebec, will favour and ask for. Will it back down on Quebec traditional demands? It might, and then again, it might not. We know very little since the environment minister was appointed just yesterday .

The only indication we have comes from the Quebec Liberal Party election platform.

The proposal from their document on energy says:

In order to provide for Quebeckers' electricity needs in the near future, we plan to reduce construction delays for hydroelectric projects by concluding a timely agreement with federal authorities to harmonize the environmental assessment process, or even delegate it to Quebec.

What the Government of Quebec wants is to reduce the waiting period when it comes to hydroelectric projects.

The past is an indication of what the future holds in store. Look at what this government has done with the environmental assessment process in the Toulnustouc project on the North Shore. It is important to remember that the interference of the federal government in the hydroelectric generating station on the Toulnustouc River in 2001 caused delays of several months on this key project for the region.

After reviewing the environmental assessment of the project, after public consultations in Baie-Comeau and Betsiamites, after 13 hearings involving some 650 people with 31 briefs having been presented, the BAPE gave the project its approval in June 2001. This hydroelectric power plant was going to generate employment for 800 people per year.

The federal government decided to enforce the federal process, skeptical of the BAPE's environmental assessment under Quebec's system, thereby delaying a sustainable development project for Canada, and also violating the principles of sustainable development, under which the economy, the environment and society are equally important. I think that the proposal of the current Liberal government, to have environmental reviews delegated to Quebec, is completely warranted.

I find this reassuring and I have the following observation. We have always and often been reproached here in the House for not understanding anything. The Government of Quebec was often reproached for not understanding the situation and for not wanting to cooperate or harmonize environmental measures, because it was a PQ government, sovereignist and separatist—as the members opposite call us. Now, we can see that there was not just the issue of the fiscal imbalance that the Government of Quebec could not agree on. The current Liberal government of Quebec does not agree on this issue either.

I am convinced that when the newly elected government in the National Assembly sees this bill and when it studies and evaluates these major amendments, it will be consistent with Robert Bourassa's position in 1992 and support the drive to patriate and have one single environmental review process for all projects. In the end, I am convinced that the new government will remain faithful to Quebec's past claims and to the best interests of Quebec, as all of the Governments of Quebec have done for decades.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2003 / 5:30 p.m.
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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the amendment on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-13.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was negatived on the following division:)

Canadian Environmental Assessment ActGovernment Orders

April 11th, 2003 / 10:25 a.m.
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NDP

Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-9 at report stage, the statutory review of the environmental assessment legislation.

Bill C-9 and its precursor, Bill C-19, came about as a result of the requirements of the mandatory review requirements set out by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, also known as the CEAA, or Bill C-13, which was proclaimed in 1992 and came into force in January 1995.

Section 72 of the current act required that the minister undertake a comprehensive review of the provisions and operation of the act five years after its coming into force. It also required that within one year after the review the minister submit a report on the review to Parliament, including a statement of any recommended changes.

At the outset, we believe the review was fundamentally flawed. Although participants indicated some progress in improving environmental planning, there remained significant deficiencies in a variety of areas, including sustainability, regional planning and policy coordination, alternative development options, traditional land use and aboriginal participation, and perhaps most significant, the lack of practical enforcement measures.

New Democrats had reservations about the bill as it was introduced because it did not adequately address these and other severe problems associated with the act. Our initial opposition was based on the assertion that the bill failed to address three principal criteria.

The current CEAA did not go far enough to protect our environment and the changes proposed in Bill C-9 would further weaken that legislation.

Bill C-9 attempted to streamline and speed up the environmental assessment and review process seemingly to the benefit of developers and industry instead of protecting the environment and the public.

The bill did not substantively address the measures needed to strengthen and improve safeguards to protect the environment.

During debate of the bill and throughout committee hearings we raised those and other concerns over the lack of effectiveness, transparency and efficiency in the EA process.

By listening to my own constituents in Dartmouth, I am very aware of what the community wants and, I believe, has the right to expect from federal environmental assessments.

I would like to provide an example of the lack of transparency which this process now has in place.

The reasonable expectations of environmentally aware and community-minded people are often dashed due to the deficiencies of the environmental assessment process, deficiencies which are not corrected in the statutory review of Bill C-9.

In Dartmouth, for example, we currently have a coast guard base on a large wharf on the Halifax harbour near Dartmouth Cove. I dare say that the red and white coast guard icebreakers, such as the Louis St. Laurent and the John A. Macdonald , are almost as much of a local landmark as the naval yards are on the Halifax side of the harbour. In my mind the base is another part of the bustling activity of one of the world's great working harbours set in a magnificent natural beauty.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has decided that it eventually will be moving the coast guard base down the harbour to the site of the Bedford Institute of Oceanography. I have no reason to believe that such a move would impair the important functions of the coast guard. If it can save money and allow for better search and rescue then all the better. However, one issue that is outstanding is what will happen to the current coast guard base. That is where the environmental assessment issue comes in.

The local municipality, the HRM, has for decades wanted to build sewage treatment plants throughout the municipality, including one near Dartmouth. I have supported these general plans because I am opposed to the dumping of raw sewage in the harbour, as is everyone in our community.

About 10 years ago the then municipalities of Halifax and Dartmouth proposed a number of cites for sewage plants, including one on the island in the middle of the harbour to take the Dartmouth sewage. An assessment was done that looked at the impact of the possible island sewage treatment plant. It is no real surprise that the result of that environmental study showed that building the plant would result in better water quality. The plant, however, was never built. It is now 10 years later and the municipality wants to put another plant on the current site of the coast guard base.

The Halifax regional municipality believes that this site is accessible to both the main sewage pipes from Dartmouth and it can also take the sewage from the cruise ships that are starting to frequent our harbour, and it will be available on the right time line in terms of when the base is moved by the coast guard.

The coast guard base is nestled right beside a residential community. There is a very limited amount of traffic going up and down the steep and narrow road to the base and the current base generates very little noise or odour.

Understandably, the neighbours around the coast guard base are not convinced that this would be the case with the sewage treatment plant. They have concerns about it. They worry that the plant will smell because it will only be about 100 yards from their homes. They worry about the noise and danger of heavy vehicles during the construction, and the noise and danger of the sludge trucks which will go up and down pass the area when the plant is operating. They worry about what this will do to the quality of their lives and their property values.

They have a right to worry about these things, and because the land is owned by the federal government, they have a right to look to the environment assessment process to make sure their concerns are dealt with.

I, as the MP, thought this would happen, that there would be an assessment because this project would involve the disposal of federal lands and that of course would automatically trigger an assessment.

I thought the environmental assessment would deal with the local concerns, which would have been communicated to both the municipality and to the federal department responsible. I expected that the assessment would look at the condition of the base, the concerns of the neighbours and would suggest ways for the plant to deal with concerns raised. I guess I was naive to believe that the system would be accessible and transparent for my constituents.

The environmental assessment screening that was done was released in January and it did not discuss many of the issues raised. It set limits on noise and odour for a plant. It was vague on how compliance would be enforced. It did not look at the condition of the base. It did not deal with the specific concerns raised by the community, or by me, to the department. It had not left anyone feeling that the environment was better served.

The basic problem is that it was not a transparent process. It did not even deal with the actual proposed site in Dartmouth but discussed guidelines for three sites around the HRM. It did confirm that having sewage treatment was better than not having sewage treatment, but there is no surprise in that. It took comments from the consortium trying to build the plants pretty much at face value. It did not seek or obtain community input. My office, which had written to the minister on the site and the assessment, was not even made aware of the assessment's release.

The municipalities public relations meetings have not been satisfactory to the community. As a matter of fact the report says that 19 submissions were received of which 5 were supportive. The report says that the local concerns have been dealt with but many of them were not.

I say these things to highlight how unsatisfactory the assessment process was for these local Dartmouth residents. They feel that the environmental assessments are something that exists for high price consultants and for developers and not for public input.

I have since learned that getting an assessment to a public panel stage, where members of the community can actually get a formal hearing, are so rare that it is virtually impossible.

After reviewing the legislation and in consultation with a variety of environmental, aboriginal and legal experts, the NDP submitted more than 50 amendments to Bill C-9. These amendments attempted to address some of the identified shortcomings of the act. While there was some success in getting several amendments, many more were defeated, as the House knows.

In conclusion, we cannot support Bill C-9 in its present form or the recommendations of the report of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development. It must be made clear that the NDP supports the goals of improving the environmental assessment process to make it more accountable, more transparent and to strengthen the protection of our environment.

Therefore it is with regret that because of the inadequacies of CEAA that we were not able to bring about meaningful amendments, we will have to give our dissent on the bill at this time.

Canadian Environmental Protection ActGovernment Orders

April 10th, 2003 / 4:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity today to speak to Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Today the government is moving 27 motions to again amend certain aspects of the work done by the members of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development .

It must be kept in mind—and this strikes me as vital at this point in the debate—that this is a bill to amend existing legislation. The essence is there. The main thrust of the opposition from Quebec lies, of course in our rejection of the amendments, but as well in our opposition to the original legislation. Legislation was tabled in 1990, Bill C-78, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

I will remind hon. members that the National Assembly made a unanimous appeal to Ottawa, reminding the federal government that it had its own environmental assessment process which worked just fine, and that in fact many aspects of it constituted a model for the world.

I will remind hon. members that Quebec created the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement or BAPE in 1980. In 1978, we introduced our own environmental assessment system as part of the environmental quality act. Two years later, BAPE was created. Well before that, five years earlier, in 1975, Quebec had adopted an environmental assessment process.

In other words, as far back as 1975, Quebec had its own process of environmental assessment, which was strengthened by the creation of the BAPE five years later, in 1980.

In 1990, the federal government introduced a bill to create its own environmental assessment process, which interferes in areas of provincial jurisdiction.

As I have said, Quebec spoke with one voice by passing a motion in its National Assembly as follows:

That... the National Assembly strongly disapproves of the federal government's bill to establish a federal environmental assessment process, because it is contrary to the higher interests of Quebec, and opposes its passage by the federal Parliament.

This motion, passed on March 18, 1992 by the National Assembly, set the tone for the opposition by all of Quebec, in solidarity and regardless of political affiliations, to this system and to the process the federal government had just put in place.

I would also like to remind you that on February 28, 1992, Quebec environment minister Pierre Paradis wrote to the federal environment minister, Jean Charest, to say that he was totally opposed to the process. Mr. Paradis wrote to Mr. Charest as follows: “Despite your explanations, we believe that the assessment system proposed in the bill will not be feasible, either for the federal government or for the Government of Quebec. It has already caused much insecurity among those involved, who would have to put up with the many overlaps the bill would allow.

We believe that the current provisions of the bill are far from sufficient to eliminate all possibility of overlap and provide an opportunity for practical agreements on implementation methods for our respective procedures”.

Thus, on February 28, 1992, following a motion passed unanimously by the Quebec National Assembly, Quebec environment minister Pierre Paradis wrote to the then federal Minister of the Environment, Jean Charest—who is now the leader of the Quebec Liberal Party and engaged in an election campaign. The federal government refused to admit what it really wanted or to recognize that this bill interfered with the defence of Quebec's interests.

About two weeks ago, when I heard the leader of the Liberal Party of Quebec, during the campaign, telling the federal government that he intended to do everything in his power, and devote all his energies to trying to bring the environmental assessment process back to Quebec, I found it rather paradoxical. Because, at the time, he refused to bend to the wishes of the Quebec National Assembly.

Today, on the campaign trail, he tells us that he would be able to eliminate the environmental assessment process, which he authorized himself in 1992. This kind of double-speak is totally unacceptable.

This bill, unfortunately, tends once again to strengthen the underlying legislation. It creates distortions and overlaps with the Quebec environmental assessment process, which is a good process, according to all the stakeholders.

If Quebec were not assuming its responsibilities, that would be one thing, maybe. However, the opposite is true, the process is working well. If we compare the environmental assessment process in place in Quebec and the work of the BAPE to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which I did in committee, we see that Quebec's process allows for broader consultations than federal legislation in recent years, since it was adopted.

Why would we want to strengthen a federal act when the process works well in Quebec?

What we have here today is a fait accompli. The government opposite has refused to take Quebeckers' interests into account.

Back at second reading, I mentioned a study done by the Government of Quebec several years ago on the application of the federal legislation. The Government of Quebec made comments about the legislation. I would like to quote from an analysis the federal government received at that time from the Minister of the Environment, Jean Charest. The Government of Quebec felt that, and I quote:

Bill C-13 is a steamroller condemning everybody to a forced uniformization, which might in turn jeopardize the environmental assessment process in Quebec and needlessly bring into question all our efforts in this area.

Members will recall that a judgment rendered several years ago by Justice La Forest stated that a federal department or panel cannot use the guidelines order as a colourable device to invade areas of provincial jurisdiction which are unconnected to the relevant federal powers.

We believe that this attempt to further strengthen, with Bill C-9, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, duplicates environmental assessment processes that already work well.

What the federal government could do is recognize Quebec's legislation and review process, and recognize the BAPE as the sole body to review projects, given that it has demonstrated that the process works well.

Therefore, inevitably, we cannot support this bill, and we will be voting against it when the time comes.

The federal government has to understand one thing, and that is that the process works well in Quebec. Why duplicate what already works?

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 10th, 2003 / 4:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Jacques Saada Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Madam Speaker, discussions have taken place among all parties and there is agreement, pursuant to Standing Order 45(7), to further defer the recorded division requested on the amendment introduced by the member for Yellowhead, regarding third reading of Bill C-13, until the end of government orders on Tuesday, April 29.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 10th, 2003 / 4:05 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Maurice Vellacott Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

They can be all woman, as my colleague reminds me, if they have the kinds of skills, backgrounds and capabilities for that kind of a role. That would be the Canadian Alliance position in respect of that.

I welcome this opportunity to speak again on this bill. It is something we have to think through very seriously. There have been some very noble efforts in the past months by members trying to improve this bill to mitigate some of the flaws and problems with it. As Bill C-13 stands, it remains deeply flawed, so right through to the end it requires our diligent attention.

Although the topic and terminology of the bill might appear intimidating to many of us, it is crucial that every member looks into the bill carefully so they can make a decision about supporting or opposing it based on a clear assessment of how this bill treats the most vulnerable members of Canadian society. That is the bottom line here. How does it treat the most vulnerable members of Canadian society?

A bill legislating reproductive technologies is definitely needed but we must ensure that it demonstrates the integrity of a responsible balance between the amazing medical and technological advances being made in the field and the value of the human subjects involved in and affected by this kind of research. Currently the bill has too many serious flaws to be allowed to pass after this final stage of debate.

The first issue that needs to be addressed is the issue of cloning. We have heard much debate about cloning, and I am thankful that members of the House passed Motion No. 13 in report stage in an attempt to ensure that all cloning techniques are addressed by the bill. However this issue is by no means over. In fact the bill still has major flaws concerning cloning since it applies only to human beings after birth. In its present form, even now that the bill has passed through report stage, the prohibitions outlined in the bill, specifically in subclauses 5(c), 5(e) and 5(h), clearly state that an activity is only prohibited “for the purpose of creating a human being”. In other words, it restricts cloning only in respect of human beings. Therein lies the rub.

What is wrong with that, one might ask. The problem is that our Criminal Code only recognizes a human being as existing once the fetus has emerged completely from the mother's womb. There we see the little wrinkle, the flaw and the rub in this whole thing. It is a major flaw because it allows the cloning of human beings before they have come out the birth canal for the purpose of terminating them and using them for research right through the ninth month of pregnancy. That is horrific and it is abominable, as far as I am concerned. I do not believe it was something that was intended by the Minister of Health but it is a gross oversight and one which must be changed before the bill is passed.

A human embryo can be created by pro-nuclear transfer cloning and can then be implanted in the womb and gestated for up to nine months. As the bill now stands, the only regulation on this cloning would be that the embryo must be killed before birth, before the full nine months. Therefore the bill not only allows cloning but it ensures that the embryos cloned must be killed even after they have developed into a fetus and reached the age of viability were they to be outside the mother's womb.

Since the bill deals with human reproductive technology, the government is acknowledging, I guess indirectly or tacitly, that the embryos in question are human, yet we have this strange thing in our Canadian criminal law. Bill C-13 recognizes that embryos have worth since it imposes a 14 day limit on storing embryos without using cryopreservation. There is no denying that an embryo has the complete DNA of an adult human.

Suzanne Scorsone, the former member of the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies states:

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 the abortion question.

She goes on to state:

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.

Cloning clearly crosses the line of an acceptable ethical practice. It denies dignity, individuality, rights and even life to a vulnerable human person.

The government claims that the bill aims to preserve and protect human individuality and diversity and the integrity of the human genome. If this is indeed the case, every effort must be made to prevent this flawed legislation. Because it does not stop all forms of cloning, we need to stop it from passing third reading.

Another reason why the bill remains so deeply flawed is its acceptance of experimentation on the human embryo. It allows research on in vitro embryos that are left over from the IVF process, as well as embryos that are created for the purpose of improving or providing instruction in assisted human reproduction procedures. By allowing this practice, the government is saying that it is acceptable to create human life for the purpose of using it and then destroying it.

I remind members of the House of the many petitions that many members have read during the past months and which concern Canadians. They call on us to turn away from embryonic research and to promote the ethical alternative of non-embryonic research. The scientific evidence is indisputable in terms of the already proven track record of non-embryonic stem cells versus the non-existent successful track record in respect to embryonic stem cell experimentation in terms of alleviating human suffering.

I believe there is a political agenda driving this push for embryonic stem cell experimentation. There is also, as the speaker from the other party just observed, an economic agenda driving this course of action, particularly for companies that will have to provide the anti-rejection drugs for patients treated with embryonic stem cells. Those who claim a reasonable scientific agenda behind such research however still have not made a convincing case.

Non-embryonic stem cells, or adult stem cells as they are called in many places, are easily accessible, they are not subject to immune rejection and, most important, are in large supply from sources such as umbilical cord blood, as well as various adult tissues.

The effectiveness of adult stem cells has already been demonstrated in treatments for Parkinson's, Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis, as well as other conditions.

In June of last year Canadian researchers reported success in adult stem cell trials with multiple sclerosis patients. They were treated with stem cells from their own bone marrow. Also, last year a U.S. child with sickle cell anemia was treated with umbilical cord stem cells that were harvested and stored following the birth of his mother. The early signs of that kind of treatment are very encouraging.

Stem cell researcher, Dr. Wolfgang Lillge, wrote in an article entitled “The Case For Adult Stem Cell Research” that the ethical use of adult stem cell research had shown promising results in both tests on animals and in cases with humans. He states:

It has become clear from transplantation experiments with animals, that stem cells of a particular tissue can develop into cells of a completely different kind. Thus, bone marrow stem cells have been induced to become brain cells, but also liver cells... Despite the fact that basic research with adult stem cells is in its earliest beginnings and is in no way being promoted with urgency--there have been a growing number of reports lately with experiments with animals, from which it emerges that adult stem cells can successfully transform themselves into differentiated cells of organs of many kinds.

Some advocates of embryonic stem cell experimentation acknowledge the success with non-embryonic stem cells but they still argue for the need to explore all these other avenues of research including embryonic stem cells.

What these researchers do not seem to realize however is that money does not grow on trees, notwithstanding the way the current Liberal government likes to spend it. The fact is that every dollar thrown into the abyss of embryonic stem cell experimentation is a dollar that will not go into further developing already proven techniques with adult stem cells.

I am horrified that the Liberal government would actually take tax dollars from Canadians who are suffering from Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, sickle cell anemia, Crohn's disease and other terrible diseases and use them to chase a political agenda that is at odds with the scientific evidence.

There is much more that could be said. What the government should be doing is splitting this bill in two so that we can pass speedily a bill banning all the offensive technologies that all members of the House want to ban. Then we could spend more time dealing with the more contentious elements of the legislation without continuing to leave Canada in the position of having a legal vacuum in all aspects of genetic and reproductive technologies.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 10th, 2003 / 3:50 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance Lakeland, AB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-13 at third and final reading. The bill deals with assisted human reproductive technologies and related research and is an extremely important piece of legislation.

As I listen to members from all the different parties in the House, I find that I can support many of the points made by members from each political party. Then there are some positions that I certainly cannot support, positions that are presented by members from all different parties as well.

This is an extremely important bill because it deals with issues of hope: hope for having a child when someone otherwise could not have one and hope for finding a cure or an effective treatment for diseases where until now there has been none. Hope is an important part of the bill. It also deals with some very difficult ethical issues. I am going to touch on these issues today as well in the final opportunity I will have to speak on the bill.

I want to say that certainly there are some things we support in the bill; some of them are prohibited by the bill and others are allowed. As a starting point, I want to quickly outline some of them.

I fully support, as I think probably all members of my political party do, bans on reproductive and therapeutic cloning, on chimeras, on animal-human hybrids, on sex selection, on germ line alteration, and on buying and selling embryos and paid surrogacy. I fully support these bans. We also support an agency to regulate the sector, although we do have some concerns about the agency and the way it would be set up. We have put forth recommendations for change and some of those have not happened.

On the issue of cloning, the Canadian Alliance opposes human cloning as an affront to human dignity and 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. In fact, this has been a large part of what we have dealt with in regard to the bill. In September 2001 we tabled a motion at the health committee calling on the government to immediately ban human reproductive cloning entirely. The Liberals deferred a vote on the motion. Their preference was to deal with cloning in a comprehensive reproductive technologies bill.

While we are not entirely happy with what happened, we are pleased with Motion No. 13 by a member of the governing party, which was passed in the House at report stage and which forecloses on any possibility of new cloning techniques getting by the bill's cloning prohibition. We had a grave concern with this.

I am going to deal with the research using human embryos. Some of the most difficult issues, some of the most emotional issues and in fact some of the greatest hope that stem cell research technology has to offer come under this section.

Stem cell research is an extremely exciting issue when we look at the hope it gives, hope in the areas that I talked about at the opening of my presentation, but there are also some very difficult issues to deal with that are connected with these issues. The bill allows for experiments using human embryos under four conditions. I actually find the language that was used surrounding the bill somewhat objectionable, but I will use that language.

First, 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 purposes of improving or providing instruction for AHR procedures.

Second, written permission must be given by the donor, although the bill states donor in the singular, and I wonder why that would not be an issue involving both parents.

Third, there can be research on a human embryo if the use is necessary, but “necessary” is left undefined. We have concerns with that.

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

These are things regarding human embryo research that I have concerns with.

Some of the concerns that I and many members of my party have are things that are overlooked, quite commonly, and one is that Bill C-13 would allow the creation of embryos for reproductive research. Canadian law would legitimize the view that human life can be created solely to be used for the benefit of others. Embryonic research is ethically controversial and divides Canadians. We can note that from the numerous petitions we have had in the House, on both sides of the issue. Clearly this is a very difficult ethical issue.

If members will listen to what I will mention later, I would argue that there is really no need to bring that difficult ethical issue into the discussion on stem cell research, because there is so much hope for adult or non-embryonic stem cells. They are safe. They are a proven alternative to embryonic stem cells. The sources of adult stem cells are the umbilical cord, blood, skin tissue, bone tissue, et cetera. There are many sources for adult stem cell research.

Adult stem cells are easily accessible and are not subject to immune rejection, which is a huge drawback to embryonic stem cells. They pose minimal ethical concerns. I have talked about those ethical concerns. Why do we want to spoil an area that has so much hope by bringing into the mix some very difficult ethical concerns? I believe we do not have to bring these concerns into the mix, quite frankly.

Also, the issue of immune rejection of foreign tissue is taken away by adult stem cell research because the stem cells are typically taken from the individual they are used by. Rejection is not an issue because they are from one's own body tissue. That is a huge advantage. As well, adult stem cells are being used today in the treatment of Parkinson's, leukemia, multiple sclerosis and other conditions. They are being used successfully in spite of the fact that adult stem cell research is quite new compared to embryonic stem cell research.

Many research companies have really based the future of their research regarding stem cells on embryonic stem cell research, yet we have found all kinds of problems with it, such as the issue of rejection and the difficult ethical issues. From adult stem cell research, which is in fact quite new, we have found none of these problems. Not only have we have found hope, but we have already found cures or treatments for conditions for which there were simply none previously. It offers great hope, and if we limit the research to adult stem cell research we can bypass those very difficult ethical issues.

Something that I think not many people understand is that in spite of the fact that research has been done on embryonic stem cells for a much longer period of time than it has on adult stem cells, embryonic stem cells and research on embryonic stem cells have not led to a single cure or effective treatment after all that time. Yet adult stem cells so quickly have led to these treatments and to this hope. Why would people object to putting that research aside until we can see just how effective adult stem cell research can actually be?

Great hope is offered by adult stem cell research. Very little has resulted from embryonic stem cell research. I call on the House to stay away from embryonic research. Let us cultivate that hope and the potential of adult stem cell research. Let us take the ethical difficulties out of the question. Let us move forward to provide more than hope, to provide cures and treatments for people who are suffering from diseases where none exist now and to provide children for people who simply cannot have children.

There are many things to support in the bill. Some things we simply cannot support. I look forward to more work in this area.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 10th, 2003 / 3:40 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased on behalf of the constituents in the riding of Winnipeg Centre to say a few words on this important bill at this stage.

Bill C-13 deals with reproductive technologies. The debate on the bill addresses an important area as Canadians approach the whole issue of reproductive technology. As we have heard throughout the debate, there are many compelling reasons to support the regulation of reproductive technology.

We are all familiar with recent sensational stories about human cloning, about eggs being sold over the Internet, about acrimonious lawsuits over surrogacy. Even last year we heard the Raelians claim that they had successfully cloned a human being. People in my riding want to know what the government plans to do to look after their interests in light of such interesting debate going on.

Even though it is the tip of the iceberg, we believe there is unregulated research and unregulated activity going on in this field. I am sure all members of the House agree that others around the globe are absolutely committed to this type of research. We want to make sure that Canadian interests are not only represented, but are protected.

We are living in a time when the term “designer babies” has become part of the North American lexicon. Parents are selecting the biological traits of their children. Internet sites compete in the trade of celebrity reproductive materials, while countless others profit from those Canadians who are more than willing to buy access to any healthy eggs or sperm that might assist them in their drive to have children. Even more worrisome perhaps is that gender selection has become topical, with all sorts of new rationales being put forward in its justification.

Many of us are now very familiar with some of the less sensational personal stories that have come to our attention as members of Parliament. We deal with families that are dealing with the issue of infertility. Stories of joy have come to my attention, as have stories of heartbreak, as well as sacrifice and pain during the whole infertility treatment and the process of parents trying to achieve reproductive success.

Reproductive technologies have become widespread in Canada, yet unfortunately they operate beyond the reach of government regulations. Therefore, we are pleased to be able to address this today and have this long overdue debate.

Unfortunately, the technology has leaped ahead by leaps and bounds without comment or without intervention by the federal government, in spite of the fact that it was over 10 years ago that the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies released its report. We have to ask why it has taken so long for us to have this very necessary debate.

I would like to list some of the concerns of the NDP regarding the bill. One issue is that during the committee stage the member for Winnipeg North Centre worked very closely with members from other parties on that committee to move amendments and to garner support for what they considered to be important amendments. They thought they had succeeded in a number of areas to break through or build some consensus on that committee regarding pretty fundamental issues in Bill C-13 that speaks to the creation of the assisted human reproduction agency.

A very fundamental principle arose. In seeing that human reproduction could be viewed disproportionately as a woman's issue or an issue that pertains to women's health, our representative on the committee, the member for Winnipeg North Centre, put forward a motion that there should be gender parity on the board of this newly established agency. She thought she had broad support for that until the vote came down.

When that particular amendment was voted on in the House of Commons, it did not succeed. We thought that the member for St. Paul's was on board with this issue and the issue of women's rights. We expected her support. We were very disappointed to find out that my colleague did not get the support for this important amendment. In fact, I have a list of how the vote went on Motion No. 71. As I say, we were very disappointed that was not recognized as a priority issue.

If, as the government claims, the bill is concerned with women's health, we argue what better way to give that claim leverage for enforcement purposes than to state outright that the precautionary principle should and must be the governing principle. Yet every time my colleague from Winnipeg North Centre raised this amendment to entrench the precautionary principle to ensure that the principle is imprinted in the legislation, our efforts were voted down by Liberal members of the committee.

The NDP wanted to require the federal government to ensure that reproductive technologies and drugs and procedures specifically are proven safe before they are introduced and that the risks and benefits of any treatment are fully made available and that the evaluation of reproductive health services include women's experiences. Yet it was frustrating, I am told, for the NDP to try to have these views succeed at the committee level.

I point out the contrast that even though the chair of that committee regarding Bill C-13 at the time, the member for St. Paul's could not see fit to support these reasonable amendments. She has recently, as reported in today's newspaper in fact, been the outspoken champion of the rights of standing committees to have some real genuine decision making authority in this place. Many of us have been frustrated by the work of committees. Many of us have felt that partisan politics and whipped votes have spoiled the opportunity for committees to do meaningful work.

As recently as yesterday in the government operations committee that same member for St. Paul's was the one saying that the members would not go any further in the clause by clause analysis of Bill C-25 until such time as the government released all the pertinent documents that they felt that they needed. In that case they were cabinet documents regarding the public service act that they were making reference too.

I see a contradiction in that on the committee dealing with the public service act the member is the champion of free speech and the champion of independent activity for members of the committee yet on the bill dealing with something as critical as reproductive health and reproductive technologies, the member was not willing to go that far.

A fundamental concern for New Democrats in this whole legislative process has to do with the commercialization and commodification of reproductive technologies. Many Canadians have expressed concern from the very beginning of the formal public dialogue about reproductive technologies. Back in the 1980s this very issue was raised. Concerns were expressed about the government agenda being driven by powerful biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries whose primary obligation is to their shareholders and not really to women's health.

There is really nothing in the bill particularly relating to the control of research results that distinguishes between the government's position and the position of these industries which stand to profit greatly from people's very real desires to have children. It is capitalizing on people's unfortunate situations that they are unable to have children naturally and are seeking reproductive technologies in the case of infertility at least and so on.

We raised the issue of patents for instance. We do not believe it is proper that human life should be a patentable commodity ever. We should never allow it to happen. There is a need to ensure that public access to the benefit of research should be available without a profit motive being built into it. For us, patenting still remains a critical issue.

Patenting remains for the government a separate issue, but for most Canadians and certainly to New Democrats, questions of research and the control and application of research results are inexorably linked.

Bill C-13, while necessary, has to be crafted in away such as to be vigorously enforced if it is to accurately reflect the wishes of most Canadians who do not want to see the commercialization of human life and human genes or human tissue ever turned into a profit making initiative.

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.
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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.
See context

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.

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

April 7th, 2003 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, my point of order pertains to the motion to concur in the Senate's message respecting the vision of Bill C-10. I will also comment on the notice given by the government to curtail debate on the motion using Standing Order 78.

Mr. Speaker, as you are aware, both the Senate and the Commons have clearly established a difference between dividing bills and amending bills. It would be inconsistent not to apply the same logic and establish a difference between the Senate messages that amend bills and Senate messages that divide bills.

I will argue that the motion to concur in the message from the Senate regarding Bill C-10 cannot be considered a stage of a bill nor can the Senate's division of Bill C-10 be considered an amendment to Bill C-10.

Accordingly, the motion to concur in the Senate's message should not be listed on the Order Paper as a motion in response to an amendment made to a bill. It should properly placed on the Order Paper as a government motion. If you were to agree with my point of order, there are two consequences.

First, the notice given by the government to time allocate the motion in response to the Senate message is invalid since Standing Order 78 cannot be used to curtail debate on a government motion unrelated to the legislative process.

Second, the wording of the motion is incorrect. It is worded as a motion to concur in a message from the Senate regarding an amendment to a bill.

As was argued on December 5, 2002, the issue of the Senate dividing a Commons' bill was unprecedented.

We all assumed and accepted that this message seeking concurrence to divide Bill C-10 should be treated as an amendment made by the Senate. There are no other precedents regarding messages from the Senate dealing with legislation. If we had thought it through, we could have concluded that the division of a bill should not be treated as an amendment. Dividing a bill has never been considered an amendment and never should be.

The two most common messages that we receive from the Senate to which we are expected to respond are messages regarding amendments to legislation and messages regarding participation on joint committees.

A message regarding amendments made to legislation is treated as a stage of a bill. A motion pursuant to Standing Order 78 would, in that case, be in order to curtail debate.

A message regarding a committee, or any other business, would also be responded to by a motion. However the motion would be considered a run of the mill government motion and would be listed on the Order Paper accordingly.

Just because the Senate message is concerning legislation does not make it a stage or an amendment to a bill. Consider as examples the numerous House orders that are moved in regard to legislation. They are not treated as stages or as amendments to bills. Let us take a more specific and pertinent example such as the division of a bill.

At page 641 of Marleau and Montpetit, it states:

--the House may give the committee an instruction by way of motion which authorizes it to do what it otherwise could not do, such as, for example...dividing a bill into more than one bill....

A motion to instruct a committee to divide a bill stands alone from the legislation. It is a separate substantive proposition. It relates to the bill but is not a stage of the bill. The government could not use time allocation to curtail debate on such a motion.

On the Order Paper we have a motion instructing the health committee to divide Bill C-13. It was moved on November 22, 2002 by the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve. It reads:

That it be an instruction to the Standing Committee on Health that they have power to divide Bill C-13, an act respecting assisted human reproduction, into two bills in order to deal with all matters related to the criminalization of practices such as cloning in another bill.

As you are aware, Bill C-13 has advanced beyond committee stage and the consideration of this motion is of no consequence to the legislative process of Bill C-13. If it were considered an amendment it would have to be disposed of first before advancing Bill C-13 any further.

If dividing a bill is not considered a stage or an amendment, then how can we consider as an amendment the motion concurring in the message from the Senate advising the House that the Senate has divided Bill C-10 into Bill C-10A and Bill C-10B.

The Senate itself did not consider the procedure to divide Bill C-10 as an amendment. The motion concerning the division of Bill C-13 is not considered an amendment in the House either. If that is the case, why are we treating the message from the Senate regarding the division of a bill as we would treat a message from the Senate regarding an amendment to a bill?

The motion to concur with the Senate should be listed under “Government Business” in the Order Paper with the other government business alongside the adjourned motion of the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve regarding the division of Bill C-13.

There was only one other precedent regarding the issue of the Senate dividing a Common's bill. On June 7, 1988, the Senate considered the matter of dividing Bill C-103, an act to increase opportunity for economic development in Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation. The issue on June 7 had to do with the fact that Bill C-103 was no longer on the Senate Order Paper but was superseded by two separate bills and that the chair had a problem accepting that the two separate bills were still government bills.

Mr. Speaker also said:

Senator Graham's instruction does not deal with amending a government bill, but with dividing a government bill into two bills.

The Speaker of course was correct. No one was arguing that it was an amendment. Everyone agreed that it was a separate motion adopted by the Senate. The issue was whether the Senate could adopt such a motion, not whether it was an amendment.

On July 11, 1988, the Speaker of the House of Commons ruled that the procedural event concerning Bill C-103 was totally without precedent. In his ruling on Bill C-103, the Speaker stated that he did not have the power to enforce the privileges of the House directly. He said that he could not rule the message from the Senate out of order for that would leave Bill C-103 in limbo. He said:

The cure in this case is for the House to claim its privileges or to forgo them....

I am not asking the Speaker to enforce the privileges of the House but to define what we are dealing with and have it worded properly and listed in the right place on the Order Paper. That would not leave Bill C-10 in limbo.

In the 1988 case the Speaker did not rule the statement made by the Senate Speaker was incorrect. I am referring to the statement that the division of a bill is not an amendment. It simply was not directly pertinent to the particular arguments put forward in the case of Bill C-103 and it was not a factor in the Speaker's ruling on Bill C-10.

The opinion of the Senate Speaker that dividing a bill is not an amendment has not been dismissed. It is accepted by both Houses that dividing a bill is not an amendment but, for some reason in the case of Bill C-10, the act of dividing a bill morphed into an amendment somewhere along the road from the Senate to the Commons.

As I said earlier, we did not know what else to do with such a message because, as Mr. Speaker stated in 1988, the procedural event concerning the division of a Commons bill by the Senate was totally without a precedent.

If we look at the message itself, it does not claim to be an amendment. The message was sent on December 4, 2002 and it is recorded in Journals as follows: “A message regarding C-10, an act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act, was first received from the Senate as follows”:

Ordered, That the Clerk do carry this Bill back to the House of Commons and acquaint that House that the Senate has divided the Bill into two Bills, Bill C-10A, an act to amend the Criminal Code (firearms) and the Firearms Act, and Bill C-10B, an act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals), both of which are attached to this Message as Appendices “A”and “B” respectively; and

That the Clerk further acquaint that House that: (a) the Senate desires the concurrence of the House of Commons in the division of Bill C-10; (b) the Senate has passed Bill C-10A without amendment; and (c) the Senate is further considering Bill C-10B.

The message does not claim to be anything more than a message. The Journals Branch does not attempt to classify the message as anything other than a message either. It began its life on the Order Paper as an amendment after the government gave notice of its motion in response. Therefore it is the government's response to the message where things went wrong procedurally.

I suspect that the government regarded the message from the Senate as an amendment made to legislation because it had no other experience of messages from the Senate regarding legislation.

Even though the message represented an extraordinary procedural event, the government's response to that extraordinary event was to use a traditional response. The motion obviously came from a template that has been used countless times.

Beauchesne's 6th edition has a number of them in appendix 1. All one has to do is fill in the blanks. There are templates in appendix 1 regarding the proper wording for report stage motions; six month hoist motions and concurrence in Senate amendments. Template No. 74 reads as follows:

That the amendments made to Bill C-...., an act...., be now read a second time and concurred in; but that this House, while disapproving of any infraction of its privileges or rights by the other House, in this case waives its claims to insist upon such rights and privileges, but the waiver of said rights and privileges is not to be drawn into a precedent.

The government's motion regarding Bill C-10 and the template are almost identical. I am not knocking the government's use of templates. We all use them. In fact, the opposition amendment to the government's motion could be considered a template amendment to a template motion. While the use of the templates help keep us consistent, they cannot be used in response to an extraordinary and unprecedented procedural event. We are required to think a little harder under those circumstances.

While the template theory may explain why we considered another message from the Senate regarding the division of a bill inadvertently as a Senate amendment, sound procedural practice does not come from a good explanation of how a mistake was made. Sound practice comes from correcting those mistakes.

Just how material are those mistakes to my argument, or how material will they be when touted as precedence, will be included in the much anticipated opposing argument that I am sure the government House leader will present in a few moments.

The House never adopted a motion that concurred in the Senate's division of a House of Commons bill. The motion before us has not been adopted yet and the only other motion, the motion regarding Bill C-103 from 1988, disagreed with the Senate. The House has never accepted the division of a bill by the Senate to be an amendment. The House thus far has rejected the Senate's power to divide a House of Commons bill outright.

That is why it is so important for us to get this right before the government adopts the motion. I would urge the Speaker not to put much stock in mistakes of the past. I would urge the Speaker to consider instead the pure logic of the argument I am presenting today. There is no question the logic is in the Speaker's Chair. It always is and always has been.

Since both houses have clearly established a difference between dividing bills and amending bills, it would be consistent to apply that difference to our response to Senate messages that amend bills and Senate messages that divide bills. If the Speaker were to agree with my argument, there would be another issue regarding the wording of the motion. It reads:

That, in relation to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Criminal Code--

The reference to amendments is what I am concerned with. If the Speaker were to agree with my argument, would that not disqualify the motion since the motion would not make sense if it were determined that the division of a bill is not an amendment to a bill? The proper course of action would be to place motions in response to Senate messages regarding the division of House of Commons bills on the Order Paper as a government motions, and not as amendments. Motions in response to Senate messages regarding the division of House of Commons bills should either agree or disagree with what the Senate has done and should not masquerade as an amendment. Dividing a bill is not an amendment.

In preparing my argument I considered the following question: Would the adoption of a motion that addressed an action of the Senate that was not considered an amendment to a House of Commons bill satisfy the legislative process? In others words, must the communication between the House and the Senate regarding legislation be exclusively about amendments in order to satisfy the constitutional requirement that both houses pass the same bill?

I raised a point of order last spring regarding Bill C-10A. I argued that Bill C-10A should not be allowed to remain on the Order Paper because the bill lacked a procedural necessity to qualify it to exist, let alone proceed to the next stage. Bill C-10A was the offspring of Bill C-10 and was divided as a result of a separate substantive motion that instructed a committee. I attempted to convince the Speaker that since Bill C-10A had not been read a first time, nor had it been read a second time, it was not legitimately before the House.

On June 3, 2002, the Speaker ruled on the matter. He said:

However in the circumstances, given the House's explicit instructions to the committee to divide the bill and report it in two parts, like dividing things like the Red Sea, we do have to follow the instructions that the House gave. In my view the procedure adopted by the committee was the exact instruction the House gave, which was to divide the bill into two parts and report it accordingly.

It was an excellent ruling. It did not matter to the Speaker that the bill in question did not actually receive second reading. The Speaker was satisfied with the procedural standing and legislative course of Bill C-10A because it was established through the adoption of a motion by the House. He maintained this opinion even though the motion that established the existence of Bill C-10A was not considered a stage of the normal legislative process.

In the case of the motion to concur in the Senate's division of a House of Commons bill, the fact that the motion to concur is not considered a stage of the bill or an amendment is immaterial. The Speaker, in this case, would have to respect the decision of the House as he did with the division of the bill. The records would show that both houses were in agreement and that the constitutional requirement would have been met.

Mr. Speaker, my arguments have raised two questions which I hope, in your wisdom, will give us an answer because we must ensure we do things right for the future of parliaments in this great land. Can the motion be time allocated using Standing Order 78? Can the motion remain on the Order Paper as placed and as worded?

Until the Speaker rules on this point of order I would request that the Speaker refuse to allow the time allocation motion to be moved and defer any vote on the motion regarding the Senate message until this matter is resolved.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 7th, 2003 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the final petition has to do with stem cells. It is quite appropriate on a day when we are debating Bill C-13.

The petitioners would like to draw to the attention of the House that Canadians do support ethical stem cell research, which has already shown encouraging potential and provides the cures and therapies necessary to deal with the illnesses and diseases of Canadians.

However they also point out that non-embryonic stem cells, also known as adult stem cells, have shown significant research progress without the immune rejection or ethical problems associated with embryonic stem cells.

The petitioners therefore call upon Parliament to pursue legislative initiatives which support adult stem cell research to find the cures and therapies necessary for the illnesses and diseases of Canadians.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 7th, 2003 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to take the opportunity to give an enormous amount of credit to the member for Nanaimo—Alberni for his contribution to Bill C-13. He spoke at every stage, he was active in committee, and he knows what he is talking about. My question relates to the structure of the bill. Being an omnibus bill, it does a lot of things.

I wonder if the member would care to comment on whether or not he believes that a bill which came forward and, very simply, banned the prohibited activities laid out in the bill, without a lot of complexity and linkages to the fertility clinics, researchers, agencies, et cetera, could pass quickly through the House and, in fact, have an in force date even sooner than would likely be the case with Bill C-13?

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 7th, 2003 / 1:25 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, again we are here with Bill C-13, a very important piece of legislation, probably one of the most important pieces of legislation that the House has considered to this point in the 37th Parliament. There are great implications for Canadians, for Canadian families and, because of difficulties with infertility, for men and women trying to produce babies .

The implications go far beyond that, which is why we have had such an interesting and prolonged debate. Again, to go back to the origin of the House dealing with this, the recommendation did come to the health committee from the minister, who asked us to look at draft legislation. The agenda has been ongoing since 1995 with the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies. Canadians have been looking into this going back a long way and we have been waiting a long time for some response.

I want to refer to the committee work because it was a procedure that we felt was very commendable. In fact, rather than getting the legislation already in a legislative framework for debate, we received a recommendation from the minister as to the direction he felt it should take and he asked us to consult Canadians and to hear from witnesses and to come up with our version of how we should respond.

I want to refer to the committee's preamble. The committee entitled our work, “Assisted Human Reproduction: Building Families”. Under the framework at the beginning of our report, we established our priorities. The committee established three priorities to be used in appraising the individual components. There are many and varied components to this legislation, but these priorities flowed from the committee's view, from the views of committee members from all parties and all sides. We took this issue seriously.

The committee's view was that “the primary goal of assisted human reproduction is to build families” and therefore we focused on the potential effect of the draft legislation on three priority issues. The first was children. The committee took the view, and I think rightly, that the focus should be on children. Priority number one was that for children resulting from assisted human reproduction procedures, “The legislation must protect the physical and emotional health as well as the essential dignity of the children who are the intended and desired result of the procedures”. Our first priority was the children who will be produced.

The second priority was the adults participating in the reproductive procedures: “The legislation must protect the adults undergoing the procedures from potential negative physical, social and emotional effects”. In order to hyperovulate, women undergoing these procedures are often exposed to very caustic chemicals. In the process, there can be rather significant consequences for the women. We wanted to make sure that the people participating are also protected from negative physical, social and emotional effects.

Finally, there are the researchers and the physicians who conduct the research: “The legislation must oversee the experimental aspects of the...procedures while allowing selected procedures that might alleviate human suffering”.

These were our priorities: first, the children; second, the adults participating; and finally, the research community. We are concerned that the way in which the bill has developed has moved away from the committee's priorities and has taken on other priorities. I will address some of these concerns.

The member for Mississauga South has just pointed out some of the concerns we have in relation to the emphasis on stem cell research that will come out of this. Also, there is the issue related to anonymity of the donors as far as the children's needs being respected is concerned.

As well, there is the issue of industry in terms of the regulatory body that is to be set up to oversee this, a very important aspect of the bill. Members worked hard on this and it was the committee's view to make sure there was no conflict of interest in this important body that will govern this research. Unfortunately, amendments that would have tightened up the conflict of interest provisions were not supported in the House and in fact provide for, as the member for Mississauga South just alluded to, members from industry who have profits tied up in this industry and a great vested interest, perhaps, in being in a position to make decisions with that regulatory body.

I would just like to mention the overarching considerations of the committee that we felt were important to put in the preamble. One principle that we felt was overarching was “respect for human individuality, dignity and integrity”. We also felt that a “precautionary approach” was necessary “to protect and promote health”, and that “non-commodification and non-commercialization” were to be foundational issues. We are concerned that this is violated by the bill and that these interests have not been enforced. We felt also that informed choice is important, as well as accountability and transparency. I will just leave the committee report at this point, but those were the principles we wanted to address.

The bill addresses very important aspects that are important to all Canadians, at least those who are conversant with these issues, such as therapeutic cloning. Cloning of human beings is a topic of much discussion these days, as is germ line alteration, and these issues are addressed by the bill.

The member for Yellowhead, our health critic for the Canadian Alliance, moved an amendment the other day to which I will refer. It said:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following thereafter:

Bill C-13, an act respecting assisted human reproduction, be not now read a third time, but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Health for the purpose of reconsidering clause 18 with the view to allow children born through donor eggs or sperm to know the identity of their biological parents.

Just a moment ago, my colleague, the member for Nanaimo--Cowichan, stood in response to the member for Mississauga South and mentioned a young woman from Nanaimo. Her name is Olivia Pratten. She is a young woman who was one of the first offspring from assisted reproduction. She has been speaking on these issues since she was about 15.

This is not an issue of passing interest to Olivia Pratten. This issue has affected her life, the origin of her life, and it affects her to this day. I would like to make reference to her remarks to committee, because her voice needs to be heard, and frankly, the way the bill stands it has not considered this voice at this point. In fact, it has violated and works contrary to what Olivia is asking on behalf of the children produced by this technology. Olivia Pratten says that only donors who are willing to be identified to the child upon reaching their age of majority should be accepted as donors. Responsible, accountable and fully consenting donors: that is the standard that needs to be set by the medical establishment and the government that should be regulating them.

Sadly, the bill allows for anonymity of donors to continue. Anonymous donations allow for a college student to make repeated donations with a financial inducement.

I see that the member opposite is engaged with this. Maybe he thinks it is a good idea. I am not sure. We know that college students often need financial support, but we question whether this is the way they should be earning their way through college: by making a donation for which they get paid $65. That is not payment, according to those making the payment; it is compensation for expenses. For the student to come over to the clinic and make a donation of sperm, he is rewarded with $65, but he is not allowed to do this every day. No, he is only allowed to do this three times a week. That amounts to about $195 a week. We are talking about $800 a month. That is pretty good part time income. That is not income, by the way, but just compensation for his expenses.

This is commodification and commercialization. This is part of what we were concerned about as committee members. The committee was very clear in saying that men and women in Canada need to understand that their bodies are not for sale, that their reproductive capacities are not for sale. While we want to be compassionate and do everything we can to help those who are experiencing the great difficulties that go with fertility problems, we do not want to see people selling their bodies or their body parts. We do not do that with organ donations. We do not encourage Canadians to sell a kidney. We do not encourage the poor people in the country to receive a cash donation by giving up a kidney. Some countries do and in some countries they are not even compensated; the organs are just taken.

We do not want to encourage commodification of body parts in our country. Carrying on with Olivia's comments in committee, she said:

Simply put, the loss of never being able to see or know who this nameless, faceless person was, in my future children and in myself, is something that lasts a lifetime.

The young woman born of this procedure is concerned because she does not know who her father was.

There are other countries that have taken an open donation model where the donor agrees that at the appropriate age children the information about who they are will be given them so they can know something of their biological history. Procedures can be put in place to protect the person from financial obligation, but all children should have the right to know who their parents were.

All children should have the right to know what their genetic inheritance is, if only for health reasons. It would include their emotional, mental and physical health because there are inherited conditions that can affect their offspring in many generations to come. Anonymous donations where this just goes into a system and spins out, and produces a child with no knowledge of where it comes from violates this principle and violates the rights of children produced to know from whence they came.

Olivia argued:

An open system not only gives the child acknowledgment and respect; it also has a positive effect for all parties involved, as well as the overall societal impression of donor insemination. Maintaining an anonymous system implies that there is something shameful about this practice. How can we believe that emotionally healthy families can be created in such an environment?

Barry Stevens is another person produced from the early procedures who appeared before the committee and I would like to refer to his remarks. Barry Stevens made a film on the subject called Offspring . The film was about the search for his donor's identity and it won a Gemini award.

Barry gave evidence at the health committee on December 2, 2002. He brought attention to studies that dispel some of the myths about donor anonymity. Barry Stevens says: “We are often told that children born from gamete donations do not want to know their donor”. Mr. Stevens told us this was completely false. He pointed to a study that highlighted the fact that between 79% and 83% of donor offspring thought they should be able to know the identity of the donor and they wished very much to have that information. Their main concerns were the lack of genetic continuity and frustration in being thwarted in the search for their biological fathers.

A second study dispelled the myth that an open donor system would wither for a lack of donors. Mr. Stevens pointed to Sweden where a law was passed for a mandatory open system. After an initial drop there was a 65% increase in donors above the pre-law levels.

For those naysayers who say that if we were to go to an open system the whole system would collapse, it simply is not true. There are models of an open and responsible system. It tends to attract more responsible donors who are aware of the risk and willing to help. They are concerned about having children but for their own reasons want to do it in a responsible way. There are such people and this direction would be more respectful of the children that would be produced.

This is what the committee worked toward. There was quite a bit of discussion on this in committee. Frankly, the government side made sure that when it came to voting it did not come in this way. I hope members will reconsider because many members did not have the opportunity to hear the testimony of Olivia Pratten, Barry Stevens, and those who are firsthand products, who have had the experience, and who have lived with the consequences of being born from an anonymous system.

Mr. Stevens quoted figures saying 30% mistaken donor identity have been given but with little proof. Mr. Stevens quoted from a Lancet journal article saying the rates of non-paternity have taken on the character of urban folktales, pieces of conventional wisdom that are widely believed but have little basis in fact. The Lancet study actually found that non-paternity rates for some populations were as low as 1% to 3%. I suppose mistakes are possible but not on the scale that those who argue against an open system.

Mrs. Catherine Clute, a spokesperson for the Coalition for an Open Model in Assisted Reproduction, also gave testimony. She did not mix her words for the health committee. She stated that “anonymous gamete donation is a throwback and a travesty. As we have seen in adoption, secrets and lies provide no foundation for a family and certainly not for a life”.

This bill will come before the House for a vote. Rather than be voted on at third reading, it should go back to the health committee for reconsideration of this important issue of anonymity. We think the committee should hear the voices of Olivia Pratten, Barry Stevens, the people most affected, the people with the most experience, the people with a personal interest and passion for the subject, and the ones for whom this is not just another issue but the main issue and whose concern is to protect the children who will follow them as products of this technology. Their voices should be heard and the committee should consider this.

If we were to adopt the system, we should make it integral in Canada. We should have an open system of donation, one that respects the children who will be born and their futures, and concerned about the mental, emotional health and stability of the families that will be produced, as well as the generations that will come in this area. We need an open system and I hope all members will be ready to consider that and do the right thing for the sake of the children who will be born.

I would like to go for a moment to the minority report that came from the Alliance where we talked about the conflicts between ethics and science. It stated:

Nevertheless, there will always be situations where what is scientifically possible and what is ethically acceptable conflict. In such situations, we concur with the minister when he told the committee, “There must be a higher notion than science alone...that can guide scientific research and endeavour. Simply because we can do something, does not mean that we should do it”.

The recommendation in our minority report was:

That the mandate and code of practice of the Regulatory Body to be established by the legislation include a directive to the effect that where there is a conflict between ethical acceptability and scientifically possibility, the ethically acceptable course of action shall prevail.

We consider that an important aspect because it ties right in with the use of embryos for research. The member for Mississauga South has addressed this just recently. There has been much discussion in the House about the use of embryos for research.

The bill rightly would prevent the creation of embryos for research purposes, but in fact would allow for the creation of embryos through so-called surplus embryos left over from reproductive technologies. I am concerned because that would cause the most vulnerable people, the ones who are expected to give their embryos up because of their failed physiology, to attempt to find a way to have a child and we are saying to them, “Yes, we will help you have a child, but the leftover ones we want for research”.

The member opposite referred to Dr. Pothier who spoke at the UNESCO meeting related to reproductive technology. He said that there is no money in adult stem cell research. Dr. Freda Miller from McGill, now of Toronto, is one of our top researchers in the area of adult stem cell research. When I asked her about that she said that, frankly, she did not see any opportunity for patenting or profits in adult stem cells.

Yet, as committee members, like the member for Mississauga South, who have taken the trouble of educating themselves and understanding the science, along with scientists like Dr. Alan Bernstein, the head of the CIHR, Dr. Ron Worton, the head of the Ottawa stem cell research body, we have admitted that adult stem cells are where the best treatments are likely to come from. Why is it that this research will allow embryos--

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 7th, 2003 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to take the opportunity to thank my hon. colleague on the government side for all the hard work he has done to not only educate the members of the House but, indeed, the Canadian population on the seriousness of this issue.

I, like my colleague, cannot vote in favour of the bill for many reasons, one being that nowhere in the legislation does it allow the offspring of someone who has been created by in vitro fertilization to actually know the name and history of the father or mother. It is usually the father, of course. A constituent in my riding, Olivia Pratten, has lobbied long and hard to get this included in the legislation. She is 20 years of age at the moment and would like to know something about her father. She has no recourse within the legislation to ever know anything about her father.

I do not know whether my hon. colleague knows this, but my understanding is that there will be a court challenge to this part of the law should Bill C-13 pass and that it is planned to take this as far as the Supreme Court of Canada to right the wrong that is in this very flawed legislation.

I wonder if my hon. colleague could comment on that and comment on the kind of cost this would be to people's lives and to taxpayers as they have to take these things through the courts to change a bad law.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 7th, 2003 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank all hon. colleagues for the opportunity to provide my input on Bill C-13.

Bill C-13, an act respecting assisted human reproductive technologies and related research, is an omnibus bill. As members know, an omnibus bill affects many bills and attempts to do so much that everyone can find something that they do not like in the bill. As well, omnibus bills are often used to get through the back door what one cannot get through the front door. This is the case with Bill C-13.

Bill C-13 was intended to prohibit--and I stress intended to prohibit--cloning and other unethical reproductive activity, to regulate fertility clinics and to regulate biomedical research. The bill falls short of meeting those objectives and I intend to lay out the facts for all members to consider.

Based on expert opinion, Bill C-13, despite the report stage motion that was passed, still does not ban all forms of cloning. Let me repeat that Bill C-13 still does not ban all forms of human cloning.

There are numerous techniques of cloning, such as somatic cell nuclear transfer which is reportedly the technique that was used by the Raelians, also parthenogenesis, germline cell nuclear transfer and many others. Cloning is not just one thing; it is a range of techniques all leading to the same thing.

Precise definitions are very important in the bill but they were handled very poorly according to numerous witnesses.

Dr. Ronald Worton is the chief executive officer of the Ottawa Health Research Institute. He is also the scientific director of the Canadian Stem Cell Network. He testified before the Standing Committee on Health that from a scientific perspective, many of the definitions in Bill C-13 were either incorrect or problematic. Dr. Worton is likely going to become a Nobel laureate for his research in health. His work is much respected in Canada and certainly by the health committee.

Others have also raised the same concern. In a submission to the committee, Dr. Dianne Irving, a research biochemist and biologist, detailed how contradictory and erroneous scientific definitions in the bill would not even prohibit all forms of human cloning.

If Bill C-13 is to achieve anything, it must ban all forms of cloning, all manners and all techniques and it does not.

Clause 5 of the bill states:

No person shall knowingly create a human clone or transplant a human clone into a human being.

On its face this is clear; one cannot create a human clone. Most people think that a human clone is a born child. They think of what the Raelians did. They birthed a child. That is a human clone.

In the bill a human clone is not a born person. Obviously if the bill says a human clone is a born child, one would not transplant it into a human being. Therefore it must not be a born person. In fact the bill defines human clone. It is defined as an embryo. A human clone is actually an embryo that, as a result of the manipulation of human reproductive material or an in vitro embryo, contains a diploid set of chromosomes obtained from a single living or deceased human being, fetus or embryo.

Now we can appreciate how confusing this is, but why is it confusing in the bill? Members have to ask themselves, why are the definitions so confusing? Why is the prohibition so confusing? Why are there so many gymnastics? Why can it not just outright state, no cloning by any means, any techniques? There is a reason.

The term “human being” is frequently used but is not defined in the bill. The usage verifies that it is referring to a born human being and the minister has confirmed this fact. She indicated that the definition being used comes from case law, from the laws of Canada, and means that it is a child completely emerged from the womb.

Dr. Irving has noted that that definition of human clone is flawed and would not cover certain types of cloning, including pronuclei transfer, formation of chimeras and back breeding, mitochondria transfer or DNA recombinant germline transfer also referred to as eugenics.

I am not an expert but I have looked up the terms. They exist and I accept the word of expert testimony that these are forms of cloning and these forms of cloning are not prohibited by this bill.

The deficiencies in drafting the bill also get worse. In clause 5(1)(c) the bill states:

No person shall knowingly

for the purpose of creating a human being, create an embryo from a cell or part of a cell taken from an embryo or foetus or transplant an embryo so created into a human being;

That is a difficult clause to understand but the problematic phrase in the clause is “for the purpose of creating a human being”. One is prohibited from doing that if the purpose is to create a human being. What happens if the purpose is not to create a human being? What happens if the purpose is to just do research? All of a sudden, if someone's purpose as a researcher is simply to create this embryo for research purposes, then the bill does not ban that activity.

On a prima facie case this is absolutely clear. Bill C-13 does not ban all forms of cloning. Nor does it prohibit unauthorized research on human embryos. This would allow cloned human embryos to be implanted in the uterus at the embryonic stage and then be harvested for research at any time from the embryonic period through the ninth month of gestation, anytime during the pregnancy of a woman. Not only could researchers get stem cells from that unborn child, they could also harvest organs from that unborn child. Now we are getting serious. This is not just simply a matter of cloning; this is a matter of using human beings and all their parts for research.

The faulty crafting of this clause is extremely dangerous, not only because it permits cloning but it also allows unborn children to be butchered for their parts. This is very technical and complex. That is why it is so important that expert testimony be obtained and why Health Canada must answer all the questions posed by members, and they have not.

Members of Parliament cannot be experts in all things. Therefore, we rely on credible evidence and comprehensive answers to the questions that we have asked. Members should know that despite the cautions of Dr. Worton and Dr. Irving, neither of them had the opportunity nor were they asked subsequently to appear before the health committee to present those concerns in detail. Why, when experts raise problems and concerns with either problematic or incorrect definitions, would the committee or Health Canada not address those concerns with experts?

Furthermore, the Minister of Health herself never appeared before the Standing Committee on Health to answer questions or defend Bill C-13 or to undertake to provide the committee with a response from her department to the very serious deficiencies noted by numerous experts. Why? That is the question.

To summarize, Bill C-13 does not ban all forms of human cloning and in its current form would permit research on unborn children as long as they were harvested before birth. These are fatal flaws in Bill C-13.

I want to move on to comment on the creation of in vitro human embryos. Bill C-13 seeks to prohibit the creation of a human embryo for any purpose other than creating a human being. In other words, if it is for the purpose of reproduction, that is fine. For other purposes, it will not be permitted unless one can get a licence from an agency.

We should note that the fertility industry habitually harvests more eggs from women and creates more human embryos than are reasonably necessary for in vitro fertilization. Women can be drugged to the max, and they are based on expert testimony before the committee, and a fertility clinic can harvest up to 25 eggs. However they only need three to five eggs for the first fertility treatment under IVF. All those eggs would be fertilized and those that are not necessary for the first attempt at IVF would be frozen, and I will comment on that in a while. The point is, in vitro fertilization as part of the normal course of its operation does create surplus embryos.

The minister rationalizes that research on embryos should be permitted since these human embryos are no longer required for reproductive purposes and they will just be thrown in the garbage. That was her response to the press when she tabled the bill on May 9 of last year. The Minister of Health said to go ahead and use them for research if they were only going to be thrown in the garbage. This is appalling. One would have thought that if surplus human embryos were being created, the appropriate response for any Minister of Health should be, “How do we reduce or eliminate the creation of surplus embryos?” Should it not be to fix the problem rather than to take advantage of the problem?

The fundamental principle of the bill is that human embryos can only be created for the purpose of creating a human being. Yet what we are saying is that if there happens to be some left over, let us use them for research anyway because otherwise they will be thrown in the garbage.

Dr. Françoise Baylis has been very important in this process. She is a professor of medicine and philosophy at Dalhousie University and is vice chair of the board of governors of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. In her testimony before the Standing Committee on Health, Dr. Baylis said:

The first thing to recognize in the legislation and in all of your conversations is that embryos are human beings. That is an uncontested biological fact. They are a member of the human species.

Bill C-13 disputes the biological facts. To accept the fact that a human embryo is a human being would make it illegal to destroy human embryos for research even if those embryos were no longer needed for fertility treatments.

I understand that this is a very delicate issue because we are talking about when life begins. Human embryos are human beings and are entitled to the protection and dignity afforded to all human beings. Furthermore, human beings do die and when they do, we do not throw them in the garbage. How absurd. We put them to rest in an appropriate and dignified manner. I know that the medical community has established appropriate guidelines for when a human being dies and for its appropriate and dignified disposition. The medical community would never say to just throw them in the garbage.

Researchers want these embryos because they want stem cells within the embryos. We know that. They hope that these stem cells may one day be useful in treating illnesses. However stem cells from embryos have shown a tendency to spontaneously create tumours and other unintended cells. In addition, they do not have the same DNA as the prospective patient and therefore they are subject to immune rejection and would require lifelong anti-rejection drugs. This is good news for the pharmaceutical industry but it is very bad news for the human embryo and those who acknowledge the biological fact that human embryos are human beings.

One of the primary principles of medical ethics is that if the scientifically possible is in conflict with the ethically unacceptable, the ethical view must prevail. Our responsibilities as members of Parliament is to therefore ensure that human beings, at any stage, must never be used for biomedical research because there are ethical alternatives.

The situation with surplus embryos actually is much worse than the public really understands. If a fertility clinic drugs a woman to the maximum, as I have said, and harvests 25 eggs, only three to five of those actually will be necessary for in vitro fertilization. The remaining 20 embryos would be cryogenically frozen and thawed as needed for future attempts as necessary. However, and this is an important point, 50% of frozen embryos do not survive the thawing process. That means that of the remaining 25 embryos that are cryogenically frozen and thawed for future use, 10 of them will be destroyed. They will die simply because the cryogenic freezing process is unacceptable.

This is a tragically low threshold of success for any medical procedure, and we can and should do better. How can we tolerate the destruction of so many human beings as part of a process that itself is attempting to create human beings? There is a grave contradiction here.

There are other alternative approaches to these problems. If there are surplus embryos, medical research communities should be working to perfect the techniques to eliminate or reduce the creation of surplus embryos. Medical research should concentrate its efforts on perfecting the process to store the eggs that are harvested from women, not the fertilized eggs but the eggs from women, and only fertilize those that are necessary for reproductive purposes. That process is now under intensive research outside of Canada. I am not sure what is happening inside of Canada. When it is perfected, there will be no surplus embryos.

At this time the research community has developed an in vitro fertilization process that habitually produces surplus embryos, which are in turn used for their own research. Research is supplying itself using IVF as the delivery point. This is a conflict of interest, and in the extreme. We as legislators have a responsibility to correct this unacceptable situation.

Another alternative is to permit the adoption of surplus embryos by other infertile couples. This is no different than adopting a born child. In the United States there is a program that is doing just that. It is called the snowflake program and it has been very successful. If this bill were truly intended to assist the infertile, why has Health Canada rejected this viable and successful program, a program that would make use of any surplus embryos.

Today in Canada there are approximately 24 fertility clinics and many of these are private for profit companies. As such, we do not really know how many surplus embryos are presently in storage nor how many would have received informed consent to be donated for research purposes. However Dr. Baylis has done an informal survey and she estimates that there are about 500 embryos frozen in Canada, in total. Of those, half are necessary for future IVF treatments. That means there are 250 that may be available for research purposes.

As I indicated, half of these will die while thawing. Of the 250, 125 will die while thawing. Therefore, we are down to 125. Then Dr. Baylis goes on to explain that of those 125, only 9 of the frozen embryos when thawed would actually be able to produce a viable stem cell line. Of the 9, only 5 of them would be of a standard that would meet the quality requirements of researchers. Think it out. Only 5 out of 250 embryos that are thawed would actually be useful. That is 2%. In other words, 100 human beings would be destroyed to obtain 2 useful stem cell lines, which may be able to be used to find cures and therapies to assist other human beings. This makes no sense at all.

One would think that Health Canada would have determined whether there were sufficient embryos to sustain meaningful research in advance of preparing this bill to regulate research and fertility clinics. Why has it not? I know Dr. Baylis is looking for funding to do a formal survey but we do not know what is happening in fertility clinics. We do not know what is happening out there today. How can we have legislation to regulate fertility clinics? These are the same fertility clinics that refused to appear before the health committee to disclose how they operated their businesses. This is awful. I cannot understand how that happened.

There is also another ethical alternative to destroying embryos to obtain those stem cells. Stem cells actually occur naturally in every organ of the human body. Last year Dr. Catherine Verfaillie published verified research that stem cells from bone marrow could become virtually any cell in the human body. This means that stem cells from a person's own body could be taken and used to repair damaged cells elsewhere in that person's body. That means that there is no ethical controversy, no immune rejection problem, no need for lifelong anti-rejection drugs and no concern about the spontaneous creation of tumours.

Why is it that the researchers are so anxious to have stem cells taken from embryos despite the ethical controversy and all the other problems, such as immune rejection? There is an answer and we heard it. I know a couple of members were there at the same meeting.

The bold and the true answer came from Dr. François Pothier, who has a Ph.D. in cellular biology and is a professor at Laval University. On February 5, 2003, while addressing a round table on assisted human reproduction, sponsored by the Friendship Group of Parliamentarians for UNESCO he answered the following question: Why do we want embryonic stem cells? Why are we shunning adult stem cells? His answer was “There is no money in adult stem cell research”.

That is the answer that everyone has been waiting for. Why do we want embryonic stem cells? It will cause all kinds of interesting scenarios for commercialization, drug use and all kinds of opportunities for people to make money. According to Dr. Pothier, and I believe this sincerely, the reason we do not concentrate on research using adult stem cells is that there is no money in adult stem cell research.

If one's own stem cells could be used to treat themselves, the prospect for patenting and commercialization would be diminished. Drug companies would also have less incentive to provide research funding. If research was unlikely to lead to increased need for the drugs why would they? One can only conclude that the bill really is about money.

We know that researchers migrate to money and have shown only a secondary interest in the ethics of research. I have tried to move a motion at report stage to include amendments to the Patent Act to guide the patentability of biomedical research. I was ruled out of order because Health Canada said that it was beyond the scope of the bill.

On the contrary, patenting of such research would likely reduce research done in Canada because the cost of patented techniques would be prohibitive for other researchers to use.

If patenting of biomedical research is allowed, the amount of effective, meaningful research in Canada will actually go down.

With regard to biomedical research, Bill C-13 would establish the assisted human reproduction agency of Canada. It would have the authority to issue a licence to authorize the use of human embryos for the purpose of research only if it is satisfied that the use is necessary for the purpose of the proposed research. The word “necessary” is the key.

In the opinion of the Standing Committee on Health, the criteria for what constituted necessary must be laid out. As a starting point, the following is what was recommended in the health committee' report: Even if all other regulatory criteria are met, no licence may be issued unless the applicant clearly demonstrates that no other category of biological material could be used for the purposes of the proposed research.

In other words, embryonic stem cells cannot be used if there is another ethical alternative. It is a good compromise I think for most but Health Canada rejected the recommendation of the committee and emphatically refused to define the term “necessary” in the legislation.

It is hard to believe that there are no criteria in the bill to guide this agency that would authorize and licence the research. Something might be buried in the regulations but I will talk about that later.

One would think that if research proposed has already been done then a licence should not be issued. If there are other ethical means to achieve the research, then a licence should not be issued in that case either. It simply does not make sense not to articulate the fundamental principles that should guide the agency.

Health Canada appears to be totally dependent upon the research industry. In fact, we all know it was the research industry that developed Bill C-13. The research industry, right back from the royal commission, right through the CIHR and all the iterations of the bill, the research community was the driver of what is in the bill. My sincere belief is that Health Canada went along for the ride.

The Standing Committee on Health spent two years studying the draft bill and Bill C-13. It received hundreds of submissions and heard from over 200 witnesses. I was very impressed with the quality of work that was done by the committee. In fact, the report on the draft bill was the best report I had ever seen.

After due consideration, however, the committee made only three substantive amendments. The first was that 50% of the board of directors of the agency should be women. The second was to ensure that people wanting IVF treatment would receive counselling and independent advice. The third was that the conflict of interest provisions in the bill would be broadened so that pharmaceutical and biotech companies could not be on the board of directors.

Those were very reasonable amendments and yet Health Canada rejected every one of them and put in report stage motions to reverse them. As a result of two years of work done by committee and after all the witnesses who appeared before it, there is nothing substantive in the bill, and that is a shame. I honestly believe the bill would have been better with many of the committee's recommendations.

This is a very troubling situation and it should raise caution levels of all members with regard to the credibility of Bill C-13. When ministers, the staff and the bureaucrats in all departments ignore the work and recommendations of standing committees and ignore the questions and suggestions of members of Parliament, the bill in question develops an opposition. If hon. members do not receive satisfactory explanations to their concerns or answers to their questions how can we say that we have discharged our responsibilities?

I believe members have been misled by the hype and rhetoric surrounding Bill C-13. The bill already has serious deficiencies and more will come out when questions are answered. In my view, the bill cannot be fixed in its present form. As the member for Hochelaga--Maisonneuve suggested, its deficiencies would be better addressed by a split bill, one dealing with prohibited activities and the other dealing with regulating research. The minister still has that option.

The bill also has other notable problems and I will deal with them quickly. The bill would prohibit the creation of a chimera. However a chimera, as defined in the bill, is the combining of animal and human, but it would prohibit the transplantation of non-human material into humans. It would not do the reverse. The bill would permit the transplantation of human reproductive material into non-human life forms, and the minister has said that this is necessary research. I do not buy that.

The bill would not permit the creation of a hybrid for the purpose of reproduction. However if the purpose of the research is in fact to do research, then hybrids would be permitted because they would not be used for reproduction but for research.

With regard to conflict of interest, as I have already indicated, the bill presently says that pharmaceutical companies and biotech companies can be on the board of directors. Why not? It is a conflict to the extreme. The bill would not require board members to file conflict of interest statements. Health Canada said that it would be too inconvenient for someone who was not paid very much and because part time appointees are less likely to have a conflict. This is faulty logic.

The bill would not prescribe transitional provisions relating to frozen embryos that existed prior to the bill coming into force but it should. It is very important. There are 500 embryos out there. How do we deal with them?

The bill would not require all fertility clinics to use the same application or information disclosures? Why not? It was recommended at report stage. Would consistent documentation, forms, disclosures and consent, et cetera, not make some sense?

The bill does not prescribe limits on the amount of drugs that can be administered to women and other limits that can affect women's health. Why would we not do that since this is a women's health bill?

There is very substantial policy in the regulations. Although members can have an opportunity to review the regulations, the bill goes on to say that members will only be able to comment. In other words, parliamentarians will not get an opportunity to approve or reject regulations to the bill, and most of the details of the bill are buried in the regulations. We will not see that until two years after royal assent. Parliament has a problem.

The bill would permit the use of surplus embryos for the purpose of education but it has no rules. As the member for the Bloc mentioned, it would provide surrogacy for profit and reimbursement of employment income. Those things were rejected right from the royal commission all the way down the line, and it was sprung on the House at the last minute. That must change.

If we were to defeat the bill, fix it and reintroduce two improved bills, one on prohibitive activities and one on controlled activities, they would result in earlier enforcement than if we proceed with Bill C-13 as it is now. A bill on prohibitive activities would pass at all stages very quickly and would be in force immediately, which is what Canadians want to see.

The other two are more problematic and that is what is delaying this whole process. I think we have to do some serious thinking about this.

The bill attempts to address reproductive technologies but it does so very poorly. It also touches on the very delicate, ethical and moral issues related to the sanctity of human life. For this reason a vote on this bill is a matter of conscience. I personally do not condone the destruction of human beings for research purposes under any circumstances. Consequently, I will be voting against Bill C-13.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 7th, 2003 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is like a pregnancy. I wondered whether this would ever happen. We are all aware of the ups and downs this bill has put the House through.

Perhaps I should point out at the outset that the Standing Committee on Health, to which the bill was referred, has worked long and hard on Bill C-13. This is a bill with a history: it was previously introduced as Bill C-47, which died on the order paper, then came back as Bill C-56 in 2000, and we now have Bill C-13, which we are debating.

The Bloc Quebecois has always had concerns about certain prohibited procedures. I am thinking about cloning in particular. In the mid 1990s, the hon. member for Drummond, whose riding is located in the heart of Quebec, put forward a bill to prohibit cloning for reproductive and therapeutic purposes.

This is an aberration, an odd situation brought to the fore by the whole Clonaid episode over the holiday season. Some of our fellow citizens were under the impression that they were protected against any attempt at cloning by a public or private laboratory.

Unfortunately, we had to disillusion them when it became our duty as parliamentarians to explain that, if a public or private laboratory had, indeed, succeeded with human cloning experiments, as the Raelians implied, for example, unfortunately, there were no provisions in the Criminal Code that could have led to any legal action against those who were guilty of genetic manipulation, up to and including human cloning.

Very early in the history of the Bloc Quebecois, the member for Drummond was made aware of this issue. It was because of her sensitivity not only to the cause of women, but also to the entire issue of respect for human life, that she came to present a bill which, as we know, did not have the support of the government.

It was all the more incomprehensible because, in 1989, a royal commission was set up. The Baird commission of course recommended that legislators ban practices like cloning. The royal commission was a very important moment for those who are interested in such issues, because 293 recommendations were made.

We might ask ourselves this question: How is it that there were recommendations and that there was a royal commission? We know that a royal commission is not a trifling matter. It is set up by the Privy Council and its budget is quite substantial. A lot of research was done and scientific studies were carried out. Why is it that we have had the information we need for creating legislation since 1990, and it is not until 2003—13 years later— that the House is going to be asked to vote on this matter?

The government's attitude has definitely been rather lax. There is certainly no cause for satisfaction. This is one more issue on which the Bloc Quebecois has been particularly vigilant.

When I said that the Standing Committee on Health had devoted much time and energy to the issue of assisted human reproduction, it is important to remember that, as early as 1991, the then Minister of Health, now the Minister of Industry, had introduced draft legislation. Even before the official introduction and first reading of a bill by a minister of the Crown, the Standing Committee on Health had been asked to give its views on a number of issues. The bill asked us to validate a certain number of hypotheses with respect to the preamble to a bill like this one and the type of regulations that should be implemented. I will have the opportunity to discuss this later.

The committee considered six possible regulatory models, and selected a semi-autonomous agency, appointed by the Governor in Council. We would have preferred the board to be equally represented by both genders. The government did not retain this recommendation, but the board does have a certain degree of autonomy.

During review of the draft legislation, we were asked to reflect on the whole issue of prohibited and regulated activities, and various mechanisms for accountability that I will have an opportunity to explain shortly. However, Bill C-13 is characterized by the fact that the regulations are more important than the bill itself.

Most of the 26 major decisions about reproduction, manipulation and assisted human reproduction treatments, while covered in the bill, will be set out in the regulations. That is why the committee was strongly advised to ensure that the regulations would be subject to periodic review and would be referred to the Standing Committee on Health. As happened with the bill, public consultations will be held when the committee considers the regulations.

One question greatly concerns the Bloc Quebecois, which we naturally discussed in caucus. The Bloc Quebecois believes it is necessary for the Criminal Code to include provisions criminalizing certain practices. First and foremost, of course, is cloning.

But what is the approach? The Bloc Quebecois in defending the interests of Quebec—which is what brings it here—unfortunately had to oppose this bill at the report stage. Why so? I will explain, because we have received a number of letters and inquiries from the public in this connection.

Although we were in favour of this bill in principle, the Bloc Quebecois cannot vote in favour of such a bill. And why not? Because Bill C-13 intrudes in areas that are fundamentally under the jurisdiction of the provinces.

The Government of Quebec, through its health minister François Legault, has written the federal Minister of Health asking that this bill not be passed, that it not be followed up on in the House of Commons.

A list has been made of all the legislation passed by the National Assembly that is incompatible with Bill C-13. I will have an opportunity to come back to that list but I will touch on it briefly here. There are about a dozen acts, and of course the most important is the Quebec civil code. It contains certain provisions that are incompatible with the issue of surrogacy.

Bill C-13 is also incompatible with the Act respecting health services and social services, as well as with the Act respecting access to documents held by public bodies; the Act respecting the protection of personal information; the Act respecting medical laboratories; Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, including the whole area of confidentiality of some nominative information; the medical code of ethics; the guidelines of the Quebec health research fund, commonly known to people in the field as the FRSQ; not to mention the ministerial action plan on ethics and scientific integrity, which was published by the former member for Vimont on behalf of the Government of Quebec. This is all very disquieting.

Come to think of it, all treatments for infertility take place in laboratories located, naturally, in hospitals, university research centres and, occasionally, in private clinics. The best known such clinic in Quebec is, of course, PROCREA.

Why should the federal government interfere in what basically amounts to the delivery of services in health care facilities that come under the various provincial governments? Naturally, it is doing so through the Criminal Code, because of certain illegal procedures.

If the Canadian government had put before the House of Commons a bill to criminalize only a few procedures, namely the 13 prohibited procedures I will list in a moment, we in the Bloc Quebecois would have voted for such a bill with enthusiasm and our well-known sense of responsibility.

We felt so strongly about this that when we resumed our work here in January, I moved a motion inviting the government and the entire House to split this bill. However, the government rejected this idea, which is why we are now bogged down with this bill. We have been discussing this issue since May 2001. In fact, we have been discussing this topic for several years now. The federal government could have simply prohibited a certain number of procedures.

What is the reality? The member for Trois-Rivières also explained, through a motion that he moved in the House, that the government wants to use health to do some nation building. That is what the Romanow report proposes, naturally, and Bill C-13 is a good example of this. That said, there are still a certain number of important provisions.

Let us start with what are arguably the most important clauses found in the bill, clauses 5, 6 and 9. They render a number of procedures illegal. Therefore, if it can be proven, either before an inspector or a court of justice, anyone who is involved in any of these prohibited procedures could be brought to court under criminal charges by the crown, which could lead to either imprisonment, or a fine of between $200,000 to $500,000. The seriousness of these offences is reflected by these heavy fines.

So, what are these prohibited procedures? Of course, creating a human clone. This is an ethical issue. Incidentally, this bill deals with a variety of considerations, such as ethical and medical considerations, in addition to family law, and of course, administrative considerations as well, all at the same time.

Why is it so important to prohibit human cloning? What is cloning? First, it is a medical procedure where the nucleus is removed from somatic cells. This cell is taken and another nucleus is added, and it is then fertilized. With the help of the maturation process, it is hoped that the cell will have a new nucleus containing new genetic material, which will lead to the birth of a child that has a genetic makeup identical to the genetic makeup of the person from whom the original cell was used. That is cloning.

Cloning was first tried, with mixed results, on animals. I say with mixed results because the committee was told that the consequences for cloned animals, naturally, were extremely serious, the most immediate being premature aging and, of course, premature death. So, no animals have been successfully cloned, and this, obviously, does not encourage us to try human cloning.

But there is an ethical side to cloning. No one wants to live in a society where, in the name of humankind, we can biologically bring about the creation of two humans with identical genes. No one wants that.

I saw public affairs shows on TQS, for example, where the Raelians said, “Yes, but there are twin brothers”. Of course, there are identical twins. This is a natural phenomenon. It is called homozygotic embryos. I have an identical twin brother myself. This makes some people happy and some sad, each of us is entitled to our own opinion, but the fact remains that this was not forced on nature. It is a natural phenomenon. Some people say that there is really no such thing as identical twin brothers, because life, through our personality, ensures that each of us is very different. For example, my twin is heterosexual; I, as you know, am not. We are pretty much alike in our sense of humour. But we are very different in every other respect.

My twin brother is greatly interested in sport and a little less intellectually inclined than I. We do, however, share a similarly refined sense of humour.

It is not true, then, that identical twins with the same genetic baggage, homozygotic twins that started out from a single cell, from a single egg, are alike in every aspect.

The question raised by human cloning is what it will mean for psychogenesis, the psychological development of the child. How can a parent raise a child knowing he or she is the duplicate of the parent, knowing they are genetically identical? Scientists came to testify that, on the psychological level, at every stage of personal development, this poses a risk for human development. This is prohibited by the bill as a result.

The second procedure that is prohibited in the bill is the creation of an embryo in vitro for purposes other than the creation of a human being. We would not want to live in a society where embryos were created solely for research purposes.

This does not mean—and I will have an opportunity to explain further when we reach the clauses on regulated activities—that if there are surplus embryos as part of the initial activity of fertilization, for example if four are created, that a person cannot donate them for research purposes with informed consent.

Research on embryos is definitely necessary, but the bill says that a person could not turn up and announce that he wanted to use medicine to create an embryo solely for research purposes. This is prohibited in the bill.

An embryo cannot be created and then maintained outside of a woman's body, i.e. in vitro, for more than 14 days. The basis for this is that the main international conventions state that the nervous system begins development on the 15th day and it can then be dangerous to keep an embryo outside a woman's body. This is prohibited.

There is another important prohibition that is also related to ethical considerations. It is forbidden to use sperm screening and selection to choose a child's sex. A father cannot announce that he wants a girl, or a mother announce that she wants a boy, and then make use of medical and genetic means in order to ensure that this happens.

Why is this prohibited? It is prohibited based on the values found in both the Quebec and Canadian charters. The first of these values that govern the legal and human community is the equality of individuals. We do not start from the pretext that women are superior to men or that men are superior to women. Given that there is no such superiority, it does not make sense that the bill would contain mechanisms that would officially allow people to choose the sex of a child. That is why it is prohibited.

There is also an important prohibition that bans any alterations to the germ line. The germ line refers to hereditary characteristics that are passed down from one generation to the next, or that skip one generation, in the case of certain deadly diseases that we know of.

We do not want to live in a society where people can have their children tailor-made. It should not be possible to say, “I want the genetic tools that will allow me to have a blond girl with blue eyes, who will be a good painter, or artist, or ballet-jazz dancer”. Accordingly, the bill stipulates that it will not be possible to have tailor-made children, nor will it be possible to select hereditary traits by altering the germ line.

Obviously—plain common sense dictates this—transplanting sperm or ova into another form of life, other than human, will be prohibited. Implanting human reproductive material that has already been transplanted into another form of life is prohibited. This is known as the creation of hybrids, or chimera, and it is clearly prohibited in this bill.

Another prohibited procedure that attracted a great deal of attention in Quebec is surrogacy, or surrogate motherhood. This reminds us that this bill is designed to deal with an empirically observed situation: one out of every five couples experiences fertility problems. This situation is not expected to improve in the near future. Often, environmental factors cause hormonal imbalances that may affect the ability to procreate.

Some people say we should live in a society where a couple can ask a woman with no fertility problems to bear a child.

A number of nuances or clarifications could be made on the issue of surrogacy. Let me make the following. We have been told that a surrogate mother artificially inseminated with sperm from the father who hired her is called a genetic surrogate. A surrogate mother could also carry an embryo created through IVF using the hiring couple's gametes. In this instance, the surrogate mother is making her uterus available, but there is no genetic contribution.

So, surrogacy poses quite a complex ethical problem, because one might think that women own the children to which they give birth. They do not. Pregnancy has to be an altruistic act. Women who bring children into the world with their spouse must do so, whether it was planned or not, because of their desire as a couple to raise a family.

There are therefore major inconsistencies between the bill and the civil code. Even if these were the only inconsistencies, the Bloc Quebecois would have to vote against the bill. There are, however, many more, which I will point out.

In this respect, a provision was included in the civil code of Quebec a few years ago. If I am not mistaken, it is section 541. It provides that agreements for surrogacy for payment are null and void. This means that, in Quebec, under the civil code, if I ask a woman to bear a child for me, I will have absolutely no right in the unborn child. As far as the mother who bore the child is concerned, the regular lineage rights—the parental authority, and all that it means for a mother to have responsibility for a child—apply.

This is where we find out how well I know the civil code. I would be willing to bet that it is article 541, just after the provisions on adoption, which says that agreements regarding surrogate mothers are absolutely null. I will read the passage in question:

Any agreement whereby a woman undertakes to procreate or carry a child for another person is absolutely null.

That is article 541 of the civil code. The lawmakers of Quebec did not wait for Bill C-13 to be passed; they put these provisions in the civil code.

But now we see that Bill C-13, in clauses 6 and 12, says there are certain situations in which surrogate mothers can be reimbursed. That is quite sad. I do not know how we are going to settle this before the courts. Will it be the civil code or Bill C-13 that prevails?

Bill C-13 says two things. It says that it will be possible to recognize surrogate mothers who do this as an altruistic gesture. But is it not strange to see written in a bill that it will be possible for a woman to carry a child for someone else? Might that not make us think that children are perceived as a kind of property and that women are the owners of children? Should we not be seeking other ways to respond to people with fertility problems? Of course, reproductive technologies, such as in vitro fertilization, are one such way.

Research is needed into the causes of infertility related to the endocrine system. Domestic or international adoption is also a solution. It is, therefore, somewhat aberrant that we find ourselves with such a bill in 2003.

The Bloc Quebecois held its convention this past weekend, and it was a great moment for democracy, Mr. Speaker. We missed you a bit, but you can always come next time. We discussed all these issues in workshops.

One of the great specialists in Quebec, Professor Louise Vandelac—whom you may have heard of— is very well known internationally. Although she has also researched GMOs, her main concern is the life sciences. She told us, “It is incredible that such a thing could be happening in 2003” and added, “in the country of Margaret Atwood”, referring to the English Canadian novelist and writer. She continued, “How can English Canada, the Government of Canada, turn up in 2003 with Bill C-13 in which it is acknowledged that a woman has the right to call upon another woman to bear a child for her?” This does not, of course, make any sense.

It does not stop there, however, Despite the fact that the Quebec has adopted as part of its civil code—in the mid-80s if I remember correctly—the section I have read, section 541, still clause 12 of this bill opens up the possibility of reimbursing surrogate mothers for altruistic purposes. It is true that this bill—and I must be honest about this so that those listening to us will not be misled—says that payment for surrogate motherhood is totally forbidden, that is if someone wanted to pay another to have a child.

This is one of the 12 procedures I have referred to which can lead to prosecution and to imprisonment or a fine of $500,000. Nevertheless, it is possible to bear children for others and the federal government will recognize surrogate motherhood agreements. Clause 10 even contains provisions for certain expenses of surrogate mothers to be met.

So, hon. members will see the incompatibility here, the value choices. Ethical decisions have been made by the National Assembly, but will not, unfortunately, be respected by the Canadian Parliament.

This whole issue of surrogacy is a very serious one. Once again, I have no idea how this will be settled by the courts. We had hoped that the federal government would not get involved and that the provinces would be in charge, as is already the case in Quebec.

This pretty well covers the issue of surrogacy agreements, the importance of which is well known. I think I have also demonstrated how these do not comply with the civil code of Quebec.

I thought I had a good half hour remaining, seeing that I have barely started my speech, but I will come back to that in due course, because I am getting the signal that I have only 10 minutes left.

The bill addresses the whole issue of controlled activities. No one is saying that there should be no research on embryos or infertility. The agency that will be established will receive $10 million a year and bring together individuals who, we hope, will not only have expertise but also reflect a range of backgrounds, to include not only members of the scientific community but also users. The agency will issue licences for research. Researchers who demonstrate that a need exists, that research cannot be conducted using existing reproductive material, and that the research is validated by an ethics committee and based on a serious protocol, will qualify for a licence.

This opens the door to the use of stem cells. That is why our colleagues from the Canadian Alliance have been opposed to this bill all along.

What are stem cells? The embryo sac, which is created a few hours after conception, contains stem cells. Researchers do not agree on the number of them. Some American researchers say that there a hundred or so, and Canadian researchers say that it is more like 300. For the purposes of my speech, we will say that there are between 100 and 300 of these stem cells. These cells have not decided what their future holds and they are able to contribute to the rebirth or regeneration of any tissue, whether it be tissues found in the heart, arm, or anywhere in the entire body.

This is extremely valuable, and unlike adult stem cells, they are not in blood, or produced in bone marrow, but are found in the embryo sac. As a result, they are easy to extract, and they can obviously be used to help people with major degenerative disorders. We have heard about Alzheimer's, cerebral palsy, juvenile diabetes and other diseases.

This is why big associations that do fundraising for this type of research explained how important it is that this bill contain regulated activities to allow for this type of research. Carrying out this type of research that uses stem cells destroys embryos.

Depending on how one defines a human being, some people say that by destroying embryos, you are committing a crime against humanity, that the embryo is a potential human being. I respect this point of view, but I do not share it. The Supreme Court clearly established that a human being is a fetus once it is outside the mother's body and has taken its first breath.

People will recall that there were a number of legal challenges on this. It might have been nice if it were legislators who had made the decision, but the abortion bill introduced by the Conservatives ended up being unique in terms of our legislative work. In fact, in the Senate, the other house, there was a tie vote. It was referred to this House. There was no conclusive vote, and there was a legal vacuum until the Supreme Court issued a judgment and ruled that an embryo was not a human being.

To be logical, from a legal point of view, if an embryo is not a human being, then we cannot, as legislators, consider any of its constituent material as a human being. That is why I was in agreement. It is not the part of the bill that I am most concerned about. Of course, that will not stop me from supporting ethical issues. I believe stem cell research must carry on, because it is important to make life better for the people who are suffering from degenerative diseases.

I have mentioned the 12 prohibited activities. The controlled activities are specified in clauses 10, 11 and 12. They would include research on embryos or reproductive material in accordance with the regulations and a licence. Any research carried out without the proper licence would be in violation of clauses 5, 6 and 9, which I referred to earlier.

Among the issues raised during our work was the type of donations that could be made. As I said, with this bill, we want to meet the needs of those with fertility problems, which affect one out of every five couples. People with fertility problems may want to go for treatment, either insemination or in vitro fertilization. For this to happen, donors have to go to a hospital or to some institution authorized to receive their donations. I am talking, of course, about the people who donate sperm or ova, what is called gametes. Interestingly enough, there is a shortage of sperm in English Canada. The sperm banks are empty.

As for Quebec, for perhaps other more sociological reasons and also because the regulations are not quite identical, there are fewer difficulties in ensuring a supply of sperm.

Of course, Mr. Speaker, sperm donors cannot be older than 40. This has excluded you for quite some time. At the same time, sperm donors must undergo all kinds of medical tests. The sperm is tested for genetic defects or disease. Obviously, some very important tests need to be done.

The committee asked itself the following question: if you are a donor and you go to a hospital or clinic, would you be required to reveal your identity? If you are going to donate sperm, must you identify yourself? Currently, donations are anonymous.

The parliamentary secretary will remember that many people made representations, including children born as a result of assisted reproduction, from anonymous sperm donations, and they said, “This is called the right to know who you are”.

For human development, it is not desirable, they told us, to not know who the donor is. I was moved by one individual who testified that when she was in grade five in a public school in English Canada, her teacher asked all the students in the class to do their family tree. You know the drill. Our family tree allows us to discover our ancestors and understand who we came from. This is obviously important to the formation of our identity. This person, born as a result of an anonymous donation, told us what a wall she had run up against, how she felt as if she had come from nowhere, how important it was to her for donations to be anonymous but not the identity of donors.

The opposing opinion says that, in donating sperm or eggs, the donors are not making any attempt to raise a child nor any attempt to raise a family. Those who oppose identity disclosure for donors said, “Yes, but is there not a risk if I donate sperm and the child born is viable, when that child reaches 16, 17 or 18 he will seek financial support from me as the genetic father and donor”.

People were worried about that. That point of view prevailed, so thoroughly that, according to the bill now before us, the regulatory agency must gather information on donors. Of course, it must gather identity data, and other information in order to maintain records, but it is not mandatory to divulge the identity of the donor.

Naturally, this has created discontent and disappointment, but there is a way to solve the problem. Quebec has solved it, as have Nova Scotia and Yukon. Thus, there are three legislatures where laws have been passed and the laws contain provisions that, in the case of children born through medically assisted reproduction, donors can never be considered genetic fathers having parental responsibilities. Three provinces have done this. Obviously, it lies within the area of family law. It is not up to the federal government to create such legislation, but this could have been done.

So, that is a question that has been asked. The systems created in some countries make it mandatory to divulge identities. I can think of Sweden, Australia, New Zealand and Austria, among others.

Mr. Speaker, I think my time is running out, but because of the importance of this debate, and in consideration of the excellent work I did in committee, could you please ask for unanimous consent to allow me 10 minutes more to complete my speech. I will not take advantage of this, but I would then feel we had addressed the issue completely.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

April 3rd, 2003 / 3 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the continuing fear of Liberal candidate Brian Innes is duly noted, but this afternoon the House will continue with the opposition day motion on the war in Iraq. There are discussions going on with regard to this subject which may continue today and otherwise.

As previously ordered, the House will not be sitting tomorrow.

On Monday, pursuant to what I just stated, we will return to consideration of Bill C-13, the reproductive technologies legislation, followed by report stage of Bill C-9, the environmental assessment legislation.

I am also looking forward, with the usual cooperation of all hon. members for an appropriate time and hopefully very soon, to resuming the consideration of the Senate amendments to Bill C-10, the Criminal Code amendments.

Thursday of next week, in other words a week from today, shall be an allotted day.

In the event that there are additions or other changes to this business, I shall communicate with other House leaders through the usual channels.

Sex Offender Information Registration ActGovernement Orders

April 2nd, 2003 / 5:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wonder if I can obtain the consent of all parties to do the following.

I believe that the government is preparing to go forward with Bill C-13, as was announced. I am the next member to speak on this bill, now at third reading. I am entitled to speak for 40 minutes, but the House is scheduled to proceed to private members' business in 10 minutes. In order not to interrupt my speech, I wonder if I could obtain unanimous consent to go straight to private members' business.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 1st, 2003 / 5:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-13 now before us is nothing new to the House, since it was first introduced as Bill C-47, in 1997, then as Bill C-56 and now as Bill C-13. Therefore, as parliamentarians, we have been pondering these issues for some years now.

Our hon. colleague from the New Democratic Party has raised a number of concerns. I would like to ask her a number of short questions, if I may.

First, I would like to know what she thinks of the make-up of the board of directors, which will consist of 13 members. At report stage, we recommended that half of the members be women. However, I understand that she would have liked to see more stringent provisions concerning conflicts of interests, and I would like her to elaborate on that.

I would also like to find out what she thinks of the requirement to disclose the name of the donors. There were two schools of thought on this issue. Some argued that the donors should remain anonymous and others thought that their names should be disclosed. I would like her thoughts on this.

Third, I would like to know if the preamble to the bill meets with her agreement.

I have other questions, but they will have to wait until next time. For now, I would like to hear what the member has to say about all of this.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 1st, 2003 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois. It is with great pleasure that I rise in the House today because this is a very important debate for the New Democratic caucus.

I am very pleased to participate in the debate on a bill that addresses as important an area as Canadians' approach to assisted reproductive technology. As we have heard throughout the debate, there are many compelling reasons to support the regulation of reproductive technology.

We are all familiar with the sensational stories about human cloning, about eggs being sold over the Internet, and about the acrimonious lawsuits over surrogacy. Last December the Raelians claimed to have successfully cloned a human being. While that claim may be unsubstantiated, it certainly shows the need for urgent action. It is but the outspoken tip of a much larger iceberg of unregulated research. We know, and I am sure all members in the House agree, that there are others around the globe who are absolutely committed to this and other dubious research objectives.

We are living in a time when the term “designer babies” has become part of the North American vocabulary. Parents are selecting the biological traits of their children. Internet sites compete in the trade of celebrity reproductive materials while countless others profit from those Canadians who are more than willing to buy access to any healthy eggs or sperm that might assist in their drive to have children. Gender selection has become topical with all sorts of new rationales being put forward in its defence.

Many of us by now are very familiar with some of the less sensational personal stories that have emerged from these technological innovations. There are stories of joy and heartbreak, as well as sacrifice and pain during infertility treatment.

Reproductive technologies have become widespread in Canada yet unfortunately, they remain beyond the reach of government regulations. Therefore, the debate on this piece of legislation remains critically important.

The question for all of us here today is, what took so long? Why did it take more than 10 years to get to the point where we are actually debating a concrete piece of legislation that may be passed through the legislative process? We all know that Liberal neglect by delaying the introduction of this legislation has allowed developments in reproductive technology to mushroom outside a regulated environment. No one more than New Democrats in the House want this situation changed.

Cloning and gender selection are areas where Canadians have expressed unqualified support for regulation for a good number of years, going back to over a decade ago and the recommendations of the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies which reported in 1993. The Liberal government has had ample opportunity to move quickly to stabilize the clinical and research environments. If it was unable to come up with a strategy of its own, it could easily have thrown its support behind a private member's bill presented to the House by a member of the Bloc, a bill to ban cloning, for example, or accepted agreement among other parties to expedite certain areas to introduce some legislative standards quickly. The government chose not to. Instead it opted to plow ahead and even trampled over health committee suggestions for improving its bill.

After failing in its previous attempt at regulating reproductive technologies in 1997, the Liberal government has left us today with a no win, no choice decision, a trouble or nothing kind of proposition. As we said earlier in the debate, that is a choice we cannot make. It is a choice we refuse to make because several major issues have not been adequately dealt with in this final legislative proposition before the House of Commons. Several major issues have not been adequately dealt with that will govern the application of the research and technology that we are addressing.

I want to list some of those concerns, starting with the paramount concern for those of us in the New Democratic Party and I hope many others in this chamber, and that is the health of women. It is women's safety that remains our concern here today. From the beginning of the whole process with the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies, New Democrats have been working, fighting and insisting that women's health concerns be paramount.

A colleague of mine, Dawn Black, the former NDP status of women critic, was very adamant about this point here in the House. She consulted extensively with organizations representing women from across Canada in developing recommendations for the royal commission itself. She pursued those concerns through the parliamentary process and was as disappointed as other women across the country when legislative initiatives did not come to fruition.

Dawn Black and other women across the country knew then and know today that it is women who put their health at risk by undergoing drug regimes with unsafe products. It is women who undergo the painful intrusive procedures to secure eggs for treatment or research for example. It is women who must try to make informed decisions about the pressure of societal expectations and commercial service promoters.

Many have commented on this issue. I want to reference the work done in February 2001 by Anne Rochon Ford, who wrote in a paper entitled “Biotechnology and the New Genetics, What it Means for Women's Health”:

Particularly in the area of reproductive health, women receive a disproportionate percentage of medical tests including genetic tests and treatments. Many treatments and technologies once promoted to women as safe and effective were later found to cause harm.

She listed three: the hormone drug DES; the Dalkon Shield IUD; and of course as well we all know, the Meme breast implant.

Once again women are being asked to trust and comply with new technologies such as genetic testing and gene therapies about which relatively little is known. As the author went on to say, it is like being asked to take a leap into the genetic darkness.

That point is no more relevant than today with the news on CBC radio about its investigative reporting on unsafe medical devices which are currently on the market. The problem continues. We remain concerned that the government has not taken seriously the need to protect the health and well-being of Canadians at all costs and to ensure that the drugs we take, the medical devices that are on the market, the food we eat, the interventions that are made are safe beyond a reasonable doubt.

With today's news about Canadians who depend on implanted medical devices experiencing harm and danger as a result of using those devices, we ought to be concerned again when we acknowledge the fact that Bill C-13 does not do the utmost to ensure that the health and well-being of women are protected at all costs.

We tried very hard in committee to make those changes. We were successful to some extent, but on some very major issues we were not. Although we were able to improve the significance of women's health within the bill's principles at committee, the government has stubbornly refused to make precaution the overriding principle in terms of women's health.

If, as the government claims, the bill is concerned with women's health, what better way of giving that claim leverage for enforcement purposes than to state outright that the precautionary principle is the governing principle? Yet every single time we proposed amendments to entrench precaution, to ensure that the principle was imprinted in the legislation, our efforts were defeated by Liberal members.

We wanted to require the federal government to ensure that reproductive technologies, drugs and procedures specifically, are proven safe before they are introduced, that the risks and benefits of any treatment are fully disclosed and that the evaluation of reproductive health services include women's experiences.

Let me raise another issue of concern to us with respect to Bill C-13 that we have before us. It has to do with prevention. While it is crucial to have a regulatory framework within which these activities take place or do not take place, the intent of the bill should not be the creation of an industry. Our goal should be the reduction, as much as possible, of infertility in our society today. That overriding motivation would surely require the integration of an active prevention strategy as a critical element in the role of the new agency being created under Bill C-13.

When we were working at committee on the legislation, we proposed a stronger prevention mandate. Interestingly, this was again resisted by the government that in turn insisted on a narrow approach to a very broad issue. Unfortunately that has been the pattern. This is quite consistent with the government's overall approach to industrial and environmental health. Prevention is so much better for women but treatment is so much better for industry. For the government, that is unfortunately no contest.

Let me go on to briefly talk about a fundamental concern for New Democrats in the whole legislative process and that has to do with commercialization and commodification of reproductive technologies.

Many Canadians have expressed concern from the very beginning of the formal public discussion about reproductive technologies back in the 1980s. They have expressed concerns about the government agenda being driven by powerful biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries whose primary obligation is to their shareholders and not to women's health.

There is nothing in the bill, particularly relating to the control of research results, that distinguishes between the government's position and the interests of these industries. We raised the issue of patents and the need to ensure public access to the benefit of research. For us, patenting remains a critical issue.

Patenting remains for the government a separate issue while for most Canadians, and certainly New Democrats, questions of research and the control and application of research results are inexorably linked.

There is the recent experience with Myriad, the U.S. genetics company that developed genetic cancer screening techniques which it only made available at considerable expense, clearly demonstrating the hazards ahead.

We have to deal with gene patenting issues here and now, not off in Industry Canada stakeholder discussions but as an integral part of this debate on the future pertaining to women's health and the use of assisted reproductive technologies.

To ensure public interest was primary, we focused attention on the makeup of the board directing the assisted human reproduction agency. We have repeatedly cited the need to ensure the independence of decisions and advice made by the agency in its role as chief policy advisory body to the government on reproductive technology.

When the legislation was introduced, my colleagues in the NDP and I noticed immediately and were particularly horrified to find that the government had included no conflict of interest guidelines at all. We proposed and the health committee adopted strong requirements that would avoid potential conflicts. What happened? The government introduced an amendment at report stage that cut our proposal and the teeth out of the conflict of interest provisions.

The government claims to want to keep reproductive technology out of the commercial realm. We encourage the government to put some flesh on the bones of that sentiment. We encourage the government to follow the Manitoba government's example in returning private for profit clinics to the non-profit public sphere. This bill could have set that agenda.

By leaving clinics in the private, competitive, for profit sphere the government has provided no assurance at all that some more complicated procedures may not become inaccessible to women as commercial firms drop them to keep their success rates high.

The federal government's de facto encouragement of for profit services in the recent health accord further confirms that women will be at the mercy of service decisions made according to market values in reproductive health.

The law of the marketplace has consistently failed to protect women's interests over the years. The commodification of women's bodies plays right into the hands of those who would profit. There is nothing in the bill to indicate the proactive approach to enforcement necessary to ensure women's safety. The government's under resourcing of other health monitoring is not encouraging at all.

Let me go on to the issue briefly of surrogacy because this is another area where the health committee hammered out a solid recommendation that was either rejected outright or substantially weakened by the government during report stage.

It was the committee's position that permitting commercial surrogacy arrangements would commercialize women's childbearing capacity. With government supported amendments, we are now left with a confusing mixed message that tries to accomplish two contradictory goals at the same time: banning paid surrogacy activity on the one hand, while simultaneously supporting it financially on the other hand.

In some ways other aspects of the bill have been overshadowed by the controversy surrounding research options using human stem cells. After careful and lengthy consideration, the health committee had reached a common position on stem cell research. Instead of adopting that position however, the government has decided to pass what is essentially a policy decision off to an administrative agency.

In the last minute available to me, I would like to just touch briefly on the matter of eugenics because much of the bill deals with the technological capacity which was still in the realm of science fiction a brief quarter of a century ago. The selection of genetic traits, as much as cloning, falls within this brave new world. The magnitude of these discoveries would to most Canadians beg a thoughtful and critical examination of their relationship to our traditional societal values. We have reached this critical point, however, with no government leadership around such a public evaluation.

As it stands, the bill does not clearly set out a set of guiding principles that would recognize and safeguard the value and integrity of the lives of all Canadians. It fails to clearly challenge the assumptions held by some researchers whose overall goal is to perfect future generations and eliminate certain conditions through genetic manipulation.

The concerns that have been raised by groups representing persons with disabilities about the value and contributions of all members of our society have not been met. We made constructive proposals to strengthen this aspect of the bill in committee and tried successfully to introduce an amendment at report stage. Regrettably, we have been forced to once again resort to a private member's initiative to deal with the concerns of groups representing people with disabilities.

Finally, we are at the end of a long process. In many ways our work is just beginning because provisions around the agency have been left wide open for further regulations and depend very much on government commitments in terms of appointments to the board and truly acting on the possibility of conflict of interest.

We must remain vigilant. We must remain purposeful in our deliberations to ensure that the health and well-being of women, children and families is preserved and protected throughout this process of regulating reproductive technologies.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 1st, 2003 / 5:20 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. As you know, when we start the third reading debate on a bill, the first three speakers are generally allowed 40 minutes for their speech. I do not think there is enough time left for me to use my full 40 minutes.

With permission from my fellow members and the unanimous consent of the House, our colleague from the New Democratic Party could now be allowed to speak, with a 10 minute period for questions and comments. Then, with unanimous consent, the House could be adjourned thereafter.

I could use the 40 minutes I am allowed tomorrow, after oral question period, if the government intends to bring back Bill C-13.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 1st, 2003 / 4:40 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Canadian Alliance Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and pleasure to rise on third reading, and give my voice to the bill one more time. We have had a number of opportunities to speak out strongly and firmly on a piece of legislation that will impact our nation in a significant way into the 21st century. I do not think we need to understate that. We must state it as clearly and strongly as we possibly can so that the people of this great nation understand the road that we are about to embark upon.

This legislation has the potential to change the ethics of a nation. It is the first time that we will approach the idea that it is okay as a nation to destroy human life for the sake of research.

In doing so, we set out that the ethic we stand on is for the greater good. If we shrink ourselves to the place where the only ethical ground that we stand on is that for the greater good we should do something, then we are on a slippery slope as a nation that will disregard the value of human life as we have seen in many different countries around the world.

It is important that we discern the intensity of the impact of this proposed legislation. After a year of draft work on this bill and after going through committee stage, report stage and third reading, which brings us to this point now, we must understand that we have tried to explain this all the way through.

We ask for the wisdom of the House that it discern clearly and carefully the actions and the voting pattern that will set this in motion or stop it, and with some wisdom throw caution to going down this road so aggressively.

Having said that, we need and have called for legislation in this area. My colleague talked about the banning of cloning, chimera, sex selection, and all the prohibitions within the bill that are important. We must ensure that happens.

However, when it comes to Bill C-13, it touches matters of a great human affair. It touches matters of life and death, and the desires of parents to conceive children. Couples are attempting to build families. That is how the bill started. The problem with the bill is that it goes beyond building families.

As my colleague has said, one in eight Canadians are having difficulty with the experience of becoming fertile and creating a child. That is where the bill started. It started with the idea that the bill should address how to assist those individuals to create a replica of themselves.

Bill C-13 touches on the hope for the treatment of debilitating diseases and conditions. It is important that we address both the ethical complexity that is so highly controversial as well as the other side, which is the whole area of whether the proposed legislation is going in the right direction with regard to the science behind where we will allow ourselves to go.

I believe that Canadians have been driven by the value of protecting human life and respecting it. Whether young or old we have an intrinsic value to respect our creator. Human life is special; it is not to be disregarded. It is not to be created for the sake of destruction. It is important that we have that concept and because of that we should respect life right from conception to natural death.

I regret the government has chosen the uncharted path of embryonic research which may lead in a direction other than human health.

Let us go back 10 years to the evolution of this piece of legislation. It started in 1993 with the royal commission and a piece of legislation came forward. Bill C-47 died on the Order Paper in 1997. It came forward again as Bill C-56 and died on the Order Paper at the prorogation of the House. Now we have Bill C-13 that we are debating.

It is important to understand that in the drafting of this legislation we did something special and unique. In a non-partisan way we had a piece of legislation that was drafted and went to committee. For nine months we listened to the greatest minds and the most informed to give us the input that they had with regard to how it could be amended and how it could be a model of legislation that would be used around the world.

We had the opportunity to have the best legislation of any nation in the world. It is for those reasons that we fought so hard to put in place some of the changes to this legislation prior to it going to committee after it was introduced.

What I find astounding is that the report that came out on the draft piece of legislation is significantly different from what we have before us today. There were many cautions put before the committee. The committee members at that time were nervous about the idea of embryonic stem cell research. The committee was explicit on how we should deal with the regulatory body that will allow or not allow certain practices to occur in the area of reproduction.

The bill we have before us seems to ignore much of the work that was done. It ignores much of the work of the witnesses who came forward and advised the committee. This is why, if we talk to many of the committee members privately, they are frustrated with a piece of legislation that has ignored the recommendations after nine months of hard, non-partisan work and nine months of truly looking at a piece of legislation that would be the best for Canadians. Canadians deserve no less. They deserve the best piece of legislation. They deserve their values to be protected. The bill falls short of that. We must be cautious when we move down this road.

I would like to spend some time on some of the things we support in the bill. It is important to state them and to understand them. It is important that if the bill falters at this stage that we go back and look at the things that we would all agree on, such as the things that are prohibited in the bill, for example, banning either reproductive or therapeutic cloning.

Cloning is an emotional issue that has been publicized in the last while. The threat or the possibility of cloning is a reality that we see coming closer and closer as the days pass. In fact, there are those who have suggested that they have cloned already.

We applaud the idea of the prohibition of reproductive or therapeutic cloning in this piece of legislation. That reflects Canadian values. If such a piece of legislation were to come forward in the House it would pass as quickly as a salary increase, in 72 hours. That is how quickly it would pass because there would be unanimous consent from every seat in the House.

The idea of animal and human hybrids; the idea of chimera, mixing animal and human; and the idea of sex selection is appalling. The idea of germ line alterations that last forever once they are created, and the idea of buying and selling embryos and paid surrogacies are all areas in this piece of legislation that we agree should be prohibited. These are things that are important and we cannot understate them. We cannot overlook that the prohibitions are in this piece of legislation and we should applaud and embrace them.

However, there is one other thing which is an important part of this legislation and that is the agency. The agency will either allow or disallow what will be carried forward in research in this whole area. It will either enforce or not enforce the things that are in this piece of legislation. It is important that we discern who the individuals are that will sit on this regulatory agency. It is important that they are men and women of character who understand the intensity of what is being asked of them in order to control this whole area as the legislation comes into being.

The other thing we need to understand is the whole idea of cloning. What is frustrating for me is that before the ink is even dry and before the bill even passes third reading, scientists are clamouring to say that therapeutic cloning should be allowed.

This goes back to my opening remarks when I said that we were on a slippery slope. We should be very cautious and careful about the legislation. Before the ink is even dry and before we even vote on the bill, the scientists are saying that somatic cell nuclear transfer or therapeutic cloning should be allowed.

Great Britain, which has been under a regulatory agency for the last decade, is now allowing therapeutic cloning. It has also allowed the creation of embryos solely for the purpose of research. If we as Canadians say that is okay, then we are on a slippery slope and we will not be able to stop.

It is actually more ethical to allow that than to place frozen embryos in storage and then thaw them because less than 5% of them go on to create what we would like to create as far as research goes. Whereas if we could get them without the freezing process, it would be more ethical to use them that way.

The next battle we would be fighting in the House is whether we should move to that stage. I suggest that we are fighting that now, even before the ink is dry on this bill. We should be very cautious as we move forward on this legislation because the slope is more slippery than most members understand.

Canadian Alliance members oppose the whole idea of cloning. It is an affront to human dignity, individuality and human rights. It is very important that we make sure it does not happen.

We felt that this legislation should have been split. A motion was brought forward by my party in committee in September 2001 asking for some legislation that would put Canada on the prohibited side of this. We asked that reproductive cloning be something that everyone would have to agree on. At that time, the Liberals deferred the vote. Since they did not want to do it, we had no legislation in that area. That is appalling. It should have been included. If the bill had been split, we would have had the needed protection in the prohibited areas. We would have had more time to deliberate and move cautiously on the areas of controlled activity. We should be very careful as we move forward on this legislation.

I would like to talk for a bit to the preamble of the bill. Clause 2 states:

the health and well-being of children born through the application of assisted human reproduction technologies must be given priority in all decisions respecting their use;

It goes on to state:

human individuality and diversity, and the integrity of the human genome, must be preserved and protected.

Those are noble and thoughtful insights that we put into the preamble of the legislation. However my concern is that as a committee we ranked how we should approach this legislation. We asked ourselves what should govern our decision-making and what should have priority.

As a committee we said that the legislation was about building families and creating life and that obviously the child born by assisted human reproduction should have number one priority. Our paramount concern was that the legislation respected and recognized their rights and protected the rights of the most vulnerable.

The second thing we considered to be an important driver in the legislation were the adults who would be participating in assisted human reproduction.

The third consideration were the researchers and physicians who would be conducting the research on assisted human reproduction.

If we had kept in mind the child first, the adult second and then the science as we went through the legislation, we would have had a different bill in place than what we have right now.

We also must recognize where we have faltered, where we have mixed these things up, where we have allowed science and parents' rights to override the rights of the child. We should reflect on those as we go through the legislation and stop it at third reading if it violates those three priorities.

The preamble of the bill recognizes the priority of the offspring but it fails the offspring in other areas. Children born through donor insemination or through donor eggs are not given the right to know their biological parents. I will return to that a little later in my presentation.

The bill's preamble does not provide an acknowledgement of human rights and respect of human life. That is another misgiving because we believe that is a value that Canadians hold near and dear. The bill is intimately connected with the creation of human life and yet there is no overarching recognition of the principle of the respect of human life. That is a great deficiency and a grave deficiency in the legislation.

With regard to research using the human embryo, Bill C-13 would permit the use of the human embryo from supposed leftovers from in vitro fertilization treatments. It would allow stem cell research and it would allow the creation of actual embryos for reproductive research. I think this is an important fault in the legislation that we should recognize right up front.

Sometimes we overlook the whole idea of creating an embryo for reproductive research. Canadian laws will now legitimize the view that human life can be created solely for the benefit of others. This obviously goes against the view that life should not be created in order to be destroyed, yet this is what the legislation would allow. It is an ethical issue and it is something that divides Canadians right down the middle. It is something we should be very cautious about allowing. Canadians are very concerned about this. I know many members in the House have received many e-mails on it. Many of their constituents are very concerned because it violates their whole value system of respect of human dignity and integrity of human life. It is great that we have legislation that can wax eloquently in its preamble about respect but then it does not follow through with that in the rest of the legislation.

Embryonic research also constitutes an objectification of human life and a life becomes a tool in which it can be manipulated or destroyed for others, even to ethical ends. This is one of the things we have to understand.

People always ask me that because I think life begins at conception therefore it is just an ethical argument, so they dismiss it. Well, let us take the ethics out of it and just ask, biologically, whether life begins at conception. I would argue, biologically, that when 23 female chromosomes from an egg and 23 chromosomes from a sperm connect and begin to grow we have the same DNA at that stage as we do when we are 80 years old or lying on our deathbed. If it does not start there, then where does it start?

Protection under law starts when we are born. A fair debate would be on the kind of protection we should allow at the embryonic stage. However whether that is life is not debatable. It is just biological. As biologists will tell us, that is where life begins.

Let us have a true debate, not on the ethics but on the reality. The reality is, that is life. Do we protect it at that stage or do we not? The legislation is very interesting because it does give some protection at that stage. It protects it after 14 days. Therefore we would have to conclude that life begins, according to the legislation, at 14 days after conception. If not, why would we protect it at that stage? Why not just keep allowing it to grow until nine months in the womb, where it is protected under law? Obviously that is a little further than most Canadians would allow it to go. Therefore, from that perspective, we have to understand where that ethical argument is, and let us be realistic about it.

The other thing that really upsets me is that we do have an alternative. We do not need to put Canadians through this dilemma. The alternative is what is happening with the non-embryonic stem cells or adult stem cells. It is a terrific study. Some of the things that have been proven possible out of the study on non-embryonic stem cells have been absolutely astounding. We can get these stem cells from the umbilical cord, from tissue, from skin and from bone marrow. Last summer a group of scientists out of Minnesota discovered that stem cells could be grown into any organ of the body

If we have an answer looking us right in the eye, it is very difficult for us as a nation to say that we should go to the embryonic stem cell. Why would we do that with our precious resources? Why would we do that when any organ that is grown out of an embryonic stem cell and then put into another individual would result in that individual being on anti-rejection drugs for the rest of the individual's life? We have to recognize that is not in the best interest of the patient either. Why would we do that when we have an alternative?

Most Canadians who have tried to take part in the debate on embryonic stem cells have failed to understand the difference between an umbilical cord stem cell, an embryonic stem cell or an adult stem cell. It is quite complex but we should make no mistake that the embryonic stem cell has the ethically charged problem.

Incidentally, the embryonic stem cell has its own problems. It is so elastic that it cannot be controlled to grow into the organ that scientists want it to grow into. They say that they need those embryos so they can trigger it appropriately. If that is true, I would say that they should carry on with their research but carry on with the research on animals, on embryos from the animals, carry on with research on the stem cell lines from the United States that have already been created and which we have imported into Canada. That would be fair. However let us move carefully and slowly, as Canadians, into the area where we would destroy human life for the sake of research.

Nonetheless, we are seeing some response and some results from the stem cells that are derived from the adults. Parkinson's patients are being cured. Leukemia is being cured. MS patients are improving. Conditions have greatly improved in the whole area of taking stem cells from the adult and using those. I think that is where Canadians' money should be placed. It is very limited. We need to use those dollars as wisely as possible if we are to create the kind of society that we want and the kind of research that is most productive for that society.

The minority report we had for the first draft of the legislation actually recommended that. The report said that we should pull back for a three year period to allow the scientists to continue their research on the adult or non-embryonic side and see where that goes. The report also said that we should continue with animal research on even the stem cell lines from the embryo but that at this stage we should not move to the place where the scientists could move the ethical guidelines, where we changed the line in the sand to as far as what we as a nation would find it appropriate to go.

It is interesting that the legislation uses the word “necessary”. It says that the only way we should be able to touch the embryo is if it is deemed necessary. In saying that, one would think that it at least gives the agency, which would be validated to control this activity, an indication that it should only go there if it is necessary. Yet, in the definitions we do not define “necessary”. When I asked what the word “necessary” meant to the scientists, they could not define what would not be necessary. In doing that, it indicates that everything would be necessary.

The health committee originally was very nervous about this so we put it in a different way. We said that if they were to go there then they could only go there if there were no other category of biological material that could be used for the purpose of that research. If they could prove that to the agency, only then should it be allowed. Even with that, there was a strong debate in the health committee and much nervousness in even allowing it to go to that point.

This entire area is difficult when we see how loosely this is worded and when we see that we have legislation that perhaps is taking us down the wrong road, the wrong road maybe with the right intent. Maybe we think that by doing it we can save some lives in the long run. I would suggest that has yet to be proven and until it has been proven we should not go there.

My biggest frustration is that for this piece of legislation the committee that was asked to report on it was not listened to. We reported on it and I believe we did so in a very non-partisan and very good way, putting some safeguards in place in the legislation. The health minister decided to ignore that. It gets even worse if we talk about some of the amendments made here last week with regard to allowing surrogacy. I will talk about that later.

When we talk about the regulatory agency and how important it is, in reality that is the most important piece of this legislation. If we get this wrong, we get it wrong for the 21st century. If we get it right, we then put in place something that will garner the confidence of a nation in this entire area. It is very important that we look at the agency, at how it is made up and how it is controlled.

When we look at the legislation, we see that it allows the Minister of Health sweeping control, complete and total control, of that agency. Because of this legislation, the minister can have sweeping control of this agency and I am not even speaking of the current minister but of any minister who comes along in the future. Because of this, it is very dangerous legislation. In fact, clause 25 would allow the minister to give any policy direction she would like to the agency, and the agency without question must follow it. That is what clause 25 states. I believe that clause 25 should be absolutely and completely removed from the legislation because it goes against anything that we would see as being wise.

The agency must be answerable to Parliament. It should not necessarily be answerable to a minister of health and her or his will. The agency has to recognize that it is important to have the wisest individuals in that agency. In fact, the health committee said that we should have men and women of wisdom, men and women of judgment. We do not care whether they are all women or all men; I do not. What is important is that they are men or women of wisdom and judgment who are not impacted by monetary gain, who do not have a conflict of interest, and who are not driven by a certain constituency and controlled by the scientists or the special interest groups. They have to be outside that. They have to be above that.

In this legislation we had the opportunity to make that possible and I think we have failed on that count. That is what I would see as the largest failure of the legislation. How terrible it is when we had such a golden opportunity to get it right and we got it so wrong. When this agency is struck, I hope that the Minister of Health and the Prime Minister at the time will reflect on the wisdom of the committee originally and will reflect on who the personalities are that they place on this agency. It is absolutely critical that we get this right, in spite of the legislation, if it goes through the way it is now.

Donor anonymity is another area in the legislation and we have totally blown it. Although the agency would hold the information for donor identity, a child conceived through donor insemination or donor eggs would have no right to know the identity of the parent unless written consent were given.

Let us go back to the priorities I mentioned earlier. The priority should be the child, and then the parent, and then the scientists. This gets it wrong. This allows the parents to override the will of the children in knowing their identity. That is getting it wrong. Do we realize how many offspring this would impact? It is very significant. In Canada right now we have somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 children born each year through donor insemination. That is a small community or a small village in many of our constituencies. That is how many are born not knowing where they came from. They have no opportunity to know unless they have consent.

When we look at the history of individuals who donate semen, we see that a good amount of the donations, almost 50% or more, are coming from the United States. Sometimes we have no idea of where they come from. We have no way of knowing. Sometimes they come from prisons, for goodness' sake. We need to look carefully at this whole area. The legislation fails in this. It fails to force individuals to allow their history to be given to the child who is born through donor insemination.

This was a very difficult issue at committee. In fact, it came to a vote and, if I remember it right, the vote was six to five. All the committee members were not there that day. It was a six to five vote. That is how close it was. We voted the wrong way. That was a terrible error. It was a terrible mistake that was not corrected at report stage and it should have been. It needs to be. What a golden opportunity it would have been to do what is right for so many if such a little change could have taken place.

One of the other things that upsets me is the grandfathering of the governor in council's exemption in clause 71. It allows the grandfathering of controlled activities until the day it is fixed by the regulations. Unfortunately, when we allow that sort of thing to go into the regulations, we really have created a clause that we could call a get out of jail free clause. It allows the scientists to actually go in a kind of free will and totally uncontrolled way into the whole area of using these leftover embryos before the legislation is actually enacted, because there is no grandfathering clause in it. Because of that, we will see a great rush to take the embryos that are there now and do research on them before the legislation and the controlling agency are in place. The agency would handle the controls. Because of that, this is a grave error in the legislation and the scientists are just sitting back waiting to make this happen.

In fact I was talking to one of the scientists the other day who said, “This is already in place. We are already starting on April 1”. That is today. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research said it will not allow research in this area until today. Does this mean that tomorrow it starts? Yes, this means that tomorrow it starts. That is a terrible mistake. This legislation has sent the wrong message to our scientists. To allow this before the legislation and the regulations are even in place is very unfortunate.

The whole idea of chimera is something that is repugnant to most individuals. That is about combining humans and animals. In regard to chimera, the legislation talks about the human embryo being implanted with an animal cell, but it does not talk about the reverse. We tried to bring forward an amendment at report stage to change this, to tighten it, because it does not talk about an animal embryo being implanted with human cells. Because of that, it is just as repugnant, and actually more so, and yet the legislation is silent in that area.

Some things should be in this legislation and are not. Why not? If we are to bring forward legislation, let us deal with it completely. We know that we have had enough time, but what we have not had is the appropriate will on the part of the minister and her department to deal with it. That is regrettable.

Now I would like to talk about the whole idea of surrogacy. Allowing the individual who is to be a surrogate to be compensated for loss of work is detestable. It will allow the commodification of the womb. It is something that we have been very nervous about from the very beginning. It is one thing that on every side, whether it was the Liberal individuals at committee, the NDP or ourselves, the Canadian Alliance, we all found repugnant, yet we saw the motion to allow it pass in the House last week. It is a terrible mistake. It will vault us into the commodification of human life beyond anything we have ever seen.

We will find it becoming trendy for an individual who is a movie star to get a surrogate and some sperm from a superstar or a super-athlete and create a fashionable individual. Money would not be an object. It lends new meaning to the whole idea of prostitution. It goes beyond that.

This is a deplorable thing that we are now allowing in Canada. It should be looked at again. It is absolutely incredible that the amendment was allowed to pass last week in the House. I do not believe that most of the members in the House understood what they were voting on. That is very shameful. We need to go back and re-examine it so that they understand what is actually in the legislation. I know that the members in this place are honourable and I know that this does not reflect Canadian values in any way. So why would we allow it? I really have to ask myself that. I know individuals from all sides of the House and I know that they did not understand this completely or they would not have voted that way on the amendment.

We are calling for a free vote in the House on this legislation. That is very important. It is important that on all sides we are able to vote the will of our conscience and the will of our constituents. That is the way it should be on every piece of legislation, but on this one in particular. We are calling for this because it is very important. We should look at how important this legislation is to the future of Canada and to where we should go as individuals. I cannot imagine being forced to vote for something that would have such ethical repercussions without clearly being able to vote our conscience. I cannot imagine being whipped into voting in this area on something with which we and our constituents disagree.

I would certainly challenge members to go back to their constituents to try to discern exactly where Canadians are, but to do it in a way that informs them, to do it in such a way that they will understand the differences in umbilical cord stem cells, embryonic stem cells and non-embryonic stem cells taken from bone marrow, skin, blood or other areas. It is complex, I know, but I would challenge every member of the House to do his or her homework and to truly discern what is appropriate for Canada as we look at this.

The bill is critically flawed. It sets us on a path we should not be on. I will be recommending that the Canadian Alliance vote against the legislation. It should not go forward the way it is. It is flawed to the point that it should not be accepted. It would be a terrible thing for Canadians to be pushed without their knowledge into something in this area that is so ethically charged. I do not believe that the debate has reached most Canadians so that they understand it well enough. That is a shame.

I have had people from the diabetes association, the Parkinson's association and others in my office. These are well meaning people who would do anything to save their loved ones or to save themselves. Unfortunately, embryonic stem cells have not been proven to be their answer. Adult stem cells have and that is where we should go. That is where we should be putting our energies and our efforts.

The way ahead is clear if we stick to our principles. This legislation should put the child first, followed by the parent and then the science. If we were to keep that straight, we would change much that is in here. Also, if we were to understand that this changes the ethics of a nation and that we should be careful where we go in that area, we would also be very cautious about moving in this direction. That is where we should go.

Because I am so concerned, I have absorbed myself in this piece of legislation for the last two years. We have had some of the brightest minds give us their wisdom and their input. With all my energy I have tried to impress upon the House that we should be cautious in going down this road and that we should change the bill to make it the best in Canada. We really should consider doing exactly that, because it has not been done to this stage.

Now that we are at third reading, it is important that I at least encourage the House to do one more thing, which is to amend the bill. I would like to put forward a motion. I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following thereafter:

Bill C-13, an act respecting assisted human reproduction, be not now read a third time, but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Health for the purpose of reconsidering clause 18 with the view to allow children born through donor eggs or sperm to know the identity of their biological parents.

I respectfully submit this amendment, Mr. Speaker.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 1st, 2003 / 4:25 p.m.
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Madawaska—Restigouche New Brunswick

Liberal

Jeannot Castonguay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, it is obviously a pleasure for me to speak today on Bill C-13, An Act respecting assisted human reproduction. This bill has been long awaited in Canada. All the members and all Canadians know that this bill has been long awaited. It is truly a delight for me to speak on this subject.

In its current form, Bill C-13 reflects the contribution of numerous groups and individuals, including the members of the Standing Committee on Health, whom I want to thank for the enormous amount of work they did on this bill. It was not always easy. There were many important aspects. I believe that everyone devoted time and effort and, today, the bill is better for it. I would also like to mention the contribution of many of the members of this House.

There is no doubt that this bill today is different from the legislative proposals presented to the Standing Committee on Health almost two years ago.

Significant changes have been made since the bill was introduced last spring. The greatest change is the power to establish the assisted human reproduction agency of Canada.

However, there are also differences in many of the details of the bill, such as the Parliamentary review of regulations, the anti-discrimination clause and the firm rejection of any reimbursement of expenditures. As we all know, the bill will fill a legislative void.

We know that the current situation has serious consequences not only for infertile couples and Canadians born through assisted human reproductive technologies, but also for society as a whole. Having recognized these consequences, Canadians have clearly stated that they want the federal government to show leadership in this area.

It is up to us to protect the health and security of Canadians who are turning to assisted human reproduction technologies to help them build families. It is also up to us to follow up on concerns that science and technology should not be able to continue to evolve without regulation.

The bill also recognizes that approximately one in four Canadian couples has to deal with infertility, and this figure is increasing. These couples must overcome a fundamental obstacle to one of the most human wishes, that of having a family. Assisted human reproduction technologies offer the chance to overcome this obstacle.

The bill will be a significant development for people who use these technologies in the hope of conceiving a child. It will ensure that they can do so knowing that their health, safety and privacy are protected. It will ensure they are not discriminated against.

Having a child is a major decision for anybody. But those who use assisted reproductive technologies are faced with added difficulties requiring they ask themselves some pointed questions. Is the technology safe? What are the chances of success?

This is why informed consent is a key element of the bill. To make an informed decision on assisted reproductive technologies, whether we are directly involved or not, we need tools.

Bill C-13 puts great emphasis on the availability of reliable information on assisted reproductive technologies. It recognizes how important it is to keep Canadians informed of the possible causes of infertility, prevention measures and treatment.

Couples who opt for in vitro fertilization or other forms of assisted reproductive technologies must have reliable information on the technology and treatment they choose. Bill C-13 will make sure clinics provide this kind of information.

Moreover, the agency established under Bill C-13 will have the power to monitor and evaluate new developments in Canada and abroad. It will become a known and informed source of reliable information for those considering using assisted reproductive technologies in Canada.

Couples should have access to professional help to evaluate the psychological, emotional and social stress they and their children might face.

So Bill C-13 attaches a great deal of importance to counselling, so much so that it has generated a considerable amount of interest for many members.

Although it is true that protecting the health and safety of Canadians who are seeking to start a family is at the very core of Bill C-13, there are still other important aspects to it.

Recent events have drawn the world's attention to the more sombre aspects of assisted reproduction. For many people, the necessity for such a bill has been crystallized by the claims, false though they may be, that a cloned baby was born prior to last Christmas. The spectre of that possibility was of huge concern to us all.

As a society, we have a duty to set out in legislation what we will accept and what we will not. That is precisely what Bill C-13 does. Without it, cloning will continue to be legal in this country.

The use of cloning techniques to produce a child is deplorable to Canadians. Health and safety issues aside, cloning for reproductive purposes is ethically and morally repugnant.

The deliberate creation of genetically identical humans is contrary to human dignity and to diversity. It blurs the distinctions between reproduction and production.

It virtually ignores the well-being of the cloned child. Any child born as the result of cloning techniques would have to cope with unprecedented psychological, social and emotional challenges relating to identity issues.

Cloning is not, however, the only unacceptable aspect of assisted reproductive technologies. Bill C-13 makes a number of other practices illegal as well, practices which Canadians simply will not accept, including gender selection for other than health reasons, the commercialization of reproduction, and the creation of animal-human chimera.

Clearly, the problems addressed by Bill C-13 are profound ones. We therefore consider Bill C-13 to represent a balanced approach.

The path to that balanced approach was not an easy one, but I feel that, overall, the bill establishes a very solid framework, a framework that will enable us to address the rapidly evolving technologies and the changes in public opinion.

I will cite the example of the approach the bill takes to donor identification. I recognize the valid concerns of those who would like to see donor identity disclosure made mandatory.

I firmly believe that Bill C-13 marks a major step forward. Let me be perfectly clear: under this bill, the identity of donors may be disclosed provided consent was given.

At present, the many Canadian descendants of donors are denied access to the most basic genetic and medical information about their genetic parents. Bill C-13 will ensure that future Canadians conceived with donated gametes have full access to the detailed medical and genetic background of the donor.

However, information from which the identity of the donor could be inferred will remain with the agency. This would mean that, in a medical emergency such as a bone marrow transplant, a medical practitioner will be able to contact the donor in confidence.

In addition, we cannot ignore the fact that, to date, most provinces and territories have not clarified the status of donors in family law. This means, for instance, that identified donors could possibly be asked to support a child or could have claims against their estate made by genetic descendants of theirs.

The international experience seems to indicate that for a system based on the mandatory identification of donors to work, legal protections must be provided.

This bill could well be a catalyst for such a legal clarification in Canada. Parliamentarians may therefore want to review this issue, as part of the mandatory review of Bill C-13.

Another area where we have achieved an appropriate balance is that of research on surplus embryos. Given current scientific and technological capabilities, surplus embryos are a virtually unavoidable result of in vitro fertilization.

Therefore, as legislators, we have a duty to establish parameters regarding the fate of these embryos. Bill C-13 will ensure that, if a couple decides to donate an embryo for research purposes rather than simply have it destroyed, as is often the case now, the procedures relating to this embryo will be conducted in compliance with the rules of ethics and with the values of our society. Again, a balance has been achieved.

I want to reiterate to the House that, without Bill C-13, there is no legislation governing the fate of surplus embryos. There are no rules that are authorized by the legislation and that govern research on embryos.

It is important to point out that Bill C-13 will make it easier for parliamentarians, provincial and territorial partners, stakeholders and Canadians to make a commitment. The act establishes a process that will allow Canadians to address, on an ongoing basis, complex issues that surface quickly.

Parliament can legally conduct a comprehensive review of this legislation and, in the meantime, it will review all the regulations and it will receive reports on the full performance of the agency.

The structure of the assisted human reproduction agency of Canada owes much to the members of this House. As recommended by the Standing Committee on Health, the agency will be at arm's length from Heath Canada and will be governed by a board of directors reporting directly to the health minister.

The agency will aim for the greatest transparency possible, while ensuring that privacy rights are upheld.

The board members will come from a wide variety of backgrounds. They will each bring their unique expertise to the board. There is however one issue on which we will be adamant. No member will represent a specific organization or sector. Instead, the board members will work together in the best interests of all Canadians.

Lastly, let me quote the wise words of Louis Pasteur, the man who unlocked the mysteries of rabies and anthrax and was responsible for laying the groundwork on which much of modern science is based.

Pasteur said, and I quote, “Chance favors the prepared mind”. Bill C-13 sets up the framework that will prepare us, as a society—and as legislators—to assess and follow up on a variety of scientific discoveries and ethical challenges, now and in the years to come.

The bill now before the House might not solve all of the ethical dilemmas related to new technology. Some of these ethical issues go way beyond the scope of the bill. But the bill does provide for a balanced approach, a reasonable and reasoned approach. It is a global approach which is based on the experience and the best practices of countries the world over, but still remains our very own.

It is a truly Canadian approach that will help us meet the challenges of the new century.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 1st, 2003 / 4:25 p.m.
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Toronto Centre—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Liberalfor the Minister of Health

moved that Bill C-13, An Act respecting assisted human reproduction, be read the third time and passed.

Sex Offender Information Registration ActGovernment Orders

March 31st, 2003 / 6:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Before the time for government orders expires, I would like to ask the Chair if he could assure the House that the reprint of Bill C-13, if it is already printed, reflecting the changes made in the bill for report stage motions which were passed, be made available in the Chamber tomorrow so members can have it for the commencement of debate on Bill C-13.

Sex Offender Information Registration ActGovernment Orders

March 31st, 2003 / 5:30 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of points that perhaps my colleague could comment on.

The hon. member across the way in his questions and comments said we must give a chance for amendments because that this is how the system works and it is good. He had over 50 amendments to Bill C-13 and I do not think any of them were passed, so I do not know how he can stand and say that we should go the amendment route.

The other point is the question of retroactivity. We are saying it is okay to do this in the future. We are not worried about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of someone in the future. The only thing we are saying is that if the people who had raped and molested young children or attacked women in the past had only known that their names were going to be written in a book, perhaps they would never have done it.

It is not fair to now come along and say that after everything else that was done to them, their name is now going to be written in a book. They would say that is not fair because if they had known that, they would never have done these things. Does the member think that is even remotely possible? Even if it is, does that not suggest that it is a deterrent, not that I believe that it is the case, but it should not stop it from being put in?

What the government is using as an excuse is an absolute absurdity. It is time we started coming up with solid laws to protect law-abiding citizens in the country instead of being bleeding hearts about the rights of criminals.

Sex Offender Information Registration ActGovernment Orders

March 31st, 2003 / 4:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, regarding the member's last reference to Bill C-13, I think we all recognize now that we must make 43 amendments to get 3. Maybe we have some opportunity.

Should the bill, as presented, be defeated, I would ask the member to advise the House on what specifically he would like to see in a new bill that would be different and that would make it acceptable to him.

Sex Offender Information Registration ActGovernment Orders

March 31st, 2003 / 4:25 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, of course, if there are amendments, and there will be amendments from our party, if those amendments are taken seriously and are accepted as being reasonable amendments to improve the legislation, if sufficient work is done on it to improve the bill to make it palatable, I do not have a closed mind on this. I like to look at bills and motions and evaluate them for what they are.

Where the bill is right now, I cannot support it, anymore than when I was in trucking and my boss would pay me to go from here to a place 400 miles away and return with the same empty truck. We were paid to pick up a load, not just to drive there and back. This is what the bill does. It has the label and the pages but the words on the pages do not do what they should be doing. Consequently, yes, I am forced on principle to vote against the bill because it does not do anything. It only has the labels.

I would like to encourage the member and other members in the Liberal Party, when they work on the bill in committee, to put partisanship aside and if amendments come across from our party or other opposition parties, as well as their own backbenchers, that they will listen to them. The member in particular knows how open the government is to seriously considering amendments that are made in committee. He has learned that very well in Bill C-13 in the last little while.

I am not very hopeful. It just does not happen around here. It should but it does not. However that is my answer to the question.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

March 31st, 2003 / 3 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, last week the House dealt with Bill C-13 at report stage. This morning I have asked for a copy of the bill, as amended, and understand that Bill C-13 is not to be reprinted. Notwithstanding that there were seven or eight motions to amend, I would ask for the unanimous consent of the House that Bill C-13 be reprinted so that members could understand what they are speaking to at third reading stage, which is scheduled to start this week.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

March 27th, 2003 / 3:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, as you know there is no time allocation motion on the agenda. There is however a notice, should that notice need to be exercised.

It is the intention of the government to continue this afternoon and tomorrow with Bill C-28, the budget implementation legislation. I wish to confirm to the House that it is my intention to continue to do so notwithstanding the opposition's dilatory motion to stop the bill from proceeding which was introduced in the House earlier this day.

If and when the bill is completed, we will then turn to Bill C-20, the child protection bill, either tomorrow if the budget bill is completed, or if not, on Monday. This will be followed by Bill C-23, the sex offender bill.

I then propose to bring back to the House for third reading Bill C-13 on reproductive technologies, which was concurred in by the House yesterday. That would probably bring us at least some way into next week and there will be further consultations at that point.

There have been discussions among parties and it has been agreed that the House shall not sit next Friday, April 4. Given that is the case, I now seek the consent of the House pursuant to that consultation to move the following motion. I move:

That when the House adjourns on April 3, 2003, it shall stand adjourned until Monday, April 7, 2003.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

March 26th, 2003 / 4:55 p.m.
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The Speaker

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Battlefords—Lloydminster, National Defence; the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas, Foreign Affairs.

The question is on Motion No. 4 at the report stage of Bill C-13.

(The House divided on Motion No. 4, which was negatived on the following division:)

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

March 26th, 2003 / 3:55 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the Group No. 3 amendments to Bill C-13. I have spoken to all of the other groups, I believe, and I am taking an active interest in this bill. At this time I would like especially to commend my colleague from Yellowhead for his tremendous efforts on this very opaque bill that involves of course great questions of moral import as well as areas of science which normally are not the purview of members of Parliament. I would also like to commend my hon. friend opposite from Mississauga South for his efforts and the many constructive amendments which he has brought forward.

Let me turn, then, to the motions before us and say that first there are Motions Nos. 28, 29 and 30, all of which jointly and separately seek to eliminate the prohibition in the bill against paid surrogacy. It is my view, and in fact it was the unanimous view of all five parties at the Standing Committee on Health's review of the original draft of Bill C-13, that legislation ought indeed to prohibit paid surrogacy. There is a very broad consensus on that point in this place and indeed among expert witnesses who have appeared before parliamentary committees on this question.

Why is that the broad consensus? Because there is something fundamentally offensive with the notion that the act of human reproduction can and should be commodified, that it can and should become a market service, that to compel somebody, through financial incentive, to bear someone else's child in a sense cheapens the invaluable act of motherhood upon which a price cannot be placed. Of course paid surrogacy would likely lead to many abuses, where low income women would be, in a sense, financially exploited for the rental of their wombs. It seems to me that this would open the doors. Were we to permit it and pass these amendments in Motions Nos. 28, 29 and 30, it would be denigrating the inherent dignity of women and the reproductive process. For those reasons, I will oppose these three motions.

I also would like to specifically note that Motion No. 29 seeks payment for legal services in arranging surrogacy, et cetera. It seems to me that we ought not to be concerned about lawyers' fees in commodification of the process of human reproduction; rather, we should be concerned about human dignity, both of women and of nascent human life itself.

I also will support Motions Nos. 32, 33 and 36 in the name of the member for Mississauga South, which seek to prohibit the purchase of fetuses or fetal tissue or fetal parts and which add a prohibition on the sale of fetuses or fetal tissue. Similarly, Motion No. 39 would prohibit the transfer of ownership of embryos or reproductive materials, thereby supporting the goal of preventing commodification around assisted human reproduction.

The notion that we can and should be able to buy and sell human beings, living or deceased, or the parts of their bodies, reflects a fundamental philosophical error in terms of our understanding of what man is. Human beings are different in kind from all other living species. Human beings are different because they possess an inviolable dignity which is not granted by the state or a court and which cannot be traded on any market.

It is an inviolable dignity understood in theological terms expressed by all of the great religions as human beings created in the image and likeness of God, and understood in secular philosophical terms as the only rational being which possesses a special and inherent dignity which cannot be violated.

Regardless from which theological or philosophical perspective one comes, except for a brutally cold Huxleyan and utilitarian perspective, it is in my view impermissible to see the human body as a commodity to be chopped up and sold on the market to the highest bidder, which the bill currently permits with respect to embryos, fetal parts, et cetera.

I will support Motion No. 44 as a provision that adoption of embryos should be restricted, except as provided in the regulations, that is to say that we should carefully govern the transfer of the ownership of embryos as currently worded in the bill. The biological parents would theoretically be permitted to transfer ownership of their child, which is the embryo. It is the successful result of the reproduction of their genetic material and it is a nascent human being.

I believe that this nascent human being, by virtue of being a human being, is created within a family, meaning by and within the relationship of a mother and a father. It is therefore wrong and impermissible to trade or exchange its ownership to a biological laboratory which wishes to experiment on and/or destroy that nascent human life. This would create greater regulatory oversight of embryonic adoption.

I am strongly in support of the principle of embryonic adoption where the idea is to give that embryo the opportunity to realize its potential as a full human being through implantation into the womb of a mother who is infertile and who seeks a fertilized embryo. There have been hundreds of cases of successful embryonic adoption and implantation in the United States, not paid surrogacy but embryonic adoption, which vitiates the argument put forth by the Minister of Health that so-called surplus embryos created ostensibly for reproductive purposes will be thrown in the trash if they are not used by researchers. The cases in the United States make it plainly clear that there is an alternative to destroying these embryos and that alternative is embryonic adoption, properly governed and regulated.

I will also oppose Motions Nos. 46, 49, 51, and 95, which again seek to liberalize the bill with respect to surrogacy and again to commodify the reproductive process.

In closing, I am hopeful that all members have taken very seriously the time of debate that we have had on these amendments and will vote with their conscience tonight. I hope that all members will vote in a free vote. In particular, I call for members to look closely at my motion, Motion No. 17 in Group No. 2, which seeks to ban the odious practice of embryonic stem cell research and to assert thereby the inalienable dignity of innocent human life.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

March 26th, 2003 / 3:45 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, just to make it clear what we are debating today, it is the Group No. 3 amendments on Bill C-13, which deals with human reproductive technology and other issues, extremely important and sensitive issues.

I want to start by referring to a particular motion in Group No. 3, Motion No. 45. There are some others related to it. Motion No. 45 specifies that no research on embryos or reproductive research should be done except as provided specifically in the regulations. I think that this is extremely important and I want to talk a little about why I see this as an extremely important and sensitive issue and why it is such an important amendment, which simply must be made, I believe, before we can pass the bill in good conscience.

I certainly have concerns, as do many colleagues in the Canadian Alliance and certainly some members in other parties. When we are looking at this whole issue of embryonic research, we are getting into an ethical area that is extremely difficult to deal with. It is a sensitive and very emotional issue and members can understand why. It does divide Canadians. We have seen that through several different petitions that have been tabled in the House. These petitions have pointed out the divisions in Canadian society which have to do with this issue.

When we look at the issue of reproductive technology, it is such an exciting issue to even talk about because the potential of the research in this area, the potential cures, the potential for dealing with very difficult diseases that our friends, our families, and people we know in our communities are suffering from, is almost unimaginable. It is truly an exciting area to be talking about. To me, it seems that it simply is not right to put this very difficult ethical issue into the mix when it is unnecessary, and I want to explain that.

Embryonic stem cell research inevitably results in the death of an embryo, which is early human life. For many Canadians this violates a very important ethical commitment to the respect of human dignity, human integrity and human life. I believe, as do many Canadians, that it is an incontestable scientific fact that an embryo is early human life. The complete DNA of an adult human being is present at the early embryo stage. Whether that life is owed protection or not is an issue that is in some debate and brings up this controversial ethical issue, which again I argue is completely unnecessary to bring into the mix. Again I want to explain why I say that.

I say that because adult stem cell research has proven to be so successful. In spite of the fact that research has been done on human embryos for a much longer period of time, and I know that some very large companies have invested millions and millions, probably billions, of dollars on embryonic research, it has not borne results. There has not been one cure. Not even one individual has been dealt with in an effective way to lessen the symptoms of a disease, to make it easier for a person to live with a terrible disease. There is not one example of that.

Yet with adult stem cell research, which has been dealt with for a much shorter period of time, and it is new research by all measures, there have been terrifically exciting results from it. Knowing this, why do we want to get into the difficult ethical issue? What the motion calls for is a three year moratorium on research on embryonic stem cells. It seems like a very reasonable approach. It stays away from the ethical issue and it encourages research on an area that has proven to be so successful, that is, adult stem cell research.

There are so many advantages to adult stem cell research and I just want to talk a little about them. Adult stem cells have proven to be safe. They are a proven alternative to embryonic stem cells. The sources of adult stem cells are, and this is important to note, umbilical cord blood, skin tissue and bone tissue. It is quite broad. It can certainly be obtained from any human quite easily.Adult stem cells are easily accessible and are not subject to immune rejection.

This is one of the real drawbacks of the research that has been done so far on embryonic stem cells. First, in all cases they are obtained from another human being and there is a rejection problem. Any individuals receiving embryonic stem cells into their bodies will have to take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives. They are very expensive drugs that have quite a remarkable impact on the body. They are not something to be taken lightly. That problem of immune rejection is a very serious problem, a problem we do not find with adult stem cell research simply because adult stem cells come from the same human being who is being treated.

There is a very important distinction between the two that has proven to be a remarkable advantage and that I think will lead to a future in adult stem cell research which simply will not be there in embryonic stem cell research. Of course we have found from the embryonic stem cell research done to date that the cells are so unstable that very strange things happen, including completely unanticipated tumours in experiments done with animals where embryonic stem cells were used. That type of thing is caused by the instability of the cells themselves. Adult stem cells simply do not have that problem.

I think it is important to note again that embryonic research has not led to a single cure to date, whereas already adult stem cells have been extremely successful, in spite of the shorter research period. I think that should lead us to do what the committee called for originally, which was to put in place a three year moratorium on embryonic stem cell research. By that time, I would suggest, it will be clear that there will be no need and in fact no reason to use embryonic stem cells for research.

For those reasons, I want to again encourage all members of the House to support Motion No. 45 from Group No. 3, which deals with this very important issue.

There is one other issue I want to deal with. There are several motions in Group No. 3 that deal with the issue: Motion No. 28, put forth by the member for St. Paul's; Motions Nos. 29 and 30; and there are some others as well that were put forth by members of the Liberal Party.

Motion No. 28 is a motion which would delete prohibitions on surrogacy in order that they can be dealt with in regulations. I am a person who believes that if there is an issue of this magnitude to be dealt with, this issue of surrogacy, that issue should be dealt with in the legislation itself, not in regulation where it can be manipulated quite freely by the civil servants dealing with the issue. I simply do not think that is acceptable. I think Canadians expect parliamentarians, on important issues like this, to in fact have them dealt with in legislation, not in regulation.

I will oppose Motions Nos. 28, 29 and 30.

I know that my time is up, but I really want to encourage members of the House to support Motion No. 45 and to oppose Motions Nos. 28, 29 and 30. These changes, along with some others, are extremely important and if they are dealt with we can have an extremely exciting piece of legislation that will lead to unbelievable things in the future. Those of us who see our family members, our friends and people in our community with diseases like Parkinson's disease can at least look with hope to some remarkable cures in the near future.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

March 26th, 2003 / 3:35 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Maurice Vellacott Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments of the hon. member from the NDP who just spoke. I certainly agree with her in terms of the slope we go down when we want to do away with because there is some risk of somebody being disabled. In addition, not only diminishing the value and the life of a disabled person, often they are wrong. We have often found them to be perfectly healthy babies with no defect or disability at all. That is why we cannot go down that road.

I am thankful to have the opportunity to express why changes to Bill C-13 are required to restore dignity to human beings, as well as to remove the possibility of future problems in interpretation due to some ambiguous terminology and a restricted view on the progress of science as reflected in this bill. Particularly, I wish to draw the attention of the House to support Motions Nos. 32, 33, 36, 39, 44 and 45 in Group No. 3 which are crucial to the positive outcome of the bill.

I remind the House that one of the overall goals of the bill is to ensure that the health and well-being of children born through assisted human reproduction are given priority. We must remember that these children, who are born through assisted human reproduction, do not gain their status as human beings through the process of birth. Rather, in fact, their humanity existed from conception on, when their genetic makeup was intricately formed in the womb of their mother.

I draw members' attention to this because, when dealing with the ethical questions that are presented before us today, we must not limit our good intentions to the well-being of a human after birth, but also before birth, when they are subject to these very medical procedures that we are discussing today. This means that Bill C-13 should treat all stages in life with the same respect and care that we show one another.

I would especially urge the House to consider Motion No. 45, as sponsored by the member for Mississauga South. The motion specifies that there must be no research on embryos for reproductive research, except as provided in the regulations. Under the current wording of the bill, research and experiments can be taken on a human embryo provided that it is “necessary”. That is a slippery word and a flawed word.

We are well aware that what one person deems or judges to be necessary might be completely different from another person's definition, from my definition. With such an important decision, with a human being's life at stake, how can we allow such ill-defined terms to remain in the bill? It is an embarrassment to the House.

Once again the bill leaves open the possibility to be interpreted according to the desires of the individual or the institution that wishes to benefit from the experimentation on human embryos.

By not at all permitting the experimentation or harvesting of embryos, we would be recognizing that human life always deserves dignity, even at its earliest stages, from conception on. We have no right to conduct any experiments that do not benefit the subject and especially without even having their consent. We recognize that crucial principle when we look with horror at the experimentation done in the concentration camps in Europe during World War II. We said no experimentation without the consent of the subject. Why do we now permit this experimentation based on our justification of what we consider as progress? If it was wrong then back during the days of Nazi Germany, then it is wrong now.

By closing the door to embryonic experimentation, we are by no means closing the door entirely to the promising future of adult stem cell research. There are fascinating studies that are clearly showing the effectiveness of adult stem cells as treatments for many diseases that make life so difficult.

For example, a study reported by New Scientist Journal in January 2003, as well as a study by Catherine Verfaillie of the University of Minnesota, revealed that special cells could be isolated from the bone marrow of mice and could then be turned into virtually any type of tissue. New Scientist Journal also reported that autopsies on four women revealed that stem cells in bone marrow could develop into brain cells. Originally it was believed that they could only form blood or bone cells. The point is simply that with the promising discoveries related to adult stem cell research why are we even discussing experimentation on human embryos?

Bill C-13 is also flawed in that it allows the use of non-human life forms in the human reproductive process. Cows and others are involved here. That would really be a degradation of the intrinsic value of humanity. Furthermore Canadian society recognizes, and rightly so, that there is a clear difference in the value of the genetic makeup of humans and that of non-humans. Clear guidelines must be in place for all stages of humanity and all forms of genetics so that there is no confusion between human and non-human life forms. The dignity of humanity also applies to the very core of our genetic makeup.

Bill C-13 permits the combination of the human genome with that of a non-human species when permitted by a licence. That is a very dangerous process and the unknown implications can be detrimental to humanity. Transgenic or recombinant gene research poses a grave threat to the integrity of the human gene pool. This bill is intended, as we said before, to benefit humanity and, as such, must ensure that any desire to combine the human genome with a non-human genome must not be permitted since it would desecrate the value and sanctity of human life.

The possibility of combining the human genome with that of an animal or other life forms contradicts one of the main purposes of this very bill, which is to preserve and protect human individuality and diversity and the integrity of the human genome. How can humanity and the human genome be protected if it is combined with other types of genomes?

It is of utmost importance that this bill does not in any way permit other possible forms of cloning either. Dr. Dianne Irving, professor of philosophy and medical ethics and also the former bench research biochemist for the National Institute of Health, was asked by the clerk of the House of Commons health committee to present an analysis of this legislation. She makes it very clear that due to the absence of necessary and relevant accurate scientific definitions, as well as the linguistic loopholes that exist in the bill, it can allow many forms of cloning techniques on humans.

If this bill fails to address the multitude of techniques for producing a human clone or if it improperly defines a technique and then restricts itself to that one improper definition, it is possible that future cloning techniques will not be addressed by this legislation. That will open the door to cloning in Canada, even if that was not the intention of Bill C-13.

Dr. Irving also makes it very clear that only internationally approved scientific terms and definitions, as approved by the International Nomina Embryological Committee, should be used to produce a bill that is not open to a vast array of misinterpretations or misuse. By supporting certain amendments that are before the House today in Group No. 3, we will help ensure the well-being of Canadian society by trying to prevent deviations from the intention of this bill.

The progress of science in this realm does not automatically entitle us to make use of whatever we are capable of doing . The scientific community works hard to make these discoveries, but it is our responsibilities as elected members of the House to ensure that guidelines are put in place so that these amazing discoveries work to benefit humanity rather than pose a risk of harming it. For these reasons, it is essential that we support Motion No. 45 to ensure only ethical research on humans.

I would like to now address Motions Nos. 32, 33, 36 and 39 in Group No. 3. These motions ensure that the purchases of fetuses, fetal tissue and embryos or parts of embryos are prohibited. Human life is not a commodity that we can buy and sell. It would be outrageous if we even considered the sale of babies. Why then does this bill allow for the sale of human beings at a yet younger stage? The legislation of the government must in no way contribute to an industry of selling humans or human parts. In good conscience, how can we allow the commodification of human life? I urge the House to support Motions Nos. 32, 33, 36 and 39 to show that we believe in the value of persons of all ages in our society, those who are pre-born as well.

In good conscience we must oppose a number of the motions that are presented in Group No. 3 as well. I would like to draw attention specifically to Motions Nos. 28, 29, 30, 46, 49, 51 and 95. These motions would allow payment for surrogacy. We must not allow commercial surrogacy in Canada. As a government, we should be seeking to promote the health of Canadians. We must not allow an industry of selling reproductive materials and promoting an industry of commercially using humans to advance reproduction.

In conclusion, I urge the House to consider the implications of this bill as it stands. Without adopting Motions Nos. 32, 33, 36, 39, 44 and 45 in Group No. 3, it is open to some pretty serious and negative consequences that defeat the intention of this bill because of some very vague, ambiguous terminology. We need to make wise laws that chart the direction for us and our future generations. We must not only look at the ground before us as we walk but into the horizon to avoid the stumbling blocks that will hinder us later.

I urge the House to change Bill C-13 to uphold the dignity of human life and remove the possibility of future problems due to our restricted vision of the progress of science.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

March 26th, 2003 / 3:25 p.m.
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NDP

Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-13 at report stage. This is a very important bill.

I want to point out to members that the bill and the amendments can strongly affect Canadians with disabilities by supporting the drive that biotechnology firms are creating in the medical marketplace toward producing the perfect baby. I will return to this issue at the end of my address. I would first like to talk about the progress of the work on the bill that the NDP has tried to accomplish.

This is my first opportunity to speak to this legislation. I want to add my voice to all of the voices of Canadian women who know that the need for legislation is urgent. This urgency is underlined by recent sensational news stories about experimentation with human cloning.

The urgency for me has also been brought home by a recent conversation which I had with a health expert who informed me that there are hundreds of new assisted reproductive technologies and drugs that are aimed at the Canadian market and will be arriving in the next year. We really cannot afford to leave this very critical area of public health to the mercy of the biotech market.

During the committee's examination of Bill C-13, New Democrats attempted to introduce amendments to strengthen the bill in areas that we believed needed improving. Some of our concerns were addressed, but several important proposals were voted down by the Liberal majority on the committee.

My caucus colleague proposed 13 amendments during committee stage and succeeded in gaining several improvements to the bill. We wanted the protection of the health and well-being of women added to the principles. We wanted the donors to be provided with independent information before participating and that the public be informed of the risk factors relevant to infertility. As well, we wanted the board of the assisted reproduction agency of Canada to consist of a minimum of 50% women. We wanted the addition of a comprehensive conflict of interest clause governing the board as well.

We were unsuccessful in adding the precautionary principle to make safety an overriding concern. The committee also voted down our amendment to tighten up the commercial sale of reproductive materials and to make the agency more accountable by stipulating what it would do rather than what it may do. We tried and failed to facilitate donor identification in recognition of the needs of children born through reproductive technology.

If the government had seen fit to simply follow the wisdom of the committee which had spent time, expertise and energy to review the bill, we would be seeing improvements to this legislation. Sadly, we are seeing steps backward instead.

We have seen the failure to include the basic safety provision of the precautionary principle to safeguard women's health, together with the reversal of our gender parity and conflict provisions for the agency's board. Measures needed to keep biopharmaceutical corporations at bay has left the NDP no choice but to vote against the bill at third reading. This is despite our desire to have a long overdue regulatory framework in place as soon as possible.

I would like to re-examine the principles involved here.

Our first concerns were for health protection. Women involved in reproductive technologies ought to be assured that the drugs and treatments they take are safe beyond a reasonable doubt. As well, they must have access to independent information and counselling at critical times when they may be vulnerable to promoters of technologies that may put their health at risk. We succeeded, although not in as decisive wording as we had hoped, with the formal acknowledgement that the health and well-being of women must be protected in the application of these technologies.

We were not successful however in securing that protection through the instrumental inclusion of the precautionary principle in the bill. We sought to include the precautionary principle in the principles and application and interpretation sections and again in clause 13 through which it would have been applied to all controlled activities covered by the act.

To further the objective of informed decision making by those participating in reproductive technologies, we proposed, and it was accepted, to require all those licensed under the act to provide donors in advance with independent information provided by the assisted human reproduction agency.

Commercialization is another of our big concerns with Bill C-13. Much of reproductive technology remains the private reserve of giant life sciences and drug corporations with patent protection taking precedence over the public good and with private for profit interests dominating the field.

We attempted to tighten up the bill's prohibition against commercial gain by extending the ban on purchasing ova and sperm to include offering them for sale. This would correspond to the treatment given embryos under the bill. The amendment, as well, was defeated by the Liberals.

I would like to return for a minute to concerns that persons with disabilities have around this bill and the whole issue of reproductive technology, biotechnology and the new era we have entered of designer babies.

I would like to raise some important issues which have been posed to me with regard to the whole issue of prenatal genetics testing.

I have spoken with women who have received prenatal testing. This testing has shown, for example, high possibilities of giving birth to a child with Down's syndrome, or a child with spina bifida or with a cleft palette. After this testing has been done, they find themselves presented with a barrage of very negative counselling about the need for termination.

This is a very disturbing situation because what we are seeing is thousands and thousands of times each year in doctors offices women being faced with decisions around terminations of pregnancies without being given the kind of honest and neutral counselling about the values of having a child with a disabilities and about persons with disabilities who are living and contributing in the world.

The question that is raised as soon as we realize we have the ability to “screen out” Down's syndrome, cleft palette, spina bifida and bipolar disorder is this. What does that mean to the people who now live on the earth, who live among us and who are in our families who have disabilities? What does that mean to the value that they see given to their own lives?

I would like to take this opportunity to read a declaration which has been put forward by the Disabled Persons International on this subject, which I think is very germane to the topic. It states:

The right to live and to be different.

Up until now most of us have been excluded from debates on bioethical issues. These debates have had prejudiced and negative views of our quality of life. They have denied our right to equality and have therefore denied our human rights...

We are full human beings. We believe that a society without disabled people would be a lesser society. Our unique individual and collective experiences are an important contribution to a rich, human society.

We demand an end to the biomedical elimination of diversity, gene selection based on market forces and the setting of norms and standards by non-disabled people.

Biotechnological change must not be an excuse for control or manipulation of the human condition or biodiversity.

In closing, I and my party believe in that declaration. My colleague from Winnipeg Centre has put forward a very strong private member's motion on the importance of a national strategy around genetics and genetic counselling which will bear in mind and keep front and centre the value of persons with disabilities and will respect the dignity of their lives.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

March 26th, 2003 / 3:15 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, as we enter into this next stage of the debate on Bill C-13, specifically Group No. 3 amendments, I want to highlight several important issues.

The debate is a very important one. Frankly, I have been somewhat disappointed with the importance this issue has had in the past for Canadians all across the country and has sparked such little interest among the majority of members in the Chamber, for this debate will set the future for reproductive technology.

Yes, legislation can be changed but realistically how often does it ever happen? We just need to look perhaps at the most flawed legislation in Canadian history, the Indian Act. It is over 135 years old and the only changes to it over all that period of time have been relatively minor.

Yes, there are proposed changes before the House now on Bill C-13 but they are a long way from completion and yet the known problems have been in place since even before the legislation was drafted.

As the elected members of Parliament we have a responsibility to truly debate the issues of the day. Bill C-13 has strong science, health and moral implications within it. It is an arm of science that has been moving so incredibly quickly that I predict that there are many issues that we have not even considered at this time.

These issues will exist, not out of ignorance but simply because the technology of what we cannot do or even contemplate today will have the potential of changing for tomorrow. Let us not trap ourselves in a legislative box that we cannot get out of and adequately deal with in the future.

Therefore, I urge all members of the House to carefully consider the amendments and look to the future. As elected officials we are chosen by our constituents to represent them and to provide leadership here in this place.

I wish to speak specifically to this group of amendments and then make some closing comments on Bill C-13 at this time.

I will be opposing Motion No. 28 which deletes prohibitions on surrogacy in order that the prohibitions can be dealt with in the regulations. Unfortunately, the regulations are lost from the scope of Parliament. Yes, they are published and there is a procedure for the public to table support or opposition to them, but the fact is that they are not debated in Parliament. I cannot, therefore, support the notion that surrogate mothers should receive some form of compensation.

I note that the health committee report “Building Families” was united in wanting to end commercial surrogacy. It may seem altruistic but I do not support the premise of payment for children. These same principles apply to Motions Nos. 29 and 30.

While on the issue of surrogacy I would like to voice my opposition also to Motion No. 46 which would allow exceptions on prohibitions on procuring a surrogate, arranging a surrogacy and inducing a female to become a surrogate, namely, “except in accordance with the regulations”. As I have mentioned previously, I oppose leaving controls on commercial surrogacy to the regulations, for Parliament is the best place to have these debates and make these decisions.

Likewise, I oppose Motion No. 49. Opening the door to payment for gametes or in vitro embryos by leaving this to the regulations is not the correct way to proceed on this issue.

I must also oppose the motion to open the door to compensation to surrogates for work related loss of income as proposed under Motions Nos. 51 and 95. The health committee heard testimony that compensation for such expenses could be greatly inflated. There are just too many outstanding questions and issues surrounding this particular issue and, on this basis, the health committee recommended there be no such compensation for surrogacy. Surrogacy must be altruistic, not simply done for payment.

I support the premise of Motions Nos. 32, 33, 36 and 39 which would prohibit the purchase of fetuses or fetal tissue, any part of the embryo or the transfer of ownership of embryos or reproductive materials.

I believe that life begins at conception and therefore cannot nor should not be bought and sold. Life is a precious gift from God and one that cannot be reduced to the level of a common commodity that can be bought and sold on the open market or profited through the stock exchange.

Motion No. 44 is an interesting one and worthy of support. Rather than the destruction of embryos, they could be adopted. Embryo adoption is a possible alternative to the destruction of or research on so-called excess embryos, though not without its own complications, I admit. This is an area that could have future consequences. As I mentioned earlier, let us not trap ourselves in a legislative box that we cannot get out of or adequately deal with in the future.

I feel strongly about Motion No. 45. I support this motion which specifies that there should be no research on embryos for reproductive research except as provided in the regulations. I oppose research on human embryos for any purpose and therefore support this motion.

Due to scheduling of committee travel, it appears that this may be my last opportunity to speak to Bill C-13. Therefore I would like to offer some additional thoughts on this important matter.

I have the privilege of knowing two very dedicated people on this important issue. Shirley Pratten, who lives in my riding of Nanaimo--Cowichan, and her daughter Olivia have both appeared before the standing committee on more than one occasion along with Health Canada officials and interested media. They particularly urge the House to move to an open gamete donation system.

I remind members of the House that the committee talked to several international researchers and professionals who spoke about the success of open systems in other countries such as Sweden, Austria and New Zealand. It is also my understanding that Australia and Holland are moving along in that direction over a two year transition period.

Hon. members of the House should also know that should Bill C-13 go through as it is currently written, that is legalizing anonymity, there will then be a legal challenge in British Columbia where adoption records are open. Discussions have already taken place with one of the lawyers who was involved with opening the adoption records in British Columbia and he is keen to take this on, with the adoption community in this country firmly behind him. With this in mind, there are several offspring in British Columbia who will be part of this challenge.

In short, I believe that if Bill C-13 is passed without change, there will be a serious court challenge starting in the province of British Columbia and probably continuing on through the Supreme Court of Canada. I wonder if the government really wants this. Is this in the best interests of Canadians?

I have stated before and repeat now that the bill is about improving human health. I am reminded that this is not only about physical health, but also emotional and psychological health. If members of the House deliberately deny people the knowledge to know where they have come from through an anonymous system, I believe that we are knowingly compromising their psychological health.

I have some insights into the adoption process, having one adopted child and two through private guardianship, so I know of what I speak. The federal government has a responsibility to safeguard the emotional and psychological health as well as the physical health of Canadian citizens. We need to put the interests and protection of the children conceived through reproductive technology first. Let me repeat this because I believe that this is tantamount to our discussions today and throughout the debate in the past few weeks. We need to put the interests and protection of the children conceived through reproductive technology first.

I acknowledge that Bill C-13 states that this is in the preamble, but it fails to address this need in the bill by sanctioning an anonymous system. Anonymity is not in the best interests of the people who are being conceived. If we really mean that we need to put the interests and protection of children conceived through reproductive technology first, then the bill must actually do what it says it will do.

There are of course very strong lobby groups that attempt to influence the government and the legislative process. In this case the government is not only allowing the desires of some parents to come before the needs of the children, it is also putting the desires of the medical profession above the children.

It would appear that the government has caved in to the terrific power of the medical lobby whose interests in keeping the status quo are both self-serving and for financial motivation. It will take a strong government to stand up to the medical lobby and endorse the standing committee's recommendations on all aspects of the legislation. I really question whether the present government is strong enough to accomplish that.

I realize that my time is nearly up in addressing Bill C-13 but whether my time is up or not, when the House passes this legislation, the legislation will become the law of the land for the foreseeable future. Whatever we pass today and after third reading will have long-lasting consequences.

In the continuum of witnesses, who is most important? It is always the children. I urge all members to seriously consider this as we vote on this issue today.

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March 26th, 2003 / 3:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Julian Reed Liberal Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to seek unanimous consent of the House to withdraw my amendment to report stage Motion No. 86 of Bill C-13.

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March 18th, 2003 / 1:35 p.m.
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, it has long been the NDP position that the commercialization of human reproductive services should be halted.

As a women's health issue, infertility should be given the full weight of government support through campaigns to inform the public of the causes of infertility and initiatives to eliminate those causes when possible.

In a recent article by Abby Lippman, who is a well-known expert in the field of reproductive technologies, she writes:

--the regime being developed to oversee the development of these technologies is not being created within a framework of women's reproductive health.

We see the co-opting of the idea of choice--this idea that reproductive technology automatically increases choices. In terms of being able to have children, reproductive technologies are one kind of choice offered to women who can afford them. But if we want choices, why don't we deal with where the source of the problems are... instead of at the end of the road saying, “You can have this technology now that you're infertile...”--that's a limited menu.

That is what we seek to achieve in this legislation, a women's reproductive health framework. That is what is missing in the bill and why the New Democratic Party remains concerned about Bill C-13.

Members would expect that those of us in the New Democratic Party believe firmly and with conviction that for profit health services have no place in our universal public health care system. It also will not come as a surprise when we say that the value of human health, of women's health, must be primary and unchallenged by competing commercial values.

Leaving these services to the for profit marketplace, irrespective of the compliance with specific quality regulations, will undoubtedly limit the number of Canadians who have access to infertility treatment, and for us that is totally unacceptable. Limiting access to quality reproductive health services only to those who are well off, runs counter to the very foundation of our public health service.

As the House has heard from many members on this side of the House, the government's record on protecting public health care in Canada, up to and including the recent health accord and the federal budget, has been shown to be totally untrustworthy. We only have to look as far as the revelations today on CBC radio and TV about clinical trials being conducted in this country and a drug being used in those clinical trials, when the government had the information and knew full well that deaths had occurred in another country as a result of that drug being used in clinical trials.

We only have to look as far as the failure of the government to act on the recommendations flowing from the death of an Ontario woman who had taken the drug Prepulsid, and having been failed by a system that did not require mandatory reporting of adverse reactions. Time and again, when it comes to health protection, the government has failed Canadians.

The House will also know that part of the debate is about patents. A strong concern has been expressed throughout the proceedings that the patenting of human reproductive materials and processes would have a severe impact on the question of financial barriers, yet the government has done nothing to tie the legislation to consequent clarifications of the Patent Act.

This legislation and the values it represents cannot be left in competition with the conflicting values on property rights within the Patent Act.

We only have to look as far as the well-known developments around Myriad Genetics, a company that isolated two genes which can help identify women at particular risk of developing heredity forms of breast and ovarian cancer, a company that has sought to achieve maximum commercial benefit from the control over patent of that information.

It is an affront to human dignity and the integrity of our human heritage to commercialize human reproduction, and this bill does not adequately shut the door in this respect.

The government's position is revealed in its attempt to remove conflict of interest language proposed by the NDP and accepted by the standing committee. This measure would have ensured that government policy and reproductive technology would not be influenced by the commercial considerations of its advisers.

There is no question that without that amendment, without that strong language in Bill C-13, representatives of the pharmaceutical and biotech industries could possibly be permitted to sit on the board of the agency governing this field of endeavour.

In that context, I again want to refer to the remarks made by Abby Lippman in a recent article entitled “Conceivable Options” when she says:

Women's bodies are a natural resource for the biomedical industry because of the scientific possibilities to commercialize human reproduction, human DNA and develop increasing numbers of genetic tests to be used in combination with in vitro fertilization.

The dangers are clear and the problems are evident without further action by this government. We express great concern and displeasure at the failure of the government to adequately represent the hard work of the Standing Committee on Health and to respect the democratic process.

The issue of surrogacy was debated and discussed at length in the Standing Committee on Health's examination of the bill and the government's no-name predecessor proposal. The committee concluded that surrogacy should be banned. To ban something is to shut down any avenues that will facilitate it happening. Motion Nos. 28, 29 and 51 in particular, appear aimed at relaxing the impetus within the bill to prohibit surrogacy. They send the wrong message, a message that must be unequivocal so that Canadians have a clear sense of what is acceptable and what is not.

Obviously it would be wrong for any of us to promote a piece of legislation that on the one hand said it was wrong for sperm donors and surrogate mothers to engage in any kind of commercial activity and on the other hand allow large corporations in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology spheres to patent life forms and make millions of dollars from their discoveries.

It is important that we be consistent on this principle and that is what we propose today in speaking to the bill and through our previous amendments.

Regrettably, the government has resisted our attempts to ensure that women's health is adequately protected in the bill. We proposed that the precautionary principle be incorporated as a fundamental principle of the bill and that it apply throughout. The government voted that proposal down in committee. What better way of ensuring that women's safety is the primary consideration in every decision?

We are all too familiar with the fact that women undergo many different drugs and treatments that can have an adverse impact on their health and it is our call today to ensure that all such drugs and treatments be allowed on the market only when proven to be safe beyond a reasonable doubt.

Madam Speaker, I wonder if you could give me permission to have three or five extra minutes to finish my remarks on this important matter.

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March 18th, 2003 / 1:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Madam Speaker, in debating Bill C-13, the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, we realize that infertility is still one of the most misunderstood, invisible and nonetheless distressing problems that Canadian couples are faced with. I do not know of any other complication for which friends, colleagues and decision makers—although well-meaning and normally compassionate—simply advise couples to forget about it and move on.

As we debate Bill C-13, an act respecting assisted human reproduction, it is clear that infertility remains one of the most misunderstood invisible, yet poignant situations facing Canadian families. I cannot think of another health problem about which it seems so easy for well meaning, usually empathetic friends, colleagues and policy makers to just say “Get over it”.

As a family doctor, I was often overcome by the tremendous reactive depression, inability to function and relationship disharmony precipitated by the realization that again this month she was not pregnant. There were also those moments where I, in giving the diagnosis of a cancer, or a genetic problem like Turner's syndrome, or a severe medical problem or disability, had to deliver the additional devastating news that woman would never be able to carry a pregnancy.

Bill C-13 was brought forward to help those women who would need some extra help in trying to have a baby and to ensure that happened in a safe and ethical environment. Unfortunately, a great deal of the debate of Bill C-13 has been hijacked by those anti-choice members who are obsessed with obstructing the use of embryos produced for the purpose of reproduction being used for research instead of being discarded.

There is no question that society wants reproductive cloning banned totally, which Bill C-13 does by placing it in the category of prohibited activities with penalties enforced by the Criminal Code.

The debate however, ongoing since the Royal Commission on Reproductive Technology and the health committee report leading to the present bill, is whether other activities should be prohibited, that is criminalized or regulated, thus requiring a licence.

The bill deals with a very specialized area of health care in which the practitioners, the fertility doctors, are highly qualified medical practitioners who would be losing their right to practise their profession if found to be performing these controlled activities in violation of the regulations. I believe that physicians take these responsibilities very seriously and for us to now possibly criminalize the activities of these practitioners and their patients amounts to the government once again trying to dictate to women what they can and cannot do with their bodies and a naive failure to recognize that not all those requiring assisted human reproduction will have willing voluntary donors or gestational carriers.

The number of pregnancies requiring AHR is small and the number of pregnancies carried by gestational carriers in Canada even smaller, with estimates ranging from 60 to 100 attempts resulting in only about 30 pregnancies a year. Only about 500 eggs are donated per year and surprisingly only about 1,500 to 2,000 pregnancies result from donor insemination. This is certainly a manageable number of assisted pregnancies that has been self-regulating for years with the clinics' own codes of conduct and certainly could be meticulously regulated without requiring criminal penalties.

Even without regulations, the maximum reimbursement for gestational carriers in Canada has been $20,000, much less than the $30,000 to $40,000 paid for international adoption once the legal, travel and counselling have been paid. Reimbursement for egg and sperm donors has remained equally modest compared to the American reproductive industry whose example seriously appalled the members of the health committee during their hearings. I think the intent of the bill could have been achieved within a tight regulatory framework.

I hope the new proposed agency will get up and running quickly so there will be no unnecessary delays for the women and their families needing help or for the researchers to carry on their invaluable work. I hope that we will continue down the road to a registry that will provide the much needed medical information of the donors leading to successful pregnancies and that the agency will have the capacity and the mandate to keep that information updated so that the offspring will be able to find out their evolving family histories, such as breast and colon cancers, heart disease and eventually actual genetic information.

The debate around additional identifier information should continue and in the meantime there should be a voluntary offspring registry. Indeed some infertility patients may want to choose donors who would agree to a full open model.

We have a lot to learn from the experiences of adoption. In AHR we should apply the imperative for honesty about a biologically different beginning to the children, a plan for disclosure without retroactivity, expert counselling and guidelines for the information available at intake.

At our town hall meeting on assisted human reproduction last year in St. Paul's, the panellists and the audience presented compelling stories of the need for a better understanding of the challenges facing the infertile community.

The responsible use of gestational carriage for the women, who would otherwise be unable to carry a pregnancy because of trauma, cancer, genetic problems, was compelling. To assume that these women will be able to have a sister or find a friend to perform the role on a voluntary basis is naive. To close the door to gestational carriers with a modest compensation will drive these law-abiding citizens underground or to the United States.

I ask all hon. members to take the time to hear these stories, such that they will feel comfortable supporting Motions Nos. 28, 30, 46 and 49 that take the issue of surrogacy and egg and sperm donation from the prohibited category to that of controlled acts, and allow these families the opportunity of genetically related children and grandchildren.

Every day in Canada the dream of having a child genetically related to the parents is being fulfilled in families where it would have once been impossible. We must continue to ensure that our society becomes more educated and supportive of the one in eight couples in Canada who need help fulfilling their dream in a safe, affordable and ethical environment. The issue of a wanted pregnancy must be seen and responded to as yet another important issue of choice.

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March 18th, 2003 / 1:15 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central to participate in the report stage debate on Group No. 3 amendments to Bill C-13, an act respecting assisted human reproduction.

Every year thousands of babies are born in Canada using assisted reproductive technology, everything from simple insemination to cutting edge in vitro fertilization. But there have been no laws governing any kind of regulations leaving doctors and infertile couples to come up with their own guidelines.

This long overdue act would now regulate some activities, such as research involving human embryos and criminally ban others, such as commercial surrogacy, non-medical sex selection, and all forms of cloning involving human reproductive material.

Since 1989, Canada has been attempting to define the proper legislation and regulatory controls to govern assisted human reproductive technologies through the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies. According to a Léger marketing survey, 84% of Canadians were against the cloning of human beings, compared with just 5% who favoured the controversial practice and 11% did not know or refused to answer.

Human reproductive cloning represents a profound disregard for human dignity, individuality and rights. In effect, it is an affront to the dignity of human life and reduces its value to that of a commodity. That is not acceptable.

The Canadian Alliance minority report recommended that the final legislation, which we are now debating, clearly recognize the human embryo as a human life and the statutory declaration include the phrase respect for human life.

For many years, adult stem cell transplants have successfully been used to treat a variety of diseases such as Parkinson's, MS, leukemia and Crohn's. Adult stem cells are a safe, proven alternative to embryonic stem cells. Adult stem cells include those collected from umbilical cords, placenta, brain tissue and bone marrow. Embryonic stem cells, on the other hand, are those extracted from an embryo in a procedure that kills a tiny but 100% genetically human living being. Despite the hype embryonic stem cells have never been successfully used in clinical trials.

As the member for Mississauga South said earlier, Bill C-13 would not ban human cloning. Thus, the bill belongs in the garbage and I agree. That is why we in the official opposition are opposing the bill.

Besides regulating the use of embryonic stem cells, Bill C-13 would ban the practice of paying a woman to carry a pregnancy. It would make it illegal to pay a man for his sperm or a woman for her eggs: gamete donations, as both are known. An estimated 50 to 100 babies are born through surrogacy every year in Canada while hundreds more result from gamete donations.

I will proceed to deal with all the motions in this group. The House has been very generous today and I would like to ask for an extra five minutes if I could, Madam Speaker.

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March 18th, 2003 / 1 p.m.
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Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to say at the outset that this is, for the most part, a good bill. It is a bill that sets out to place a legal, ethical and regulatory framework around very complex research and a technological set of new ideas that have come about in science.

As a physician I know only too well the agony and heartbreak that some couples face because they are unable to have children, to reproduce. The stress placed on these couples by society, by family expectations, and by their own desires and their dreams for children for the continuity of their family line, is very emotional.

New reproductive technologies and some of the research we are talking about in the bill are able to help couples like these in many ways. In effect, therefore, the good that the bill can do, the good that these technologies and this research can do, however, must be balanced by the recognition of the harm it could do to society as a whole. The bill sets out to find that fine balance and I think it has done so very well.

For instance, the commodification and the commercialization of reproduction carries with it the risk, as we of course have heard everyone speak about, of exploitation, especially of vulnerable young women. Young women who need money, who are in penurious circumstances, and not so young women who are in penurious circumstances, could be exploited for use as surrogates or as donors. For instance, because of the authority figures within a family, a young woman could be made to become a surrogate whether that young woman wishes to or not. Clearly one must set guidelines in which we do not allow for exploitation, in which we do not allow for commodification, and in which we do not allow commercialization to create an incentive for exploitation. I think the bill has done that.

Many people have suggested that donors of ova or sperm and surrogates should be driven purely by altruism. That is wonderful, but that is not what happens in the real world. The bill recognizes that realism. It recognizes that we cannot only ask people out of the goodness of their hearts to donate without protecting them in some ways. I think that the bill, to some extent, allows for that. In fact, it allows for the anonymity of a donor while at the same time ensuring that the elements of a family history and a medical history are there to protect the future well-being of any children born of these technologies. I think that the bill is in fact very good in all of these aspects.

Where I believe the bill falls short is on the issue of surrogacy. Surrogacy, unlike some of these other interventions, is not simply a donation. In surrogacy, a woman agrees to carry a child to term. Altruism alone does not play a part in this, because we all know that inherent within a pregnancy there are risks, risks that are expected and risks that may not be expected.

In Motion No. 51, I have suggested that we move to recognize some of those risks. If a surrogate faces any sort of complication due to pregnancy, such as toxemia, abruptio placenta or any one of those threatening problems that can occur during a pregnancy, and needs to take time off work, she should be compensated and reimbursed. At the moment the bill only allows for reimbursement of actual expenses such as taxis, going to the dentist, getting food, et cetera. We need to look realistically at some of the risks that could occur and ensure that the surrogate, the mother and the child are protected so that a healthy child will be born and so that women do not take undue risks. If we do not protect them, we will find that we will be able to say in the bill that surrogacy is allowed but it will never happen in fact, because no one would want to put themselves at that kind of risk if they are not assured that the risk is taken into consideration in the bill.

Similarly, I also want to say that in Motion No. 29 I am clarifying something that is extremely important. When we look at some of the issues of technology or issues dealing with sterility, surrogacy or any of the technologies involved here, there quite often is a need for informed consent from the patient, the couple needing the services, or the surrogate, a need to have counselling by a physician or by a legal counsel to allow them to make the right decisions, to allow them to make informed consent. Informed consent is a very important part of any kind of medical intervention. I think this is important and I do not believe it is very clear in the bill. I think that Motion No. 29 would clarify it very clearly so that physicians and lawyers doing their jobs on informed consent would not feel that they would be liable to prosecution.

The parts of the bill, however, that deal with research, cloning and stem cells et cetera, have been subjected to a great deal of misunderstanding and I would say misinformation, but I would sometimes believe it is disinformation. I hope that this is because the complexity of the science is often too great for some people to really grasp it clearly.

For example, paragraph 5(1)(a) states:

No person shall knowingly (a) create a human clone, or transplant a human clone into a human being;

It works in tandem with the definition of a human clone that states:

“human clone” means an embryo that... contains a diploid set of chromosomes obtained from a single--living or deceased--human being, foetus or embryo.

A diploid set of chromosomes means the full set of 46 chromosomes that are present in every cell of an embryo, in fact, in every cell of each and every human being. Some members of the House raised concerns about this definition not being watertight. I would like to speak to and zero in on some of those concerns.

It is suggested that it is problematic to define a clone as an embryo that replicates the complete set of chromosomes of another single human organism. Members raised the spectre of cloning techniques that use more than one source of DNA, but this is not science. This is bad science. To create a human clone a scientist must, by definition, obtain all 46 chromosomes from the same organism but not necessarily from the same cell within that organism. That is what a clone is, a copy of an entire human being.

For example, if we wanted to clone you, Madam Speaker, we would need all of your chromosomes, not just some of them. It does not matter if we get the chromosomes from one of your cells or from a handful of them, as long as the complete set of chromosomes comes from your body we will have created a cloned Madam Speaker. But if we mix your chromosomes with the chromosomes of someone else we will not be able to produce a clone.

It is suggested that the bill's cloning ban would not cover newer approaches such as mitochondrial cloning, pronuclei transfer or parthenogenesis to create a clone.

Let me say for the record that it is not possible to create a cloned human being from cloned mitochondria. A mitochondrion is a little structure found within every cell. It supplies energy to the cell, a sort of genetic battery. Mitochondria have their own DNA separate from the 46 chromosomes found in the nucleus. We cannot create an entire cloned organism by cloned mitochondria. It is like saying that if we cloned the battery we could get the whole energizer bunny. Well, we cannot.

On the other hand, it is in theory possible to create a human clone through pronuclei transfer. There is a pronucleus containing 23 chromosomes in every human egg and sperm. Following fertilization the two pronuclei will come together and provide the 46 chromosomes of the developing human organism. Using two pronuclei from the same human organism would, theoretically, produce a clone. Such a procedure would obviously therefore be covered by the human cloning prohibition found in the bill and thus would not be allowed in Canada.

There was concern about some things that are not possible and some things that are already prohibited in the bill. Bill C-13 would ban the parthenogenetic creation of a cloned human embryo. Parthenogenesis is simply a method for asexually reproducing an entire human organism. It is not a means of creating sperm and eggs as Motion No. 27 wrongly suggests.

I want to address the suggestion that the cloning prohibition would not ban chimera. This is in fact quite true. Chimeras are not clones. By definition they consist of cells drawn from more than one entity and chimeras are specifically banned under paragraph 5(1)(i).

The cloning ban in Bill C-13 is comprehensive and it is scientifically sound. Unless there be any further doubts, allow me to quote Dr. Patricia Baird, an internationally respected geneticist, who as many members will know chaired the royal commission on reproductive technology. Professor Baird said:

Based on an incorrect understanding of the science, some have suggested that the bill doesn't ban cloning, but in fact on careful reading it clearly does.

Madam Speaker, a lot of my colleagues have been given an extra five minutes. I would wrap this up if I could be given another three minutes, please.

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March 18th, 2003 / 12:45 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Canadian Alliance Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and a pleasure to speak once again to Bill C-13.

It is important to understand that this is the sixth and last round of amendments. We are trying to recap where we have been up to this point, and address the sixth grouping of amendments.

It is important for members to understand how many amendments we have looked at report stage. Over 70 amendments have been put forward by members of the House who have said that this legislation has failed in committee. It has failed in what it has brought forward to the House because it has not adequately reflected the views of Canadians or the whole area of reproduction with which the bill has attempted to deal.

It is true that the bill is very wide ranging in its scope. Some members say that it is all about reproduction and that it is to help individuals who have difficulty in conceiving a child. Part of the bill does deal with this and part of the bill deals with what happens with the leftover embryos. However part of the bill also deals with science related to that. The science is of great concern to most members of the House. It will change the ethic of a nation when we say if we are prepared to create human life for the sake of research.

If we do that, then we are moving to a place where we are saying that it is all right perhaps even to commodify life. Perhaps it is all right to even produce eugenics or be allowed to create a specific human, one that is tailor made for us, one that gets around the idea that God is the creator of human life and that we may be able to produce tailor made individuals.

This is something that has been tried many times in our history. It is also something that has that potential. It is alarming in the way some of the amendments have come forward in this group. It sets me back when I see the way this group has been put forward because it really says that the whole area of surrogacy should be opened up.

I know the intent is to be able to put it into regulations. However, if it is put into regulations, we do not know exactly what will happen. We are very concerned about what might happen in regulations. The regulations do not give us the intent of the bill. If we truly wish to do something about our concern with surrogacy and allow individuals to modify human life from that perspective, then it must be in the legislation.

Some of the amendments state that we should allow ourselves to purchase a surrogate and there is no real price tag on that. When the members of the committee went through the area of surrogacy, we were told that they should be paid $20,000, $40,000 or perhaps $100,000. It would depend on what they were paid in their workplace and how long they would be away from work. We have not defined in legislation what would be an appropriate reimbursement for having a child.

If this is allowed, then we have to set parameters around it. This is something on which we fought long and hard in committee. The committee had some of the best witnesses from Canada and around the world. Committee members were able to question the witnesses on this question and other important issues.

The area of surrogacy is very important. Either a person is on one side of the fence or the other when it comes to surrogacy. A person is either saying that surrogacy is all right, that it is all right to purchase a womb or an individual to have a child. The other side is that it is something that could or would be exploited. We see the exploitation of females for sex. People say that it is the oldest occupation and that it has been around for many years. We hope that would not be extended to the idea of having a surrogate, but perhaps we should think again.

What potentially could happen is women might have the opportunity, and certainly would be flirting with the idea of having a child, of taking an egg from them and a sperm from a super model or superstar, put those together and create the perfect child. This would be a child who would have the traits that would see as more of a toy rather than a living human extension of themselves.

People are on one side or the other on this issue. Either we allow it to happen or we do not. I think there is a strong division in the House on whether that is okay because some people think it should be up to the individual to choose. Other people ask if we go down that road, where do we stop? If we allow it there, then why are we stopping the idea of sex selection, for example, and we say that is a deplorable thing, although the practice happens in other countries around the world. They try to take a picture of the child in the womb to discern whether it is male or female and then they keep aborting it until they get the sex they want. This also happens in Canada to a degree and it depends to what extent. This legislation will bulk us into that sort of idea with the kind of amendments that are before us in this group.

I would also ask, Mr. Speaker, if I could get an extension of my time. This is the last group. I have put a lot of time into it over the last couple of years. Could I have an extra 10 minutes?

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March 18th, 2003 / 12:40 p.m.
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York West Ontario

Liberal

Judy Sgro LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to set the record straight on a couple of issues that have been addressed during the debate today.

I will begin with human cloning since it is one of the rare issues on which the House agrees. We are united in our opposition to human cloning. Canadians have clearly shown that they too support this goal.

The only area of disagreement seems to be whether Bill C-13's prohibition on human cloning is complete. It is. There are no loopholes. Bill C-13 would ensure that no human cloning takes place in Canada, period. Patricia Baird, an internationally respected geneticist and former chair of the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies, has made this crystal clear. Professor Baird said:

Based on incorrect science--

--and I think part of what is being referred to throughout this debate in the last few days is the issue of incorrect science--

--some have suggested that the bill doesn't ban cloning, but in fact, on careful reading, it clearly does.

All forms of human cloning would be banned, irrespective of whether the goal is to produce a child or to undertake research. The prohibition would capture every cloning technique, whether currently known to us or a new method still to be invented.

Therefore, the motions that were discussed in Group No. 2 are clearly unnecessary in reference to Motions Nos. 13 and 40.

I will now turn to the issue of embryo research. It sometimes seems that in the debate over the bill we are losing perspective of what it is actually all about. Bill C-13 first and foremost is legislation that seeks to protect the health and safety of women and men who walk through the doors of Canadian fertility clinics, people looking to start a family or to help others to do so.

The work we do in the House reflects the values and the principles that we share as a nation. Canadians believe that children and families are critically important to us. The government has made helping children and their families a priority in its long term commitment to a better quality of life. Healthy children, secure families and vibrant communities are all essential in defining quality of life in Canada.

Estimates suggest that some one in seven Canadian couples face the challenge of infertility. Many of us take the ability to have children for granted, but for them, starting a family is not at all a simple matter. Many of them have to turn to fertility clinics. They should be able to do so, knowing that there are the same solid safeguards in place whether they visit a clinic in Moncton, Toronto or Montreal. They should be able to do so knowing that everything possible is being done to make the procedures as safe and as effective as possible, not only for those undergoing them but also for any children born from them.

If we want the procedures used in fertility clinics to be safe, doctors, nurses and other health professionals must be able to learn how to do them safely. These professionals also have a duty to improve the assisted human reproduction procedures in ways that strengthen safety and further protect the health of the women undergoing them and that of any resulting children.

As the standing committee recognized, this work will sometimes require the creation of embryos. This would be permitted under clause 5(1)(b) but would require a licence and be subject to strict regulations and inspections, which are currently not happening.

We as a society have accepted assisted human reproduction procedures as a way to treat infertility. We cannot prohibit the research used to improve the safety of these procedures. That would be analogous to saying that we accept kidney transplants as a treatment for renal failure but do not accept the research needed to improve the safety of the transplants.

Indeed, I urge members to support Bill C-13. A lot of it is based on what Dr. Baird has accurately termed “incorrect science” that we hear from many of those who continue to be in opposition.

Let us move forward in a timely fashion with this legislation to protect the people whom we are here to protect and to define our intentions.

Timeliness is key. As it stands today, Canada has no law to prohibit or regulate activities relating to assisted human reproduction. This has immense implications, not only for the infertile Canadians and for those born from reproductive technology but also for our society as a whole. Recognizing this, Canadians have said clearly that they want national leadership in this area. They have been waiting for over eight years for legislation that would protect Canadians.

Let us give them the leadership, for without Bill C-13, there would be no legislation or regulations governing embryo research. Without Bill C-13, there would be nothing to prevent the Raelians or others from attempting to clone human beings on Canadian soil.

I ask that members reflect upon this and on the alternative that the solid science that Bill C-13 represents, and on the immense need for us to have legislation to protect Canadians and to assist the many couples in our country who want to have children and create a family.

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March 18th, 2003 / 12:25 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, we are back debating Bill C-13, a very important bill, an act respecting assisted reproductive technologies and related research, as it came to be known. It started as Bill C-56 and our health committee spent a fairly extensive period of time discussing this issue. It came to us in a rather appropriate form as draft legislation. The health committee spent the better part of a year dealing with the very technical aspects of the bill. We came up with a report that we entitled “Assisted Human Reproduction: Building Families”. It was tabled in December 2001. We spent a lot of time dealing with this comprehensive report.

Today, the Group No. 3 amendments with which we are dealing address a significant aspect of the bill. There are quite a number of issues that are being addressed here that are important to the outcome and the application of the bill, and to the effect that it will have on Canadians and certainly on the industry. We want to address these important amendments that have been brought forward.

In our report “Assisted Human Reproduction: Building Families” members of the Standing Committee on Health were united in wanting an end to commercial surrogacy. It happens that the members for St. Paul's and Vancouver Centre were not members of the committee at the time, and these new members of the committee are responsible for some of the amendments that we will be addressing today. The report stated that:

It is contrary to our thinking to treat human beings or human material as commodities that can be regarded in terms of their economic value rather than their intrinsic worth. In particular, we feel that children can never be objects to be acquired or exchanged. Women and men need to know that their bodies and their reproductive material are not for sale or barter.

Some of the amendments that are being addressed here, particularly Motion No. 28 by the member for St. Paul's, would delete prohibitions on surrogacy from the prohibitions and would allow it to be dealt with in regulations, which would allow compensation and commercialization of this aspect of reproduction. Motion No. 29 from the member for Vancouver Centre would allow for the payment of legal and medical services.

There are aspects of the bill that we certainly, as a health committee, were not inclined to want to see advanced. For example, the payment for sperm and gametes. These amendments would allow for donor compensation, but basically we are talking about selling human cells and human life.

A website of a Canadian company working out of Toronto is offering sperm donors--although it is not called compensation, it is just for their expenses in making a donation--$65 per sample. It is recruiting on university campuses for young men to make a donation and allows them $65 for their trouble. They may leave up to three samples weekly. That would total about $200 a week for a university student. That is pretty good part time income we might say, about $800 a month for someone who wanted to take advantage of that.

Furthermore, successful donors are referred to the company by their friends or fellow students. Referrals can be an excellent source of revenue, it says here. If individuals are comfortable talking with others about being a donor, they receive a $10 referral fee for bringing in a friend, but if the friend is accepted as a qualified donor, they receive a $100 finders fee.

This is what our health committee was concerned about. We did not want to see human reproduction commodified. We did not want to see people selling human cells or human parts. For example, we do not pay a kidney donor for a kidney and we do not think we should be paying people for materials to produce babies or for babies themselves, as these amendments would allow.

I am quoting again from the committee report:

Women and men need to know that their bodies and their reproductive material are not for sale or barter. The Committee does not support any elements of trading, exchanging, buying or selling of human reproductive materials. We are aware that, in recent years, commodification, and in many respects, commercialization, have occurred in the field of assisted human reproduction. We want to ensure that the legislation will prevent the commodification of children, women's bodies, human reproductive material, and reproduction.

The fact is commercialization is already taking place in the United States. People who have a desperate need for a baby are able to buy one with the help of numerous surrogacy agencies.

A quick Internet search under “surrogacy” returns over 54,000 website hits revealing the vast amount of commercial businesses available to people who are willing to buy and sell babies. How much are people willing to pay for someone to have a baby for them? What should be an altruistic gift to an infertile couple could wind up costing that couple as much as $50,000 U.S. or even more if they want twins or a surrogate mother that is experienced.

How much can a woman sell her baby for? The going rate for a surrogate mother in the Untied States is about $20,000 U.S. and more if the woman has experience or if she is willing to carry twins.

Is that what we want to pursue in Canada, the buying and selling of children? That is really what it amounts to. That is what will happen if the amendments that the members would like to bring in are passed. They would take out the clauses that prevent sale, surrogacy and commodification. That is what will happen if the legislation is amended to reflect the motions put forward by the member for St. Paul's and the member for Vancouver Centre.

Ms. Phyllis Creighton is a member of the Health Canada Advisory Committee on the Interim Moratorium on Reproductive Technologies. She spoke to the health committee on September 25, 2001. I would like to reflect on some of her comments. She stated:

Canada should learn from the U.S. experience, with its unsavoury catalogues of surrogates and Internet marketing. Sound public policy must be based on the principle of the best interests of children. Baby brokers are not in the best interests of children.

Commercial surrogacy is vitiated by its morally unacceptable premise that a baby is a product to be exchanged and transferred for money. Brokers may claim that payment is for the reproductive service that the surrogate mother renders, but since she's not paid the full sum agreed to in the pre-conception arrangements until the baby is received into the custody of the commissioning parents, it is the baby who is being paid for.

Ms. Creighton concluded:

We do not pay the expenses of kidney donors for their donation in circumstances of life-threatening need. Childlessness is anguishing and worthy of compassionate help--

We certainly agree with her on that.

--but it is not a life-threatening condition. And it ought not to be done unless the best interests of children are secured.

The issues raised in these amendments are very important ones. There is donor compensation and whether we want to pay people for their gametes. Furthermore, other aspects of the bill allow for the import and export of gametes. Why, we might ask, would we allow for gametes to be imported from other countries where we cannot control the quality of the collection or the persons they are being collected from? We did hear evidence at committee that semen samples that are arriving at sperm banks in the U.S. are being sought out and also received from prisons in the United States.

Mr. Speaker, we are addressing some important aspects of the bill. I am wondering, given the importance of these amendments, whether I might receive unanimous consent from the members to continue my comments for five more minutes.

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March 18th, 2003 / 12:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Jeannot Castonguay Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, the motions contained in Group No. 3 deal with a number of important points. First, they ban paid surrogate mothers, intermediaries who make surrogacy arrangements, and ovum or sperm donors. They also deal with the donation of in vitro embryos to couples who want to have a family and whether or not these embryos should be considered property. Finally, there is also the scope of Bill C-13 itself. I will speak to each of these points.

Banning payment for assisted human reproduction is a central element of the bill, which contains an outright ban when it comes to paying surrogate mothers as well as ovum, sperm or in vitro embryo donors.

These issues have already been debated at length by the Standing Committee on Health.

I believe that Bill C-13 treats all of these issues in a balanced manner. It prohibits payment for assisted reproduction and clearly states that children are not property to be bought or sold. This position received overwhelming support. The recommendation to prohibit paid surrogacy was always supported by the royal commission on new reproductive technologies in the 1990s, and the Standing Committee on Health supported that position several times.

Also, the bill was drafted in such as way as to not prevent altruism. As such, a woman who wants to help her sister, a friend, or even a perfect stranger, need not bear all the costs of her altruism.

Clearly, a surrogate mother who acts out of the goodness of her heart has expenses to cover, like any other pregnant woman. For example, there may be expenses for psychological counselling or other consultations related to the birth, there are costs related to drugs and vitamins that are taken during pregnancy. Under the provisions for regulations and the issuing licences, Bill C-13 will provide for the reimbursement of reasonable expenses related to the pregnancy of the surrogate mother. Incidentally, under the current version of the bill, an altruistic surrogate mother would not be eligible for any compensation for other costs, such as missing work.

The bill will also ban paid intermediaries. It is important to note that this does not include doctors or counsellors who give professional advice and medical services to surrogate mothers.

Intermediaries, or brokers, are organizations or individuals who get paid to arrange for the services of surrogate mothers for potential parents or make contractual arrangements for such services for commercial purposes. That is making money off of human reproduction, pure and simple. This is why we feel it has absolutely no place in Canadian society.

Under Bill C-13, it would also be prohibited to purchase sperm or ova for reproductive purposes, and to purchase or sell embryos. We do not think that the trade in human gametes and embryos should be permitted in Canada. Neither do we want to see human ova sold to the highest bidder on E-Bay, like antiques and collectibles.

In addition, Bill C-13 recognizes that, like altruistic surrogate mothers, ova and sperm donors incur legitimate costs that ought to be reimbursed subject to the regulations. The fact that a donor should not financially benefit does not mean that he or she may not be reimbursed for transportation and other reasonable expenses supported by receipts. The regulations will set out clear parameters with respect to these expenses.

To conclude my comments on trade, I wish to remind the hon. members of the wording of this Parliament's declaration concerning Bill C-13. Clause 2( f ) states:

trade in the reproductive capabilities of women and men and the exploitation of children, women and men for commercial ends raise health and ethical concerns that justify their prohibition—

I would now like to address the issue of in vitro embryos donated to couples looking to start a family. Given the current state of scientific and technological expertise, the production of surplus embryos is the almost inevitable outcome of IVF procedures.

This bill will allow couples, who give their free and informed consent, to donate embryos they no longer need to other infertile couples who want to have children.

Motion No. 44 is pointless, in my opinion. Bill C-13 provides for embryo donation. I would also like to draw the attention of hon. members to the fact that, legally in Canada, the term “adoption” refers to the adoption of a child and not to donated in vitro embryos. Furthermore, child adoption is clearly a provincial responsibility. Therefore, it is incorrect, legally, to talk about embryo adoption.

Now, I will address the legal concept of property as it relates to in vitro embryos. During discussions at the report stage of Bill C-13, members discussed how very inappropriate it would be to let market forces operate unfettered in the area of procreation. I find it very odd that Motion No. 39, on transferring the ownership of in vitro embryos, has been introduced. This government does not feel it is at all appropriate to consider in vitro embryos as property subject to property law.

The third point I want to briefly mention is the scope of Bill C-13. This is raised by Motions Nos. 32, 33 and 36.

This bill is limited solely to in vitro embryos. It is not regulating embryos in a woman's body, nor fetuses, nor stem cell lines. These are clearly outside the scope of Bill C-13.

Bill C-13 takes a balanced and reasonable approach to the issues raised by the motions in Group No. 3. This is a Canadian approach. Let us address these matters judiciously and help advance this country's legislative system.

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March 18th, 2003 / 12:05 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle Progressive Conservative St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have a few words to say on Bill C-13. Like many who have already spoken in this debate, I too am against experimentation on embryonic stem cells. I just do not believe that the creation of the human embryo for the eventual destruction of it is an ethical procedure that we should be involved in here in Canada.

We have, as we are all very much aware, received many petitions in the House of Commons. I have received many from my riding of St. John's East urging all of us to oppose Bill C-13 and to concentrate our efforts on adult stem cells. We have seen hundreds and hundreds of petitions coming to the House of Commons on a daily basis.

We have heard a great deal about adult stem cells and the fact that this kind of experimentation holds great promise for cures for many diseases, like Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, cancer and diabetes, and for the reversal of damage from spinal cord injury and stroke. That research, as many people have been saying, would benefit a great deal from greater resources being put into it. It would make sense to put greater resources into adult stem cell research. This should be given greater priority by government.

By contrast, of course, there is an ethical dilemma arising from embryonic stem cell research. We are told that the benefits of embryonic stem cell research are sheer speculation at the moment. The controversy is expending a great deal of energy that I feel could be better redirected toward more promising pursuits like adult stem cell research.

Many ethical questions remain unanswered, not the least of which is the question of what happens to the embryos that remain unused in this experimentation. I have heard many points of view, some very good, put forward today regarding the beginnings of life. There are many, including me, who believe that life begins at conception. Given that belief, which is held by many, and given that these small beginnings of life have the potential to grow into full human beings, then from my point of view government should be coming up with some way to protect these very beginnings of life.

What is the reason we are not putting greater energy and greater resources into, if we will, pro-life? I happen to believe that we in the 21st century unfortunately are living in a culture of death. We seem to have very little respect for human beings and very little respect for the beginnings of life.

It probably stems from the fact that we have been fed a steady diet of violence and death on a daily basis. We have become desensitized by the images of death all around us. When we see, for instance, hundreds of dead bodies floating in a river in Rwanda, when we see thousands of dead human beings stacked one on top of the other in an image from the second world war and the Jewish holocaust, when we see hundreds of thousands of people on the brink of starvation and death in Somalia, or when we see bodies strewn in the streets from a chemical attack, then society becomes very desensitized, and things like abortion become just another procedure instead of the destruction of a human being, a living, moving human being.

We can see, then, how embryonic stem cell research works its way on to the floor of the House of Commons. Assisted suicide and euthanasia will probably find their way here as well. Why? Because we live in a desensitized world, I believe, which embraces the culture of violence and death, and that is quite unfortunate.

There are many scientific risks surrounding embryonic stem cell experimentation. Initially scientists thought that real progress from stem cell research would come by way of embryonic stem cells. Today, however, it is known that while adult stem cells are already being used successfully in some human treatments, embryonic stem cells have yet to be associated with any kind of successful human trials. Embryonic stem cells are far from the utopian medical breakthrough that many people are suggesting. Embryonic stem cells appear to be subject, for instance, to a random and uncontrollable growth. On the other hand, adult stem cells seem to be more predictable in responding to the growth factors and hormones that function to redirect their development. Embryonic stem cells have been known to grow into the wrong types of cells, for instance, so the method for steering stem cells in the right direction still needs significant improvement.

Where should we go from here? I believe that due to the scientific risk and the ethical dilemmas associated with human embryonic stem cell experimentation, a moratorium on funding such research should be issued and we should be putting society's money into adult stem cell research. We are talking about human life. I think that we have an opportunity here to show respect and protection for the very beginnings of life.

It is far more beneficial for us to be concentrating our efforts on adult stem cell research. Let us stop for a moment and have a look at what we are doing here.

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March 18th, 2003 / 11:55 a.m.
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Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, it is always very touching to see the great spirit of comradeship in this House. Surprising, sometimes, but still very pleasing.

So, on to the crux of the matter. We had hoped, as I have said, for the bill to be split. That was defeated. We introduced the standard motion in the House to that end. The government did not see it our way and we respected that. Today, however, the issue is still unresolved as far as the Bloc Quebecois is concerned, because again we are hoping to see provisions in the Criminal Code. We do, however, have questions about the consequences of having a regulatory agency.

Let us talk about the Government of Quebec. As you know, Madam Speaker, it is an excellent government and one that may retain popular support for a third mandate. The outcome will be known on April 14. I will have an opportunity to speak of this again.

What is worrisome is that, if the Bloc Quebecois votes in favour of this bill and regulations, it will mean the superimposing of structures one on top of another, and there will not only be the Criminal Code, but also an agency responsible for application of very important regulations.

I was in the process of listing inconsistencies between the agency, Bill C-13 and legislation passed by the National Assembly. I mentioned the Civil Code. This is an important piece of legislation because there is a world of difference between the common law tradition and Quebec's civil law tradition. What makes Quebec different, besides its blueprint for sovereignty, which will see it become a sovereign state as soon as the people make that decision, is its legal system.

In Quebec civil law, it is not up to judges to decide the meaning and interpretation of legislation; it is up to the National Assembly, which, through elected representatives, adopted a type of law called positive law, which is codified in its Civil Code. English Canada is not governed by the Civil Code, civil law, but rather by common law. This means that when there is a dispute and a court is asked to settle it, it may not necessarily be what the lawmaker provided that prevails, but precedents, tradition, custom. Judges are not required to take into consideration what was decided by an assembly of parliamentarians, but do take into consideration how their colleagues ruled in similar cases. That is what the common law tradition is all about. That is not what we have in Quebec.

That is why the Civil Code of Québec contains provisions prohibiting surrogacy agreements. One cannot give birth to a child and say,“I will not be its mother.” There are provisions against that in surrogacy agreements.

So, there are major inconsistencies between Quebec law and Bill C-13. These aspects are not compatible with our Civil Code and the Act respecting health services and social services, which was amended by the National Assembly a few years ago to allow the Government of Quebec to determine which facilities will provide medically assisted reproduction services. There is the Université de Sherbrooke and its health care facilities for instance, but the National Assembly and the minister determine who is authorized to provide services.

If we were to pass Bill C-13 with the related regulations, the federal government would then be able to determine which facilities, while not under its jurisdiction, may provide medically assisted reproduction services. This, of course, is a problem.

The debate with regard to the Privacy Act is extremely important. In the bill, the government says that there is no obligation to disclose the identity of donors. Individuals who donate at fertility clinics can and should maintain their anonymity. The child of a donor will not know who the donor is.

In committee, we heard the testimony of children born through such technologies who told us that this makes no sense.

In legal terms, this is called the right to know who you are. Are children born through these technologies entitled to ask fertility clinics about the donor's identity?

This is the subject of much debate. The government says that it does not want to force donors to disclose their identity for two reasons. It says that, in places where this has been done, donations have decreased, and fertility clinics have experienced a shortage of donors. This has created problems in the supply of sperm and eggs.

If we look at the situation in Australia and New Zealand in the months after donor disclosure became a requirement, we see that supply really was a problem.

At the same time, some point to a whole new area of law opening. up. For instance, I recently read a document for the European Convention on Human Rights that said that the act of withholding the identity of the donor is inconsistent with human rights, not to mention what this means for psychogenesis. For his development as a human being, an individual, a child needs to know not only his social father, the man who raised him and took care of him, but also his biological father.

In our report to the Standing Committee on Health, we asked the government to lift the ban and make identity disclosure mandatory. The government did not listen to the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Health. If passed in its present form, the bill would not require disclosure of the donor's identity, except in emergencies.

Clearly if the child born of these technologies goes to the hospital for a blood transfusion and he needs to know his father's blood type, a national registry would exist for that purpose. This registry would make it possible to search and find the identity of his genetic father, his genetics, and of course, his blood type.

Over and above such urgent considerations, there is no provision in the bill for disclosure of donor identity.

We also note major incompatibilities with laws in place that have been passed by the National Assembly. I have already referred to the Civil Code, the Health and Social Services Act, and the Act respecting the Protection of Personal Information. I could now talk about the Act respecting medical laboratories, organ, tissue, gamete and embryo conservation. There is also an extreme incompatibility concerning the right to one's origins, in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I could also refer to the physicians' code of ethics, the guidelines of the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec, or FRSC, and the ministerial action plan for research ethics and scientific integrity.

As you can see, it is not easy to gain a grasp of a bill like this one. We had good intentions, and were convinced that the government was prepared to split the bill, but it did not do so.

So we find we are faced with an incompatibility as far as the Health and social services act is concerned; a superimposition of criminal penalties onto the practices of our civil law; interferences with certain provisions of the Quebec Civil Code, particularly those relating to adoption. I am thinking of sections 538 through 542.

Then there are problems with qualifications, as found in the various statutes on professional practices, as well as the addition of an administrative framework to which researchers will be subject, as defined in the regulations as set out in the bill.

Madam Speaker, you are indicating that my time is up. I do not want to take up the time of the House further, particularly since it is an important law and I have already had 10 minutes. I will come back to this at third reading. I assure you that, obviously, in this matter as in others, we are going to defend the interests of Quebec to the best of our ability.

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March 18th, 2003 / 11:45 a.m.
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Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, I have good news for you. I just learned that our colleague Jean-François, who looks after question period for us with the House leader, will soon become a father. Since we are talking about assisted human reproduction, I thought I would share this with my colleagues. I am sure that everyone in this House will want to join me in extending our congratulations to him. Of course, no artificial processes were involved here, as far as I know. The child will be born some time in November. I will come back to that in due course.

This bill underwent a rather long gestation period. We debated it in committee for 18 months, but have yet to see it through report stage. We, and the minister's parliamentary secretary in particular—who is the father of this bill to some extent—look forward to a timely delivery. We look forward to that happy event in the near future.

It has not been easy for the Bloc Quebecois to come up with a position on this bill. Members will recall that the member for Drummond, whom each and everyone of us in the House is fond of, has been in the vanguard of this debate. Back in 1995 she tabled a private member's bill inviting the House to legislate and set out provisions in the Criminal Code to protect us from therapeutic cloning. We now realize, with the passage of time and some perspective, just how much of a visionary the member for Drummond was. I think that is the appropriate word.

During the Christmas break, we were given a scare because of claims made by a company called Clonaid. No one here would have wanted embryo cloning to be possible. However, if what the spokesperson for Clonaid was saying had been true, unfortunately there would not have been any recourse available to Parliament, because the Criminal Code does not contain any relevant provisions.

It is a bit sad that the government has taken so long in legislating. Ten years have gone by since the report of the Baird commission, the royal commission of inquiry on reproductive technologies. I think this is reasonable. We would have expected the government to have introduced a bill to deal with the pressing issues, at least.

True, it is not easy to look at every consideration and every aspect of a bill such as this one. It involves ethical values. One's perspective will depend on one's idea of family.

Of course, we have to bear in mind that when dealing with assisted human reproduction, one in five couples in Canada has fertility problems. Therefore, one in five couples could benefit from assisted human reproduction. We must also acknowledge that for the first time in the history of humanity that it will be possible to reproduce without there being sexual intercourse between two people. That is what is troubling when we look at how we must perceive this debate.

There are other important elements. First, with respect to this bill, the Bloc Quebecois asked, quite early on, that the bill be split.

If it had been, we could have voted rather quickly on provisions to add to the Criminal Code. I think that there is consensus in the House regarding the 13 prohibited activities. Some activities are unanimously condemned by all parliamentarians, be they members of the Canadian Alliance, the government party, the Bloc Quebecois, the Progressive Conservatives or the NDP. We could have voted rather quickly on these activities.

For example, there is the issue of cloning, of maintaining an embryo outside a woman's body for not more than 14 days, because the central nervous system forms after that.

There is the issue of paying consideration to surrogate mothers. There is also the issue of not taking human reproductive material and mixing it with that of an animal to produce what is called a chimera.

There are, therefore, 14 prohibited activities in the bill that members unanimously agree on and that could have been voted on rather quickly.

That is why the Bloc Quebecois had asked that the bill be split. If we had been able to split the bill, perhaps it would have been passed already. Perhaps it would have already gone through the Senate and received, naturally, royal assent. Because we have been asking for many months now that this be done.

Today, we find ourselves in a complex situation because the Canadian Alliance does not like the bill. This bill is like an unwanted pregnancy. And as with all unwanted pregnancies, the father refuses to step forward. The Canadian Alliance is doing everything possible to prevent labour. We are being made to undergo a C-section. People want to force the bill into existence despite the protests of the Canadian Alliance. That is why, if the bill had been split, we would not be in this situation.

The Bloc is also in an uneasy position because we would like there to be provisions in the Criminal Code, but at the same time, we are uncomfortable with the assisted human reproduction agency of Canada. This agency would receive $10 million a year and interfere in provincial jurisdictions.

Allow me to give a few examples. If this agency were created, it would be incompatible with 14 pieces of legislation in Quebec, all of them important to the National Assembly.

One of these is the Civil Code of Quebec. What are the differences between the bill and the Civil Code of Quebec?The Civil Code of Quebec states that under no circumstances will surrogate mothers be reimbursed for expenditures. Pregnancy is an altruistic act. If you want to give life to someone, bring a child into the world, it cannot be for monetary or commercial reasons. It has to be a purely altruistic act. There cannot be reimbursement for certain expenditures.

Bill C-13 states that under certain circumstances, if receipts are provided, the agency may agree to reimburse certain expenditures such as for consulting a psychologist or travel. Some expenditures could be reimbursed. This is not consistent with the Civil Code of Quebec.

There is another extremely significant interference. The bill, especially the regulations that will govern its implementation, sets out not only the conditions under which gametes (the sperm and the ova) will be maintained but the conditions under which health professionals will be able to make technologies available and carry out medical procedures.

The National Assembly—the only true parliament for Francophones in North America—amended the Act respecting health services and social services. Quebec's Health and Social Services Minister was given authority for designating institutions for the exclusive delivery of certain services, including medically assisted human reproduction.

The conflict in jurisdiction is obvious. We have the federal government, which clearly has no valid constitutional jurisdiction over the delivery of services involving medically assisted human reproduction.

I am not denying that the federal Parliament has a responsibility when it comes to health care for aboriginals; the federal government has a fiduciary obligation to aboriginals. I am not denying that the federal government can intervene on matters of defence and the military; the federal government is responsible for the Canadian military. I am not denying that the federal government can intervene when it comes to research; the Supreme Court has recognized it as a valid power.

However, the federal government cannot intervene to provide health care services in hospitals, in research institutions or in university facilities. That is not right.

That is what the Bloc Quebecois finds reprehensible. We want the Criminal Code to contain clear provisions to prevent cloning. Imagine living in a world where everyone started cloning and that threatened every human being's uniqueness.

The bill goes much further than that. It allows for changes to the Criminal Code, but it also makes other changes.

Madam Speaker, given the good news I just announced, would you please see if there is unanimous consent in the House for me to extend my speech for ten minutes? I would appreciate that, and it would be a fitting tribute to the child that Jean-François is expecting.

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March 18th, 2003 / 11:35 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise and speak to the bill and these motions.

I wish to congratulate my colleague from Mississauga South for the motions he has brought forward, the passion he has brought to the debate, and his analysis of the issues. He has done a tremendous amount of work on all of this and he deserves to be recognized for it.

I wish to acknowledge my friend from Calgary Southeast who is very interested in the bill. He has done a tremendous amount of work on this issue and has done his best to draw public attention to the bill. I also wish to acknowledge the member for Yellowhead, the Canadian Alliance critic for health. They have all done a lot of work on the bill. I appreciate their efforts to draw attention to some of these issues.

When we talk about these issues we should talk about them in a tone of humility. We are talking about the essence of human life here. Sometimes we are completely cavalier in how we approach this whole subject.

In the group of amendments that we have before us right now there is talk about paying people to be surrogate mothers. In the previous group of motions my friend from Calgary Southeast was seeking to prohibit the use of embryos for research and the commodification of human embryos for research. The member who spoke a moment ago was talking about those sorts of things.

When we see where Bill C-13 is going, and how the government is specifying particular ways for industry and in some cases individuals are specifying particular ways for private industry to come and commodify human life, we should be concerned. We should approach this with some reverence and some awe, and appreciate that there is a mystery at the centre of human life and science will never plumb the depth of it.

I am concerned when I see people acting in such a cavalier manner about these things that are greater and above individual people. There is something that springs from something greater and above this. Coming from a Christian perspective I would argue that it comes from God and I caution people to be mindful of this.

As I mentioned before, and I do not know if I said it very well, if a lab technician were asked to dispose of a human embryo would there not be a twinge of conscience there? Would there not be some apprehension about doing that? Would there not be a momentary pause wondering whether or not it was correct to dispose of a human embryo?

Even in the legislation the government says that these embryos may be disposed of up to 14 days. This suggests or implies that after 14 days all of a sudden there is some human dignity involved here.

Why is it 14 days? Why is there that cut-off? It seems rather arbitrary. I wonder if perhaps it does not suggest that the government on the one hand is troubled by the fact that it knows at some point that this thing, a human embryo, has some dignity. The government is afraid to say that it starts when that egg is fertilized. We should be cautious in how we approach this. We should approach it with some reverence and I do not think that we do that.

The member for Mississauga South made some excellent points when he spoke a moment ago. One of the things he has pointed to and it deserves the attention of the House and the public almost as much as anything else in this legislation is his reference to the fact that the bill does not ban human cloning. He has laid out all kinds of examples.

I submit that when the Raelians had a press conference not very long ago, just at the beginning of the year, where they were claiming that they cloned a human person, people were horrified around the country and around the world that this could happen.

We need to move with tremendous speed to ban all kinds of human cloning, to close off all opportunities for human cloning. My friend from Calgary Southeast talked about this as well. We must ensure that any legislation that comes forward does not leave a loophole for this to happen because the nature of science is that if it is possible to do it, scientists will do it. To be fair to scientists, science is about finding the limits of human knowledge. It is about exploring things to the limits of human knowledge. That is what scientists do today and it is what they have always done. They do not always think about the ethical and moral considerations, so if there is any kind of a loophole it will absolutely be found.

The members for Mississauga South, Calgary Southeast and others have pointed to some of these problems. We should be extraordinarily careful about proceeding while we have these kinds of clouds of uncertainty hanging over our heads as parliamentarians. I would hate to say that I had participated in the crafting of a bill that allowed human cloning and I am just worried that perhaps that is where we are headed.

I want to address some of the specific motions in Group No. 3. There are things that my friend from Mississauga has proposed, for instance, that there be no buying or selling of human reproductive materials. Let me clarify that Motion No. 32 would add a prohibition on the purchase of fetuses and fetal tissue.

As I mentioned at the outset, I am concerned again that what this bill would do is allow the commodification, the industrialization, of human life. Some people seem to be okay with that. We have some people who are arguing that it is not a problem to pay surrogate mothers all kinds of money to go out and have children. I personally am deeply concerned about that. Motion No. 32 seeks to stop the selling of fetuses or fetal tissue. Any kind of extra protection we can give to that is very important.

Another thing that the member for Mississauga South is proposing to do is to block the transfer of the ownership of a human embryo from the parents to, for instance, a fertility clinic. The member for Mississauga South gave a very specific example of that. When talking about something as precious to people as their children, or a potential child--depending upon how we look at it, I think of a human fetus as an actual life--members can imagine the potential for lawsuits and disputes if this is not made clear in the legislation. The member for Mississauga South has made it very clear that there is a huge loophole and that we need to find ways to close that up. He has pointed to other problems as well.

In closing, members of Parliament should approach this issue with a little humility, a little awe, and a little reverence for the dignity of human life. We should ensure that all possible prohibitions are in place to ensure that cloning is not permitted in any way, shape or form. We should not allow some of the nightmare scenarios about which many people have already talked about. We should take into account some of the common sense proposals from different members around the House who are speaking on this and advocating particular points of view to ensure that human dignity is respected. That is what we are asking.

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March 18th, 2003 / 11:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, this is the last group of debate at report stage. This is a very important bill. We are dealing now with the controlled activities but the linkages are enormous to the entire bill. The prohibited and controlled activities are the most important part of the bill.

I want to lay out for the House my concerns with Bill C-13. I hope that members will seriously consider what I am suggesting today.

First, the bill does not ban all forms of human cloning. If the bill does not ban all forms of human cloning, there is only one disposition of the bill, and that is to put it in the garbage.

I asked an hon. member this morning what he thought about the bill if it did not ban cloning. He said that it did. He said that clause 5 stated that “no person shall knowingly create a human clone”. What could be more simple? Absolutely, but what is a human clone?

There is a definition in there of human clone so that we cannot just take that statement on its face and say that it is a human clone as we all understand a human clone; a genetic identical organism to someone who is either living or deceased. The government's definition of human clone is stated in the bill and it includes an important word. It says chromosomes from a “single” embryo, fetus or fetal tissue.

It came to my attention on February 27 that members of the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to ban human cloning. How did they address it? They said that a human clone could not be created. However, their definition of human clone means human asexual reproduction accomplished by introducing nuclear material from one or more human cells into an embryo. Our bill states from a “single” cell, a single human being. It talks about one.

Dr. Dianne Irving presented materials to the health committee. She said that we had a bill that had problems with its definitions and terms used. With regard to cloning, she laid out that things like somatic cell nuclear transfer, parthenogenesis and twinning, et cetera, were not prohibited by the bill, and Health Canada finally got it.

At clause by clause, after all the witnesses and all the expert testimony, it tabled an amendment to the definition of human clone. However the definition it put in was still not comprehensive. In fact we have a definition now that still permits four different types of cloning. It still permits: pronuclei transfer; formation of chimeras and backbreeding; mitochondria transfer; and DNA-recombinant germ line transfer or, in other words, eugenics.

The parliamentary secretary said earlier that the scientists were moving very quickly and that they were coming up with new ways of doing this. Why have we redefined human clone to be something specific rather than to say that it is asexual reproduction that creates a genetic identical organism to someone who is living or deceased? Why can we not be clear? Why did the officials do that? Why have they changed the medical definition of human clone? Why have they changed the scientific definition of human clone to be something else?

The same exists with regard to chimera. Chimera is the combination of an embryo and a cell. It is also referred to generally between humans and animals that cannot be combined. The bill says that creating a chimera is prohibited. The medical and scientific dictionaries say that chimera means animal into human or human into animal. If we look at the definition in the bill, it says we cannot create a chimera. The definition of chimera is that a non-human life form cell cannot be put into a human embryo, but it does not prohibit putting human cells into a non-human life form, a non-human embryo.

Why has the bill changed the medical definition of chimera? Why has it changed the scientific definition of chimera? The terms and the definitions in the bill are wrong. They should have been reviewed more carefully and they have not been.

The United States bill shows clearly that it must be the asexual reproduction by one or more cells. We only have a definition that says one. The conclusion is this bill does not ban all forms of cloning. It is a problem that must be fixed if this bill is ever going to see the light of day.

For further evidence of that, the New Jersey state assembly also in the last month had a bill to ban cloning. That bill was also withdrawn because Dr. Irving, who advised our health committee also advised the state assembly and pointed out the problems and they could not fix it. They had to yank the bill and will have to rework it to make sure that the bill accomplishes the objectives.

Conflict of interest is a very serious issue in this matter. An agency is going to be set up. That agency is going to have members on the board of directors. Our bill right now has the provision that a board member cannot be a licensee or an applicant for a licence or have a relationship with anyone who wants to be a licensee. That is all it says.

The health committee said that did not go far enough. What we should do is prohibit anyone who has any pecuniary interest in anything that goes on beyond the researchers and fertility clinics. I am talking about pharmaceutical companies, biotech companies and those who are going to commercialize the research of genetic technology. The bill should make sure that there is independence in the board of directors.

The minister has a motion before this place to delete that health committee amendment. That means the Minister of Health would like us to approve a bill which says that pharmaceutical companies and biotech companies can be members of the board of directors of the reproductive agency. Pharmaceutical companies and biotech companies can be members of the board. How ludicrous.

The justice officials advising Health Canada were told, “We would like to see these people file conflict of interest statements and declarations”. What did they say? “They are not paid enough and they will not do it. They are only part time. It is only the president and the chairman that are full time. It is a real inconvenience for the part time members”.

I am sorry, but I thought every member of the board of directors had one vote. I thought every vote was important and that their decisions were important. Why is it that if it is too inconvenient for a member of the board of directors to file a conflict of interest statement that we would not look to someone else who was prepared to put on the table what his or her pecuniary interests were in the research that he or she would be making decisions on?

The bill does not define what is necessary research. It was probably the single most important question that members raised. In the minister's statement to the House on what I believe was Bill C-56 at the time, she said that a research ethics board or a reputable ethics board was going to determine whether it was necessary. That is not what the bill says. The bill says that the agency will determine whether research is necessary. The Standing Committee on Health in the report on the draft bill said that necessary should mean that there is no other biological material that could achieve the intended research objectives.

That makes sense. It probably should be expanded to also include the fact that if research has already happened in that area, we should not be repeating research that has already been done. It makes so much sense but we do not want the definition of “necessary” in the bill. Why is that? We must have the definition of “necessary” to determine whether or not research on embryos or any part of embryos is necessary. We are talking about human beings.

When we looked at this meaningful research, one of the things that came out was that Dr. Françoise Baylis said that only half of the frozen embryos would survive the thawing process. She estimated that there were only about 500 embryos in storage in Canada today and only half of those would be available or qualify for research. Of those 250, 125 would die, would not survive the thawing process. Of the 125, she went on to say that only nine of them would have the ability to generate a stem cell line that would be useful. Of those nine only about half, so let us say five, would be able to produce stem cell lines which met the quality requirements of the researchers.

The situation in Canada right now is there are 500 embryos and out of the 250 that might be available for research, only five or 2% of those embryos are going to generate enough research material. If there are not enough embryos to sustain meaningful research, we should not be killing embryos, period. Why do we not have that?

The science is being developed to freeze or to store women's eggs, the ova. If we have the science to freeze or to store women's ova and only fertilize those eggs that are necessary for in vitro fertilization, there will never be any surplus. Why does the bill not say that should the ova storage techniques be as successful, i.e., only 50% successful, as it is with embryos, this would be the process that would be used and that we could not store human beings cryogenically?

That is one of my motions. I believe we should do it. It would be our full and final declaration that human embryos should never be created for research purposes. If we are able to store ova but we continue to store embryos, it is indeed someone's intent to use human beings for research purposes. It is just not acceptable.

Regarding informed consent, the bill defines consent as whatever the existing laws of Canada say. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research provided guidelines in March 2002. They went so far as to say that consent has to happen before anything happens. Before there is any contribution of any sperm or eggs, they have to be informed. Not only that, they have to be informed of which researchers are going to get the embryo. They have to know what contracts and what institutions that research has a relationship with. There have to be declarations right down the line and there has to be consent at every benchmark point. Those people can back out at any point.

What does the bill say now? The bill will not even define who the donor of an embryo is. The donor of the sperm and the egg are the human beings who donated them but when they are put together to make an embryo, the bill says the donor of an embryo is not the couple who created that embryo; it is whoever we say it is in the regulations. What nonsense.

Does that mean we are going to follow up with the Ottawa fertility clinic and say that if it does not pay its rent, then we own and control its embryo, we own that human being? Where are the principles in the bill? We need to deal with those things.

I cannot do this subject justice in the time remaining. I know other members want to talk and I want to hear them talk.

Finally, this bill permits the implantation of human genetic material into non-human life forms. The minister has put out a piece of paper explaining that we have to do this for research. We should not be putting human life form or any genetic material into non-human beings.

Dr. Baylis at the UNESCO parliamentary round table said that down the road she could see that we would be granting personhood, moral status to hybrids of humans and non-humans. This is where the research mind is. They are doing it because they can do it.

I have worked on the bill. I have done the best that I can. I have nothing left to offer other than that tomorrow, members will be receiving in their offices, in both official languages, in plain language the intent or effect of each and every one of the 50-some report stage motions on which they will be asked to vote so that they will know the essence of those report stage motions.

I believe that many of those motions must be passed in order to save the bill. The bill is on life support and very soon it will be on the death watch. If we do not make substantial progress in dealing with the definitions and in passing many of these important report stage motions, I do not believe that I will be able to support Bill C-13.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2003 / 11:15 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

moved:

Motion No. 51

That Bill C-13, in Clause 12, be amended by adding after line 22 on page 8 the following:

“(3) No person shall reimburse a surrogate mother for a loss of work-related income incurred during her pregnancy, unless

(a) a qualified medical practitioner certifies, in writing, that continuing to work may pose a risk to her health or that of the embryo or feotus; and

(b) the reimbursement is made in accordance with the regulations and a licence.”

Motion No. 95

That Bill C-13, in Clause 65, be amended by replacing lines 12 to 14 on page 30 with the following:

“(e) for the purposes of subsection 12(1), respecting the reasonable expenditures that may be reimbursed under a licence;

(e.1) for the purposes of subsection 12(3), respecting the reimbursement of a loss of income;”

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2003 / 11:15 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

moved:

Motion No. 46

That Bill C-13 be amended by adding after line 38 on page 7 the following new clause:

“10.1 (1) No person shall, except in accordance with the regulations, pay consideration to a female person to be a surrogate mother, offer to pay such consideration or advertise that it will be paid.

(2) No person shall, except in accordance with the regulations, accept consideration for arranging for the services of a surrogate mother, offer to make such an arrangement for consideration or advertise the arranging of such services.

(3) No person shall, except in accordance with the regulations, pay consideration to another person to arrange for the services of a surrogate mother, offer to pay such consideration or advertise the payment of it.

(4) No person shall, except in accordance with the regulations, counsel or induce a female person to become a surrogate mother, or perform any medical procedure to assist a female person to become a surrogate mother, knowing or having reason to believe that the female person is under 21 years of age.

(5) This section does not affect the validity under provincial law of any agreement under which a person agrees to be a surrogate mother.”

Motion No. 49

That Bill C-13 be amended by adding after line 7 on page 8 the following new clause:

“11.1 (1) No person shall, except in accordance with the regulations, purchase, offer to purchase or advertise for the purchase of sperm or ova from a donor or a person acting on behalf of a donor.

(2) No person shall, except in accordance with the regulations

(a) purchase, offer to purchase or advertise for the purchase of an in vitro embryo; or

(b) sell, offer for sale or advertise for sale an in vitro embryo.

(3) No person shall, except in accordance with the regulations, purchase, offer to purchase or advertise for the purchase of a human cell or gene from a donor or a person acting on behalf of a donor, with the intention of using the gene or cell to create a human being or of making it available for that purpose.

(4) In this section, “purchase” or “sell” includes to acquire or dispose of in exchange for property or services.”

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2003 / 11:10 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

moved:

Motion No. 32

That Bill C-13, in Clause 7, be amended by replacing line 26 on page 6 with the following:

“for the purchase of an in vitro embryo, a foetus or any foetal tissue; or”

Motion No. 33

That Bill C-13, in Clause 7, be amended by replacing lines 26 to 28 on page 6 with the following:

“for the purchase of an in vitro embryo, or any part of one; or

(b) sell, offer for sale or advertise for sale an in vitro embryo, or any part of one.”

Motion No. 36

That Bill C-13, in Clause 7, be amended by replacing line 28 on page 6 with the following:

“in vitro embryo, a foetus or any foetal tissue.”

Motion No. 39

That Bill C-13, in Clause 8,