Appropriation Act No. 2, 2003-2004

An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2004

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

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Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now 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.

November 23rd, 2006 / 9:05 a.m.
See context

Commissioner of Official Languages, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

Graham Fraser

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages.

I am pleased to stand before you for the first time as Commissioner of Official Languages.

Thank you for the opportunity to come speak to you about Bill C-29, An Act to amend the Air Canada Public Participation Act.

The Air Canada situation generated a great deal of interest among many Canadians, including my predecessors, and more specifically, Ms. Adam. During the review of Bill C-47, Ms. Adam raised concerns about the effects that Air Canada's latest restructuring would have on the language rights of the travelling public and of the airline's employees. As you know, that bill died on the Order Paper.

Today, the new Bill C-29 is the issue at hand. I am pleased to see that Bill C-29 restates the context of Bill C-47 and improves on certain elements, taking into account many of the recommendations made by your committee and by Commissioner Adam.

However, I am worried about how it will affect the linguistic rights of the travelling public and the right of employees of Air Canada to work in their language within the new entities of the Air Canada family. Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon told you that this bill would require Air Canada's former internal divisions, which fall under federal jurisdiction, to once again comply with the official languages obligations to which they were subject prior to restructuring.

Despite this clarification, I am concerned because I wonder whether or not the travelling public and Air Canada employees will truly continue to enjoy the same rights that they had before the company restructured.

As you know, Air Canada has undergone major changes since privatizing in 1988. Also, it acquired the Canadian Airlines Corporation and undertook a vast restructuring of that company. The government then amended the Air Canada Public Participation Act to clarify Air Canada's obligations with respect to the travelling public.

In the fall of 2004, the company underwent another restructuring. New corporate entities, such as Air Canada Ground Handling Services, Air Canada Technical Services, Air Canada Cargo, and Air Canada Online were created. These entities were not subject to the Air Canada Public Participation Act or the Official Languages Act. Bill C-47 was tabled in 2005 to fill this regulatory gap.

During the review of Bill C-47, Commissioner Adam went before the Standing Committee on Transport to draw attention to the importance of protecting the right of Canadians to be served in both official languages by Air Canada and its new entities. Her main concern was the remaining uncertainty about the application of the Official Languages Act to Air Canada's former divisions, which were not clearly named in the bill.

We are now reviewing Bill C-29, which attempts to clear up the ambiguity of Bill C-47. To some extent, the government has followed my predecessor's recommendation.

Bill C-29 does not explicitly state which entities would be subject to the Official Languages Act, with the exception of Jazz; however, it gives the governor in council the authority to designate, by regulation, the entities that will be subject to the Official Languages Act. This will allow a great deal of flexibility.

However, we have no guarantee that such a regulation would be passed with the coming into force of the new act, since Bill C-29 does not specify a timeline in that regard. This shortcoming needs to be addressed because without a regulation, the ambiguity regarding the application of the Official Languages Act to the new ACE entities would remain unresolved.

In my view, the Air Canada group entities that should be designated by regulation pursuant to proposed new subsection 10.2(2), based on Air Canada's current structure, are Ground Handling Services, Technical Services, Cargo, and Air Canada Online.

At his appearance on November 2, 2006, Minister Lawrence Cannon stated that in his opinion Air Canada Online did not fall within the legislative authority of Parliament. I do not share that view. Air Canada Online essentially sells tickets to travellers wishing to use the services of Air Canada or Jazz. Like Ground Handling Services' activities, which consist of registering passengers and their luggage, ticket vending is essential to the operations of both air carriers. For that reason, I believe that Air Canada Online falls within the legislative authority of Parliament with regard to aeronautics and must be designated in the regulations as an entity subject to the Official Languages Act.

To emphasize the effect of Bill C-29, I refer you to the table enclosed with my speech. We used an organizational chart developed by Air Canada as part of its restructuring in 2004 and included the possible effects of the bill. The colour coding indicates the entities that are clearly subject to the Official Languages Act, or parts of it, and those that could be.

With respect to Jazz, the bill clearly states that the company will only be subject to part IV of the Official Languages Act. It will, therefore, be required to uphold the linguistic rights of the travelling public.

The fact that Jazz has no linguistic obligations to its employees is also of concern to me.

The restructuring of Air Canada has considerably changed the airline landscape. From now on, Jazz will service a growing number of routes that used to be operated by Air Canada, which has closed points of service in many cities, such as Moncton, Fredericton, Saint John and Quebec. A substantial number of Air Canada employees now work for Jazz, which enables the company to offer the new routes. It is important to point out that the linguistic rights of Jazz employees are no longer protected.

Indeed, Bill C-29 does not impose any obligations on Jazz with regard to language of work. This aspect of Bill C-29 must be reviewed carefully. You will recall that the aim of the bill is to maintain the linguistic rights of Air Canada employees. That goal is met in part by the fact that the Ground Handling Services, Technical Services and Cargo will be subject to the Official Languages Act in its entirety. Bill C-29 should not allow Air Canada to sidestep its linguistic obligations to employees by permitting Jazz to operate an increasing number of its routes.

One way to remedy the problem would be to subject Jazz to Part IV and V of the Official Languages Act.

I'd like to make a final point in closing. During his appearance three weeks ago, Minister Cannon made reference to a low number of complaints against Air Canada. I believe that the rights of travellers are very important and should not be minimized by figures. The number of complaints lodged creates a false impression that things are obviously improving. It may simply be that Canadians, after many failed attempts, are not making as many formal complaints as before.

However, the number of complaints filed cannot be used to justify non-compliance with the law. Francophones across the country are entitled to respect when they conduct business with Air Canada, its subsidiaries, and its entities. A restructuring, even a major one, should not deprive the public and employees of their rights.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am now prepared to answer your questions.

Main Estimates, 2003-04Government Orders

June 12th, 2003 / 8:40 p.m.
See context

The Chair

House in committee of the whole on Bill C-47.

(On clause 2)

Main Estimates, 2003-04Government Orders

June 12th, 2003 / 8:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

moved that Bill C-47, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the Public Service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2004, be read the second time and referred to committee of the whole.

Main Estimates, 2003-04Government Orders

June 12th, 2003 / 8:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

moved that Bill C-47, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the Public Service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2004, be read the first time.

(Motion deemed adopted and bill read the first time)

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.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

April 1st, 2003 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

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 / 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

February 27th, 2003 / 12:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the discussion today of the amendments in Group No. 2.

We have been at this a long time. It is important for us to ensure that we expedite the process as quickly as possible to have legislation adopted by the House, ideally before International Women's Day. Obviously it will be hard to do that by March 8, but it would be a strong message to Canadians that this place is serious about putting legislation in place.

A number of individuals have made comments this morning. One in particular suggested that the purpose today was stringing out debate. I hope that is not what we are doing today. I hope we are not stringing out debate for the sake of talking and prolonging an important decision. I hope we are not using tools available to us to kill very important legislation. However that is not to say that we in the NDP support everything in the bill. We have so many concerns that we may end up voting against Bill C-13 at the final stage.

It seems to me that when we talk about the important issue of cloning, we need to be absolutely clear about what the bill says and about the issues at hand. As everyone in the House has said, the issue of cloning must be dealt with on an urgent basis. We have seen too many developments of late, too many reports, around the potential of human cloning to sit back and not take immediate action.

The question before us today is whether the bill is adequate to the task. Does the bill need further amendment? It seems to me that legislation can always be improved. There are certainly problems with this legislation.

With respect to the provisions in Bill C-13 which deal with human cloning, I suggest to hon. members that the bill offers a fairly clear set of recommendations that should accomplish what members have suggested this morning.

We were reminded this morning by the health critic for the Bloc that it was the member for Drummond who began the process that ended in the bill before us today with respect to human cloning. That member brought forward a private member's bill requiring strict prohibitions on human cloning. That bill was sent to committee, was subsequently reviewed and agreement was reached that a broader set of provisions needed to be undertaken to accomplish both the need to prohibit human cloning and address outstanding issues pertaining to reproductive technologies, an area that has been outstanding for 14 years.

I acknowledge the work of the member for Drummond in keeping this issue before the House. The onus is now on all of us to ensure that legislation is adopted as quickly as possible.

I also want to remind members how long this process has been going on and how outstanding this policy area is. Let us remember that it was in 1989 that the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies was struck. That is over 14 years ago. Let us not forget that we have been through numerous stages and procedures in the House trying to accomplish legislation reflecting the recommendations of the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies, recommendations that were presented to Canadians and to the House in 1993. The commission wrote 293 recommendations which gave clear direction to Parliament at that time about required action.

Let us not forget that we dealt with this matter in several forms, including Bill C-47 which was tabled in the House in 1996 and then died on the Order Paper when the election was called in 1997.

Let us not forget that the Standing Committee on Health and the Parliament of Canada have been dealing with this issue now for a couple of years. They have been studying a draft piece of legislation and we now have the final bill before us today. The work of that committee was very important to the process at hand. There are concerns that many of the suggestions made by the committee were not accepted by the government and that the bill falls short in that regard.

However, focusing on the amendments at hand under Group No. 2, we are talking about the strength of the bill to prohibit human cloning. It has been suggested that the bill would create a mirage, an illusion, of prohibiting human cloning and therefore needs numerous amendments to strengthen it.

That is not my understanding of this particular section of the bill. I am not sure that the amendments before us today presented in Group No. 2 would do anything in terms of strengthening the bill. In many cases they appear to be redundant to the provisions outlined in the bill.

The bill, under clause 5 listing prohibited activities, is very clear about restricting and outlawing any human cloning. In fact, paragraph 5(1)(a) states:

No person shall knowingly create a human clone, or transplant a human clone into a human being;

The bill goes on to list specific prohibitions with respect to the areas that are listed in these amendments before us today. I want to reference some of those because members will see that we are dealing more with an attempt to string out the bill and prevent its passage than we are trying to improve the bill and make it clearer in terms of prohibited activities.

The bill is clear about prohibitions with respect to the creation of in vitro embryos for any purpose other than creating a human being or improving instruction in assisted human reproductive procedures.

The bill is clear that there would be an absolute prohibition on the creation of an embryo from the cell, or part of a cell, of an embryo or fetus for the purpose of creating a human being. The bill is clear about prohibitions on maintaining an embryo for more than 14 days outside of a woman's body. It is clear about prohibitions in terms of sex selection. It is clear in terms of prohibiting germ line genetic alteration. It is clear about prohibitions in terms of transplanting a sperm, ovum, embryo or fetus of a non-human into a human being.

The bill is clear about prohibitions in terms of using human reproductive material previously in a non-human for the purpose of creating a human being. It is clear about prohibitions with respect to creating a chimera or transplanting a chimera into either a human being or a non-human life form. It is clear about prohibitions on the creation of hybrids for the purpose of reproduction or transplanting a hybrid into either human beings or non-human life forms.

Those are the clear prohibitions in the bill right now. Perhaps there is some fine-tuning that is needed. I would suggest to the member who has introduced these amendments that they are in many cases redundant and that the bill needs to be passed as soon as possible with respect to the urgency we all feel around developments in the area of human cloning.

I would suggest that we do everything we can to ensure that this bill becomes law, that we respect the work of the royal commission, and that we recognize that this is an urgent issue facing the health and well-being of all women.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2003 / 11:45 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the motions in Group No. 2 concerning Bill C-13, formerly Bill C-56 which in turn, as the hon. member for Drummond will recall, once was Bill C-47.

It is especially difficult to speak on this kind of issues since, as we know, the debate raises so many questions. Given that the motions in Group No. 2 which we are debating deal with prohibited activities, I would like to remind the hon. members that the Bloc Quebecois would have liked to see the bill divided in two. There is basically not much rationale. One could ask: Why do we, in the Canadian Parliament, get to vote on a bill concerning the provision of services in health care institutions?

The reason the government claims that Bill C-13 is legitimate is because it criminalized a certain number of practices. I moved a motion a few months ago calling on Parliament to split the bill. Today, from what I have heard, several political parties, including the Liberals even, realize that the Bloc Quebecois was absolutely right. You might say that this is not the first time that the Bloc Quebecois has enlightened this House. No it is not, nor will it be the last. Nonetheless, it would be better if we could say, “Yes, let us stick to criminal law, for which the federal government has a responsibility.

The public was quite astonished between Christmas and New Year's when Clonaid tried to have us believe—it still has not provided any evidence—that cloning was possible.

The Bloc Quebecois has had a longstanding interest in reproductive technologies. I am especially pleased to point this out because my colleague, the member for Drummond, is in the House today, and this House should applaud her. As early as 1995—and I call on the Alliance members to join in the applause as well—and in 1997 and 2000, the member for Drummond introduced a private member's bill. This took some foresight. The Baird Commission had produced its report. We knew that because one couple in five had fertility problems, technological and medical solutions to those problems had to be explored. The member for Drummond, relying only on her courage and her science, introduced a bill. There happened what happened. Unfortunately, the government did not cooperate as much as it should have and at the time we did not have a system whereby all bills were automatically deemed to be votable as soon as they were introduced by any one of our colleagues.

It is pretty sad to think that if we vote on this bill, the Bloc Quebecois will be torn. We do want provisions included in the Criminal Code as soon as possible. We are talking about cloning but there are 12 other prohibited activities in the bill. But at the same time, can we accept the creation of a regulatory agency, which will interfere in areas of great sensitivity for the provinces?

I will give a few examples. As we know, the Government of Quebec is one of the best governments ever to have been in power since the quiet revolution. This government run by Bernard Landry listed the pieces of legislation that would be inconsistent with the agency, if it were to be established.

Of course, we could talk about the regulations. These are more important than the bill itself. I will come back to this. Let me however set out the inconsistencies between the bill and existing legislation in Quebec.

In Quebec, we have chosen to consider pregnancy as an altruistic act. Wanting to help someone have a child or to do so ourselves is an altruistic act.

It is out of the question for this act to become a business transaction, for a monetary value to be placed on it.

As it stands however, the bill provides for the reimbursement of certain expenditures incurred in connection with the pregnancy, if receipts can be provided. This is fundamentally inconsistent with a philosophy of intervention found in the Quebec civil law.

Another inconsistency has to do with the fact that, as we know, the Quebec government has legislation respecting health and social services. It would pretty strange for it not to, given that the provincial governments are responsible for providing health care services.

What would it mean if the bill were passed? The fact that a power currently vested in our Minister of Health and Social Services, namely the power to designate institutions for the exclusive delivery of certain services, would be taken over by the regulatory agency should certainly be of concern to my hon. colleagues. That is in section 112. It is unacceptable for the federal government to act this way.

The regulations would prescribe not only the conditions under which gametes are to be preserved, but also the qualifications of health professionals to carry out insemination procedures.

This is a matter of interference, and what is the most upsetting to the Bloc Quebecois. If, tomorrow morning, we learned that a public or private laboratory in Calgary, Montreal, Quebec City or the Maritimes had been involved in experiments with the potential to lead to therapeutic or human cloning, there would be nothing in place to deal with it. Neither the Minister of Justice nor the Minister of Immigration would have any recourse, because there is none in criminal law.

At the same time, however, what can we expect of a regulatory agency? We are faced with a problem on which all MPs need to reflect. The member for Trois-Rivières is extremely eloquent on this point when he talks of it in private—and only seeks an opportunity to do the same in public. The problem is that the federal government wants to use health for nation building. The Romanow report is very clear on this.

It is not possible to accept the creation of a regulatory agency with considerable powers, including those concerning professional qualifications of people who are governed by regional bodies of the Government of Quebec.

To repeat, a minimum of 14 acts are incompatible with the creation of this agency proposed by the federal government.

That said, I would like to take this opportunity to say that I personally believe that research has a role to play here. The bill states that therapeutic cloning and cloning for reproduction are prohibited.

Why? It is because we want to promote the extremely important value that each of us is unique. If we put out a call in the Greater Montreal or Greater Ottawa region for someone like the Minister of Immigration, we would not be successful. Each person is unique. We have our own values and personality, and this is especially true for the Minister of Immigration. But I would not want to say too much about his personality for fear of violating the charter even if, in some respects, the Minister of Immigration is likeable.

That said, why are we opposed to cloning? It is because we cannot imagine that parents can raise children who are their exact copy and that, in terms of personal development, a child could be their exact copy. It is not possible.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

February 11th, 2003 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, we are on Group No. 6 and the various amendments relating to that. I am not sure what I can add at this point to some of the comments already made but I do want to put some of my own thoughts into the bill.

First, I want to thank the member for Richmond—Arthabaska who was the member of the committee and our health critic at the time when the bill was introduced to the House. We then had a subsequent change in critic roles.

I was not around during the early stages of the bill when it was developed in committee. The committee travelled from one end of Canada to the other hearing expert testimony. It received ideas on what should be in a bill that is as controversial or complicated, which is probably a better word, as this bill which deals with assisted human reproductive technology.

It might be interesting for the House and the listening public to have a small sense of the history of the bill and how far back it reaches into the workings of Parliament. The response to this was a result of the Baird commission when it reported to the House of Commons in 1993.

As you were in the House at the time, Mr. Speaker, you will remember that the Baird commission was set up in the late 1980s under the government of Brian Mulroney. In fact, the wife of the current leader of the Progressive Conservative Party was a very important member of that commission. The commission did good work and as a result of that good work Bill C-47 was introduced in the House in 1996.

I do not have to remind you, Mr. Speaker, but that bill died on the Order Paper, which often happens around this place. Then, of course, after the election in 1997 a subsequent bill was introduced, Bill C-247, which basically was the same bill, but it failed the test of scrutiny and did not go any further.

Finally, in 2001, and that was when the member for Richmond—Arthabaska was our health critic, the bill was studied by committee and then reintroduced into the House as Bill C-56. However, with the prorogation of Parliament last fall, the bill had to be reintroduced again. Now we have it as Bill C-13.

The other interesting thing about the bill is that I do not think the government recognizes success when it has it within its grasp. Much of the good work that was done on Bill C-13 in committee has been objected to by the government. I will give some examples of that. I am talking about the member for Winnipeg North Centre who sits next to me and who represents the NDP in this place. She was the former health critic for her party.

I just want to give an example of how the government gets overtaken or consumed by its own sense of power and invincibility.

The member for Winnipeg North Centre worked very hard, as did the member for Yellowhead and the member for Mississauga South on the government side, to introduce thoughtful recommendations and motions at the committee stage which would have improved the bill.

One recommendation by the member for Winnipeg North Centre would have actually changed clause 26(8) to guarantee that the board of directors of the agency, which would control the bill, would have no pecuniary or proprietary interest in any business relating to the field of reproductive technologies. The wording for that amendment was based on other legislative initiatives that were very similar in make-up to the present bill.

The committee agreed to the member's amendment. However, despite the fact that the all party committee supported the amendment, when it came to the floor of the House of Commons at report stage the government eliminated that change. It overpowered the opposition and the thoughtful amendments put forward by various members of Parliament. Basically, the government used its power to defeat a logical amendment to the bill.

Not to stop there, the member put forth another amendment. In praise of that member and the hard work that she did, she put forth an amendment dealing with the agency that would oversee the regulatory side of the bill. The member said that the agency, which would consist of 13 members, should be made up of at least 50% women. The reason for that was that some of the biological aspects of the bill involved onerous procedures and medical procedures which had more to do with women than men. The committee agreed to the amendment she put forward and it was passed by the all party committee, only to be re-thought by the government and defeated here in the House in committee of the whole.

The government decided that it did not want it, that it would find a way to fix it and that it would find a way to control opposition to the bill in any respect.

In terms of clarifying the bill, in March 2002 tensions arose between the standing committee and the federal funding agency over embryonic stem cell research. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research, which distributes about $580 million annually for medical research, revealed their own guidelines for funding research on aborted fetal tissue and surplus embryos. This is important. CIHR announced that they would accept proposals involving stem cell research on fertility clinic created embryos as long as the owners had given consent based on full information.

This is where it ran afoul of the committee. The president of CIHR told the committee that the health minister was aware of their guidelines indicating that they were being used to anticipate public reaction for the proposed bill. Faced with charges that they were trying to circumvent Parliament, the CIHR then said that they would not distribute money until April 2003, allowing time for debate and the passing of the legislation. They also promised to change their guidelines if they did not match what was contained in the final legislation.

It is again the minister and her department pre-empting what might happen here on the floor of the House of Commons, assuming the bill will take a particular shape or form before it is passed by the House of Commons.

This fits in nicely with the point that I was making to you, Mr. Speaker, on Friday in terms of contempt of the House and the principles on which debate takes place in the House and what debate is all about. Basically, it is a violation of the rights of the House of Commons. It is a contempt for the House, assuming the bill will take a particular shape before it is passed by this place.

That is the situation in which the government now finds itself. I think many of the parties on this side of the House, at the initial stages of the bill, were prepared to support it. However, after witnessing the heavy hand of government, I think they have had a change of heart, particularly the party sitting next to ours at this end of the Chamber. I think I can say the same for the Bloc and certainly the same for the Canadian Alliance.

When the government tries to stifle intelligent debate on the floor of the House of Commons, assuming a bill will take a particular form or shape where the substance of the bill will only be what the government wants, there is something wrong with the process. It is not the first time the minister has displayed that kind of contempt for the House of Commons.

My argument would be that it should be a free vote in this place on a bill that is as controversial as this one. Our party will be having a free vote on this bill because there are some areas of conscience, ethics and morality. It would be interesting to see what would happen on the government side of the Chamber if all of its members were allowed to vote freely on the merits of the bill. I think we would be surprised at the outcome.

Let us take a look at some of the members on the other side. The member for Mississauga West brought forward very thoughtful recommendations on the bill on how it can be improved so that outcomes are improved. One of the recommendations that came from the other side of the House was on how the bill should be split. I think most of us would have no problem with that. I think it would make it a lot easier for some of us to support the bill if it were split. It was recommended by at least one party, if not two parties in the House, that it would be desirable if the bill were split between prohibited activities, like cloning, for example, and controlled activities, like embryonic stem cell research.

If we were to look at it from the government's point of view, it would be caving into the opposition. It certainly could not do that but that is a very thoughtful recommendation and one that government members should entertain. If they did that we would find that more people on this side of the House would be more supportive of the bill. Of course, that would not be in keeping with the government's record of engaging parliamentarians on both sides of the House, listening to thoughtful debate and responding accordingly.

We will be having a free vote on this. I look forward to second reading and I look forward to debating further amendments in Group No. 7.