An Act to amend the Patent Act and the Food and Drugs Act

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

Sponsor

Jean Chrétien  Liberal

Status

Not active, as of Nov. 7, 2003
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Patent ActPrivate Members' Business

November 21st, 2012 / 6:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the bill that my colleague has brought forth. I rise with a sense of regret and shame for a country that has failed to deliver on a promise that it made nearly 10 years ago. As a result of that failure and that promise that was never kept, we have witnessed children, men and women suffer and die because we did not get a chance to provide medications.

We built the system. This is important to recognize when we go back and look at the past. Bill C-56 was the original bill. It was nicknamed Jean Chrétien's aid to Africa act. We said at that time that we would put a system in place that would be the envy of the world. It would allow generic drugs to get to those who were suffering, whether it be from HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria. We promised.

When Parliament recessed Bill C-56 came back to the House as Bill C-9 in 2004. We made another promise. Experts appeared at committee a couple of times. We brought in witnesses. We had expert testimony from many people from around the world. People testified to make sure that we were WTO and TRIPS compliant, that we were within the mandate with regard to allowing the patented drugs to be generically created and distributed, and that we would follow certain rules. Basically, we wanted to create an open and accountable process. Instead we built a monster that really has only been exercised once in all of these years. It really is a monster, because it is preventing us from stopping death and suffering.

Why is it important? Lots of numbers get thrown out and there have been some improvements over the years. The reality is that many people are still suffering. I cannot understand it when I look at the problems being faced in sub-Saharan Africa. What are we doing when children are becoming the heads of households because their parents are dying? We are taking out the capacity for the family unit to be effective. These children are losing the knowledge of how to raise themselves, how to become successful, how to get an education and work co-operatively with others. We are undermining people because we are not providing the resources that are there.

There is a will out there. I want to read some comments from organizations that are in favour of the legislation, because it needs to be noted that they did their part. They did their part for many years on the Hill as we have moved this issue forward.

When we moved Bill C-393, the previous legislation, it ended up dying in the Senate. Unfortunately, we are back here today. It is important to move this legislation again to committee because it does have a few changes, some improvements and some compromise. It is not like we did not compromise along the way. At one point I submitted over 100 amendments to the original bill at industry committee because we knew the legislation was so badly constructed. The Canadian access to medicines regime was built to defeat itself.

The organizations that did their part include the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Grandmothers Advocacy Network, Results Canada, the Federation of Medical Women of Canada, the Canadian Federation of University Women, the Ontario Nurses' Association, UNICEF, Bracelet of Hope, World Vision, the United Church of Canada. A whole coalition, a rainbow of organizations have come together and worked together.

There have been some important changes and there is some hope. We were fighting with the brand name drug companies along the way. We have gone through a whole range of issues about certain countries being listed and certain drugs being listed, and fought back and forth on all of those things.

However, now there has been a shift in their position. In a letter dated November 19 from research-based pharmaceutical companies to my leader, the hon. member for Outremont, it says they are open to looking at a more constructive approach. They list a series of concerns. Some I do not think are as valid as others, but there are important ones to note. They talk about transparency, amount and term, anti-diversion, eligible countries, eligible medicines and safety appeal mechanisms.

The good news is that there is no reason for any member now to vote against the bill. If a member is voting against the bill, he or she is voting directly against the pharmaceutical companies, the generics, and all the organizations I mentioned, that want to see this move forward. I thank them for coming to the table this time. In the past, we have witnessed a relationship that has been rocky at best. However, at this moment in time there has been a change in position. We are going to hopefully see this legislation move to committee so we can start to deal with some of the issues they raised to improve the legislation.

It is important. We have set an example internationally with this legislation. If we can get the changes here, other countries can also get some changes. We have a situation where some of the global funds are diminishing, so we have an issue with supply and management right now, and the costs.

I will conclude that I have come here today speaking out of frustration and disappointment, but there is a glimmer of hope this time. I am hoping all the members understand that there is nobody else out there against moving forward, so let us do it together with all members' support.

Motions in AmendmentPatent ActPrivate Members' Business

January 31st, 2011 / 11:45 a.m.
See context

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Halifax for her great work on the bill. I also want to thank the members who spoke in favour of the bill. The bill is very important. Since 2003 I have been trying to get the law amended or fixed properly. It was Bill C-56 originally.

I want to impress on members that we can make a difference. We can choose to make it happen. We have proposed under Bill C-393 WTO and TRIPS agreement compliance. By that I mean that it abides by all international laws. There can be no other excuse used during this debate. If members do not believe me, they can believe the Library of Parliament's independent research which shows that what we are proposing here today is legal internationally. If we want to make a difference, we can do it now.

Back in 2004 I spoke in this chamber about the law that we passed and my fear that it was built to fail. It has failed. There has been one application. Apotex got one drug into Africa, despite the obstacles of the bill.

We told the world something. We told the world that we would help, that Canada would stand front and centre, show respect and help people. We said that we would make sure that women, men and children would get drugs that we have on our shelves and in our plants, that they could not get because of the cost. We told that to the world. We promised the world that we would lead the way. However, the way that we did it is despicable. We made a law that does not work, which others replicated, which gave an excuse. Right now people are suffering. People are dying. That does not have to happen. Not only have we chosen to turn our backs on them, but we have given them a phony law and literally slapped them in the face. Canada, the country to which I belong, has done that.

That is a shame. I have seen that over the years as a member of Parliament. I have tried to fix it four times. I feel strongly about it. I thought about that on the way to Ottawa. I used to belong to the AIDS Committee of Windsor. Before that, I had friends in Toronto who were gay, who had AIDS, who suffered. I have seen friends die, and they had medication. It is horrible to witness the disintegration of a human being, and that is in the best of circumstances.

We have an opportunity to make a difference. We continue to hear that it is a great idea and the laurels of the bill are applauded but that it cannot work. It does work, and we need to try. We need to move the bill to the next stage. It has to go to the Senate. Let those excuses resurface there and let us find solutions. As New Democrats, that is what we have done along the way.

I have a brief time to speak today, and I have two amendments that I will propose.

We have agreed to compromise continually in this process, not only with the Conservatives, but with the Liberals and now with the Bloc. There has been an attempt, one way or another, to either gut the bill or pretend that we are doing something and then say that we are doing all these other things. That is not the point. The point is this is one tool that could end the suffering of millions of people. This is one tool in the kit that Canada could use to help people.

Even if members' worst fears occur, we could bring the bill back to this chamber and fix it again. We could bring it back right away. We do not want intellectual property stolen. It will not happen with this bill, but that is one of the excuses that has been given. We have actually included the components of criticism that members have put. Even though we did not think they were warranted, we have agreed to them. Even under the worst scenario, we could bring the bill back to the chamber and fix it right away. New Democrats are prepared to participate every single day to do that. We are here today to do that.

I want to thank some people. I want to thank Richard Elliot and the grandmothers across this country, people who care for people and understand the connection, the values and principles with which this country could lead the world.

We have told them that we have a phony law that does not give them the drugs they deserve, that they could get to actually have good health and take care of other types of problems, as opposed to a solution.

There is no other excuse. The bill is WTO and TRIPS compliant. I have heard that. Witness after witness came to the committee. The same excuses were brought forward against this bill. They were not verified. At the very least, we could try with this bill. The people who are opposed to this are worried that affordable medicines will get to people rather quickly, and even more important, will get to the types of diseases that we need to get to. If that becomes a problem because it is happening too often and too fast, then we could revisit that. The excuses we have heard make no sense whatsoever.

The drug industry has blatantly said that if we do this it is going to cost us research and development and the industry will not invest in Canada. Despite the generous corporate tax cuts, despite all the grants and subsidies the industry is getting for research development and all the other incentives that have been thrown in the mix, the industry would throw the country under the bus just because a bill could pass that would, ironically, give the industry money. The pharmaceutical companies would get money for the drugs. They would get a percentage.

Again, I want to thank every member for participating in this debate. I hope that everybody thinks about this as the bill, hopefully, goes forward.

I would like to amend Motions No. 1 and 2. Mr. Speaker, I move:

That the motion proposing to restore Clause 2 of Bill C-393 be amended by replacing the definition of “pharmaceutical product” with the following:

“pharmaceutical product” means any patented product listed in Schedule 1 in, if applicable, the dosage form, the strength and the route of administration specified in that Schedule in relation to the product and any other patented product, or product manufactured through a patented process, of the pharmaceutical sector needed to address public health problems, especially those resulting from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other epidemics, and includes active ingredients necessary for its manufacture and diagnostic kits needed for its use.

The second amendment is long, and it is also WTO and TRIPS compliant. Mr. Speaker, I move:

That the Motion proposing to restore Clause 4 of Bill C-393 be amended by replacing the text after “4.(1) Subsection 21.04(1) of the Act is replaced by the following:” with the following:

21.04 (1) Subject to subsection (3), the Commissioner shall, on the application of any person and on the payment of the prescribed fee, authorize the person to make, construct and use a patented invention solely for purposes directly related to the manufacture of the pharmaceutical product named in the application and to sell it for export to any country listed in Schedule 2.

(2) Paragraph 21.04(2)(c) of the Act is repealed.

(3) Paragraph 21.04(2)(e) and (f) of the Act are repealed.

(4) Subparagraph 21.04(3)(c)(i) and (ii) of the Act are replaced by the following:

(i) sought from the patentee or, if there is more than one, from each of the patentees, by certified or registered mail, a licence to manufacture and sell the pharmaceutical product for export to one or more of the countries listed in Schedule 2 on reasonable terms and conditions and that such efforts have not been successful; and

(ii) provided the patentee, or each of the patentees, as the case may be, by certified or registered mail, in the written request for a licence, with the information that is in all material respects identical to the information referred to in subsection (2).

(5) Paragraph 21.04(3)(d) of the Act is repealed.

(6) Section 21.04 is amended by the following after subsection (3):

(4) The solemn or statutory declaration referred to in paragraph 3(c) is not required in the case of an application to the Commissioner for an authorization to supply the product named in the application to an eligible importing country for purposes of addressing a national emergency or other circumstances of extreme urgency in that country or for purposes of public non-commercial use, but in such cases, the Commissioner shall notify the patentee or patentees of the issuance of the compulsory licence as soon as reasonably practicable after it has been issued.

That is all about compromise by the New Democrats for those who are opposed to the bill.

The Patent ActGovernment Orders

November 7th, 2003 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I will begin my brief debate on this extremely important bill that is before the House this afternoon by quoting a message I received in my office this morning from an international development student who happens to be at St. Mary's University in my riding. I think she both expresses the sentiment and reflects the experience of a great many people who have visited the African continent in the last several years. The message reads:

I just returned a few days ago from a four month CIDA-funded research project in Malawi, Africa. I interviewed women who were caring for dying family members. I spent my days in the villages, witnessing the most shocking and horrible situations: a nine year old girl, alone to nurse her dying mother and take care of her twin seven year old brothers--she told me that the best part of her day was when she walked 40 minutes to get to school because once there, it was the only time of the day that she could rest; an old woman, completely bent over, unable to stand straight or walk properly, nursing her sick daughter and looking after scores of orphans from her other children who had already died. I spent days in the pediatric palliative care unit, talking to mothers of dying children--what can be said? What hope can they have? Imagine such a thing happening here. One thing that stays in my mind is women telling me repeatedly, “here, there is no peace--they weren't talking of civil war or political unrest, they were talking about the misery and poverty and injustice of so many people dying from a disease for which there are drugs, but not for them. There certainly can be no peace as long as this continues in our world. It is a blight on our common humanity.

To that I want to add that I think it would be a blight, not just on the record of the Liberal government, but a blight on the record of all members of Parliament if we are not able to summon here, over the next week, starting with the vote on this bill this afternoon, the absolute commitment, with determination, persistence and an appropriate sense of urgency, to ensure that the bill goes to committee where hearings will be held and that it comes back to the House for passage within the next 10 days.

I want to refer again to a statistic that I cited earlier. We think people can imagine the human misery that lies behind the statistic that every 13 seconds a person in Africa dies of AIDS. Nelson Mandela, not surprisingly, has been an incredible champion of the cause of dealing with the African pandemic. He stated:

The vision which fuelled our struggle for freedom;--

Referring to the struggle against apartheid. He goes on to say:

--the deployment of energies and resources; the unity and commitment to common goals--all these are needed if we are to bring AIDS under control.

This is a war, it has killed more people than has been the case in all previous wars... We must not continue to be debating, to be arguing, when people are dying.

Those words inevitably give rise to the question: why are we here discussing instead of doing? Why would we stop or hesitate for one nanosecond in getting on with speedy passage?

The possibility existed for us to send the bill all the way to third reading and conclusion in the House today. The questions that will be asked of all 301 of us will be: Why are we here debating? Why are we sending it to committee? I think we have to answer those questions honestly for Canadians.

I do not want to dwell, in the spirit of all party cooperation, on the point that has been made by the previous speakers that the government left it awfully late in the life of this session to introduce this legislation, because I want to focus on how we can deal with this in the most hasty manner possible but not such a hasty manner that we do not fix a fundamental flaw that exists in the legislation.

The reason we are here discussing the legislation and proposing that it go to committee is so the flaw can be fixed.

This is an occasion when we should express our gratitude, not only to the incredibly Herculean work of special envoy, Stephen Lewis, who has literally laid his life on the line in this struggle against the HIV-AIDS pandemic, but the other heroes and heroines on the ground: the NGOs in the African villages and communities who are doing unimaginable work; the representatives here in Canada who have helped to deal with our ignorance and our complacency in relation to this HIV-AIDS pandemic. This includes those who have been working under the umbrella of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network , Oxfam, Medécins son frontières and many more. I think through them we want to express our thanks to all of those who have worked so hard.

Let me share with members what the coordinator and the spokesperson for the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network said today. He said:

The bill is intended to amend the Patent Act by allowing generic pharmaceutical companies to make lower-cost medicines for export to developing countries to deal with their public health problems. But as currently drafted, Bill C-56 provides that a brand-name pharmaceutical company has the right to take over a contract that a generic manufacturer has negotiated with a developing country. If they do so, the generic manufacturer cannot get a licence to make the medicine and export it.

This leaves generic companies unable to fill contracts that they have negotiated in good faith and at great cost and effort with developing countries.

As Richard Elliott, director, legal research and policy of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, has said, “as a result, developing countries cannot effectively give licences to generic manufacturers to make their cheaper medicines”. This means we will not actually end up seeing lower prices from either generic companies or brand name companies and developing countries will not see the benefit that Bill C-56 is supposed to deliver.

We need to heed the concerns that are being expressed. We should not act so hastily that we do not fix the flaw in the bill. At the same time, however, we must unanimously agree to act with great haste to make sure the legislation is enacted as quickly as humanly possible.

Yesterday was a rare day in the House, one of those rare occasions that I wish occurred far more often, when there was a real sense of common purpose in the House. I want to pay tribute to the outgoing Prime Minister when I say this. Yesterday we saw him, not only in some of his finest moments, but he delivered a very important message to us. It was a message that I think we have to take very seriously.

Sure we can have some fun poking criticisms at the record of his government, and there are legitimate criticisms, but let us today act in the spirit that was very evident in the House yesterday and the tone that was set by the outgoing Prime Minister when he pleaded with us to make Parliament work and to demonstrate to Canadians that we are all here for the same reason.

If there were ever a test of that resolve, if there were ever a test of whether that can be truly said about the 301 parliamentarians assembled here working on behalf of Canadians, surely we can make that commitment. Surely we can commit today to see the bill through in the most effective and efficient way that we possibly can do it.

The government can demonstrate good faith here. I do not buy the idea that it is bad faith on the government's part that it is saying we should send this legislation to committee. To the contrary, it is evident that the government wants to see this legislation became part of the so-called legacy of the Prime Minister. It is fair game for all of us to say we will help make it part of the Prime Minister's legacy.

That requires a commitment today from the House leader and from government members opposite that this legislation will go to committee, that it will be fast tracked. If there had not been a fundamental flaw in the bill, we were prepared to fast track it through at every stage of reading today and see it enacted as soon as possible. We cannot do that.

What can we do that is second best? What can we do in view of the circumstances that we face? We can agree today that we will be back on Parliament Hill for committee meetings.There is a recess in the parliamentary calendar and the government party has important work to do with respect to electing a new leader, which we all understand and respect. However we can be back in this place a week from Monday to hold committee hearings. Those hearings can happen over a period of a few days. We can ensure that the legislation will come back and will be enacted within the next 10 days or two weeks.

There are all kinds of suggestions going around that the government is shutting down this session of Parliament. It has tried every day this week to get the means to do that by outvoting us on a call to recess Parliament. We stood against it in solidarity with other parliamentarians to ensure that Parliament did not recess before we had an opportunity to deal with the legislation to get drugs to the millions of people who are dying in Africa.

Let us use the opportunity that we have to summon that all party cooperation. Let us make sure that we can hold our heads up high. Canadians and other countries around the world want Canada to provide the leadership. Let us make sure that the committee does its work and that Parliament does its work to get this legislation enacted within a couple of weeks.

I would like to finish by quoting Stephen Lewis, the special envoy who has been working tirelessly on this issue. He provided some of the most powerful inspirational evidence before the foreign affairs committee on this issue early in 2003. He said:

The pandemic is overshadowing anything we know in human history, that nothing is comparable, not the 14th century Black Death nor all the loss of life, both military and civilian, in the two world wars of the 20th century, military and civilian. Nothing can begin to compare to the dreadful consequences of the pandemic. People now talk about 100 million deaths down the road. I don't doubt that for a moment. The numbers may rise even higher than that.

The numbers will rise higher than that and they will rise faster than is necessary if we do not fast track this legislation. The numbers will rise if the desperately needed drugs are not dispensed in the most effective way possible. The numbers will rise if we do not help put the infrastructure in place to ensure that the drugs can be dispensed in the most effective way possible and that treatment and support is given to those who are suffering from HIV-AIDS.

Let us act with compassion in dispatch and get the job done. That can be part of the legacy, not only of the Liberal government, but of this Parliament.

The Patent ActGovernment Orders

November 7th, 2003 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Progressive Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in what is probably the last day in the current session to speak to an extremely important bill.

During our life as parliamentarians, we often make mountains out of mole hills even though there are no mole hills in this dignified House. But here we are dealing with an extremely important bill in the dying days of a session.

Regrettably Bill C-56 was put forward at the very last minute. It could already have been reviewed in committee and disposed of, sent to the other place where it could have been reviewed, amended if necessary, and passed.

A political agenda has taken over a humanitarian agenda. This is what is going on here. For the past few days, even weeks, various opposition parties, several government members and some ministers also, I hope, various stakeholders in Bill C-56, including brand name drug companies and generic name drug companies, as well as humanitarian and community groups involved in this issue have been urging the government to go ahead.

As a matter of fact, the office of the Minister of Industry had invited members to a briefing session on the bill, but it was postponed and was only held this week. It makes one wonder.

This week, the Prime Minister answered a planted question on Bill C-57, reading a prepared text saying that it was a priority. We might stop sitting very soon. Yesterday, the government House leader, before leaving for a warmer climate as a result of an appointment, said good bye to parliamentarians although Bill C-56 has not passed yet. Once again, the partisan agenda has taken over the humanitarian agenda.

For several weeks now the government has tried to blame the drug industry as well as the opposition parties, including the Progressive Conservative Party, the sponsor of the Drug Patent Act, accusing them of delaying matters. The holdup is not with us; it is with the government.

I will not talk about the benefits of Bill C-56, as everybody is in agreement on that. However, as my Bloc Quebecois colleague said, now that Bill C-56 can be discussed, as we are doing now, we see that there are people on both sides who have reservations, be they the brand name drug companies or the generic drug companies, humanitarian groups or non-governmental organizations.

We are ready to take a few hours or a few days to study the bill in committee, very quickly. We will not be the ones holding the process up. The problem is that every time there is a delay, there are more deaths in these countries, every day.

Let us imagine the possible and probably scenario of an adjournment and a prorogation in the next few weeks. We should be called back sometime in February. However, if there is a prorogation, all the bills will die on the Order Paper, unless there is an agreement among the parliamentary leaders of all the parties represented in the House. This could represent a delay of three or four months.

I would not want to hit a nerve here, but how many hundreds of thousands of people will contract these diseases, tuberculosis, malaria or AIDS, in that period? How many hundreds or thousands of people will die? It could be interesting to air the Liberal convention in Africa next week to make sure people realize that, because of a leadership convention, everything is being put on hold while people are dying.

We all agree with the bill. Yes, we support the pharmaceutical companies, and we also support the Patent Act since we introduced it. As one of my colleagues was saying earlier, what is interesting in all this is that we can be compassionate while doing business.

We can do it. The big bad World Trade Organization was able to arrive at a compromise, to strike a delicate and complex balance. It can be done.

That being said, we are stuck in a situation that we cannot control. The four opposition parties are in agreement about speeding up the process, but not at any cost. Our party does not have on its agenda a leadership convention that will be broadcast on all major Canadian networks on November 14 and 15.

We are lawmakers. We are here to finish any job that we start. Certain bills are frivolous. In fact, they exist just to make a minister or a government look good.

Bill C-56 is a very important bill. The Minister of Industry has made a number of blunders when he was justice minister and when he was health minister. We all remember the blunders he made on the hepatitis issue. At least here, with the credibility given to this file by the Minister for International Trade, he had a chance to speed up the process. But no. We are getting a new prime minister.

People dying in Africa are not a priority after all. Surely something can be done. We, in the Progressive Conservative Party, are in contact with our colleagues and our leader in the Senate. He and the PC team in the other place are ready to do the job quickly, but properly.

Will we have time to finish the job? While reading a letter, the current Prime Minister was boasting about the fact that we are the first country to legislate on the WTO decision, but the legislation may not be passed because of the partisan agenda of this government.

Yes, maybe it is time we had a new leader. Yes, maybe it is time we had a new prime minister. I agree with that, but surely there can be better planning. It is so important. Surely it would be possible to give the House, the committee and the other place the opportunity to look at this issue.

House leaders on this side met and they had discussions with the government House leader, or at least the person who will be in that position probably for another few hours. Rumour has it that he is going to Brazil. They can send him wherever they want. The fact remains that he always was a good soldier for the Liberal Party.

However, what are we going to do now? We will be back in our ridings next week. In my riding, I have organizations lobbying to have this bill passed. In Quebec there are organizations lobbying to have it passed. They are going to ask us what we are doing. And we will have to answer that we are currently on break. Their next question will be, “So will you be able to deal with it next week?”

We do not know whether or not we will come back. Regardless of the fact that the Order Paper is calling us back on November 17, we do not know if that is what is going to happen. We are ready. I am ready, as a member of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, to come back next week to review the bill, to bring in people concerned with Bill C-56 and speed up the process.

We can do it. However, in some respects, we wonder if we should lend credibility to the Liberal partisan agenda. Should we do it? They tried to put the blame on us, “We know full well that the Conservatives favour the big drug companies. In the 1990s you introduced the Patent Protection Act and so on and so forth. You are against it. You are the bad guys in this Parliament.”

We are not the bad guys in Parliament. The bad guys are those who are unable to get their priorities straight with regard to their own legislative agenda. That is the problem.

With better planning and cooperation when they introduced Bill C-56, it could have passed today. Today, we are realizing that the big mean drug companies are not the only ones to have reservations. The generic drug companies also have reservations regarding the implementation of the bill. As I said earlier, without sounding like I am repeating myself and rambling on, organizations have reservations regarding Bill C-56. We would like to hear from them in committee. I can guarantee we will speed up the work, but we will do it.

If it were only pharmaceutical companies that had reservations, I would not be making this speech today. But stakeholders on both sides have reservations about the application and the applicability of this legislation.

Members of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology discussed this issue, and we would like to see the regulations. A bill is often 3, 4 or 5 pages long, whereas regulations are often 3, 4 or 5 inches thick. We would like to see what would be in there.

We must protect tens of thousands of jobs in Canada. In fact, we must protect the delicate balance between Canada and the United States with regard to pharmaceutical research and the distribution of pharmaceutical products.

Therefore, this bill must go to committee quickly. I am sure that, on this side of the House, we would agree to do this right now. Members on this side of the House, or at least members of the Progressive Conservative Party, are ready to sit down in committee and do a good and credible job.

Today, we can help those who are suffering, those who have had enough and those who will contract these diseases. We can tell them that Canada's commitment is more than a statement made by a Prime Minister at the end of his reign. Parliament will take its responsibilities.

At the same time, if the government has not done a good job in terms of legislative planning, that is its problem. It is not the opposition that is the big bad wolf here, but the government.

Bill C-56 is one of those bills that gives goose bumps. Yesterday, we were watching the Prime Minister who was boasting about Bill C-20. It gave me goose bumps, but not for the same reason. It gave me a negative feeling, whereas Bill C-56 gives me a positive feeling. If everybody agrees, we could look at this as early as next week, unless the partisan agenda prevails again over the humanitarian agenda, unless the government is willing to wait three or four months and have a few thousand more sick or dead people on its conscience. We are ready to move quickly to do a credible job.

Patent ActGovernment Orders

November 7th, 2003 / 12:35 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Canadian Alliance Edmonton Southwest, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his answers to those questions.

I want to state at the outset that the Canadian Alliance does support this initiative. We support Bill C-56 and we certainly look forward to seeing the government acting on this.

I want to state a few points just to be clear and to be on the record. Some have suggested that the Canadian Alliance is a johnny-come-lately to this issue. That is not true. In fact, it goes against the public record itself.

As soon as the Ministers of Trade and Industry raised this issue in September following the agreement at the WTO in August--and I think we all should commend the World Trade Organization for taking that step in August--as soon as these two ministers publicly mused about doing this, my colleague, our critic for international trade, and I publicly wrote to the Minister for International Trade and the Minister of Industry. I would like to quote directly from the letter. We stated:

We would like you to know that the Canadian Alliance supports efforts by the Canadian government to facilitate the delivery of drugs to help developing countries deal with public health emergencies such as the HIV-AIDS crisis in Africa.

October 2, 2003

We put ourselves as a party on the record as supporting this initiative at that time.

Further to that, I want to discuss the work of another colleague, the member for Calgary East, who has brought up this issue with me on numerous occasions and has been pressuring me to push the government to act. As we know, he was born in Africa. He has a very personal connection with that continent and this issue and he would like us to act. He stood up on a member's statement and he called for it, which was publicly recognized in the The Toronto Star by Carol Goar.

Third, I would like to point out the work of one of my colleagues who is a doctor. The member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca has been on trips to Africa trying to actually facilitate the much needed delivery of drugs to people. This is something that my colleague himself will not talk about, but I can because I think it is a wonderful example of a member of Parliament dedicating his time and resources to try to address this issue.

So I want to state publicly that the Canadian Alliance has been very publicly supportive of this initiative. We have some concerns on how it is going to be implemented, but we do very much support the initiative.

I have to say that I was quite pleasantly surprised with the bill that was introduced yesterday and with the briefing. I know that on this side of the House often we are critical of those in the bureaucracy, but quite frankly, I thought the bureaucrats from Industry Canada and Health Canada had done their homework. I thought the briefing was very good and I think that in general this is a very good piece of legislation.

Obviously I want to touch upon why we need to do this, why we in the House need to act. The fact is that because we are facing epidemics, as human beings we have to address the issue. The developing countries have simply been ravaged by HIV-AIDS, by tuberculosis and by malaria.

In Botswana and Zimbabwe alone, it is estimated that 30 million Africans have HIV-AIDS, which is equal to the entire population of Canada. Just to think of the staggering numbers is simply astounding.

The plague has already killed 15 million Africans. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable. Sixty per cent of infected Africans are female. Less than 200,000 Africans are receiving HIV-AIDS anti-retroviral drugs with the appropriate medical follow-up.

In August 2003, the World Trade Organization agreed on legal changes that would make it easier for poorer countries to import the cheaper generic drugs made under compulsory licensing if they are unable to manufacture the medicines themselves.

In September, the WHO made a proposal known as “3 by 5”: to get HIV-AIDS drugs to three million people by 2005. Only 300,000 people in poorer countries now receive the drugs with appropriate medical follow-up.

There are a number of problems associated with AIDS, which the United Nations is trying to overcome. For instance, HIV-AIDS and TB often occur together. In addition, malaria thrives on bodies whose immune systems have been weakened by AIDS. We have to look at these diseases in concert and try to address them all.

While there is presently no cure for AIDS, anti-retroviral drugs, ARVs such as AZT, can prolong the life of an infected person by up to 20 years and reduce the chance of an infected pregnant woman passing on the virus to her unborn child. ARVs curb the reproduction of the virus itself.

We have to address the issue of poverty. Currently, companies like GlaxoSmithKline provide HIV-AIDS drugs for as little as 19¢ a day. In August 2003, GSK licensed a generic manufacturer in South Africa.

However, these low costs, as low as they are at 19¢ a day, are still too expensive for most patients. In addition, people who cannot afford the correct diet or clean water may have an adverse reaction to a medication. This is why we encourage the government, not in this bill specifically but as part of this initiative, to look at the medical infrastructure and the medical follow-up and take a holistic approach to this problem: not just getting the drugs at a low cost to the people who need them but ensuring that the medical infrastructure is in place and that there is medical follow-up.

In terms of distribution, even the president of South Africa, who was here recently, has said that while he wants cheap drugs to be delivered “tomorrow”, the effort would be wasted without putting in place an adequate infrastructure to ensure the medicines were stored properly.

We in the Canadian Alliance hope the government recognizes that drugs are only one component of improving care in African countries and other developing nations that have been ravaged by HIV-AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Poverty, distribution problems and a lack of medical care continue to compound the problem of public health crises in these countries. While we support the provision of cheaper drugs, we must look at it, as I have said, in a very holistic manner.

In terms of the timeline, the Minister of Industry announced in September that Canada would export cheap generic versions of AIDS drugs to developing nations. Obviously we know that generic drugs are copies of the brand names. In Canada, generic drugs can be produced only after the 20 year patent expires for the initial brand name.

We recognize that there are some concerns with the legislation, but we also believe that because of the good faith surrounding these issues we can address these concerns quickly.

I have talked to as many interested parties as I could, certainly this morning and last night: the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Doctors Without Borders, the generic drug companies' representative association, and representatives of research based pharmaceutical companies. Certainly these interested parties should have an opportunity to present at committee and to try to make what they see as improvements in the legislation, but the issue of timing is of concern to us.

As I mentioned in my questions, I think the new Liberal leader should state exactly where he stands. If he supports this, that is great. Then he should be encouraged to bring this legislation back as soon as possible, because if this is the last sitting day then unfortunately the committee would not be able to get to this before the new year, which I think is unfortunate.

Again, just for the record, the Canadian Alliance supports the government's initiative in proposing that the bill pass second reading unanimously and go straight to committee. We support this initiative to provide lower cost drugs to developing nations to address HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and possibly other diseases. We certainly look forward to working with any and all interested parties on the issue.

Patent ActGovernment Orders

November 7th, 2003 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

Beauharnois—Salaberry Québec

Liberal

Serge Marcil LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Madam Speaker, I think that yesterday was a historic day for the Canadian government. One of the best parts of the legacy the Prime Minister will be leaving is Bill C-56.

For many years, stakeholders in the non-government organizations and the developing countries have asked western governments to help in the fight against debilitating illnesses, epidemics and other illnesses found in these areas.

It should be noted that these countries cannot take charge of their own destiny. We know that on this planet, with its billions of inhabitants, the western and northern countries are living in opulence. We are developing all sorts of services for our populations. We are trying to improve our fellow citizens' quality of life as much as we can. It really is a shame to see that we are only looking north and that we are totally ignoring our friends in the south, the whole of Africa and many countries in Asia, which are appealling for help because they are facing major health problems.

Once again, Canada is playing a leadership role in assisting developing countries. The commitment of our government and our Prime Minister to Africa has taken the form of an extraordinary initiative. Canada has become the first G-7 country to make its knowledge, research and medical products available to developing countries.

I am very happy to speak to this bill. I congratulate the Minister for International Trade, the Minister of Industry and the Secretary of State for Science, Research and Development on the exceptional effort they made in so little time. I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate the officials of the industry department who worked tirelessly seven days a week to prepare a bill and implement a government decision to help developing countries by providing them with the drugs they so urgently need.

So, I want to congratulate them on an extraordinary bill which they prepared in very short order. This bill is very well articulated, and it really reflects the philosophy of the Canadian government on humanitarian assistance.

This bill was introduced yesterday, and we are already proceeding with second reading today, because we want to pass the bill as quickly as possible. But we do not want to botch the job. We did think we had done our work before the bill was introduced, but it is important that the bill be referred to committee as quickly as possible so we can hear witnesses. Many agencies, like Doctors without Borders, want to be heard and give their opinions on this bill. There is also the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association. I would like to quote just one paragraph from the letter it wrote to the leader of the Government of Canada. This letter is from the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association:

The CGPA and its member companies strongly recommend that Bill C-56 not be passed without further consultations with our industry and other stakeholders. We believe that, at the very least, it is necessary for the legislation to be referred to Committee so that amendments can be made to increase the likelihood that the goals of the legislation will be realized.

Therefore, it is important to ensure that organizations who share the same concerns as the government have a chance to speak up and share their views on how to improve the bill and enhance it so that it is not just a token gesture, but a tool to provide real assistance to developing countries.

We held consultations. The bill was not established in a contextual vacuum. Again, I congratulate officials in the Departments of Industry and International Trade. We cannot thank them enough for their hard work. They went to great lengths to consult as many Canadian organizations as possible to ensure that the bill, at least at first reading, is consistent throughout, and facilitates Canadian government action for the benefit of developing countries.

These last two months, a special group made up of officials and both ministers concerned has been working on the bill. I can say, as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry, that we have been closely involved in the drafting of this bill.

Today, the Government of Canada is at the forefront of a worldwide movement to promote access to pharmaceutical products needed by developing countries to address public health problems such as AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other epidemics.

During my short life I have had the privilege of working in developing countries, and I hope to get back there. I had the privilege of working in Senegal, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. I either worked in the field or took part in training sessions in these countries. I had to deal with these health issues on a daily basis.

We talk about AIDS, but two of the leading causes of death among children are malaria and diarrhea, both of which are the subject of considerable research. We Canadians, as citizens of the world, must take part in this kind of research and work toward improving the quality of life of people in developing countries.

We cannot and must not ignore the problem, be navel gazers and only criticize what happens at home. While striving to improve our own lot, we forget about the needs of people in the rest of the world.

If we took the six billion people living on this planet and tried to determine where the wealth is, we would easily find that the wealth is controlled by less than one-sixth of the population. More than two thirds of human beings live in totally unacceptable conditions.

Today, we are setting an example, but we are also inviting other western countries to imitate Canada and do what we are doing today. Hopefully, we will get the support of the United States, France, Germany, Great Britain and others countries, all members of the World Trade Organization and the G-7 who like to make a great show of their economic power every year. I hope that from now on these countries will start to reflect on the fact that the planet does not belong only to a minority, but to everyone. Everyone has a place on this planet.

All those who have the privilege of living in a healthy environment should turn to those in need and help them. These people have a right to the same human respect, they need our help and they need to live.

Of course, we cannot buy respect, and Africans do not want to beg from western countries. They want to be recognized as true citizens of this world.

Today, acknowledging the call of those people, we have converted our thoughts into an exceptional act. It is true that we are acting through CIDA and international trade programs. It is true that we are acting through the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. CIDA spends hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to developing countries.

Today, all Canadians, through these agencies and departments, approve this action and congratulate the Canadian government because it had the courage to take the lead on this issue and call on other countries to imitate Canada's action for communities in need.

Essential agencies are playing a role in developing countries. There are hundreds of NGO's in Canada. Quebec is very much involved with NGO's. I have had the opportunity to work in education for the Fondation Paul Gérin-Lajoie, which was founded in the 1980s.

As I said earlier, I witnessed some totally unacceptable situations. Every year, many Canadians and Quebecers go to work as volunteer cooperants with other NGOs, like Oxfam Quebec or CECI, to share their knowledge and help the underprivileged to learn to look after themselves. Doctors Without Borders is another organization that plays a remarkable role.

Today, I want to pay tribute to Dr. Thomas, from Doctors Without Borders, who worked hard to ensure that the Government of Canada would show some leadership on this issue.

I do not want to go into this further, but I would urge all members of Parliament, regardless of their political affiliation, their origins and the regions they represent in this House, to support this initiative. This bills ought to be referred to a committee as soon as possible. I would also encourage them to meet with the organizations and the workers who are in contact with the people in need. Listen to them and see to it that this bill does not come back to us in a year or two to be amended. Let us draft a good bill right away so that we do not have to revisit its purpose constantly and that we can give the front line workers a badly needed tool and reach out to those who really need our help.

International AidOral Question Period

November 7th, 2003 / 11:15 a.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, countries on the African continent need help fighting HIV-AIDS. They need medication and they need it now. Cabinet ministers put on a big flashy show yesterday when Bill C-56 was introduced. Now we want action to back up those flashy words.

Will the government commit to passing the bill today at all stages?

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

November 6th, 2003 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

Given that we were pushing for Bill C-56 long before the Alliance ever knew there was a problem, we just want you to know that the NDP agrees to pass it at all stages right away.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

November 6th, 2003 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to answer all these questions.

This afternoon, the House will proceed to the report stage of Bill C-19, the first nations fiscal legislation. If this is completed in time, we will call Bill S-13, the census bill.

Tomorrow morning the business will be Bill C-51, the amendments to the Canada Elections Act. In the afternoon, pursuant to the offer made by the hon. member and others, we will proceed with Bill C-57, for our aboriginal community of Westbank, and hopefully will do all stages.

There have been discussions among House leaders. I understand that we could also, pursuant to the outcome of further negotiations, deal with Bill C-56.

We would then return to Bill C-52, the radiocommunication bill.

On our return from the remembrance week break, we will return to the unfinished business from this week. We will also commence report stage of such anticipated legislation as Bill C-38, the marijuana bill.

May I in conclusion thank all House leaders for the excellent cooperation they have given me throughout the last several years. Of course I will get to say that when we come back in November. I thank the right hon. Prime Minister as well.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

November 6th, 2003 / 3 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the government House leader to indicate what business is scheduled for the rest of today and tomorrow.

Mr. Speaker, all opposition parties have agreed to pass at all stages, Bill C-57, which is the enabling legislation to bring into effect the Westbank first nation self-government agreement of October 3, 2003 and the Westbank first nation constitution.

My party has also agreed, and we hope others will, to pass Bill C-56 at all stages. Bill C-56 amends the Patent Act and the Food and Drugs Act to facilitate access to pharmaceutical products, to address the public health problems affecting many developing nations, especially those resulting from HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other epidemics.

Could the government House leader advise us whether we will put those through the House before we leave on Friday? With great anticipation, could he also tell the House what business we will be dealing with on November 17?

International AidOral Question Period

November 6th, 2003 / 2:40 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Canadian Alliance Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Alliance supports Bill C-56 which attempts to facilitate the delivery of drugs to help developing countries deal with public health emergencies, such as the HIV-AIDS crisis in Africa.

We would have liked to have this legislation in September when it was first announced by the Minister of Industry rather than on the day before the House closes.

Why has the Minister of Industry waited so long to introduce this legislation?

Patent ActRoutine Proceedings

November 6th, 2003 / 10:20 a.m.
See context

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Liberalfor the Prime Minister

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-56, an act to amend the Patent Act and the Food and Drugs Act.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2003 / 12:55 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Philip Mayfield Canadian Alliance Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Stan Dromisky Liberal Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

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

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

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

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

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

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

October 6th, 2003 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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