Madam Speaker, I thank you and my colleagues on both sides of the House for your graciousness.
We cannot ignore the reality that these technologies are already in use in Canada. In 1994 an estimated 8,500 donor insemination cycles were performed in hospitals and clinics across Canada. This is in addition to an unknown number of cycles conducted in the offices of private practitioners. Currently about 5,000 cycles of in vitro fertilization are performed each year in Canada. These procedures result in the birth of as many as 2,000 children each year. So far, however, the regulation of these infertility treatments has fallen almost exclusively to the medical professionals involved. It is clear from both the royal commission's work and from the government's consultation that self-regulation is not sufficient given the wide ranging implications for women and children.
In the late spring of this year we released a position paper outlining the proposed regulatory regime when Bill C-47 was introduced. We have been discussing the proposals in this paper with the provinces and territories and with all the stakeholder groups. We are working to develop a consensus on the most effective regulatory framework for managing new reproductive and genetic technologies. This component of the management regime will be introduced in a second bill which will amend the bill before the House today. The result will be a single piece of legislation containing both prohibitions and regulatory controls that will provide a comprehensive management system.
The government is proposing a system which would regulate the collection, processing, distribution and use of reproductive material to provide infertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization and donor insemination and in the conducting of medical research. The same system would also deal with the collection, processing, distribution and use of human fetal tissue for medical procedures and medical research.
Three principles will guide us in our regulatory proposals. First, the protection of the health and safety of Canadians in the provision of medical procedures and in the conduct of medical research. Second, the assurance of appropriate treatment of human reproductive materials and the fetal issue and the recognition of the potential to form life. Third, the protection of the dignity of all people, especially women and children, in relation to the use of human reproductive materials in fetal tissue.
Another function of the regulatory regime would be to establish registries of information regarding the use and long term effects of new reproductive and genetic technologies. These registries would include a donor offspring registry to collect data on the identity of all sperm, egg and embryo donors and any resulting children that might be born from their use; a fertility treatments registry to gather information about the provision outcome of infertility treatments; a drug surveillance program for fertility drugs to track any adverse effects of the drugs on the women and men who take them and any children born as a result of their use; and a health surveillance system to track any short or long term health effects for children born from assisted reproduction.
I have outlined how we will proceed with our legislative program for a comprehensive management regime for new reproduction and genetic technologies. It is a management regime that will protect the interests of vulnerable Canadians, particularly women and children, while addressing the needs of infertile individuals. However, the new reproductive technologies cannot be seen in isolation from concerns about overall reproductive and sexual health.
This government made a red book commitment to a multidisciplinary approach to women's health and one that recognizes the important role of social and economic factors. In this spirit we are developing a framework for sexual reproductive health to co-ordinate national efforts and to facilitate a coherent and integrated response to issues related to sexual and reproductive health.
This framework will provide the basis for a comprehensive strategy for the prevention of infertility with an emphasis on educating Canadians about healthy sexual practices.
The federal government has recently completed the first phase in the provincial-territorial consultations on the framework. Health Canada is also examining the implications of a more open system of information sharing in gamete and embryo donation.
There is a growing recognition that, like adopted children, children born through donated gametes or embryos may wish to know about their genetic parents and even their identities and that the inability to get such information may have negative consequences for them.
Moving toward a more open system with more readily available non-identifying information would be consistent with the goal of the protection of the vulnerable and consistent with the need to recognize the well-being of children as a priority.
Finally, this government is committed to working with the provinces, the territories, non-governmental organizations and the public to examine the place and future direction of prenatal diagnosis and genetics in society.
Even though I am not finished, I realize that I am wearing everyone's patience a little, but I think members can appreciate the seriousness of the content of this bill. I hope that all members will look at it with the same sort of grave approach with which we all have addressed the issue to date and give it not only their thorough and diligent consideration but their support as well.