Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to take part in this debate, and I would like to offer my support for the motion by the member for Drummond to prohibit human cloning.
For members of Parliament who struggle on a day to day basis to juggle the competing demands of this job, the idea of human cloning certainly has some appeal.
How many of us have actually said if only I had a clone? I know my young sons Joe and Nick would love for me to be in two places at once. It would help respond to constituents who wonder when I am in Ottawa why I am not in Winnipeg, and when I am in Winnipeg why I am not in Ottawa.
On the other hand the idea of there being two of me, or for that matter there being two of anyone else, is darn scary. Imagine cloning in the case of the Minister of Finance. Unlike the chewing gum which promises to double your pleasure, double your fun, we would have double the cutbacks, double the pain.
What would the world be like if we were able to clone two leaders of the official opposition? Is the world big enough? What would cloning do to the term double talk? What would it all mean?
Carrying on this line of thinking, let me quote from an article written by Patricia Williams that appeared a few days ago in the Citizen . She wrote:
Imagine what the fashion industry could do with a clone with the right bone structure. Like Barbie, you could style humanity so that all the outfits finally fit. Mozart? Give his DNA a few more codas. Bill Gates and Donald Trump? There will be lots of them.
And we will need to clone more lawyers in a world where compatible organs can be “farmed”. Will questions of “harvest rights” be matters of custodial or property presumption in the new litigation of micro-territorial imperative? I paid for that kid, it is my DNA, hand over that kidney now.
It would be fun to pursue this line of argument, to follow through with such fantasy and to continue musing about the possibilities of cloning, if it were not for the fact that this is fast becoming a very serious and a very real issue as identified by the member for Drummond.
Ideas once confined to the realm of science fiction are now fast entering the sphere of possibility. This is not a frivolous issue. It is not a flight of fancy of some far off technology. That point was made very clear many years ago.
It has been noted in the Chamber that this matter has been before us in general terms for many years. The sponsoring of the Royal Commission on Reproductive Technologies a decade ago or more and its final report released in 1993 addressed the issue of cloning of human embryos. This is not a new issue.
The issue before us today is what is taking so long and why is Canada lagging so far behind. It has brought home the urgency of the situation. It has been brought to bear in this Chamber by recent developments, not to mention the sheep and we have all heard the Dolly jokes.
It poses for us a serious situation, especially given the fact that prior to the cloning of sheep in 1993 there were some clear developments when Washington researchers announced the successful cloning of human embryos by separating the cells of a parent embryo. At that time countries responded by banning human cloning based on the separation of human embryos. Certainly no one at that time even fathomed the idea of cloning an adult human cell. It was not thought to be on the horizon.
Today we know, based on scientific inroads in this whole area, that we have a major issue to deal with.
Time is running out. Today we heard from the Liberal member for Thornhill on this general issue almost as if it was something new before us. In fact we have had this debate in the Chamber many times before.
We do not need to reinvent the wheel and start all over again by questioning whether this matter should be in the Criminal Code or whether it should be under some separate legislative authority. The fact of the matter is this place, based on massive consultation with Canadians across the country, has agreed that we need legislation. We need to ban human cloning.
My point today is to make some appeal to the Liberal government to act as quickly as possible to bring forward a redrafted version of Bill C-47 which had very thorough debate and discussion in the Chamber.
There may have been some problems with the bill. We have had time to address those problems. The Minister of Health should not back away from the serious issues before us. He should rapidly consolidate his position, ensure that women's organizations across the country have been informed of any changes to that bill and bring forward a new piece of legislation as soon as possible. We cannot afford inaction on this matter.
As a result of developments that have happened with the cloning of sheep and with the impact of Dr. Seed's statement and claims in the United States, many countries have taken action of late. Some 19 countries in the European Union have moved to officially ban human cloning.
This tells me again that we are late in bringing forward legislation. We are behind the ball in terms of addressing some very serious concerns. I would hope that we will be able to act on that immediately, with the kind of incentive the House has received from the member for Drummond to get on with this debate and given my sense that there appears to be widespread consensus in the Chamber for actually legislating an outright ban of human cloning.
There are many questions to be addressed in this area. Let us draw on the body of advice that was received during the royal commission and in response to Bill C-47 and bring forward comprehensive reproductive technologies legislation as soon as possible. The framework is there. The general philosophical approach is there and we need to act on it.
I conclude by suggesting that drawing on the background material provided to all of us on Bill C-47 we have a comprehensive management regime that could guide us for dealing with this situation and all reproductive technology matters.
That legislation was based on three important principles, three important factors that need to be taken into account. They are the need to address the threat to human dignity, the risk to human health and safety, and other serious social and ethical issues; the dangers of commercialization of human reproduction in particular for women and children; and finally the need to ensure that the best interests of children affected by such technologies and transactions are taken into account. We have the basis. Let us act.