Madam Speaker, it is my privilege to address this bill this evening. I thank my colleague for bringing the bill forward. It is my privilege to serve with her on the health committee. As with other members opposite, we have a particularly keen interest in the subject before us.
Some individuals would downplay the dangers of human cloning, but some pretty valid concerns have already been expressed. I am generally in agreement with this bill, but I would also make some suggestions that I believe would strengthen the bill. Again, I do commend the hon. member for Drummond for bringing the bill forward this evening.
Some play down the dangers of human cloning. They say that human beings already manipulate the natural order, so what is different about this whole thing of human cloning. Some also say that a human clone would simply be a delayed identical twin, delayed in time and that one of the twins would be younger than the other, so what it is the big deal, what is the difference here.
Some say that a clone would differ from the original subject due to environment. Identical twins are not in fact identical in all respects. Other factors such as environment and life experiences and some of the choices they make all make for a different individual over the course of the years.
Having said all that, the dangers are real. I want to highlight and quickly mention some of what we understand to be health risks to the would be clone.
The would be clone may be weaker, since cloning involves asexual reproduction. Clones would not benefit from the new gene combinations that result from sexual reproduction, those new gene combinations that come along. As there is marriage, as there is sexual liaison, that confers new strengths, a particularly important one being resistance to disease. It is necessary for the carrying on of human society. Therefore cloning could be deliberately creating someone whose immune system is thereby weaker and is inadequate. That I believe is wrong.
First then is that the clone would be weaker because of the lack of these new gene combinations coming along conferring strength, particularly that of being resistant to new diseases. That of quicker aging also is a definite risk involved here. While cloning might produce a “newborn”, the chromosomes in the original cell taken from that adult, those cells would be as old as the adult. That is why some who are involved in this area suggest that persons produced in this way might age faster than normal and may fall victim prematurely to the debilitating diseases of old age.
As well, along the lines of health again, there would be this need in this ongoing grotesque trial and error that might bring us some fairly bizarre creations through trial and error to perfect this technology on humans. The technology that produced Dolly is far from perfect. It took hundreds of unsuccessful attempts for that British team of scientists to produce Dolly. Even if it could be perfected on non-human mammals, there are differences in human cells that would require scientists to go back again and again and work on a trial and error basis. Even if it could be perfected in non-human mammals, there are differences when it comes to reproducing a human clone.
Also there are some very considerable psychological and emotional risks in the matter of human cloning. I believe cloning would create a real perverse sense of ownership in both parties.
First, in the person who decided to have a clone made, whether or not that person is the donor, there would be unusually specific reasons behind the decision to clone a child. From the very start that child would probably be viewed as existing for a purpose. Usually the purpose is that of following in the footsteps of the cloned adult.
Second, the clone might feel an obligation to fulfil some purpose for which he or she was cloned. That would be a very perverse kind of psychological and emotional risk to the individual clone as well. There would be those kinds of expectations. For example, a parent might want a child to turn out a certain way, to be a super athlete, a movie star or whatever. It is not healthy for the child. We have read about some of the devastating consequences of such expectations and how much more so when that is the very reason for bringing the cloned individual into existence.
Suppose someone who was a great athlete was cloned in order to create another great athlete, a Wayne Gretzky or someone of that sort. Should every human being not be free to pursue intellectual challenges or a career in music or other possibilities instead of being driven down a certain route by parents who had that one clone made for such a purpose in life?
Suppose parents would like to clone one of their children who is terminally ill. The child would be passing off this earthly scene and they would clone another child to make up for it. That cloned child would feel some very heavy obligation to act, behave and speak just like his predecessor as a replacement for that deceased child. It is a cruel and destructive environment in which to grow up.
Those are some of the emotional and psychological risks we have touched on briefly this evening.
If cloning were legal, then eugenics which we all disavow, and discrimination would be unavoidable. That is another problem with the issue of human cloning. There is no way to police people's motives or to detect insincerity in their stated motives.
I support the intention of this bill to ban human cloning. It is a good piece of legislation to get us on the way in our discussion of a total ban on human cloning. To date, 19 European countries have signed an anti-cloning treaty. U.S. politicians are proposing permanent bans on cloning.
I would offer for the record that this bill does not address the extent to which human DNA can be used in producing animals with human traits. There must be more discussion in greater detail with expansion on this or some other bill. It is insufficient to make human cloning illegal. There must be some detailed regulations in this growing field, this edge field, that would apply.
I have a constructive and helpful suggestion for the hon. member for Drummond and other members who will be voting on this bill. We should go further in penalizing those who would ignore the law. It is not good enough to give a simple light slap on the wrist or some fine. To me and others in the House the fine might be significant but not to some.
PPL Therapeutics, the company that produced Dolly, estimates a $1 billion market for itself early in the next decade. For companies making that kind of money, fines in the order of several hundreds of thousands of dollars will simply be a nuisance. They would be like parking tickets instead of something of real consequence or significance. We believe a fine is inadequate. If companies start generating the kinds of revenues in the billions that are indicated by that company, I believe financial penalties will not provide a sufficient deterrent.
The threat of significant and serious prison time would be an adequate deterrent for people who would attempt to break the ban on cloning. If this bill passes, the justice committee should be instructed to study what would be an appropriate prison term. There should be a significant prison term for those who would attempt to break the ban on human cloning if this bill were to pass.
With those constructive suggestions I indicate my general support for the bill. I will be trying to influence colleagues and others to that end. Again, I offer my thanks for getting this item on the agenda.