Mr. Speaker, I would like to compliment the hon. member for Drummond for introducing this bill to ban human cloning. It is unfortunate, is it not, that a private member has to be introducing this important and urgent initiative when in fact the government should be making it one of its highest legislative priorities?
How come the government thinks the Judges Act, raising the pay of judges, is more important than this? Give me a break, Mr. Speaker. I cannot see how that can be.
Despite the qualified support and several requests for amendments made by various members during the first hour of debate, I will be voting in favour of this bill.
If an omnibus bill like Bill C-47 which was introduced in the last Parliament is not introduced soon then it will be up to individual members of this House to take legislative action, even if it is in a step by step fashion. We should not wait any longer for the government to implement a ban on human cloning.
Considering the morale and ethical questions involved with each and every aspect of prohibiting and regulating reproductive technologies, I think it may be better to debate each and every issue separately in this House. That is how important this is.
For example, the vast majority would probably support a ban on human cloning, but to prohibit or restrict the use of technology to help an infertile couple conceive a child of their own would probably seem unreasonable to most. The question is where to draw the line. The line is right here before us today: ban human cloning.
During the last hour of debate on February 17, the member for Drummond explained the purpose of her bill and how it would work. I agree with her approach, making human cloning a criminal offence, although I think a lengthy jail term should be a sentencing option for the courts.
Bill C-47, the government bill on reproductive technologies from the last parliament which died on the order paper last year when the election was called, called for a maximum penalty of a $500,000 fine and 10 years' imprisonment.
For everyone's information, here is a list of practices that were prohibited in Bill C-47:
Sex selection for non-medical purposes.
Buying and selling of eggs, sperm and embryos, including their exchange for goods, services or other benefits, but excluding the recovery of expenses incurred in the collection, storage and distribution of sperm, ova and embryos for persons other than a donor.
Germ-line genetic alteration: Manipulation of the genetic material contained within the eggs, sperm or embryo. Any changes to the germ-line which may be passed on to the next generation.
Ectogenesis: Maintaining an embryo in an artificial womb.
The cloning of human embryos.
The creation of animal-human hybrids.
Retrieval of sperm or eggs from cadavers or fetuses for fertilization and implantation, or research involving the maturation of sperm or ova outside the human body.
Commercial pre-conception or surrogacy arrangements.
Transfer of embryos between humans and other species.
The use of human sperm, eggs or embryos for assisted human reproduction procedures or for medical research without the informed consent of the donors.
Research on human embryos later than 14 days after conception.
Creation of embryos for research purposes only.
The offer to provide or offer to pay for prohibited services.
I was impressed when I read the member for Drummond's words “new reproductive technologies raise an extremely serious and worrisome problem for the very future of our society as we know it”. She went on “the use of these technologies challenges our values because it involves the very definition of the foundations of our society, our descendants”.
Her warning about the scientist who said “cloning and reprogramming DNA is the first real step toward taking his place beside God” was particularly alarming for me. When scientists start playing God, everyone ought to be alarmed. Parliamentarians should be doing something about it now.
In November 1993 the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies released its final report. I do not think it was an accident that the report was titled “Proceed with Care”.
The hon. member for Thornhill spoke on behalf of the government during the last hour debate. She informed the House that the Minister of Health was in fact planning to table legislation that would address many of the issues regarding reproductive technologies, including the issue of cloning.
I suggest the government proceed with care and not try to lump issues that have widespread public support with ones that are highly controversial. This is a trick that has been used in the past and we should not tolerate it.
I disagree with her contention that the banning of human cloning should be in health legislation and not in the Criminal Code. Failing to register a firearm, which is regulation of private property, is a Criminal Code offence punishable by up to 10 years in jail. Why cannot something far more serious like cloning of human beings not be in the Criminal Code? This is another example of the misplaced priorities of the government.
I disagree that we should wait for the government to introduce comprehensive legislation. I think we should pass this bill and immediately move amendments to strengthen it as suggested by members during debate.
My hon. colleague from Wanuskewin spoke in favour of this bill. He outlined a number of dangers associated with the cloning of human beings, including unknown health risks, considerable psychological and emotional risks and the moral and ethical dilemmas that would inevitably flow from it.
I suggest that these are dangers our society cannot control by a voluntary moratorium. They are dangers that require a clear and unequivocal statement by Parliament that in Canada human cloning will be a criminal offence. If scientists want to play God, they will have to play it in another country.
As I mentioned, I agree with my hon. friend's position that fines are not a sufficient deterrent to rich multinational companies. Prison terms for owners, officers and directors of these companies will be a deterrent.
It was also mentioned that 19 countries in the European Union have moved to officially ban human cloning. I suggest this is a list to which Canada should be proud to add its name.
I read with interest the comments of the hon. member for Charlotte on this issue. I plan to talk to him to learn more about the prior political experience he had and the discussions in the House in 1989 surrounding the creation of the royal commission new reproductive technologies.
I have noted my reservations about this omnibus bill and others, how members are often forced to accept some bad in order to get something good. Why should this be? Why can the government not just introduce a bill which, with open and honest debate, will eventually gain the support of the majority of the public and the majority of parliamentarians? These omnibus bills should not be brought to Parliament. I think the bill before us today would be supported by the public and by members of the House.
Finally, I wish to comment on the statement made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health in response to this bill.
Rather than issue platitudes to the hon. member who introduced the bill and rather than just make vague promises of some bill the government will be introducing in the future, he should be supporting this bill now.
The government needs to send a clear message that, regardless of the bill to be introduced in the future to deal with a myriad of issues, in Canada human cloning will be a criminal offence right now.
This is the message Canadians want to hear from their government. I encourage the government to support this bill. Further, when it is passed, the government should propose amendments to strengthen it. When this is done, the government should communicate to everyone in Canada that human cloning and playing God is banned in Canada.