Madam Speaker, I rise today to address an issue that is part of a much larger body of interrelated questions pertaining to new reproductive technologies.
In examining the question surrounding medically assisted reproductive technologies, we start to see how complex the whole body of issues really is. Questions of human dignity, rights and freedoms, genetic engineering and make-up, in vitro fertilization, consent for medical research, profiting from financial gain of the use of the human body and organ transplants, rights to private life and information, and the need for public debate and consultation are only some of the issues on the table.
As we know many of these issues were touched on and analysed through the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies which reported in November 1993.
My colleague, the hon. member for Drummond, introduced legislation that specifically addresses one aspect of the realm of complex questions, that of cloning and genetic manipulation.
The Liberal government claims that it will introduce its own legislation on reproductive technology, but it has also indicated that the government's legislation will not amend the Criminal Code. In a debate in the House, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health indicated that the government would treat reproductive technologies as a health issue and just a health issue.
However, a consideration of some of the complex issues that I just listed reveals that increasingly the domains of health and medicine, science, law, ethics, safety, human rights and privacy are all interwoven. We cannot easily distinguish how these issues are connected to the realms of business, society and government as the lines blur and the relative roles of the players constantly adapt and change.
There are social, legal, economic and human rights and scientific and medical interests at stake when we start talking about new reproductive technologies. It is naive to think that a clear distinction can be made so that these questions could only be classified as being health related.
Thus we cannot hope to adequately address the risks and concerns related to human cloning without also addressing the need to amend the Criminal Code to explicitly prohibit a practice which cannot be justified by any ethically acceptable motive.
In 1996 the government introduced Bill C-47, the Human Reproductive and Genetic Technologies Act, which did not make practices or techniques an offence under the Criminal Code. Bill C-47 was also to include a regulatory framework on all techniques of reproduction and genetic manipulation.
We have waited long enough for the Liberal government to act. Voluntary co-operation is simply not enough in an area that so drastically affects the life, security and safety of Canadians and the integrity of the value of health and justice that we hold dear.
My colleague, the hon. member for Mississauga West, asked members in opposition to wait. He wants members to wait. I ask him how long he wants Canadians to wait for legislation in this area. Does he want us to wait until after human cloning has begun?
I commend my hon. colleague from Drummond for taking action, for she has seen something that needs to be addressed. She has gone ahead with the bill and has asked other members to support it. She has seen inaction on the government side, and we in opposition are taking action in this area. That is why we are addressing this concern today.
The whole issue of timing is important. How present is the danger and fear about the possibility of cloning humans? In Nature , the scientific journal published the Dolly paper to which we are all now referring, indicated that “cloning humans from adult tissues is likely to be achievable any time from one to ten years from now”. That is why my hon. colleague is bringing the bill forward. There needs to be action on this issue and we do not see any action coming from the government.
While there have been many concerns and risks raised related to the cloning of humans from adult cells, none has been able to offer any ethically acceptable reason for cloning humans. The suggestion that humans might be cloned to provide spare parts for their progenitors has been widely condemned by individuals and groups all around the world.
It is interesting to note the premise of convention considering what we are debating today. The convention that is happening in Europe around this same topic starts from the premise the interests of human beings come before those of science or society.
I conclude by saying that in Canada we take pride in being an international leader in areas of health, safety and quality of human life. It is important that we take action on this issue and set the ethical basis for further biological and medical developments both now and in the future.
Certainly questions of this nature will continue to permeate our social, legal, ethical and medical institutions. It is critical to address the issue now. As we see in the European example, criminal penalties are included as stipulation for state legislation. This same logic should be applied to our own consideration as we face larger issues in bioethics and law.
In its final report the Royal Commission on Reproductive Technologies concluded:
We have judged that certain activities conflict so sharply with the values espoused by Canadians and by this commission and are still potentially harmful to the interests of individuals and of society that they must be prohibited by the federal government under threat of criminal sanction.
The list of activities specifically mentions cloning. It is time that we in Canada follow suit with the initiatives of other members of the international community and explicitly prohibit this practice. That is why I will be supporting the bill and encouraging all other members of the House to do so.