Madam Speaker, let me begin by saying that I do not support the bill, in case you did not know.
This private member's bill amends the Criminal Code to prohibit the manipulation of a human ovum, zygote or embryo at various stages of the development of a fertilized ovum for the purpose of producing a cloned zygote or embryo. It will also prohibit altering the genetic structure of an ovum, sperm, zygote or embryo if the altered structure is likely to be transmitted to subsequent generations, which is commonly known as germ-line genetic alteration.
These prohibitions come straight out of a Health Canada bill on the new reproductive and genetic technologies, which contained other prohibitions and which died on the Order Paper during the last Parliament.
There has been evidence that cloning of human embryos is technically possible. However, there is no evidence that germ-line genetic alteration is being carried out.
The Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies recommended that cloning of human embryos be illegal. The royal commission did not support the practice of germ-line genetic alteration since it was at odds with the commission's guiding ethical principles.
Before the Health Canada bill was introduced in the last House, a member asked that prohibitions dealing with new reproductive and genetic technologies take the form of amendments to the Criminal Code. She considered that a separate federal statute on new reproductive and genetic technologies would be invasion of the provincial jurisdiction over health.
An official of the health legal services met with this member and explained that the relevant prohibitions were properly the subject of separate federal legislation and that there was no intention to amend the Criminal Code for this purpose. This is still justice's position and that of the government.
In introducing the bill on the new reproductive and genetic technologies, the then Minister of Health indicated it was the government's intention to bring in a second bill setting out a regulatory framework, which would affect the first one, dealing with prohibitions. The purpose was to establish a comprehensive management regime for new reproductive and genetic technologies. However, the second bill was never introduced.
I will not discuss the merits of the proposed prohibitions. I understand that there were similar prohibitions in a separate bill introduced in this House in 1996. The document entitled New Reproductive Technologies: Setting Boundaries, Enhancing Health , published under the authority of the Minister of Health, outlines the government's intentions at the time.
The Criminal Code contains provisions of general application, that is they apply to everyone and are aimed at keeping the peace and ensuring that individual conduct is not a threat to the maintenance of a civilized society. From this perspective the code is not an appropriate vehicle for the prohibition component of a comprehensive management regime in a complex area of scientific and medical procedures and research. The proper place for such prohibitions is in the principal legislation.
When separate legislation containing prohibitions against certain practices related to new reproductive and genetic technologies was introduced in the House, the intention was expressly to introduce further legislation to add the regulatory controls that would provide a comprehensive management regime for new reproductive and genetic technology. That made clear that this was not an appropriate subject for a Criminal Code amendment.
Licensing should be a major part of the management regime for new reproductive technologies—