Madam Speaker, just like all my other colleagues, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-13, an act to establish the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, to repeal the Medical Research Council Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
I have been listening with a good deal on interest to the speech by my colleague for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, a very articulate man who dealt with the principles of this bill, a bill he and the Bloc Quebecois think must be supported, despite its lack of emphasis on consultative federalism.
The government is making decisions all by itself, and is imposing its own position. Research will be oriented in this sector or that, without much consultation with the provinces, if any. This is cause for concern for Bloc members and also for members from other provinces.
I believe that scientific research must not be determined by chance discoveries or the whims of researchers or visionaries, but that it should be channelled. In the case at hand, this does not seem to be what is going on, with the leeway the government is giving to the so-called transitional council. I am convinced that my colleagues, the hon. member for Frontenac and the hon. member for Laval, agree that indications should be given as to the direction in which research ought to go.
Here is an example. A few years ago, in 1996, Bill C-46 was introduced and read a first time on June 14, 1996. This bill was entitled an act respecting human reproductive technologies and commercial transactions relating to human reproduction.
This bill attracted a lot of interest from the population and members of parliament who saw in it an opportunity for the government to set its priorities and orientations in the area of medical research on human reproduction, and the commercial transactions that could arise from it.
As I said, the Bloc Quebecois supports the bill before us today, despite the fact it lacks clear direction and does not provide for consultations with the provinces and various stakeholders. It will result in some $65 million more being invested in research. I hope Quebec will get its share of research dollars and that it will not be as it has always been when it comes to research and development: 50% goes to Ontario and the rest is to be shared between the other provinces and territories.
I hope that—contrary to its habit—the federal government will show some fairness and will give a little bit more, or at the very least their fair share to Quebec and other provinces where research is being carried out.
This bill is not about building offices. As the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve said, there is no concrete, no wood, no glass structure. It is about building a network, which we are very happy about.
For instance, researchers at the University of Alberta, who are working on a particular gene, and who might be isolated—in terms of their research—will be connected through a network to a researcher in Chicoutimi, Montreal, Halifax or elsewhere. These people will finally be able to speak to one another thanks to this famous network which is being planned. This is good.
However, specific indications have to be given to the transitional committee made up of 34 members, including several prominent persons in the medical as well as the psychological sectors.
I am happy to see that this bill is about research. It is not limited strictly to pharmaceutical or medical research. Many sectors of social activity are included in the word “research”. Reference is made of course to fundamental biomedical research and to molecular isolation for marketing purposes. Reference is made also to clinical research, which of course has to follow the primary stage of molecule identification and find an application likely to be of benefit to the human being.
As for research respecting health services, my colleague, the member for Argenteuil, referred earlier to seniors. Perhaps I should talk now—and I would not want to upset him—about the very elderly, since there is talk of an increasing life expectancy, set at close to 83 years for women and a little less for men. Life expectancy has considerably increased since the 1950s.
Over half a century, average life expectancy for men has gone from 50 years or so to 76 or 77 years. Within 19 years, from 1980 to 1999, life expectancy increased by about three or four years for men, and by five years for women. All that is due to scientific and medical research.
There is a fourth aspect. I mentioned the first three, which are basic biomedical research, clinical research and research respecting health services. The fourth one is health of populations and the societal and cultural dimensions of health. That could include psychology, psychiatry and many other things. However, the main thrust of the research must, in all cases, be human health, increased longevity or assistance for reproduction.
On that subject, I must say that I am extremely disturbed by the fact that Bill C-47, on reproductive technologies and the commercial operations surrounding them, of which I spoke earlier, died on the Order Paper last summer. That bill had been rewritten by the committee that studied it before sending it back to the House. Of course, it was not perfect, but at least it gave direction. Let me give one example of medical research leading to weird situations.
I know that right now, in Montreal, there is a doctor barred from practicing in England because of the nature of his research. His speciality involves taking ova from female foetuses, which are really unborn children. It seems that a female foetus, no matter how small it is, possesses the complete feminine genitalia. The ova taken are cultivated in laboratory and once developed, they are used for insemination. That means that a child could be born from a woman who was never born.
England banned this technique for ethical reasons. The doctor in question came over here,. He now works at McGill University and does research in this area. This type of research is dangerous. For example, we can say the discovery of the atomic bomb was a great discovery but, knowing its very tragic impact on humanity, can we really say it was a good discovery?
We must not go down that road; it often leads nowhere and augurs ill for humans and human dignity.
That is why I am sorry this bill does not set any parameters or give any direction for research or the type of research we would like to see done in Canada.