Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to debate Bill C-56 on assisted human reproduction. I welcome this opportunity to speak because of the thousands of Canadians who would also like their voices heard on this topic but have found their concerns silenced by a government that does not like public debate. This subject goes to the heart of who we really are as a society.
I am pleased to confirm that as a consequence of the desire to let the people of my riding have a say in this debate, I sent out a questionnaire to every household asking for views on this issue. I am pleased to report to the House that the people of my riding appreciated being asked their opinion on this important subject. In fact, some individuals took the time to, at their expense, copy the survey, not only to ensure that the people in our riding had a chance to voice their opinions but to circulate it throughout Ontario.
At a function I attended last week, a woman from the neighbouring riding of Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington approached me to say how much she appreciated being asked for her opinion on such an important subject. She also added that this type of consultation never happens in her riding. Her MP sits on the government side.
I also take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank all those individuals who took the time to complete and mail back the survey, especially those who also provided comments on this important subject. At this time, I acknowledge the tireless work of certain individuals in my riding of Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke regarding the stem cell research debate. I salute Stan Callaghan, Shirley and Kellard Witt, Margaret Thuemen, Barbara and Robert Austin, Corrie Haas, Lee Agnesi, Sharon McNaughton and Mike Vande Weil, to name just a few of the people who have worked so hard on this important issue.
The vast majority of those individuals who took the time to answer the riding survey, while answering yes to adult stem cell research, said no to stem cell research involving embryos. A woman from Palmer Rapids had this to say:
Please don't support embryonic stem cell research. Some things are too precious...to mess with.
This comment came from Pembroke:
Any research that helps human life without putting human life at risk or causing the death of a life is beneficial and should be pursued.
What was clear in the responses I received was the struggle that many people had with the whole topic of assisted human reproduction. A person from Deep River, Ontario, sent this letter with her survey response, which to me represents the anguish this issue causes for many individuals as they contemplate its ramifications. She stated:
Dear Mrs. Member for Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke,
I feel I must explain my position on the stem cell research issue.
I realize that by supporting embryonic stem cell research, we are interfering with God's plan (perhaps) for life of a new child.
However we do allow other procedures to carry on in our society and this is resulting in the same final outcome--i.e. killing a possible new life.
This is almost comparable to sins of commission and omission.
However in this case they are both to some degree sins of commission.
Whereas no one could argue that the September 11 destruction of the two trade towers wasn't a sin of commission, while the daily death toll of 26,000 people due to starvation, mal-nourishment and lack of medical aid is definitely an act of omission.
Therefore I think we must also consider the extent of the consequences of our acts of commission and omission and act accordingly.
The consequences are horrible pain and suffering of people with Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease and other diseases as well as people starving or dying of malnutrition and no medical aid.
Who knows what God would want us to do?
Therefore we do what we can in our bungling, inept, human way in order to try to reduce the pain and suffering in the world.
I am not in favour of killing in any way, shape or form but are we not killing people with diseases, too?
In my mind this letter represents the struggle that many Canadians have with the issue or at least those Canadians who are allowed an opportunity to express an opinion on the subject.
What was also very apparent in the thousands of responses I received regarding stem cell research was the healthy distrust of the federal government and the large corporations that support the federal government.
This was a typical response: “Yes, for improved medical research assistance. But not for profit, for anyone, government included”. Another response was “The dangers of private commercial exploitation of embryos demands nothing less than a ban on embryonic stem cell research”.
The debate also highlights the federal government's priorities in that it is prepared to put taxpayer dollars into fads, while at the same time it has gutted billions of dollars out of the health care system. Ontario alone is shortchanged by $2 billion every year. Yet the government can hide over $7 billion in so-called private foundations, as identified by the auditor general, away from the public scrutiny of parliament, while waiting lines for MRIs get longer. It is all a question of priorities.
The distinction of government funding priorities is not lost on the taxpayers, as a woman from Renfrew, Ontario comments:
I am not against a “better quality of life” for people in the future--but--what about people in the present?
Funds required for this research should be used, at this point in time, to assist our present health care system so the people now can have a “better quality of life”.
As our population ages, on its own, this lack of health care, especially for the aged, becomes more pronounced.
If life is extended, by scientific means, even though it may be of a better quality, this current problem, if not addressed, will become even more acute.
It is clear that taxpayers are questioning where the funding will come from to fund this research. The health care system is being underfunded by the federal government already. People feel they are overtaxed now and are certainly not interested in new taxes or increased existing taxes, particularly with all the unanswered questions that the legislation proposed by the government raises.
The majority of responses I received were similar to what I received from this couple from Cobden: “Please, do not allow our government to kill any more of our unborn babies, the future of our country”.
This comment from was from Pembroke: “We believe embryonic stem cell research kills small humans, therefore it is wrong”.
Canadians are also very concerned about cloning. Not one individual who took the time to answer the survey supported cloning. In fact, many took the time to register their opposition to cloning.
I believe that the people of Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke elected me to take a stand on their behalf. As the legislation now reads, while recognizing that rules are needed where none now exist, I cannot support the legislation as it now reads. I support the stand of the Canadian Alliance to declare a moratorium on embryonic stem cell research.
Let us explore the use of adult stem cells first to find treatments for diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's before we move down the slippery slope of creating human life only to destroy it.