House of Commons Hansard #191 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was children.


The House resumed from May 22 consideration of the motion that Bill C-56, an act respecting assisted human reproduction, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.


Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to continue the speech that I began a couple of days ago on Bill C-56, an act respecting assisted human reproduction.

This is legislation of great import to couples who want to have children and particularly to women who, as it is obvious, are always on the frontline when it comes to human reproduction.

The objects of Bill C-56 are threefold: to protect Canadians who are using assisted human reproduction to help them build their families; second, to prohibit certain practices such as human cloning; and third, to open the door to research provided within what the government deems a regulated environment.

As my colleague from Winnipeg North Centre said in the House earlier this week when the bill was first up, New Democrats have been calling on the government for years to provide legislation giving women access to safe and non-commercial reproductive health services. Canada is the last major industrialized country in the world without legislation in this area.

In 1993 a royal commission reported on assisted human reproductive technology and urged the federal government to act quickly.

It is an exploding area of science, as we all know, and much has happened since that 1993 Dr. Baird royal commission report. We know about Dolly the sheep. We now hear talk about designer babies. Nine years ago the commission said that it was only a matter of time and that it was urgent that government laws and regulations catch up to this burgeoning science.

Despite this caution, here we are some nine years after that royal commission reported and five years after Bill C-47 died on the order paper.

As is becoming habitual with this government, we have waited until just a few weeks before the House is scheduled to stand down for the summer to introduce such a momentous piece of legislation.

True to form, the government has mostly ignored many of the excellent recommendations made by the health committee regarding the topic of human reproduction. Yet it has ignored other good recommendations made by the New Democratic Party in a minority report attached to the health committee's report.

Allow me to provide one example of the good advice ignored by the government. Bill C-56 would establish the assisted human reproduction agency of Canada to administer and enforce the acts and regulations. Among other things, the agency can authorize embryonic research but this is a contentious area. In our caucus we have serious concerns with the government's off loading of many policy issues, such as stem cell research, to this agency. We were and remain opposed to the responsibility on fundamental areas of policy being sent to such an agency when members of parliament are elected, we maintain, to make these decisions.

Bill C-56 prohibits human cloning for either reproductive or therapeutic purposes. It prohibits creating embryos for research or other non-reproductive purposes. It prohibits maintaining active embryos outside a woman's body past 14 days' development. It prohibits gender selection procedures. It also prohibits the altering of genetic material to affect subsequent generations and it prohibits the mixing of human genetic material with non-human life forms for reproductive purposes.

The list of what must be prohibited is lengthy and it must be in an area where science, if unregulated, could easily overrun ethical considerations.

Let me talk about some of the areas in the legislation that trouble us. In any legislation regarding questions of human reproduction, our primary concern must be of the health and well-being of women because it is, after all, women who are responsible for reproduction in our society and it is women who too often have been in the past the guinea pigs for experiments in ways to deal with reproductive problems.

We are also talking about couples who want to have children and they have to deal with these new technologies. Our caucus insists that we must never lose sight of the fact that women's health and well-being must be first and foremost, and fundamental to the legislation. The federal government has a responsibility to ensure that reproductive technologies are proven safe before they are made available.The government must ensure that the risks and benefits of any treatment for women are disclosed fully and that the moneys needed to achieve these objectives are made available

What we are really talking about is that the precautionary principle must be explicitly set out in the legislation. In its final report the health committee urged such an approach but it was, unfortunately, rejected.

Also rejected was any direction or move in the area of patent protection. The health committee called on the government to prohibit human patenting but the government has chosen to ignore this important advice, putting its emphasis instead on corporate property rights.

For example, companies are already lined up to benefit from the stem cell research that holds such promise for Canadians suffering from various diseases. New Democrats believe that the federal government should be playing a leading role to keep trade agreements from overriding the health interests of Canadians.

In summary, it is noteworthy that we have finally introduced a bill respecting assisted human reproduction. It is well past time. However it is deficient legislation for the reasons that my colleague, our health critic, the member for Winnipeg North Centre, mentioned previously and which I have stated this morning; most notably, the lack of protection around women's health and our concerns about commercialization.

We are also concerned about key elements that parliament will not be asked to debate because the government has chosen to leave those to regulation or to foist them on to the new regulatory agency for a decision.

In conclusion, it will be difficult for me and other members of our caucus to support the bill unless significant changes are made to it.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.


Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have an opportunity to contribute a small bit to this debate of a significant legislative area which in my view has been left unregulated for far too long.

I do recall standing in this place approximately 10 or 12 years ago on a debate that covered a part of this field and suggesting that somewhere out in the real world, not in this place but somewhere out in the real world, there were scientists doing their work and somewhere out there in a laboratory closet there was someone developing what might become a mutant of the species, because we are never sure as scientists carry on their work what they will end up with, and sometimes they are not sure.

We knew then, as we know now, that the implications for the future of the human race were actually in the hands of individuals most of whom were well-meaning, but some of whom were quite possibly simply looking to make the fast buck, the quick discovery. That made me, among others, fairly nervous.

Over the years we found it necessary to study this and related questions and put a magnifying glass on the whole area. It was quite appropriate. I regret that it has taken a decade or more to reach the point where we feel we have enough consensus in our society to impose some regulations and some guidance, let us call it, for those in the field.

There are in existence in Canada now groups of scientists and teachers who feel that they have a reasonable handle on these related fields of endeavour in human reproduction. They feel that their professional expertise and their commitment to country, to family, to community and to the conventional morality is sufficient to guide them in their work.

I am not suggesting for a moment that any one particular group of them or any particular scientist, teacher or professor is not doing things properly, but it is always a risk in the modern world. We know that around the world people operate on different moral codes and have different ways of looking at things. The risk of some person or group of persons going off on a tangent and manipulating the human genome in a way that might create a mutant of the species, a strain that would not have been there had they not gone through the laboratory effort, no matter how they got there, no matter what their objectives were, would not only embarrass us but prejudice us as a human race.

At the time, I remember trying to figure out what we would have if we were to end up with a mutant of the species. Would that mutant be a human being? Whether it was just so big or as tall as I am now, how would we treat that human existence? I could not come up with an answer, which then led me to conclude that we have to do something to reduce the risk of our scientists going off on a tangent and doing things that would prejudice the whole human race.

Lying in the background of this, of course, is a way of looking at the human race which rests on a foundation of religious faith. No matter what one's faith happens to be, I think all religious faiths subscribe to the belief that the human race is here because it has been willed by God and our position here is very much in the hands of God or a god. Although there may be some divine providence out there most of the time or some of the time, the human race has made mistakes in ways that we do not think our God has willed. We fight these huge wars, we do pretty mean and evil things, and sometimes we have accidents.

The bill attempts to regulate different aspects of human reproduction. I know that one of the areas of debate concerns the use of human stem cells. There are two or more different types of stem cells. It is the embryonic stem cell that has become the focus of some of these issues. Is the way the embryonic stem cell is produced, the way we use it and the way it is or is not protected compliant with an application of moral rules? There is some division of opinion on this, but I think most of us would agree that where there is doubt and concern we must take the safe route. We must protect human life wherever it comes into existence. We must not abuse our position, our condition here on the human planet, whether one chooses to view it as a scientific, biological one or as an extrapolation of creation by God subject to moral obligation.

To wrap up, I want to indicate that I am very pleased we have come this far. I do not really regret that it has taken all this time provided that we have a good product, a good piece of legislation. I hope we can take the time to consider it. I hope that Canadians will have an opportunity to follow the debate and that in the end we will have an opportunity to pass a piece of legislation that will serve all of us, not just in Canada but around the world, including scientists and the community, in the hope that our work in this field will produce benefits for the human race in health and in human reproduction and will do it in a way that will protect our global, collective human futures.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Canadian Alliance Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

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 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.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Kitchener Centre Ontario


Karen Redman LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-56, an act representing assisted human reproduction, provides a legislative balance that protects the health and safety of Canadians and their children and offers new hope for those who wish to conceive a child but have been unable to do so.

These are not easy issues on which to build a legislative framework. There is currently no comprehensive federal or provincial legislative framework governing assisted human reproduction procedures and related research.

The legislation we have before us today is the product of thorough consultation and review on this very sensitive topic. It is based on Canadian values and reflects a consensus on some very complex and very challenging issues.

We are aware Canadians have strong and differing views on the issues centring on assisted human reproduction and this legislation must be reflective of the diversity and requisite sensitivity needed in dealing with this. The legislation also needs to establish clearly defined boundaries between what is acceptable and what is not.

We will not accept the creation of life for reasons other than building a family. Cloning human beings is equally as intolerable as modifying an embryo to suit our personal preferences. We will not put a price tag on sperm, eggs, embryos or the process of pregnancy. These are not goods or services suitable for commercialization.

The proposed act, Bill C-56, addresses the needs of infertile couples who wish to make use of assisted human reproduction process in a safe, regulated environment. Children are indeed a blessing. As a mother of four I can stand before the House and say that it is my proudest moment of anything I will accomplish in life being the mother of four children.

However I am sure we all know couples who have encountered difficulties in building a family. We have seen their frustration as well as their disappointment and it is heart-rending. The truth is approximately one in eight Canadian couples faces the challenge of infertility. A core principle of the proposed legislation is free and informed consent. Any procedure to assist human reproduction as well as AHR related research would require prior written consent of the donors based on the most current information on AHR as to how they would make that informed decision.

Important aspects of Bill C-56 are the provisions to ensure reproductive technologies are safe and healthy options. The proposed legislation will create regulations on the licensing of clinics, the proper handling of eggs, sperm and embryos as well as the number of children that could be born from a single sperm or egg donor.

This is not intended to limit a person's options but rather to ensure the well-being of all involved. Bill C-56 proposes to give children of assisted human reproduction full access to all medical information about their donor parents. As adults they could have access to the information about the identity of their donor parents, provided the donors have also consented to the release of this information.

Bill C-56 proposes to bring Canada up to date with measures taken in other major industrialized countries. We have drawn on the best practices as well as the experience from countries around the world.

Canada's approach is based on Canadian values and speaks to the growing problem of infertility and our increasing reliance on assisted human reproduction.

Bill C-56 would establish the first ever regulatory regime for Canadian fertility clinics. The legislation would prohibit the creation of in vitro embryos for any purpose other than creating a human being or improving assisted human reproduction procedures.

Until now these facilities have operated without regulation. Under the legislation there will be rules on informed consent as well as information in general. Couples who turn to in vitro fertilization or other AHR procedures need reliable information about the technology, the treatment as well as the chances for success.

Another one of the regulatory objectives of Bill C-56 is to ensure that promising research involving in vitro human embryos which are no longer needed for the purposes of reproduction is conducted in a manner consistent with Canadian values.

Research using in vitro embryos may answer many questions about the causes of infertility. It may also advance the development of treatments for spinal cord injuries, diseases like juvenile diabetes, Alzheimer's or cancer.

As we know, embryonic stem cell research is not without controversy. Stem cells are immature precursors of cells that eventually will mature into specialized tissue such as heart, muscle, brain or spinal cord. It does however raise profound concerns about how to balance scientific progress with public safety and how to balance deeply held moral and ethical views that are inherent throughout this entire debate.

The legislation would ensure that promising research related to assisted human reproduction takes place within a regulated environment, an environment where health and safety come first and where Canadian values continue to be respected. The only acceptable source of embryos would be from fully informed couples. It would be up to the couple to choose whether their unused embryo would be discarded or donated to research or to other infertile Canadians.

To monitor and enforce the regulations set forth in this act, the proposed legislation creates the assisted human reproduction agency of Canada. This agency operates as a separate organizational entity from Health Canada and reports to parliament through the Minister of Health.

The legislation we see before us today is a product of extensive transparent review processes. It is the result of more than a decade of consultation, considering the difficult issues that face Canadians. The former Minister of Health took the unprecedented step of first submitting draft legislation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health in order to engage in input from all Canadians. These consultations will continue with Bill C-56 as it makes its way through the legislative process.

Bill C-56, an act respecting assisted human reproduction, is meaningful, balanced legislation that is both respectful to Canadian values and to progress enabling research.

This is a beginning, not an ending. I remember very well being a member of the health committee when we looked at xeno transplantation. We had outstanding leading medical ethicists come and talk to us on these very troubling and moral laden questions. I have every confidence that this is a basis upon which we as a government and Canadians can build regarding this very important topic and move forward.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2002 / 10:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand this morning and speak to this important piece of legislation, Bill C-56.

Unfortunately, time after time in the House legislation comes in with little foundation, public support or acceptance. We have seen this with Bill C-68 which turned into such a fiasco for the government. We have seen it with Bill C-5, the species at risk act which the government apparently thinks is a good bill because everyone is angry about it. We have seen it with Bill C-15B which is being pushed by animal rights special interest groups who feel the government owes them something from the last election. We have seen it with Bill C-55, the security legislation which is a power grab that would extend the government's power and particularly the power of ministers. Why do we see so much legislation coming to the House in this way? The main reason is that the government is adrift.

Yesterday we heard the government's talking points on corruption. It continually tries to convince us that only government members know what it is like to respect this institution. Today we are dealing with a bill that has had absolutely no respect from the government and its leaders. The bill was sent to committee. The committee did a massive amount of interesting and good work. The minister took the committee's work, threw it all out and brought a different presentation to the House. This is yet another bill that has been introduced almost in a vacuum.

One reason for this is the government's desire to avoid the discussion we need. There are issues beyond this legislation that have not been adequately discussed. If we passed Bill C-56 much of the responsibility that should be parliament's would be passed on to one more bureaucracy that would be created by the bureaucracy. This would remove any opportunity for parliament to control or discuss what goes on in the field.

I will take a few minutes this morning to speak to a crucial issue and ask a couple of questions. First, what is human life and how do we treat it? How do we deal with human life? There are people who say we have talked about this enough and do not need to talk about it any more. There are others who think it is foolish to speak about it. However we need to have a discussion in Canada about what human life is and how to treat it and deal with it.

There are a number of places we can go for the discussion. Ethicists deal with these issues on a daily basis. It is their life's work. There are scientists who are deal with the issues. We need to talk with them. We need to go to historians to look back in history and see what has happened with issues of life and death. It is legitimate to talk with the different faith communities of our country because their focus is on issues of life and death. We should not cut them off from the discussion.

We need to involve political leaders. We were sent here for a reason, and that is to have this discussion. We need to go to regular people and get their opinions as my hon. colleague from Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke did so well. In the last few minutes she read a number of the comments she got from her survey. We also need to go to business participants because there is a business component to the legislation that needs to be discussed.

Bill C-56 comments on what human life is and how we should treat it. I will go through a couple of the bill's definitions. Under Bill C-56 an embryo:

--means a human organism during the first 56 days of its development--

Interestingly, a fetus under the bill:

--means a human organism during the period of its development beginning on the fifty-seventh day following fertilization or creation...and ending at birth.

The definitions in the bill indicate that the government is willing to consider the embryo and the fetus as human organisms. I will continue the definition along its logical path: Perhaps a baby means a human organism during the period of development from birth to two or three years; a child means a human organism during the period of development from three years to 18 years; and an adult means a human organism during the period of development from 18 years to natural death. All we are talking about are different stages of development of the same human organism.

Does the human organism consist only of biological material that we can deal with as we choose, or is there something unique about it? Scientists and sociologists can take us apart and show us piece by piece that we are similar to animals. We have physical systems that function similarly. Because of that, research is done on animals that we can apply and use when dealing with human situations and illnesses.

Many throughout history have argued and understood that the total of what constitutes a human organism is far more than the sum of its individual parts. Most successful cultures and civilizations have believed men and women to be unique. Many religious systems have been predicated on the assumption. Many scientific discoveries have come from the hypothesis.

We need to have a discussion about the issue because we are not only setting the stage for a bill. We are talking about legislating attitudes toward human beings in our society. The conclusion we reach in the House about the issue will have great consequences for Canadian society and culture.

Throughout the last century we saw what happened when governments decided individual human beings were not unique and were only basic economic units. In university I was bombarded for three years with Mr. Marx's political theory which states that all events can be analyzed from an economic perspective and that human beings fit into the same analysis.

We have seen Marx's theory lived out under socialist governments throughout the last century and in this century. There has been more brutality under such systems than under any other. Let us look at Mr. Stalin. To gain control of a segment of his economic society he completely destroyed the middle class agricultural community by starving it to death. The individuals in that society were worth nothing to him because he needed to achieve an economic goal.

We have seen this in China which continues to persecute people and deny human rights. The individual means nothing under China's system as it tries to keep its economic structure moving along. We have see it in Sudan where war is being waged against individuals for the sake of profit. When weak positions are taken regarding human uniqueness, individuality and creativity there is a loss of compassion for other people.

We are not immune to this. The Liberal government has refused to deal with a number of issues involving the value of human life. About six weeks ago several MPs had the privilege of meeting with a number of police officers, customs officials and others who deal with the issue of child pornography. These people are fed up with the government's attitude and its refusal to deal with the issue. Anyone who has seen such material and understands what is going on in the lives of those children knows something needs to be done immediately. Yet the government insists on doing nothing. It has failed to move. Child pornography is repugnant and abhorrent. The Liberal government's failure to deal with the issue touches the heart of how it views its citizens.

There are a couple of other questions we need to deal with and talk about. We need to look at the idea of when human life begins. Our present law says human life begins at birth. This is nonsense. It is ridiculous from a number of perspectives, particularly a scientific perspective. The beginning of human life is at conception when the union of genetic material occurs and completion of the DNA package takes place.

Science has thrown a red herring into the whole discussion by arbitrarily choosing a number, day 14, as the point where the embryo becomes something more than it was on day 13. They want to be able to continue experimentation during the first 13 days so they suggest something happens on the 14th day that makes the embryo a different being. That is not the case.

Scientists have failed to address the issue of when life begins. They run the risk of disqualifying themselves by not dealing honestly with the issue. As we heard earlier this morning, for many of them the issue has become an opportunity to make a quick buck. It has become an economic decision rather than a scientific or ethical one.

My time is winding down. We will be addressing a number of other issues when the bill comes back to parliament. I will talk later about what human life is worth. We talked a bit about whether it is unique and when it begins. However what is it worth? Parliament needs to look at what we consider to be the value of human beings in our culture.

There are two interesting and ironic business realities in the legislation. Under Bill C-56 surrogate mothers would be paid absolutely nothing. They would not be allowed to make money from their commitment to surrogacy. On the other hand, companies in Canada would be allowed to make millions of dollars from research.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak this morning to Bill C-56. The purpose of the bill is to create a legislative framework for assisted reproduction, as well as to prohibit certain practices such as cloning, the sale of human embryos, and the creation of chimera. It also addresses DNA, that is genome alteration, and the issue of cloning for therapeutic purposes. The third element of the bill addresses the creation of an agency, one of the responsibilities of which will be monitoring research in this field.

First I would like to address the aspect that seems to have captured the attention of most of my colleagues who have had the opportunity to speak so far: stem cell research. All of my colleagues have made the distinction between adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells. A number of them seem to acknowledge the usefulness of research using adult stem cells but seem opposed to research using embryonic stem cells.

I will address the issue. A colleague on this side of the House criticized the Canadian Institutes of Health Research because only 1% of research money for stem cells is dedicated to adult stem cells. This would stand to reason because the ability to use adult stem cells is rather recent. There is a certain lag in allocating research money to recently discovered areas of research. I expect that over the next months and years we will see an increased percentage of money allocated to adult stem cell research.

However that does not detract from the valid position the government is taking in allowing embryonic stem cell research. A number of groups in our society look forward with great hope to the results of such efforts. I have received correspondence from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation which is supportive of it. I will quote a respected gentlemen from our community, Rabbi Reuven Bulka, who published an article in the Ottawa Citizen earlier this week. Rabbi Bulka said:

For those who were silent when embryos were being discarded--and that includes just about everyone--why the sudden outrage? It makes no sense to be silent when the embryos are being discarded but to scream “murder” when the embryos are being used for potentially life-saving research.

He also said:

As regards the slippery slope, I find it hard to defend that argument if doing so compromises the potential to cure pernicious illnesses. There is nothing wrong, and everything right, with using embryos that would otherwise be discarded.

I concur with that view. Perhaps the attention of the agency should be focused on the number of embryos that can be created to assist families in having children. The surrogate debate we are having on abortion is ill placed and ill advised. We should be focusing on the research potential of embryonic stem cells that would otherwise be discarded.

My other concern is that banning such research would stand to harm us in the long term. Other countries have not banned it. Great Britain has taken the position that embryonic stem cell research should be accepted. The United States, our neighbour to the south, has stated that public money can only be used for existing stem lines. Nothing bans private research.

According to the World Health Organization $8 billion of research funding went into genetics research in the year 2000. Some $6 billion of it was spent in the United States. Most was from the private sector. If people think no embryonic stem cell research is going on in the United States I suggest they think again. That is not the case.

Banning embryonic stem cell research when no one else is doing so would erode our research capacity over time. It would put us in the unfortunate situation of not being able to provide the kinds of medical advances to our citizenship that other countries are providing theirs. It would be a rather irresponsible position to take.

I have other reservations about the bill, but I will still support it because of the three year review. One of these reservations is that we might be too restrictive in other areas as well. For example, we would ban the transmission of genetic modifications to our DNA. There are 4,000 genetic diseases, so if I can cure genetic diseases in my DNA and transmit them to my children, I would be guilty of a crime according to the bill. Yet if I transmit the disease I am not. That is a reasoning that has to be verified.

I support the legislation now because it is still a science at a beginning stage. We are not yet sure of the consequences of changing our DNA and therefore the prudent method would be to say no for now. I am willing to go along because in three years the bill would be revised. The ability to cure some of the 4,000 genetic diseases affecting hundreds of thousands of Canadians, if not millions, is an idea that we should not abandon. We have to be careful there.

My other reservation, and it is a controversial one, is therapeutic cloning. If we were to develop therapeutic cloning to the point where diseases can be cured, would we not be wise to lock that away forever? Our understanding of human genetics is at its early stages so perhaps we should leave well enough alone in terms of going along with this. I am prepared to go along with it as long as there is a three year review in the bill.

During the debate, which I have followed fairly closely, two or three other points were raised. I would like to address two of these.

Our NDP colleagues advanced the idea that the board that would administer the agency created by this bill should be made up of an equal number of men and women. I find this an attractive idea and trust that they will support this bill so that it may be referred to committee and this question studied there. I personally am very open to this idea, depending on the arguments advanced. We shall see.

The other argument my NDP colleagues raised for voting against this bill concerns the matter of patenting life forms.

They cannot support the bill since it does not contain prohibitions against issuing patents either on human genes or on live forms. I agree that we should ban the patenting of human genes, a practice that has been going on in this country for nearly 20 years. We should be careful about issuing patents on life forms. We will see what the supreme court decides on the Harvard mouse case presumably some time this fall.

I agree with the NDP that parliament should initiate measures to ban cloning. However this need not be in the bill. As has been argued by a member of the NDP, it would be better if it were in a separate bill. The patent legislation we have is incapable of dealing with the science and the progress we are making in genetics. We should review it and create another bill entirely.

My colleagues from the NDP should consider supporting the bill and not opposing it on the grounds that it does not contain prohibitions on patenting of a higher life form, of human genes, and the notion of having male-female parity on the board of the agency. One of these issues could be addressed in a separate piece of legislation and the other could be addressed in committee.

Overall the government has presented a balanced bill, but one that will not meet everyone's acquiescence. That seldom happens of course. The bill would provide sufficient protection yet would not ban our ability to make progress in curing diseases that afflict too many of us.

AntarcticaStatements by Members

10:55 a.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians have been associated with Antarctica since the first over-wintering party of 1899. Hugh Blackwall Evans of Vermilion, Alberta, was a member of that party.

Recently NRCan scientists, using Canadian RADARSAT imagery, discovered a huge ice stream flowing into the Filchner Ice Shelf. This has been named the Blackwall Ice Stream in honour of Mr. Evans. This is the first time that the Geographical Names Board of Canada has approved a name in Antarctica. We extend best wishes to Eleanor Evans in Vermilion and other family members.

More recently, through Nahanni Productions of Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Pat and Rosemary Keough published a book that includes 330 magnificent colour prints of Antarctica. The book weighs 12.6 kilograms. I recommend it to anyone with an interest in Antarctica and a reinforced bookshelf.

Interest in Antarctica is increasing across Canada. Canadians feel that we should ratify the environmental protocol to the Antarctic treaty soon.

National DefenceStatements by Members

10:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Canadian Alliance Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, the supply chain project at the department of defence is a threat to national security with no demonstrated cost savings.

Already, we have the case of the NATO Flying Training in Canada program which, in the words of the auditor general, saw a 20 year $2.8 billion contract awarded to Liberal Party favourite Bombardier without competition and without proper justification for sole sourcing. Existing profit policies for sole source contracts were not followed either.

So much for the new rules the Prime Minister talks about. The rules are there, the government just never follows them. Considering the abuse that is currently happening with government contracts, people in my riding are afraid that by privatizing the supply chain it will mean big profits to Liberal Party supporters at the expense of local jobs and national security.

The men and women who serve in our armed forces deserve the best. Stop the supply chain project now before it is too late.

National Missing Children's DayStatements by Members

11 a.m.


Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, May 25 is National Missing Children's Day, a day of awareness which draws attention to the thousands of Canadian children who go missing each year. It also highlights the RCMP's National Missing Children Service and the release of its national report on Canada's missing children.

Since its creation the National Missing Children Service has been an invaluable source of information on missing children in Canada. Its annual report ensures that policy and prevention and policing approaches are up to date and therefore the most effective.

The National Missing Children Service is part of Canada's national Our Missing Children Program. Citizenship is recognized in the annual report, officially released tomorrow, as playing an important role in protecting Canadian children. Citizenship and Immigration Canada identifies, intercepts and recovers missing children at national borders as well as within Canada. Immigration officers play a role in all cases involving non-Canadians and non-resident visitors.

By continuing to work together, the Government of Canada will do all it can to ensure the safe and early return of missing children.

Hearing Awareness MonthStatements by Members

11 a.m.


Tony Tirabassi Liberal Niagara Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House and all Canadians that May has been designated Hearing Awareness Month by the Hearing Foundation of Canada.

One out of 10 Canadians is profoundly affected by hearing loss. Six out of 1,000 babies born in Canada have hearing loss. Since 1979 the Hearing Foundation of Canada has raised millions of dollars to support services for deaf, deafened and hard of hearing Canadians. The Hearing Foundation of Canada urges Canadians to join in the fight against hearing loss by avoiding over-exposure to noise, wearing hearing protection and donating to medical research through events such as the August 25 Run'n Roll for Research in Ottawa.

I ask members to join me in wishing the Hearing Foundation of Canada a successful Hearing Awareness Month.

National Missing Children's DayStatements by Members

11 a.m.


Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, 23 years ago a six year old boy named Etan Patz disappeared while walking to catch his bus to school. Since 1986, May 25, the anniversary of Etan's disappearance, has been recognized as National Missing Children's Day. It is a day for renewed hope and a day to remember.

The Missing Children Society of Canada asks Canadians from coast to coast to help light the way home for these missing children by turing on their porch lights the evening of May 25. For the families of missing children, the porch lights, which will shine brightly tomorrow night, are a reminder of the hope we all share for the safe return of their children.

I call on all hon. members and on all Canadians to join me in lighting the way home for missing children Saturday night.

The EnvironmentStatements by Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Canadian Alliance Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, the summer boating season is upon us and with it comes the opportunity for my constituents who live near recreational water to bathe in human sewage. Many parents will join their children in boating in Bedwell Bay, up Indian Arm and around Burrard Inlet unaware that passing pleasure craft, small cruise ships and yachts are dumping human waste into their public waters.

For a Liberal government that is telling Canadians it is serious about protecting, safeguarding and cleaning up our environment I would think that ending the dumping of human waste into waters bordering residential areas would be priority number one in an age where Canadians are increasingly aware and concerned about water quality issues. Communities that are not on the short list of no discharge zones are having to battle bureaucracy to have themselves added. In fact the only community, Tribune Bay, which has tried to add itself to the list, is still waiting 16 months later.

Regulations which should have addressed this are 16 months overdue. It is time for the government to act so that my constituents do not have to swim in sewage being dumped in the waters around my riding.

National Missing Children's DayStatements by Members

11 a.m.


Guy St-Julien Liberal Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC

Mr. Speaker, May 25 is National Missing Children's Day.

On this special day, our thoughts go out in hope to the thousands of families throughout Canada who have had a child gone missing. This is an opportunity to stand together with these families that are thinking of their children today and every day.

This day is also intended to highlight the success of the Canada's national “Our Missing Children Program” designed to return missing children to their legitimate parents.

The national missing children's service and its partners have helped find 4,841 children. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate those who have contributed to the federal “Our Missing Children Program” for the hope they have brought to thousands of families across Canada affected by the disappearance of a child.

National Missing Children's DayStatements by Members

11 a.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, May 25 is designated National Missing Children's Day. In 2001 alone, 66,994 missing children were reported to various police services in Canada.

Some of these children are victims of custody battles between parents and are abducted by one of their own parents. Others are abducted by predators, who need treatment. Still others choose to run away on their own, because they cannot bear to suffer any more.

Instead of pointing the finger, we must do everything within our power to end the suffering and trauma experienced by these children.

The emotional and moral damage inflicted upon these children will have a significant impact on the healthy and normal development that children have the right to experience.

To all these suffering children, we extend our love and our determination to eradicate this problem. We give them our love.

National Missing Children's DayStatements by Members

11:05 a.m.


André Harvey Liberal Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join all my colleagues to stress the importance of National Missing Children's Day.

Since 1995, the National Missing Children Society of Canada has been sponsoring the annual “Light the Way Home” campaign. This initiative symbolizes a joint effort to make it easier for children who are victims of abduction, runaways and even young adults who have gone missing, to return home.

The campaign encourages all Canadians to turn on their porch lights tomorrow evening to raise awareness about missing children.

I invite all Canadians to join the “Light the Way Home” campaign tomorrow evening. This small gesture will help restore hope among the families of missing children.

National DefenceStatements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Art Hanger Canadian Alliance Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, retired Major Bruce Henwood, a 25 year Canadian forces veteran, lost both his legs in 1995 while serving in Croatia as a United Nations military observer.

One would expect that having lost two of his limbs while in the line of duty he would be compensated. Not so. Because Major Henwood receives a military and disability pension he cannot be compensated. In other words his legs are worth nothing.

When we send our men and women into harm's way we have a responsibility to look after them if they become sick or wounded. Unfortunately, the case of Major Henwood is not an isolated one. Too often when our soldiers become ill or injured they are abandoned by the very government which demands loyalty of them. Pride, loyalty and honour must be a two way street. We owe it to these soldiers and their families to ensure that they receive the best of care and adequate compensation where necessary.

Shame on the government for its treatment of Major Henwood. It is time that his case be reviewed and that he be given the compensation that he and his family so rightly deserve.

National Missing Children's DayStatements by Members

11:05 a.m.


Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, in 1986 the solicitor general of Canada created National Missing Children's Day on May 25 to raise awareness of the almost 60,000 children who are reported missing in Canada every year.

At the same time the RCMP created a National Missing Children Service. It now works closely with the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in a national program called “Our Missing Children”.

Since 1995 the Missing Children Society of Canada has sponsored a “Light the Way Home” campaign. This campaign is intended to raise awareness about the plight of victims of abduction, runaways and young adults at risk. It asks Canadians to turn on their porch lights tomorrow evening as a symbolic gesture to raise awareness about missing children.

I ask all Canadians to turn on their porch lights tomorrow. This small gesture will provide renewed hope to the families of runaway and abducted children.

Anti-Ballistic MissilesStatements by Members

11:05 a.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, on June 13 the anti-ballistic missile treaty will expire, after its unilateral abandonment by the Bush administration.

The termination of the 30 year old ABM treaty will leave an international legal void that will allow the weaponization of space and permit the development of space based systems and space based components of the U.S. mational missile defense system to go forward.

Canadians and citizens around the world should be alarmed at such heightened militarization of space.

Canada can play an important role in stopping the weaponization of space by adopting, supporting and promoting the space preservation treaty which would implement a ban on space based weapons and on the use of weapons to destroy or damage objects in space, and immediately order the permanent termination of research, testing, production and deployment of all space based weapons.

National Missing Children's DayStatements by Members

11:05 a.m.


Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, on June 2, RCMP officials will attend the baseball game played by the Ottawa Lynx, the local professional team, and they will distribute kits that will include instructions to photograph children attending the game and take their fingerprints.

If, through some misfortune, one of these children were to go missing, this information would help authorities find them. Each year, thousands of children go missing in Canada, which generates a feeling of horror for many parents and friends.

Since May 25, is National Missing Children's Day, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the organizers of this event and all those who help find missing children by holding special identification activities.

I also want to encourage non-profit organizations and private groups to make a commitment to this important cause.

Fleur de lys FlagStatements by Members

11:10 a.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, next Sunday, a parade will be held on the streets of Montreal to pay tribute to the national flag of Quebec. It flew from the tower of the Quebec Parliament Building for the first time on January 21, 1948. That seemingly recent date notwithstanding, the fleur de lys is in fact one of the oldest flags in Canada, and its various components recall many centuries of our rich and brilliant history.

A unifying symbol for an entire people, the flag of Quebec is also a symbol of durability, having transcended history in order to become the very incarnation of Quebecois identity. From the moment it was officially reintroduced, the fleur de lys flag has symbolized a deep-seated desire for change, and has made it possible to eliminate the last remnants of a colonial heritage that has become obsolete. In lowering the Union Jack and raising the fleur de lys, Quebec affirmed its own identity, loud and clear.

Our flag has been proudly unfurled by the winds of reform which swept through Quebec during the Quiet Revolution and has quietly multiplied in numbers, to such an extent that it is now found just about everywhere. The fleur de lys flag is not only a reminder of our rich history, but also a symbol of what we are and what we hope to become in future.

Minister of Public Works and Government ServicesStatements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, on March 16 and 17 the minister of public works and family stayed at the palais Boulay. For some strange reason this sojourn was only paid for two months later with an $800 donation to the local church.

Imagine for a moment a cash starved church waiting two months to cash an $800 donation.

Let us get to the bottom of this. The minister of public works claims that his daughter-in-law wrote the questionable Royal Bank cheque No. 355 on March 18. It is easy for this cloud of scandal to be blown away. Let the minister of public works table his daughter-in-law's sequential cheques. When was cheque No. 354 written and cashed and when was cheque No. 356 written and cashed?

It is time for the minister of public works to finally rise to the same standards he demanded of others when he sat in opposition. When were the cheques written and when were they cashed? If the minister cannot produce them he had best resign.

Multiple Sclerosis Awareness MonthStatements by Members

11:10 a.m.


Gurbax Malhi Liberal Bramalea—Gore—Malton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House and all Canadians that May has been designated Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month.

Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a neurological disease that results in loss of balance, impaired speech, extreme fatigue, double vision and paralysis. Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world and MS rates may be on the rise.

The MS Society had a record setting year in 2001, raising more than $24 million for research and services. Over 80% of revenues came from donations and special fundraising events. Thanks to donors, the society has directed $6 million to the MS research program and new treatments for MS have been discovered.

During the month of May volunteers across the country will be taking part in the MS carnation campaign in support of MS research and services.

I ask all members to please join me in wishing the MS Society a successful month and I urge all Canadians to join in this effort.

TD Canada Trust ScholarshipStatements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Canadian Alliance Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, the people of the riding of Blackstrap have many outstanding young individuals in their midst. Today I would like to take a moment to recognize high school graduates who are making a difference in their communities.

Recently I had the opportunity to meet with Elizabeth Pryor from Hawardern who attends Loreburn High School and is one of the 20 recipients of the TD Canada Trust Scholarship for outstanding community leadership.

This spring, several students from Blackstrap travelled to Ottawa to be honoured for their accomplishments back home. I was honoured to meet with Cosanna Preston, Daniel Ramage, Louis-Philippe Dubois and Uliana Kojalianko who were just a part of the Forum for Young Canadians. Uliana was on the Hill along with Jamie Dzikowski to be honoured for the Rotary Club's adventure in citizenship program.

It is indeed a pleasure to see so many young people having such a positive impact on the community.

I would like to congratulate these honourees along with the numerous others from across Canada for their hard work and dedication to education.

Leadership CampaignsOral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Canadian AllianceLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I was hoping that an appropriate minister would be here today but I will ask a question instead to the Deputy Prime Minister.

Yesterday in the House the Deputy Prime Minister had this to say.

...I have not personally committed myself to a leadership race but...I have indicated that if, as and when money is raised, contributors must accept that their names will be made public whatever rules may later apply.

Of course on the same day we learned that his Toronto bagman was already privately counselling potential donors on how to hide their donations to his leadership campaign.