House of Commons Hansard #192 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was life.


PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition which is signed by residents of British Columbia, including several hundred residents of my own constituency of Burnaby--Douglas, on the subject of the Canadian public health care system.

The petitioners call upon parliament to stop two tier, American-style health care from moving into Canada. They note concerns about federal government cuts for health care funding and the fact that the federal government currently is paying just 13.5% of health care costs. They are concerned with respect to the importance of immediate action to save public health care in Canada and to stop two tier, American-style health care from coming.

They call upon parliament to stop for-profit hospitals, to restore full federal funding for health care by increasing the federal government's share of health care funding to 25% immediately, and finally, to implement a national home care program and a national program for prescription drugs.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition from numerous people in the Peterborough area who are concerned about kidney disease across the country and the pain and suffering involved. They point out that this is a huge and growing problem. Real progress is being made in improving the condition of those with kidney disease and hopefully curing their condition.

The petitioners admire the work being done by an institute of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to help those suffering from kidney disease, but they believe that the name of the Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes is too complicated and confusing for the general public to engage in it. They believe that the research would receive better support and be more effective if the name of that institute was changed.

They call upon parliament to encourage the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to explicitly include kidney research as one of the institutes in its system, to be named the institute of kidney and urinary tract diseases.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Kitchener Centre Ontario


Karen Redman LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.


Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would seek the consent of the House to return to motions so that I may table a motion requesting the unanimous consent of the House to agree to a change to the standing orders to establish the standing committee on government operations and estimates.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to revert to motions?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Standing OrdersRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.


Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That the Standing Orders be amended as follows:

(a) by deleting the words “and Government Operations” from Standing Order 104(2)(p);

(b) by adding the following after Standing Order 104(2)(p):

“(q) Government Operations and Estimates (sixteen members)”

(c) by deleting Standing Order 108(1)(c);

(d) by adding the following after Standing Order 108(3)(e):

(f) Government Operations and Estimates shall include, among other matters:

(i) the review of and report on the effectiveness, management and operation, together with operational and expenditure plans of the central departments and agencies;

(ii) the review of and report on the effectiveness, management and operation, together with operational and expenditure plans relating to the use of new and emerging information and communications technologies by the Government;

(iii) the review of and report on the effectiveness, management and operation of specific operational and expenditure items across all departments and agencies;

(iv) the review of and report on the Estimates of programs delivered by more than one department or agency;

(v) with regard to items under consideration as a result of Standing Orders 108(3)(f)(i)(ii)(iii), in coordination with any affected standing committee and in conformity with Standing Order 79, the committee shall be empowered to amend votes that have been referred to other standing committees;

(vi) the review of and report on reports of the Privacy Commissioner, the Access to Information Commissioner, the Public Service Commission and the Ethics Counsellor with respect to his or her responsibilities under the Lobbyists Registration Act, which shall be severally deemed permanently referred to the Committee immediately after they are laid upon the Table;

(vii) the review of and report on the process for considering the estimates and supply, including the format and content of all estimates documents;

(viii) the review of and report on the effectiveness, management and operation, together with operational and expenditure plans arising from supplementary estimates;

(ix) the review of and report on the effectiveness, management and operation, together with operational and expenditure plans of Crown Corporations and agencies that have not been specifically referred to another standing committee;

(x) in cooperation with other committees, the review of and report on the effectiveness, management and operation, together with operational and expenditure plans of statutory programs, tax expenditures, loan guarantees, contingency funds and private foundations that derive the majority of their funding from the Government of Canada.


That the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs shall prepare and report to the House within five sitting days of the adoption of this Order lists of Members to compose the new Standing Committees created by this Order; and

That the Clerk be authorized to amend any order of reference or proposed order of reference in accordance with the intent of this Order.

Standing OrdersRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Standing OrdersRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to)

Request for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

The Chair has notice of an application for an emergency debate from the hon. member for West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast.

Request for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, I seek leave pursuant to Standing Order 52 to make a motion for the adjournment of the House.

The scandals and allegations of corruption against the government are a matter of urgency. The issue has become so critical the media is suggesting it is unravelling the government. Canadians are losing confidence in the Liberals' ability to continue carrying out the constitutional duty of providing good government.

We need to discuss the ethical standards of the government and the measures that need to be taken to correct them. When we look to the recent controversies involving ethical conduct by ministers it is uncertain what the standard is. Mr. Gagliano was appointed ambassador to Denmark. The hon. member for York Centre was removed from cabinet. The hon. member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell was fired and then readmitted to cabinet.

The Prime Minister must immediately establish a uniform standard of ethical conduct for cabinet ministers and members of parliament by an ethics commissioner who reports directly to parliament, as he promised nine years ago. He has waited so long it has festered into a crisis. If the Prime Minister waits until all his friends are paid off before turning off the taps of corruption it will be too late.

Mr. Speaker, if you are tempted to take into account the fact that a supply day is scheduled for tomorrow you will note that the supply day deals with another serious emergency that needs to be addressed. The emergency debate I am requesting under the provisions of Standing Order 52 involves a parliamentary and democratic emergency.

If the Liberals cannot demonstrate they can provide good, honest government the discussion in tomorrow's supply debate or any emergency debate will be redundant. We need a discussion of the government's ethics now. We need to determine if it has the ethical competence to identify and deal with the concerns of Canadians other than those who are friends of the Liberal Party. We need to debate the fact that for nine years the Prime Minister has promised parliament an independent ethics commissioner who would report to parliament. Canadians are demanding it. The timing is excellent.

Request for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

The Chair has carefully considered the request of the hon. member for West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast, but if the Chair's memory serves him correctly we had a debate on this very subject on Thursday last, a full day's debate which I know was stimulating. I have no doubt that if I were to order a debate for tonight it would also be very stimulating.

Unfortunately, stimulating debate is not one of the criteria set out in Standing Order 52 for having an emergency debate. Perhaps if it were I would be more inclined to grant the hon. gentleman's request, but in the circumstances I feel he has not raised a case of urgency that meets the contingencies of Standing Order 52 at this time. However I thank the hon. member for Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam for his helpful assistance.

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

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2002 / 3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Canadian Alliance Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, every once in a while in the course of human history it becomes incumbent upon us as legislators to make difficult decisions involving life, death, ethics and morality. Such is the position we find ourselves in today. As a representative of a constituency of individuals I feel a responsibility to ensure Bill C-56 strikes a proper balance between ethics and science.

It seems the more one seeks to know about stem cell research the more complex the issue becomes. However I take comfort in knowing I am not the only person grappling with this ethical dilemma. It was with great interest that I read the speech given by President Bush last fall when his nation was creating legislation on stem cell research. In his speech Mr. Bush called the issue one of the most profound of our time. I will read some excerpts from his speech:

The issue of research involving stem cells derived from human embryos is increasingly the subject of a national debate and dinner table discussions. The issue is confronted every day in laboratories as scientists ponder the ethical ramifications of their work. It is agonized over by parents and many couples as they try to have children, or to save children already born.

The issue is debated within the church, with people of different faiths, even many of the same faith coming to different conclusions.

As I thought through this issue, I kept returning to the fundamental questions: First, are these frozen embryos human life, and therefore, something precious to be protected? And second, if they're going to be destroyed anyway, shouldn't they be used for a greater good, for research that has the potential to save and improve other lives?

At its core, this issue forces us to confront fundamental questions about the beginnings of life and the ends of science. It lies at a difficult moral intersection, juxtaposing the need to protect life in all its phases with the prospect of saving and improving life in all its stages.

These are the questions we in the Canadian parliament are asking ourselves. It is important that we create coherent laws in the area as soon as possible. Canada must not stray too far behind the rest of the world on the issue. Although it is a contentious issue we as members of parliament must work through it and come to a conclusion as soon as possible. If we do not, we risk getting ourselves into a situation where we will be reactive instead of proactive in creating well thought out legislation.

That said, I will take the opportunity to outline some of my concerns with the legislation as it currently stands. I want to state unequivocally that I am a firm supporter of science, research and technological development. I have concerns that the legislation would allow research on human embryos if their use was necessary. It is significant that necessity is not clearly defined in the existing legislation. I will therefore spend the remainder of my speech on the notion of scientific necessity.

Scientists and advocacy groups have recently brought forth evidence that there are credible alternatives to embryonic stem cells for the treatment of some of humanity's most debilitating diseases. Carrie Gordon Earll, a bioethics analyst, has documented several promising medical successes using alternatives to embryonic stem cells. Such alternatives can be found in adult stem cells that come from areas in the developed human body such as bone marrow and umbilical cord blood. These do not require the loss of human life or potential human life. In her work Mrs. Earll cites the following examples:

Researchers at Harvard Medical School used animal adult stem cells to grow new islet cells to combat diabetes. Researcher[s] [said they] had reversed the disease without the need for transplants. Plans for human trials are underway.

Thirty-six-year old Susan Stross is one of more than 20 MS patients whose conditions have remained steady or improved after receiving an adult stem cell transplant. The same results are reported with several hundred patients worldwide.

In addition to the obvious moral advantages of using adult stem cells, research also seems to be proving that they are safer than fetal cells. Dr. Helen Hodges, a British researcher, recently found that adult stem cells travel to areas that need repair whereas fetal stem cells remain where they are injected. She says that because patients can donate their own adult stem cells for treatment their immune systems will not reject them.

In 1999 the journal Science quoted a Professor Prentice who wrote:

In the last two years, we've gone from thinking that we had very few stem cells in our bodies and recognizing that many (perhaps most) organs maintain a reservoir of these cells.

Professor Prentice went on to say that adult stem cells have shown themselves to be scientifically more successful than embryonic stem cells because of the variety of different tissues they can become and because they are more readily available.

In contrast, embryonic stem cells have not yet alleviated or cured any diseases. Indeed scientists are telling us now that embryonic stem cells can sometimes be a bit too flexible, often differentiating into all kinds of tissue, some of which are desirable and some of which are not. In some cases, when injected under the skin of certain mice, they grew into tumours consisting of numerous tissue types, from guts to skin to teeth.

Women in my constituency from the organization REAL Women of Canada raised this issue in their fall 2001 newsletter. It states:

It strikes us as curious that intense pressure is now being placed on the potential of experimental use of embryo stem cells when there are already proven alternate sources of stem cells from bone marrow, umbilical cord, placenta, human fat tissue, skin and even the brain cells of deceased adults, to name just a few, which makes embryo stem cell research unjustified. This is especially so since these alternate sources eliminate the difficult problem of rejection of foreign material by the body caused by embryonic stem cell implantations. In contrast to the successful use of adult stem cells, human embryonic stem cells have never been used successfully in clinical trials.

It is very important to note that the mainstream scientific press is also taking notice of the potential of adult stem cells. A recent article from the New Scientist titled “Ultimate stem cell discovered” states the following:

A stem cell has been found in adults that can turn into every single tissue in the body. It might be the most important cell ever discovered.

Until now, only stem cells from early embryos were thought to have such properties. If the finding is confirmed, it will mean cells from your own body could one day be turned into all sorts of perfectly matched replacement tissues and even organs.

If so, there would be no need to resort to therapeutic cloning--cloning people to get matching stem cells from the resulting embryos. Nor would we have to genetically engineer embryonic stem cells to create a “one cell fits all” line that does not trigger immune rejection. The discovery of such versatile adult stem cells will also fan the debate about whether embryonic stem cell research is justified.

It is notable that some of this groundbreaking research is being conducted right in our own backyard at Montreal's McGill University.

Canada should commit itself to continuing to be a leader in this groundbreaking research and technology. It is to these activities that we should be channeling our money and efforts.

Finally, I am ever mindful of the opinions of the constituents of Blackstrap who have taken the time to write me about their opinions on this topic. I would like to share some of what they have to say.

Andrew and Louise Novecosky of Viscount wrote to me stating the following:

Regarding stem cell research, it is our hope that this not be allowed. It will lead to the harvest of stem cells. I am afraid this is likely already happening, but allowing the research will increase the harvest of young humans.

Mrs. Donna Hundeby of Elbow, Saskatchewan wrote:

I am writing to voice my opposition to any form of medical research that results in the taking of human life. Because I believe that an embryo is a human life, and human life is sacred, I urge you to ban the destruction of human embryos for stem cell research.

Kevin Dyck of Saskatoon wrote me to say:

I am writing to you today with a great sense of urgency. With the new legislation on assisted human reproduction passing through the Commons soon, I see a great need for the leaders of our country to speak out against the dangerous and often unethical practices proposed by researchers and clinics across the country.

In summary, I would like to underscore the most important point of my message. We must act quickly yet cautiously when forming legislation on such a profound moral issue.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

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

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to speak in the House, particularly when there are more pages than members of parliament in the House. That aside, this is an important issue. It is one I am glad to speak on, the tumbleweeds blowing through the House aside.

The opposition has been calling for legislation on this subject since 1993 when the royal commission on new reproductive technologies reported. The then minister, which I believe is three or maybe four health ministers ago, introduced a voluntary moratorium on some technologies in July 1995. The government introduced a bill on June 14, 1996 prohibiting 13 uses of assisted reproductive and genetic technologies, but the bill died on the order paper at the call of the 1997 election.

That is an important point. We often talk in the House about the importance of certain legislation. There can be nothing more crucial than the regulation and government consideration and oversight over the creation and disposal of human life. What is more essential than that? However, the government in its haste called an early election in 1997 because it saw an opportunity to win a campaign then. That kind of opportunism killed a very important bill and a very important debate that this House and Canadians were expecting from their legislators.

Those are some of the technicalities and realities that the government uses political opportunism in order to call a quick early election. Frankly that is one of the reasons the Canadian Alliance and its predecessor, the Reform Party, has always believed in the principle behind fixed election dates. It is exactly for situations such as this one, so that important legislation does not suffer the whims of the political capriciousness of the prime minister of the day.

After the 1997 campaign draft legislation was submitted for consideration to the Standing Committee on Health on May 3, 2001, four years later. The committee presented its report “Building Families” in December 2001. In March 2002 the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, followed by Genome Canada, pre-empted parliament by publishing rules to approve funding for experiments on human embryos and aborted fetuses.

Here we have a case where legislation was on the table but it died on the order paper because the Prime Minister wanted to say he had another majority government under his belt. He called a very opportunistic early election campaign and the legislation died.

It got to the point in March 2002 when the government still had not tabled legislation that people outside the House of Commons had to do the government's business for it. The provinces have to pick up the slack and do the government's business for it on the health care side. Now on the most fundamental issues of when life begins, how it is regulated and so on, people in the private sector are doing the government's business.

I want to spend the bulk of my time talking about the agency that will oversee the regulations. First I want to talk briefly on what my colleague from Blackstrap, Saskatchewan was talking about, which is the issue of the rise of adult stem cell research and its promise.

Canada is already a leader in adult stem cell research. For example, by supercharging adult blood stem cells with the gene that allowed them to rapidly reproduce, a team of Canadian researchers at the University of British Columbia healed mice with depleted blood systems. Some day these adult stem cells may be able to reproduce bone marrow for transplant in humans. These are promising advances in medical technology.

There are numerous examples of recent advances in adult stem cell research beyond that as well. Here are a couple.

Researchers found evidence that stem cells circulating in the bloodstream can grow new tissue in the liver, gut and skin. Adult stem cells are therefore more versatile than previously thought.

University of Minnesota Stem Cell Institute researchers showed that adult born marrow stem cells can become blood vessels. The researchers said “the findings suggest that these adult stem cells may be an ideal source of cells for clinical therapy”.

Duke University Medical Center researchers turned stem cells from knee fat into cartilage, bone and fat cells. The researchers said “different clinical problems could be addressed by using adult cells taken from different spots throughout the body, without the same ethical concerns associated with embryonic stem cells”.

The official opposition's minority report called for a three year prohibition on the experimentation with human embryos to allow time for the use of adult stem cells to be fully explored. It recommended “that the government strongly encourage its granting agencies and the scientific community to place the emphasis on adult, post-natal, stem cell research”. A three year prohibition would also coincide neatly with the three year review already mandated by the bill.

The idea of having a three year moratorium is entirely justified. I know that there are Liberal members of parliament who agree. The member for Mississauga South circulated to all members a publication on the idea of having a three year moratorium on embryonic stem cell research.

It makes perfect sense because when we think about it, science is transnational. It crosses the boundaries of borders. It is not relevant to the jurisdiction where discoveries are made so much as it is that the discoveries are made. Just because other jurisdictions have more liberalized their capacity to experiment in embryonic stem cell research does not mean Canada has to rush to the fore. It is my view and the view of the majority of my colleagues in the Canadian Alliance, that rather than rush into science and hope for ethics and a respect for life, we should rush into ethics and respect for human life and hope for sound science. That is the appropriate balance most Canadians, if asked, would really hope to see.

One thing about the bill that we do applaud is the ban on commercial surrogacy. Although it is reasonable to reimburse actual expenditures made by surrogate mothers, commercial surrogacy should effectively creep in simply by inflating the expenses associated with it. Clause 12(2) should ensure that this cannot happen by adding “and the expenditure is reasonable, necessary and directly related to the objects above”.

We fully support the ban on human and therapeutic cloning, chimeras, animal-human hybrids, sex selection, germ line alteration, buying and selling of embryos and paid surrogacy. These are steps in the right direction.

Given that I do not have a whole lot of time left, I want to address the agency as I said I would. The mandate of the agency in clause 21 of the bill is to “promote the human dignity and human rights of Canadians”. If this is not reflected in the preamble of the bill, this contradiction can be resolved by including the following statement in the preamble. The proposition we are going to be tabling is taken mostly word for word from the majority report of the health committee. It states:

It is hereby recognized and declared that assisted human reproduction and related research must be governed by principles and practices that respect human life, individuality, dignity, and integrity.

The assisted human reproduction agency of Canada will not report to parliament but only to the minister. It should be made into an independent agency for reasons that are self-evident. Principally if we are talking about human life, when it begins, how it is regulated and how it is overseen, it should be a decision by the entire House and by extension therefore of the entire country because this is an issue for us all. This is an issue of the fundamental premise of what all government is. As a mentor of mine said, governing in politics is answering and hypothesizing about a sequence of questions: what is human nature; how does it intersect with power; how therefore can power be formed to the realities of human nature. It is a cycle that goes around and around.

Adult stem cell research and embryonic stem cell research is a core issue that fits right into that cycle. It is an issue for broad discussion and broad consultation with as many voices as possible having an opportunity to speak.

Clause 25 allows the minister to give any policy direction she likes to the agency and the agency must follow it without question. The clause also ensures that such direction will remain secret. If it were an independent agency answerable to parliament, such political direction would be more difficult. The entire clause must be eliminated.

Members of the board should also have fixed twice renewable terms of three years to ensure that the minister simply cannot get rid of a non-compliant board member or keep one on forever. This was recommended by the majority report that came out of the health committee. The chair of the agency should be appointed for a five year rather than a three year period so that this appointment surpasses the electoral cycle. This will minimize political pressure on the agency.

The performance of the agency should be evaluated by the auditor general rather than the agency itself and the review should be made public.

Those are obvious areas of accountability. If we asked some six year olds to organize a group to make a tree house and they all pitched in 25¢ a week, they would have better managerial oversight of those 25¢ contributions than the government seems to have over the management and regulation of the creation and destruction of human life.

The licensing process for new fertility clinics should be made transparent and should become a public process.

With respect to the records kept by the agency, in the current bill there are no reporting requirements. At the very least an annual report to parliament must be mandated.

Also we need to keep in mind on this issue that reproductive technologies is a matter of provincial constitutional jurisdiction. If we studied and understood sections 91 and 92 of the constitution as most members of parliament should, we would all recognize that this area is one of provincial responsibility. There needs to be some federal oversight for continuity between jurisdictions, however, the application of this is indeed one of provincial jurisdiction.

The government's attempt to limit the contributions of members of parliament, of the committee and of the provinces is hardly a way of desensitizing the moral implications of the bill because we need to broaden the discussion and have more input so more Canadians can have as big an input as possible into the creation and potentially the destruction of human life.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise today to contribute to the debate. This debate could be easily sidetracked by special interest considerations and sectarian concerns over religion and morality.

As parliamentarians, we have a duty and obligation to address the bill from the perspective of balance. We all have strongly held views on abortion and other fundamental issues of faith and morality. In that regard I must admit that I am impressed by the level of decorum and respect that has been given all members who have contributed in the House to the debate.

Members from all sides of the House have spoken eloquently and from the heart about their belief systems and personal accounts on this issue.

It is not uncommon for debates on controversial issues to digress into the realm of heckling and disrespectful exchanges. I congratulate my colleagues in the House for rising above partisanship and truly respecting Canada's pluralistic reality. I hope that the high level of decorum remains throughout the life of Bill C-56. I believe that this exercise can serve to bring Canadians together by finding common ground.

I state for the record that Bill C-56 addresses the status of an independent embryo outside a woman's body and as such the bill has nothing to do with abortion or issues of choice.

Like it is all members, there are a number of factors that will influence my decision. As a libertarian I believe in the fundamental right of the individual over the jurisdiction of their bodies and property. As a Muslim I believe that life is sacred. The saving of a life is a duty and the taking of a life is a grave sin.

Islamic bioethics also permit organ donations and in vitro fertilization. In terms of origins of life, most Muslim scholars agree that ensoulment occurs 120 days after conception. Most important, I am a parliamentarian committed to consulting with my constituents and voting their will. I state for the record that I have yet to decide how I will vote on the bill.

I have several questions pertaining to a number of issues arising from the debate. To answer these concerns I will be consulting with my constituents and studying the issue in greater detail. I hope to have a number of my questions answered throughout the legislative process of Bill C-56, and most likely during the summer.

At first glance, the issue of assisted human reproduction conjures up Orwellian images of sterile laboratories where future generations are determined through genetic manipulation. The legislation bans cloning, human-animal hybrids, gender selection and all other taboos popularized by science fiction. In reality AHR provides people with reproductive challenges the opportunity for dreams of having children, a service of immeasurable societal value to those affected.

Recently two of my staff members became parents. I see how fulfilled their lives have become as a result of having children and how much they cherish parenthood. I believe that we should do all we can as parliamentarians to ensure that as many Canadians as possible can realize their dreams of becoming parents.

The inevitable question is how far we go to reach that goal. I believe that the report of the standing committee on the subject was balanced and represented the opinion of the majority of Canadians.

Bill C-56 must balance ethical scientific advancement and the rights and liberties of Canadians. Most of all, it must be accountable and transparent.

The agency proposed in the legislation is only accountable to parliament through the minister and we all know how accountable ministers have been lately. I believe that the agency must be accountable directly to parliament to ensure that the concerns of Canadians on this sensitive issue are addressed in the House.

My colleague from Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca is dedicated to the cause of organ donation and has done a considerable amount of work in raising public awareness for this cause. Organ donation is widely accepted and deemed to be an honourable act. From every death new life can be given to several people through the donation of vital organs. We consider it a tragedy when healthy human tissue that can help others is buried instead of being utilized through a transplant.

Current in vitro reproduction practices involve the destruction of left over embryos. As the embryos are disposed of so too is the possibility of saving lives and curing diseases. I do not understand the rationale used by those opposed to embryonic stem cells who condone destroying embryos but not using them for medical research.

Like most issues, stakeholders on both sides of this debate have a vested interest. Those on the side of medical research would have us believe that embryonic stem cells will cure every ailment known to men and women. Those opposed to embryonic stem cell research counter these claims with what basically amounts to mass rejection of embryonic tissue. Somewhere in the middle lies the facts.

I believe that research should continue on embryonic stem cells. I believe that the progress of this research should be monitored by the House and reviewed every three years. By doing so, we can ensure that the legislative framework is keeping up with the technological advancement and also ensure adequate funding.

I am not a parent nor have I tried to start a family. However, I want to have as many choices and therapeutic options available to me when I get to that stage in life. I applaud the legislation in that a parent has the choice in determining the outcome of unused embryos. We must ensure that parents are given every opportunity.

I am a staunch advocate of privacy rights. Many have criticized the legislation's lack of disclosure of donor identification. I do not believe that the identity of a donor should be required. I believe that if such a requirement were to be established, a direct reduction in the number of donors would result.

Although the agency would hold information on donor identity, children conceived by AHR would have no right to know the identity of their parents without their written consent to reveal it.

That being said, I do believe that information other than the identity of the donor should be made available, including family medical histories and predispositions to disease and ailments.

I have questions pertaining to the prohibition of commercial surrogacy contained in the bill. Pregnancy and childbirth have long lasting, debilitating effects on a woman's body. I fail to see the harm in providing fair compensation over and above the actual expenses of a surrogate mother. Rather than a prohibition, I believe that clear regulations and guidelines should be developed to address the issue of compensation. Such regulations should be automatically referred to the health committee to ensure public scrutiny and transparency. The minister must be obligated to consider standing committee recommendations and not ignore them as is the current practice.

I, like most Canadians, am enticed by the ability of people to manipulate life. At the same time, I am apprehensive of the consequences. Canada is a world leader in innovation. The ingenuity of our citizens is limitless. It is our role as parliamentarians to not only ask the question can we do it but should we.

The bill must not be fast tracked. It must be carefully studied, voted upon freely and open to amendment. The debate can be a healthy exercise in public policy development but only if it is truly open and transparent.

As I said in the outset of my speech, I have not yet decided how I will vote on the bill. I will consult with my constituents and personally study the issue in greater detail before I come to that determination.

As well, it is healthy to see that in this place, on this bill, parliamentarians are in fact coming together to express their opinions, their own moral beliefs and their views on this issue as we are all becoming more aware of its consequences. We are not being heckled, criticized for those views or being unfairly discriminated against . This will have grave consequences on future technology, on health and on future generations.

It is clear that we need to come together as parliamentarians. We need to be able to express our views openly and honestly. We need to make decisions based on sound science and on what we fundamentally believe. I am glad to see that sort of spirit can exist in the House when the commitment is made on behalf of all members to do so. It does not happen as often as we would like but it is happening on this bill, and I applaud that.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Canadian Alliance Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, it pleases me that I am able to speak to the Bill C-56 amendment where the words are inserted:

--this House declines to give second reading to Bill C-56, an act respecting assisted human reproduction, since the principle of the Bill does not recognize the value of non-embryonic stem cell research which has had great advancements in the last year.

This past weekend this very issue was brought to light through the Pembroke and area diocese of the Canadian Catholic Women's League. It brought forth the following resolution which bans human embryonic stem cell research.

Whereas The Canadian Government will soon formulate legislation on reproductive technologies including human stem cell research, and

Whereas the compelling moral, ethical and scientific issues surrounding embryonic stem cell research needs clear guidelines to avoid the dehumanizing and the utilitarian premise that the end justifies the means, and

Whereas human embryos, tiny human beings are being killed to obtain stem cells, and

Whereas killing of human life at any stage of development is intrinsically evil, and

Whereas no amount of public benefit can ever justify the deliberate killing of a human being, especially since the scientific literature demonstrates that stem cells from sources other than from human embryos are being used successfully for therapeutic benefit in human; therefore, be it

Resolved that the Ontario Provincial Council of the Catholic Women's League of Canada, in the 55 Annual Convention assembled, urge the Federal Minister of Health to formulate legislation which would ban human embryonic stem cell research under the Criminal Code of Canada, and be it therefore

Resolved that this resolution be forwarded to the National Council of the Catholic Women's League of Canada for consideration at the Annual Convention in 2002.

Submitted by Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, CWL Council.

Members of the regional council diocese are: president, Margaret Maloney; vice president, Andria Dumouchel; secretary, Inie Schlievert; treasurer, Silvia Smith; past president, Irene Perrault; and resolutions chair, Donna Shaddock. They will be bringing this forth and it will eventually reach the federal level. However, if the bill goes forth now, Canadians in this one area alone will not have had a chance to speak.

I would like to expound upon the issue brought forth by Wesley Smith and the conclusions drawn by the Catholic Women's League, that when research advances occur with embryonic stem cells, the media usually gives the story big treatment. Whereas when researchers announce even a greater success with adult stem cells, the media reportage is generally less intense and a stifled yawn.

As a consequence, many people in this country continue to believe that embryonic stem cells offer the greatest promise of developing the new medical treatments involving the human body cells. This is know as regenerative medicine. While in reality, adults and alternative sources of stem cells have demonstrated much brighter prospects.

This misperception has real societal consequences, distorting the political debate over human cloning and embryonic stem cell research and perhaps even affecting levels of public and private research funding that embryonic and adult stem cell research therapies receive.

For example, this media pattern was again very evident in the reporting of two very important research breakthroughs announced within the last two weeks. Unless people made a point of looking these stories, they might have been missed.

Patients with Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis have received significant medical benefit using the experimental adult stem cell regenerative medical protocols. These are benefits that the supporters of the embryonic stem cell treatments have yet to produce even in the animal experiments they have been doing. Yet adult stem cells are now beginning to truly alleviate the suffering in human beings.

We have celebrities like Michael J. Fox and Michael Kingsley really promoting embryonic stem cell research in the Washington Post and on Crossfire . Yet these major advances are being almost totally disregarded by the American press and less so by the Canadian press.

In case some members may have missed the story I will repeat it again. A man in his mid-50s had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease at age 49. The disease grew progressively leading to tremors and rigidity, especially in the patient's right arm. Traditional drug therapy did not help. Stem cells were harvested from the patient's brain using a routine brain biopsy procedure. They were cultured and expanded to several million cells. About 20% of those cells matured into dopamine secreting neurons. People suffering from Parkinson's disease are short of the neurotransmitter dopamine. In March 1999 these cells were injected into the patient's brain.

Three months after this procedure the man's motor skills improved by 37%, and there was an increase of dopamine production of 55.6%. One year after the procedure the patient's overall unified Parkinson's disease rating scale had improved by 83%. This was at a time when he was taking no other treatment for Parkinson's disease. That is an astonishing and remarkable success story. One would have thought that story would have set off blazing headlines across the country and around the world. Had the same treatment been achieved with embryonic stem cells we would have seen those headlines.

Unfortunately, reportage about the Parkinson's success story was strangely mooted. It is true that the Washington Post ran an inside the paper story and there were some wire service reports, but overall nobody has really heard about this.

Multiple sclerosis patients have also benefited from adult stem cell regenerative medicine. MS is an autoimmune disorder in which the patient's body attacks the protective sheaf surrounding the patient's neurons.

A study conducted at the Washington Medical Center in Seattle involved 26 rapidly deteriorating MS patients. First, physicians stimulated the stem cells from the patients' bone marrow to enter the blood stream. They then harvested the stem cells and gave the patients strong chemotherapy to destroy their immune systems.

Finally, the researchers reintroduced the stem cells into patients hoping they would rebuild healthy immune systems and alleviate the MS symptoms, and it worked. Of the 26 patients, 20 stabilized and six improved. Three patients experienced severe infections and one died.

This was a very positive advance offering great hope but rather than making headlines the test was lost. This test received less attention than the successful studies using animals on embryonic research. The Los Angeles Times and the New York Times ran articles but they were only minimal reports.

Meanwhile, in Canada younger MS patients whose disease was not as far advanced as those in the Washington study have shown even greater benefit from the same procedure. Six months after the first patient was treated, she was found to have no evidence of the disease on MRI scans. Three other patients have also received successful adult stem cell graphs with no current evidence of active disease.

The Parkinson's and MS studies have offered phenomenal evidence of the tremendous potential effects of adult stem cell research and the regenerative medicines offered.

It is worth underscoring and re-emphasizing the fact that adult stem cell research is providing cures. It is not necessary to go into the zone of creating life only to destroy it.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to make a few comments on this particular bill and on the issues before the House.

This issue is more than simply a matter of science, of medical technology or of what our scientists or medical doctors can do. The possibilities that science has brought forward are seemingly endless and appear to continue to grow weekly, monthly and yearly.

The issue though that does not seem to get the same attention and on which we see the same development, is in the growth of our understanding of these issues, not from a medical science point of view but from an ethical or a moral point of view.

I noted the decision of Mr. Justice Duncan Shaw in the Sharpe case dealing with child pornography. In reviewing the issues before him and examining the material which involved brutal exploitation of children by adults, he indicated that while the writings by Mr. Sharpe did not advocate this type of brutality, they did in fact glorify the actions.

I have a lot of difficulty understanding what the distinction is between advocating and glorifying, but the disturbing statement he made continues in that judgment. The justice stated that in reviewing the material and the defence of artistic merit that was afforded to this individual under our law, he had to examine the issue on a totally amoral basis. I found it an astounding statement to make for a learned justice of a superior court in Canada, in talking about the issue of exploitation of children, to say that we have to examine it on an amoral basis.

How can one examine a law for which society has specifically expressed its moral and ethical disapproval of the exploitation of children by adults? How can one look at that issue on anything but a moral basis? Once the justice had decided that the law had to be seen in a moral vacuum, it was not surprising that he believed he had no alternative but to acquit Mr. Sharpe.

All of our laws have a moral underpinning to them. I do not mean that in any narrow or partisan religious sense. I mean it in a broad sense. All our laws reflect our moral understanding of issues. The distinction between a person being allowed to kill an animal for food or for other reasons and the general prohibition against murdering a human being is not a rational decision as much as it is a moral distinction.

Our laws against murder reflect our moral disapproval of the murder of human beings. Our laws against theft tell us that we as a society believe that it is morally wrong to take someone else's property. All of our laws have this moral underpinning.

Without the understanding of a legal system we could not justify laws such as the prohibition against child pornography or the laws against prostitution. Those laws, for example, tell us that it is morally wrong to sexually exploit another human being.

In the case of this particular law that we are dealing with here today, we know about the scientific advancements and the tremendous medical research going on and yet as a society we have not come to an ethical or a moral consensus with respect to this very troubling issue.

What bothers me is that the minister is trying to neatly sidestep the issue of developing that moral consensus with respect to this law on assisted human reproduction, the law on stem cell research. The government is neatly attempting to sidestep a discussion on that issue. In typical Liberal fashion, what do they do? They designate a government body to make those determinations, an agency.

This is not an issue for an agency of government to make that determination. This is an issue that must be made in the House through debate, through discussions, through hearings and, most important, that the voice of the people of Canada be heard and reflected in the law.

The bill is more than simply improving human health. I do not accuse anyone in the House of saying that there are ulterior motives or that there is something untoward in the intent of the bill. I am not suggesting that at all. I am simply saying that we as a nation and we as parliamentarians are not in a position to move forward with respect to some of these very difficult issues. It is not because of the medical science or the research capacity involved. It is because we as a nation have not yet addressed the moral issues that underlie this legislation.

Human embryos and their use in research is a very troubling issue. We have not heard from the people on this issue. I would support a moratorium on any stem cell research that involves the destruction of human embryos.

Therefore, I leave those thoughts with the House: We should move very carefully before we proceed in this direction.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise for a second time in debate, at the second reading of Bill C-56. In my initial remarks on the bill, I outlined at some length my objections to the approach taken, or rather not taken, in the bill to the protection of embryos from manipulation and destruction in the process of research.

I suggested, as have many of my colleagues, that the government take note of the enormous potential presented to medical science through the experimentation with and research on adult stem cells. By adult stem cells, I mean essentially non-embryonic, non-fetal stem cells. Even stem cells taken from the umbilical cords of newborn babies provide enormous potential for the sort of scientific advances that the advocates of embryonic stem cell research seem so interested in.

I would like to yet again endorse the principle of the Standing Committee on Health in its report: that stem cells ought only to be harvested from living embryos if there is clearly no other option. That high standard set by the all party committee is not reflected in the legislation before the House today.

In fact the legislation today takes no position. Rather, it leaves this matter entirely in the hands of a self-governing agency, which will presumably be made up, in part, of research scientists who, frankly, have a professional and personal interest in the acquisition and manipulation of embryonic stem cells, whose first and greatest concern when they approach this tremendously sensitive matter is not necessarily the moral consideration of the sanctity of human life but rather the utilitarian ethical framework that governs the drive of so many scientists to use life for the purposes of research.

In those earlier remarks, I also suggested that the government should be proposing at least a three year moratorium on embryonic stem cell research in order to allow the scientific community more time to demonstrate the enormous advantages presented by non-embryonic stem cell research.

In fact I would go a step further and suggest that the government, if indeed its objective as stated in the bill is to in part advance such research, ought to be increasing funding to and making a high priority of the development of non-embryonic stem cell research, so that three years hence we could as a parliament revisit the question of whether in fact embryos must be created, collected, manipulated and destroyed in order, purportedly, to advance medical science.

In that speech I also responded to the point raised by the hon. Minister of Health in her remarks in defence of the bill when she first introduced it, at which time she said that if embryos created and frozen for in vitro fertilization purposes are not at some point used for research or implanted in their mother's uterus, at some point they are thrown in “the garbage”. She suggested, I think erroneously, that these were the only alternatives: either research or, as she would have characterized it, wanton destruction of these nascent human lives.

I think that she and her advisers fundamentally have missed a third option, which is for us to embrace and promote the emerging new field of embryonic adoption. At first that sounds like a somewhat absurd idea, but indeed it is not.

Let me just address three reasons. The strongest pragmatic objection would be, as the minister has said, that these conceived embryos simply are thrown in the garbage. Let me offer three arguments against this.

First, if there are a significant number of embryos left over at in vitro fertilization clinics, then the real question is not what to do with extra embryos but why so many extra embryos are being created in the first place. At a minimum under this legislation, IVF clinics should be restricted to producing the least possible number of embryos necessary to result in successful conception. Research to allow IVF clinics to reduce the number of embryos that have to be created for successful implantation should be promoted vigorously. Clinics that seem to be producing too many embryos should be sanctioned by the agency. This is an entirely legitimate point, because many researchers have provided evidence to the Standing Committee on Health that IVF clinics are producing far more embryos than are necessary for implantation. This raises some very serious ethical concerns.

Ideally, every embryo created by IVF could be implanted successfully in the womb. This should be the goal of IVF research and undoubtedly some day the technology will improve to the point where this is the case. When this occurs there will be no leftover spare embryos to speak of. At that point, does the minister envisage biotech firms and research labs suddenly deciding that they do not need or want embryonic stem cells any more? No, instead they will still want embryos to be created, but this time solely for research purposes. Already scientists are saying that the bill is too restrictive and that if we are really to have success with the research we will need therapeutic cloning as well.

Therefore, the minister's position that the only embryos being used are leftover embryos that would otherwise be destroyed is in fact a red herring. On the one hand, improving the technology eventually will reduce or eliminate the supply of extra IVF embryos. On the other hand, the government is creating a demand in the research community and the biotech industry for embryonic stem cells. If the supply of IVF embryos is choked off, they will be back in a few years demanding that the government allow new embryos to be created or cloned solely for research.

Second, I would argue on moral grounds that allowing non-implanted embryos to die need not imply a lack of dignity. It is far more dignified to let human beings who cannot survive without artificial support die naturally than it is to destroy them while stripping them down for spare parts. Even in the case of dying people donating organs, medical ethics requires that we wait until they are brain dead and therefore no longer capable of consciousness before organs are removed. Even then, the rest of the body is disposed of with great dignity and care. An embryo is not a dead body but a living human being. It can be nothing else: it is a living being of human parentage. It is a living human being. It is more in keeping with its dignity that if an embryo is outside of the womb and cannot survive by natural means it be allowed to die rather than simply be used as an object for research. What I am suggesting is that what the minister so eloquently described as throwing in the garbage need not be the means of disposal of these human embryos. A natural death is a natural death at any stage of human life.

Third, there is another alternative to allowing an embryo to die or using it for research, to which I alluded earlier, that is, the growing support for embryonic adoption. The government's overall purpose in this bill is to provide hope and to help infertile couples. If that is truly the government's objective, then surely rather than promoting the use of spare IVF embryos for research the government should encourage couples who successfully conceive through IVF to donate them to other infertile couples in the same situation.

Last summer when the U.S. senate was gripped by the same question we are now facing, one of the senators who favoured embryonic stem cell research argued that destroying an embryo was not ending a life. He held up a piece of paper and drew a tiny dot on it with a pencil saying that was how big an embryo was, but there was a couple providing testimony that day who had, crawling around the committee room, a live baby who had been born through the process of embryonic adoption. Many hundreds of children have been born thanks to the gift of an embryo from a fertile couple to a completely infertile couple.

In closing, I would ask that the government please not open this door to using a utilitarian, relativistic ethic to justify the creation of life in order to allow its manipulation and destruction when other dignified and life giving options, such as embryonic adoption, are available to us.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for this opportunity to address this bill, which deals with very personal values and moral issues on which every member of parliament must reflect before taking a position which, in the end, will not necessarily be a party position, but a personal position based on all the values that we inherited through our education and that we developed throughout our lives.

What is the object of the bill on assisted human reproduction? This legislation deals with the use of embryonic stem cells. As we know, this is a very controversial area in medical research.

What are stem cells? They are cells that have not reached maturity and that have the ability to either specialize to form various human tissues or organs, or reproduce themselves. According to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, these cells have huge potential to help better understand human development and to treat degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and multiple sclerosis.

Stem cells used for research can come from three main sources: embryos that are at a very early stage of development, fetal reproductive organs, which also have stem cells that could potentially be used for a number of purposes, and adult tissues, such as skin and muscles, which are stem cells with limited possibilities.

There are pros and cons about this. This is not an issue that is easy to settle. However, it is obvious that the lack of legislation in this area opens the door to possible abuse. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and not legislate in this area. This is why it is appropriate to have this bill before us.

In recent years, the Bloc Quebecois has been pushing this issue in a significant way, particularly through the hon. member for Drummond, who once introduced a bill, which was considered but died on the order paper before an election.

We then decided not to introduce a new bill, because the government had pledged to introduce legislation. It took a long time, but it now before us and we must evaluate it.

In my opinion, a vote at second reading stage will be a vote to indicate whether or not we want legislation in this area. The details and the position need still more study. I plan to hold a roundtable in my riding, which will enable me to get advice from experts as well as to sound out the public on this reality.

Because in certain aspects—as has been shown by the arguments in favour—as a historical argument, in the 1970s, DNA research was strongly objected to. After the establishment of government guidelines, however, not only was there a good framework but this also made it possible to develop human insulin for diabetics.

There are therefore some aspects such as these which need to be addressed in order to see whether indeed a more advantageous situation will not be created which will make it possible to cure disease, to remedy situations and to improve the lot of human beings in general. On the other hand, this must not be unconditional and without a very specific framework.

Many of those who argue in favour state that research on embryonic stem cells has a very high potential for curative medicine. As a humanitarian argument, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation has pointed out that research is indispensable if the situation of those with diabetes is to be improved.

A number of experts have pointed out that hundreds of frozen embryos are being allowed to thaw out in Canada's fertility clinics because they are no longer needed, while they could be used to discover treatments for such diseases as cancer, diabetes and Parkinson's disease.

It can be seen from this example that this is a not a black and white situation, but rather a grey one. It deserves some framework in order to avoid potential excesses.

There is one other argument in favour. This is that certain women's groups and certain legal experts argue that, in our current legal framework since 1988, the supreme court has been obliged to recognize that not only is a fetus not a human being—which civil law also acknowledges—but that it could not be considered viable before the 20th week of gestation.

If a fetus is not a human being, then tissues from it are not tissues from a human being. This shows just what very basic concepts we are dealing with, the basic values of individuals.

There are opposing arguments. This research on stem cells from human embryos stirs up controversy, particularly because it leads to the destruction of the embryo. This is a reality we have to come to grips with.

According to the Catholic Church, the creation of embryos for research purposes and the use of embryonic stem cells are actions contrary to the will of God, for whom reproduction must always be a conjugal act. This position does not perhaps reflect the general public perception, but it gets us thinking deeply about fundamental issues, such as that of the belief in God, which can have repercussions. Members of this House may have different beliefs. That is all the more reason for a free vote. In these circumstances, I believe that the assisted human reproduction bill, which has been some time in coming, deserves to be considered.

In order to ensure the health and safety of those who turn to assisted reproduction, this bill stipulates that individuals thinking of donating an ovum or an embryo for assisted human reproduction or research purposes must give their informed consent in writing before any procedure. In effect, a certain form of charlatanism is avoided if consent is required.

Children born through the use of reproductive material will have access to medical information on donors, but will not necessarily have access to their identity, donors being free to decide whether or not to divulge their identity. Many issues will have to be considered by the committee. The committee will hear from experts and determine whether, in fact, the bill goes far enough. I think that we must really take the time to consider this bill, get opinions and determine what Quebecers and Canadians want in this regard.

The legislation would also prohibit unacceptable activities, such as the creation of human clones for any reason whatsoever, i.e. for purposes of reproduction or for therapeutic purposes. The legislation would also prohibit creating an embryo for purposes other than creating a human being or improving assisted reproduction techniques, creating chimeras for reproductive purposes, or providing financial inducements to a woman to become a surrogate mother. This situation exists in our society. We want there to be a clear framework, and a debate is therefore relevant.

There is also a very important aspect of the bill in terms of regulating assisted reproduction techniques. As far as I am concerned, it is very important to have the resulting regulations and guidelines on the most contentious aspects of the legislation in short order, so that we know what the regulations will actually contain.

Given that this is a very sensitive bill with long term repercussions that will undoubtedly establish the foundations of a policy that will be in place for many years, it is important to ensure that the regulations do not contradict the will of legislators. We must be careful to study this issue in depth and be able to see the regulations beforehand.

The bill contains a number of the main recommendations of the Standing Committee on Health, made in December 2001, which the Bloc Quebecois supported. We have already spoken to these recommendations contained in the bill.

However, Bill C-56 does have some deficiencies. For example, it states that Health Canada will consult with the provinces regarding regulations on research and activities related to assisted reproduction. We must ensure that this promise is kept. We must give the bill some teeth to guarantee this measure.

It is critical that Canada's policy is developed in co-operation with the provinces and that there be an unequivocal recognition that this is an area of shared jurisdiction.

This is a bill that touches on fundamental questions. I believe that all members of the House should be allowed to vote on this according to their conscience, that it be a free vote. This does not prevent discussion in caucus or speeches in the House, but at the end of the day, we must have legislation that the House of Commons can be proud of and that reflects our society's vision on such a controversial subject.

In closing, I would invite all of my colleagues to reflect on this bill and to participate in the different debates that will take place. I personally intend to organize a roundtable on this issue in my riding.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Saskatoon--Humboldt, Government contracts; the hon. member for Edmonton Southwest, Leadership campaigns; the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville, Firearms registration.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, when a person comes to public life, the person has to come with certain convictions. We do not come as a blank sheet; we come as full people. We come as people who have a certain belief system, certain values. It is those values that our constituents see and those values that our constituents either vote for or vote against. Above all, when we come to public life we must have courage. We must have courage to stand and speak up on the issues that are important to us.

In the time I have had the privilege of representing the people of Kootenay--Columbia I can think of no other bill that is any more important to the very value of who we are as people and who we represent. This bill goes to the very core of our human life.

I was very impressed throughout my political career with Mr. Preston Manning. He thought things through very clearly and incisively. I would like to quote something he said in his concluding speech as he left the House.

In this country for a long time we have tended to avoid moral and ethical issues in the public arena for fear that they would divide us rather than unite us, or for fear that we would be misunderstood as trying to impose our particular values on others. Likewise, we have virtually banished expressions of religious faith largely now to the private or personal sphere because we simply do not know how to handle expressions of faith in the public arena.

This parliament will soon legislate on how to regulate the genetic revolution, one of the most exciting and potentially advantageous developments in the history of mankind. However, because that science deals with the beginnings and the intergenerational transfer of human life itself, it cannot help but have moral and ethical dimensions of the most profound kind which parliament must openly and seriously discuss. I for one think this is a good thing, not something to be feared and avoided, but an opportunity to be embraced. I want to wish this parliament openness and honesty and wisdom and success in those deliberations.

Those are very profound words from a very wise gentleman.

As I look through the papers and as I read comments, I am open to understanding where my constituents are coming from. It is very important as a member of parliament to understand where my constituents are coming from. I encourage them to speak to me. As they speak to me and express their thoughtful views about this topic, I listen with great attention and indeed with great respect. I also listen to other members in the House on whatever side of the House with respect. That is what it is all about. It is not only about respect for ourselves, but it is a respect for the most closely held values and beliefs that we have.

In doing some reading I happened across an article that was in the Calgary Sun on May 26. The article is entitled “We must not kill in the name of science” by Bishop Fred Henry. He went into the whole issue of where I see the most pressing ethical dilemma. To my mind the most pressing ethical dilemma is the issue of stem cell research on embryos. We have no idea where that research will go, particularly the research on stem cells of adult stem cells. Let me quote him directly:

So, how do we solve this ethical dilemma? Simple. We ban the easy cases, i.e., cloning of humans, creation of human-animal hybrids, and sex selection of babies for non-medical purposes. Secondly, create a new body, the Assisted Human Reproduction Agency of Canada to regulate scientific and medical use of human reproductive materials. Of course, the agency could permit research using stem cells from embryos left over from infertility treatment but scientists would have to show the use of embryos was necessary for research. Who would make this determination? The board would be appointed by the government.

According to the act, this new agency would also have another task. It would be illegal to give a financial incentive to a surrogate mother, but she could be compensated for reasonable expenses.(It takes a bit of mental gymnastics to get your head around that one.) However, you guessed it. Permissible expenses would be determined by the new agency.

The article continues:

[The people involved with this bill], bedeviled by technological possibilities, forget the materials kept in frozen storage are whole human organisms. They contain a full set of chromosomes. They are human beings at a very early stage of development. Whether or not one is a human being does not depend upon size or location in the physical world.

This is the key point and I agree with the writer totally:

They are not “potential” human life. They are precisely what human beings look like at that point of their lives. Freezing an embryo does not kill it, but merely arrests its development.

We have to be strong and forthright in having a discussion about this very problematic issue. The article continues:

Scientists have long recognized the principle that no experimental or research procedure should be conducted on human subjects if it provides no direct benefit or if risks to the subject are inordinately great.

In the case of human embryo experimentation, not only is there no direct benefit to the subject, but the embryo is killed. This cannot be done for whatever reason, even in view of the possibility that it might provide advances that would benefit others. No amount of public benefit can ever justify the deliberate killing of a human being. The argument is particularly hollow when the same results could be achieved by alternate means, such as the use of adult stem cells or stem cells derived from umbilical cords or placentas. Such research would have no ethical complications and has already shown promising results.

No human being, including the embryo, should ever be used as a means to an end; no human should be considered “surplus” or “spare”.

It is always wrong to destroy another human even to help another. Both the means and the objective must be good--there is no middle ground.

We cannot kill in the name of science.

That is where I am coming down with all the force I possibly can. There is a whole new world available to us as human beings in this entire area of reproductive technology and genetics. It is absolutely unbelievable the amount of potential there is for good in this area. I believe with all the passion I have that the research must take place in the areas where we will not be killing human life. To repeat what the writer said, and I agree with his thoughts completely, the whole issue of human life is that those so-called embryos are simply human life at a particular state put into suspended animation as a result of the procedure of freezing them.

The preamble to the bill includes the phrase “the dignity and respect for human life” and is generally stated both in the majority and minority reports of the Standing Committee on Health and clause 22 of the bill as primary objectives of the assisted human reproduction agency. Without that preamble, without the phrase “the dignity and respect for human life”, this parliament is simply sidestepping the issue.

Note that I did not say the government or the Liberals. I am not getting into partisanship here. The 301 people in this assembly representing the people of Canada have to come to grips with this issue. We cannot sidestep the issue. We either respect the dignity of human life or we do not. If we do not deal with that issue, then we are sidestepping it; we are wimps and we are walking away from the problem.

On the other side of the coin, I state again that as the representative of the people of Kootenay--Columbia, I must have full respect for other perspectives in this place. I must have full respect and listen with intelligence and integrity to the representations of the people in my constituency. I have put a stake in the ground right here. I have respect for the dignity of human life.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is the House ready for the question?