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.