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.


Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Canadian Alliance Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to go back a year and explain the process that went on with the legislation. It is very important that we look at exactly what we have in Bill C-56 and understand why it is in there. It all started a year ago on May 4 when the bill went directly to committee. It is the first piece of legislation that has ever gone directly to committee. It went right to committee, and I commend the minister at the time for doing that. It is a very contentious issue which is important to all members of the House and all Canadians.

Putting it before committee was a very wise thing to do, before entrenchment of partisan lines and before people said things in which they would entrap themselves before fully understanding the issue. For nine months the committee examined this issue. It had the best witnesses from across Canada and around the world tear the legislation apart and look at it from all sides; the scientific side, the ethical side and the family values side. At the end it was suggested that maybe it was named inappropriately and that it should be named building families.

There are really two parts. We have the part about the in vitro fertilization, the idea of what it takes when infertile couples cannot have children and what has to happen for them to conceive. We looked at what would assist them to build families, to build healthy new Canadians who would develop into prosperous individuals to help and grow society in Canada.

The other side is perhaps as some people would argue not even applicable to the bill. It is all on the scientific side which drives the idea that research should be done to ease the suffering of individuals, which has nothing to do with reproduction other than getting some of the material that could perhaps be used for stem cells in this area. That was important to understand.

We listened to everyone. For scientists, the success of in vitro fertilization is a brand new baby boy or girl. However for society it is much deeper than that. We had witnesses who appeared before the committee who said that who their parents were, where they came from, if there was an anonymous donor that they did not know anything about, left a void in their life which they could not handle later in life. It was very important that we understood the structure of the human body, which is very complex, and the psychological effects on many individuals. Success from the different perspectives was very different so we had to look at all sides of the issue.

On the embryonic stem cell side, if we are going to destroy an embryo, destroy life at its beginning to achieve stem cells by 14 days, kill it, take the stem cells and do research is an ethical minefield in the eyes of many people. We are taking human life at its very early and most vulnerable stage and destroying it. It is not an issue of whether life begins there or not. Biologically it does and whether we like that or not there is nothing we can do about that. The issue is how much value do we place on life at that stage. That is the ethical dilemma in which the House will be placed. It is something that we wrestled with as a committee for a year.

At the end of that, we recognized that there were other alternatives. We had scientists come to the committee who said that we should not go down that path. From the scientific research being done and the easing of human suffering, it was much more successful on the adult stem cell side of it.

In December the committee issued its report on its findings entitled, “Assisted Human Reproduction: Building Families”. This was an all party committee. The committee had a majority of Liberal members, and the other members of parliament were three Canadian Alliance, two Bloc, one NDP and one Progressive Conservative. After we listened to all the witnesses, we came up with these recommendations.

The recommendation states:

Research using embryos be a controlled activity requiring a licence. Even if all other regulatory criteria are met, no licence may be issued unless the applicant clearly demonstrates that no other category of biological material could be used for the purposes of the proposed research.

Prior to that, the preamble, we came to that conclusion because we heard that embryonic stem cell research presents some possibilities. Other sources, such as umbilical cord blood or adult stem cells are more available, are more easily obtained, are less ethically contentious. Some witnesses argued that research on stem cells using sources other than embryos might be sufficient to obtain the stem cell potential.

The committee was struck with the testimony that in the past year there have been tremendous gains in adult stem cell research in humans. We also heard that after many years of embryonic stem cell research in animal models, the results are not providing the expected advances. Therefore, we want to encourage research funding in the area of adult stem cells.

After nine months of listening to the best and the brightest in our land and in the world, the committee which had no vested interest said that there were two ways we could go. We could destroy life at its beginning and do research on the embryo which has very limited scientific possibilities at this time, or we could go on this other line which is the adult or non-embryonic stem cell research, which is umbilical cord blood, amniotic fluid and on and on. The committee decided to go there. The bill does not reflect that and therein lies the problem and the reason for an amendment. We need a piece of legislation that recognizes the value of the adult or non-embryonic stem cell research.

What has happened since December? As I reported a couple of days ago in the House, in the last 60 days there have been a number of different advancements that have happened involving Parkinson's patients. These results were not just proposed and looked hopeful; the patients were actually cured. It is the same thing for multiple sclerosis and autoimmune resistance and on and on. We have seen tremendous gains in the last 60 days compared to any other time in history. What has happened in this line of research in the last year has been absolutely phenomenal. The advancement is growing and growing.

What happens in the next 60 days or in the next year becomes something we have to recognize. We have to be very cautious of going down the ethically charged line of destroying life at its beginning. All of this is important.

What is interesting is that because of this research we see actual cures coming from adult stem cell research. This was in an article on the fourth or fifth page of the Globe and Mail . If the research had been done on embryos and it had been embryonic stem cells that had cured the Parkinson's and MS patients, it would have been a shot heard around the world.

The drive of the scientists and society to get to the embryos is absolutely astounding. We do not have enough information on this whole area. It is very important that we take our time. We have to deliberate. Society has to wrestle with the same things we have wrestled with in committee so that we do not make mistakes. We must be wise in how we go down this ethically charged line.

The whole idea of patent law is not part of the bill because patent law comes under the industry minister. It is unfortunate. Something on patenting the human body should be placed in this legislation. Patenting the human body should not take place. The human body should be something that we cherish. How we find it may be patented, but certainly we should not allow ourselves to patent the human body.

The most important part of this legislation is not what we do with the embryo; it is what we do with the agency that licenses the research as we go forward in the 21st century. It must be accountable and garner the trust of Canadians if we are to truly have a piece of legislation and work in areas that are so ethically charged. It has to be looked at. It has to be changed. We have to make that as open and transparent as possible. I encourage all members to be wise as we deliberate in that area.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Mississauga South Ontario


Paul Szabo LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-56 has to do with reproductive technologies and related research. I would think that most members would agree that the vast majority of the bill has some important provisions which should be supported. However, there are a few items which should be considered for amendment.

One of the areas has to do with stem cells. Stem cells in lay terms are cells which can be adjusted to become virtually any healthy cell in the human body. This means that those cells could be used to repair damaged cells.

Stem cells can be harvested from embryos. They can also be harvested from aborted fetuses, umbilical cords, umbilical cord blood, placentas, amniotic fluid, in fact from virtually every organ in the human body. They are readily available but the question does come up as to whether or not it is ethical to harvest embryonic stem cells from the human embryo.

There is a saying in ethics that when the ethically unacceptable and the scientifically possible are in conflict, the ethical view must prevail. I also cite Dr. Françoise Baylis, who is a bioethicist at McGill University. In her testimony before the Standing Committee on Health, I believe it was on May 31, 2001 she said “An embryo is a human being. That is an uncontested biological fact. It is a member of the human species”.

I do not believe that in terms of the ethical view there is a disagreement with regard to whether or not an embryo is a human being. However, there are ethical arguments about whether or not that human being is in fact a person. It is a deep ethical argument into which I do not have the time to go. There is some basis for having concern about embryonic stem cell research.

The province of Quebec, on hearing the direction in which the Canadian Institutes of Health Research was going, immediately called for and imposed a ban on all embryonic stem cell research in the province. That was in January.

In February there was another important development. The secretary of human and health services in the United States introduced an amendment to a regulation which defines child. For health purposes, child in the United States is defined as a person under 19 years of age, including the period from conception to birth. It is a very significant change in the United States in terms of its policy with regard to the unborn.

The big debate has to do with an ethical argument surrounding when life begins. Human embryos can provide stem cells but uniquely from those stem cells there is an ethical problem in that to harvest the stem cells the embryo must be destroyed. That is an important point. Also, because the stem cells taken from an embryo would be of a particular DNA foreign to the ultimate patient, that means there will be immune rejection problems and the requirement for lifelong anti-rejection drug treatment which is a difficult situation.

In addition, embryonic stem cells which are injected under the skin have a tendency to create spontaneous tumours. They are very difficult to control. In a monograph I wrote, “The Ethics and Science of Stem Cells”, I related an example where embryonic stem cells were injected into the brain of a Parkinson's patient. After the person died about year later an autopsy showed that there was hair and bone growing in the person's brain. It gives an idea of the kinds of things that should concern people about what can happen when we start to play with genetic engineering.

On the other hand, with adult stem cells, there is no ethical problem. Because they would come from the patient, there would be no immune rejection problem nor the requirement for drugs. The stem cells would be readily available. Instead of being injected into a person's damaged area, they are simply injected into the blood and they have the ability to migrate to the damaged area.

It makes a great deal of sense to expand the research with regard to embryonic stem cells. This was the point of the motion made by the hon. member, to amplify the importance of adult stem cell research as the health committee indicated.

The whole issue has to do with research on surplus embryos from fertility clinics. If there was no surplus, there would be no question here. Let me give the House an idea of what happens.

Dr. Baylis, to whom I referred earlier, indicated there were about 500 frozen embryos in all fertility clinics across Canada. Currently about 250 of those are being utilized for reproductive purposes which leaves 250. In her presentation she also indicated that half of the frozen embryos will not survive thawing. They will die simply because of the process. That leaves 125. She went on to say that of the 125 embryos left, only nine of them will have the capacity to produce any kind of stem cell and only about five of those will actually produce stem cells which are of a quality necessary for research purposes. This means that only five out of 250 embryos are useful, but 250 embryos have to be destroyed just to get five that are going to be useful for research. That is 2%, which is an unacceptable threshold for scientific research. We have to do something about it.

What can we do about it? If there were no surplus embryos from fertility clinics, the question would be moot. We would be dealing with a motion that states that embryos can be created specifically for research and then put that question to the House.

The bill suggests that we use surplus embryos which should not exist. That is trying to get through the back door what research cannot get through the front door, that is, to have embryos for research. We should deal with that question directly. I wish the House were able to deal with that motion.

We can do something about this. There has been extensive research with regard to the process of storing women's eggs. Fertility clinics drug women very heavily to make them hyperovulate. This makes them produce a whole bunch of eggs. Ten to 20 eggs would be harvested. All of those eggs would then be fertilized. Some would be used for in vitro fertilization. The balance would be frozen for future in vitro processes. If the first process worked and the couple did not want a second child and they did not want to donate the egg to another person who wanted it, the embryos would become surplus.

What happens if we store women's eggs? It means that only a few will be harvested. Those needed for the in vitro fertilization process will be fertilized and stored. Once the first process is done and more eggs are required for the next process, they simply are thawed out, fertilized and then implanted. The bottom line is there would be no surplus. It is very important that more be invested in the process of storing women's eggs.

In a previous speech I indicated my concern about the whole question of commercialization. On May 24 I received from Dr. Timothy Caulfield, who appeared before the health committee, a response to my concern about commercialization. He said:

In particular, I too am concerned about the impact of the commercialization process in this context. Much of my work has sought to highlight the potentially adverse implications of commercializing genetic research, e.g., the creation of unique conflicts of interest, the skewing of university based research, contributing to the narrowing of the social definition of “normalcy” and a broadening of the notions of disease and disability.

There are very many issues involved with this legislation, including things like patentability and the idea of having an agency to whom we would second the responsibility for defining an ethical framework for research. The bill needs a lot of work. I want Canadians to know that there is no group, no organization, no individual who is opposed to stem cell research. The question is will we get them ethically?

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, once again it is a pleasure to participate in this important debate today now that we have an amendment before the House stating that the 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.

The amendment gives me an opportunity to further expand on some of the comments I made earlier today in terms of my concern that the bill, as it is presently before the House, does not represent the broad bases of science that are available to us in Canada and around the world particularly relating to stem cell research. Those of us who have concerns about the bill would like to bring to the attention of hon. members that the legislation should be sent back to committee for a more balanced approach in terms of the best science we can get from embryonic and adult stem cell research.

All of us want to see cures for some of these debilitating diseases, diseases that can be terminal such as ALS and others. I would not want to be responsible for not allowing the science to go forward within some kind of regulatory framework that would allow for a cure, if indeed there was a cure, to be found through adult stem cell research. We do have an ethical dilemma surrounding the use of embryonic stem cells. We do not have the same kind of dilemma with adult stem cell research.

I must say I was struck by the comments of my hon. colleague from Hamilton, a former McMaster graduate who I went to school with. I was taken by his comments about the use of adult and embryonic stem cells and particularly, the fact that we would not want to see any stone left unturned in this whole debate to allow the science to go forward. Indeed, he made the comment that if a life had to end to give new life to someone else, he would be in favour of that.

I am in favour of seeing tissue and organ donation come forward. The only thing I want to say to him about that is that the fetus and embryo do not have a choice. They do not have the opportunity to make a choice as to whether or not they will be a donor, in effect giving life to someone else through their death. We do have an ethical concern surrounding that issue and we need to spend more time on that. I am sure hon. colleagues will take that into consideration when they are thinking about this issue.

We have talked about the issue of ALS, Parkinson's and others. An article in the Reuters News Agency on April 8, 2002, stated:

A transplant of his own brain cells have treated a man's Parkinson's disease, clearing up the trembling and rigid muscles that mark the disease, researchers reported on Monday.

The researchers believe they isolated and nurtured adult stem cells from the patient's brain, cells that they re-injected to restore normal function.

“We definitely need to do more studies,” said Dr. Michael Levesque of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, who led the study. “This is the first case that shows a promising technique may work. It is an experimental procedure and has to be investigated further before it becomes accepted procedure.”

More than two years after the experimental treatment, the man has no symptoms of Parkinson's, an incurable and fatal brain disease that starts with tremors and ends up incapacitating its victims.

That is fantastic. If indeed we are seeing those kinds of advances in medical research today and if in this case, as in some others we could cite, it has come about because of medical research with adult stem cells, then it is incumbent upon us as parliamentarians to ensure we do all we can to bring all of the research available in this field into the legislative equation. We must not go overboard on one aspect of stem cell research which seems to be the case in the present legislation.

There is also the whole business of donor consent. Those children who are born through artificial insemination do not at the present time have access to the medical records or the background of the donors. The legislation is absolutely faulty in that regard.

I recently spoke on the telephone with a constituent back in Nanaimo. This young lady is 20 years of age. She is wonderfully healthy and a productive member of society who is the result of artificial insemination. Her concern is that she does not have access to the medical records and histories which could be helpful to her as she goes into adulthood and wants to raise her own family.

The government, through this legislation, is unwilling to open the door to this particular kind of thing. Her suggestion was, and I pass it on to the rest of the members of the House and particularly to the committee, that we should only be considering donors who are willing to be identified to those who, at the age of majority, need to have this kind of information about their birthing parents in terms of artificial insemination.

There are a number of considerations that come into play. When we compare it to adoption there is indeed legal recourse for finding out this kind of information. People who at this point in their lives want to find out where the egg or the sperm came from that created them through artificial insemination need to have the same access to that kind of information that people who were adopted have. Indeed there should be a level playing field in that area.

There is a real need to clarify some important points in this legislation. We are hoping that when it goes back to committee it will indeed be prepared to accept amendments that bring this legislation into an even stronger position to protect those who are looking for protection in the bill and who are looking for cures that at this point are not available.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased I have an opportunity to again reply to a speech by the member for Nanaimo--Cowichan because we are having a very important dialogue here. What is before the House is a bill dealing with a high moral issue. It is proper for parliament to debate a high moral issue when morality comes into interface with science or other aspects of society.

I note that the member for Nanaimo--Cowichan called for a free vote on this piece of legislation and I take him at heart on that because I will give him an argument that I hope he will consider when he comes to vote himself.

There are two givens in this argument. First, one should accept, for this bill, that life begins at conception. Second, one needs to accept that to arbitrarily take life away is murder. We are not talking about collecting embryonic stem cells deliberately by creating individuals and then killing them.

The collection of embryonic stem cells for the purposes of research into Parkinson's, or whatever else, is only in the context of where the embryonic stem cells would be discarded otherwise, either from a fertility clinic or, and the bill does not mention this, presumably from spontaneous miscarriage, or wherever there is fetal material that as a result of a proper hospital procedure results in embryonic material being available.

The moral argument from my point of view is that the ultimate good is to preserve human life. My difficulty is with the proposals coming from the opposition and members of my own side. They suggest that we should delay implementation of allowing embryonic stem cell research as proposed in this legislation until we see whether adult stem cell research can have the same effect. My problem with that, as I mentioned earlier, is that we may be condemning people to death or to disability who we might otherwise save should embryonic stem cell research be fruitful as a means of curing things like Parkinson's, ALS and others.

I would like to put it again in a human context. In my village there is a couple in our church who we know very well. The wife is suffering severely from Parkinson's disease. The husband comes to me and says, “John, please support Bill C-56 because if there is any chance that embryonic stem cells can be developed as a cure for Parkinson's I would like it in time to save my wife who is in a great deal of difficulty right now”.

So, the basic moral dilemma from my point of view: even if embryonic stem cell research only has a 5% chance of being more successful than adult stem cell research, I do not feel I have the moral right to delay that research if it means it could possibly save some lives of people out there who are suffering from these terrible diseases.

The member for Nanaimo--Cowichan, after our interchange before, came over to me and said, “John, I listened to you very carefully”, and he is a very good member if I may say so. We really want to get at the truth here. He said that the problem from his point of view is that the embryo does not have a choice. He alluded in his speech just now to the fact that of course we encourage transplants. We can donate our kidney, our liver or whatever else. We can sign a form and when we are in an accident and killed that body part can be used to save another life. We agree that is a good thing. However, the problem is, as the member opposite has observed, an embryo does not have that choice. If we assume that a person is created at conception and that person inevitably dies--because we are only talking about a situation where that person as an embryo dies--that embryo does not have the choice of creating new life.

We agree that creating new life is a good thing. As a matter of fact, it is the highest moral good that we can think of. Now, this is where the really subtle moral distinction comes in. I do not want to get into religion and that kind of thing, but I think there is a very strong feeling that those who are alive, those who are persons before birth, are the ultimate persons of innocence. In other words, if one is a person between conception and birth, all of us would agree that as a person one is morally pure in every sense.

If we take that principle and apply it to the logic that to give life in death is one of the highest goods that one can give then surely an embryo, as a person who is the ultimate in innocence, would want to choose the highest good, and that highest good is, instead of being discarded, instead of being destroyed, to be part of giving new life and new opportunity to the living.

That to me is the ultimate ethical dilemma. It is not whether life begins at conception or not. The ultimate ethical dilemma we must face in this parliament is the fact that we have to make a choice for those who cannot choose, and we have to make the right moral choice for those who cannot choose. An embryo cannot choose, but we know in its innocence that what it would do in death is want to give life.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I had in mind what I would say when I rose but listening to the hon. member across the way has changed what I wished to talk about. I will direct myself to what he said. I appreciate his sincerity but do not fully agree with him.

There are so many things we get into that could be referred to as designer fixes. By that I mean we focus on what is popular or current and tend to ignore everything else. Following the hon. member's suggestion and saying embryonic stem cell research is a potential cure all could create problems. That is the decision the House would make by passing the bill as it stands. We would go ahead with embryonic stem cell research right away without further development of adult stem cell research. Adult stem cell research would be pushed off to one side. Scientists and researchers would focus instead on embryonic stem cell research and we would miss an opportunity.

I will use an example. Some might say it is a little radical but I am trying to make a point. A lot of people are in need of organ transplants. The need often exceeds the supply. Why do we not take people who have committed serious crimes, shoot them and take their organs so we can preserve the lives of the more morally upright people who have not committed crimes? There are two reasons why we do not. First, there is the moral issue. Second, there are alternatives.

This is exactly what we are facing in the question of stem cell research. First, we are facing a moral issue. Is it right to destroy embryos so we can harvest their stem cells to find cures for diseases that may or may not be curable another way? This raises a lot of moral questions. It is not just the moral argument, as the hon. member suggested, where embryos that are not used for artificial insemination would cease to exist in any case.

Some might argue that in the tightest confines of control where there are absolute safeguards and assurances it is only by accident that an extra embryo would exist. Perhaps the people involved thought it would be needed and by happenstance it was not. Faced with an extra embryo they would ask what to do and whether it was for the greater good. An argument can be made that way. The problem is that nothing in Bill C-437 would prevent such people from saying that to be absolutely sure they had better have a lot of extra embryos in case some did not take. They would end up with a huge amount of embryos. They would be creating a supply to serve a need they created themselves.

As in the wild example I gave where there is a moral issue, there are also alternatives. There are alternatives in terms of donors. There is a shortage of supply. We need to do all kinds of things to ensure organ donors come forward. Maybe we need more education in terms of the health of people who make donations. What would be the potential future problems for someone who donates a kidney?

With regard to people passing away, there are concerns that people who are anxious might decide a bit too quickly that a person will probably not survive. They might decide to get the organs while they are fresh and before too much time has expired. These are real fears that exist in some people's minds. Perhaps we need to do more advertising to ensure people understand the shortage and the real need for organs. We could show people that making the sacrifice in one form or another could preserve a human life.

There are alternatives in the case of stem cell research. Adult stem cell research is underway to effect potential cures. Treatments are currently underway using adult stem cells. Because it is not foreign tissue it does not have the problem of rejection that we see, ironically, with organ transplants. There is real potential in adult stem cell research. All we are saying in our proposal is that we should properly explore the alternative, the one with fewer moral implications and potential health problems for recipients.

If we moved too quickly to embryonic stem cell research many people would put adult stem cell research aside. They would say it was old while embryonic stem cell research was new. They would want to focus on the new and not bother with the old. Government grants would dry up and become non-existent. There would be no move toward research. Research would wither and die. All bets would be on embryonic stem cell research and the demand for it would go up. People would be inclined to cheat and create far more embryos than needed. Embryos would be created for the pure purpose of destroying them for medical research. That is the moral question.

I am not saying that at some point we need to investigate the possibility for the greater good of mankind or to treat the living without destroying life in the process. However while we have alternatives, and we do have alternatives, we owe it to the public and ourselves to fully explore them to ensure they get an honest chance.

We are not saying we should move the issue aside indefinitely or forever. We are saying we should be given three years to make a concentrated effort to determine whether we can effect cures through an alternative, morally higher and perhaps medically safer ground. If at the end of that time evidence suggests it is not working and that embryonic stem cells have greater potential, let us move cautiously in that direction and design a bill that provides safeguards. However we should know we have exhausted the alternatives before moving onto that ground. That is a reasonable request.

The hon. member shared some ideas with us. I appreciate that. It is what we are supposed to do in this place. We are supposed to share ideas, not fight one another. There is a good mixture on both sides of the House on the issue. It is a disturbing and controversial bill on which we need to move slowly.

I will consider words of the hon. member and I trust he will consider mine. I hope everyone in the House is listening carefully to everyone's ideas. It ultimately will help us design a bill that reflects the needs and wishes of the Canadian public.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Canadian Alliance Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments from my colleague.

I will speak to the amendment to Bill C-56, which states:

...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.

As my colleague pointed out, this is really one of the main points which was in the official opposition report to the health committee that studied the draft bill: that we have a three year moratorium on embryonic stem cell research, that we proceed with caution on these serious and grave ethical matters, and that in areas like adult stem cell research where the potential is quite frankly limitless at this point and is unknown, let us use these three years to really examine those alternatives. As the former leader of the opposition, Preston Manning, used to say, where there is an ethical route and a scientific route that converge, that is the route that should be taken.

I do want to quote extensively from an article in the New York Times of March 7, 2002, because it does point to some of the potential of adult stem cell research. It stated:

Adding an important piece to the rapidly changing picture of human stem cells, researchers have found that cells from the blood can regenerate not just the blood supply, but tissues of the skin, liver and gut.

This means that adult stem cells may actually be very potent, which was previously thought to be a criteria that applied only to embryonic cells.

The finding strengthens the emerging view that the body may possess a cache of universal repair cells that could patch up almost any damaged tissue. These repair cells, probably located in the bone marrow and fairly easy to harvest, can move out into the bloodstream and help regenerate any tissue that signals it is in distress.

Such a theory is far from proved, but if true could lead, some scientists believe, to new therapies aimed at enhancing the natural process.

This could be a possible answer to the pleas from people who, as all of us do, know people who suffer from degenerative diseases like Parkinson's. This could be the hope for them. The embryonic stem cells are being held out as the only hope for them when in fact there could be another hope for them in dealing with these diseases.

The article goes on to quote Dr. Helen Blau, a stem cell expert at Stanford University, who stated:

This appears to be a regenerative response we were never previously aware of. It suggests there may be a repair mechanism that goes on throughout life but is insufficient in major disease. If we could amplify this mechanism it could become a whole new form of medicine based on using the body's own cells to treat disease.

Some researchers even say that we should do the embryonic stem cell research because we need that as a comparative study for adult stem cell research, but again, in an area ethically fraught with danger, we believe we should proceed with caution.

I want to continue quoting this article because it is interesting. It stated:

The new finding is based on patients who received transplants of blood-forming cells from relatives after cancer treatments that had destroyed their own bone marrow cells.

...In a similar study reported this January, patients' own cells were found to have become incorporated in transplanted hearts. But this is the first report that human donor stem cells, presumably from the bone marrow, can populate several different kinds of tissue.

There is another quote, from a Dr. Donald Orlic of the National Institutes of Health, the advisory board to the president, who stated:

What is so good about this study is that it is showing bone-marrow derived stem cells demonstrating a high degree of plasticity because they have repopulated three organs.

Stated the article:

Plasticity is the stem cell's ability to become several types of mature cell.

Biologists have believed until recently that each tissue in the body has its own dedicated source of stem cells that repair just that tissue. While this idea still seems true, bone marrow has begun to emerge as a source of general purpose stem cells that work to repair damage wherever it occurs. It is not clear if the system of stem cells found in particular tissues is entirely separate, or somehow dependent on the bone marrow system.

What does seem clear is that the bone marrow stem cells are far more versatile than the tissue specific stem cells.

Physicians have already learned how to make the blood-forming stem cells rush out of the marrow into the bloodstream by injecting a person with a natural factor or cytokine called GCSF. The stem cells can then be harvested from a donor's bloodstream and used instead of a marrow transplant.

The patients studied by [this] team received blood-borne cells harvested from their donors in this way. Though the cells that contributed to the patients' skin, gut and liver presumably came from the donors' bone marrow, this has not been proved.

This suggests that there needs to be more research in this area to see exactly what the potential is.

The article went on and stated:

But experiments with mice have revealed the bone marrow as a source of versatile stem cells that can incorporate into several tissues, including the heart.

Bone marrow stem cells may in fact repair many, if not all, tissues and perhaps on a daily basis. But the repair system obviously fails to cope quickly enough with major damage, such as the loss of tissue in heart attacks. Perhaps, with the use of cytokines like GCSF, the marrow repair system could be brought to bear in many types of disease.

The...researchers said they were considering several such approaches, including collecting marrow cells from a donor's blood and injecting them directly into a damaged organ. “We might see the first clinical data in two or three years,” Dr. Körbling said. Dr. Orlic is working along these same lines and plans to see if GCSF-induced marrow cells can reverse heart attacks in rhesus monkeys before testing the approach in people.

It seems to me that particularly when we are embarking upon this new area of research where we have great potential in adult stem cell research, we ought to focus our efforts and resources in that area rather than embarking upon the ethically fraught area of embryonic stem cell research. That brings me back to a point I made in my previous speech. The bill fails to include or refer to arguments of first principle, that is, we are discussing issues on the surface without defining some of the most fundamental things before we get into those arguments.

The official opposition has asked that the preamble be amended by including the phrase “the dignity of and respect for human life”. That needs to be in the bill. It was in the Liberal majority report. It was in the official opposition's minority report and it needs to be in the forefront of the bill. It also needs to be in clause 22 of the bill as the primary objective of this new assisted human reproductive agency. It needs to have that as a guideline.

I come back to the whole issue that was highlighted, as I mentioned before, in the discussion between Preston Manning and Ms. Françoise Baylis from Dalhousie University. Ms. Baylis stated:

The first thing to recognize in the legislation and in all of your conversations is that embryos are human beings. That is an uncontested biological fact. They are a member of the human species. What is contested is their moral status. The language we use there is technical and that's where we talk about persons.

Therefore, the distinction for her is the distinction between a human being, which an embryo is, and a human person, but what has to be done in the bill and throughout the land on all of these life issues, I think, is that we then must distinguish between a human person and a human being, if there is a distinction. Maybe there is not a distinction. That is the debate we need to have in this place.

Ms. Baylis stated:

I think what becomes very clear is that when you're talking about embryos, you don't need to have a debate about whether or not they're human or human beings. The answer's yes. That's a biological claim. The term “person”, however, is not a biological term. It is not a term about which there are facts. It's a moral term. It's a value-laden term about which people will disagree, and they will then point to facts to try to tell you that their definition is the right one.

It seems to me that this is the main issue for us to debate here. Quite frankly I am not one who will stand in the House and say I know all the answers as to what exactly makes up a human person and a human being, but I have studied the issue. I have read the words of people like George Grant, one of the most pre-eminent Canadian philosophers of all time, who said this is the most fundamental question for any society because it impacts on so many other pieces of legislation and it impacts on how we value human life. He said that we have to decide what it is that is common to human beings and yet unique to them, so that we can stand up and say we have a charter of rights that says human persons have a right to life.

If human persons have a right to life, then we had better justify why it is they have that right to life. Is it the exercise of reason? Is it the capacity to exercise reason? Is it free will? Is it the capacity to exercise free will?

We have to decide exactly why it is we say that human beings or human persons have a right to life and the right not to be deprived thereof, or that for certain things such as an embryo, even an excess embryo created through IVF, somehow we can destroy that life and use it for research purposes. We need to answer that very fundamental question and debate that question in the House before we decide on what particulars the bill will have. That is the main point. That is why the official opposition has introduced this amendment, quite frankly: to ensure that this issue and this debate receive full deliberation and to ensure that in this very sensitive area we move very cautiously and prudently.

Legal AidStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, apparently legal aid fees have not been increased since 1987. It was reported last week that as a result 46 Ontario regional law committees had withdrawn their services from legal aid work.

In addition, at the largest gathering of lawyers in British Columbia history, lawyers demanded that the attorney general restore the $48 million he plans to divert from legal aid.

Speaking to the Defence Counsel Association of Ottawa, lawyer David Scott said that low rates for lawyers have reduced our legal aid programs to “token systems”, where the rights of the poor are breached routinely.

Time is long overdue for governments to bring legal aid funding to fair levels. All Canadians must have access to legal counsel regardless of wealth.

Memorial CupStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Kootenay Ice won the Memorial Cup in Guelph, Ontario.

Let us look at the team's history. In Cranbrook for only four years, the first two playing at the old Cranbrook Memorial Arena with a seating capacity of only 1,500, the Ice won the Western Hockey League championship in their second year, then moved to the new Cranbrook Recplex.

Now at 4,500 screaming fans, they decisively won the Western Hockey League championship this year. The Kootenay Ice lost their first two playoff games at home, but just like the rest of the residents in my constituency, they did not give up. They came back, first defeating Prince George, then Kelowna and then a very strong team from Red Deer.

Coached by Ryan McGill, the Ice moved on to win the Memorial Cup with a convincing 6-3 win over the Victoriaville Tigres. I wish to extend congratulations to team owner Ed Chynoweth and particularly to the players, who showed so much character in playing a controlled, disciplined, forceful style of hockey.

I was proud to be among the hundreds of Kootenay residents who went to Guelph, Ontario to cheer for the Ice. Fans and players were fire on ice.

World Partnership WalkStatements By Members

2 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, yesterday thousands of Canadians in cities across the country participated in the 18th annual World Partnership Walk. The Aga Khan Foundation organizes the annual walk in Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States and Portugal. It raises money for development projects in the poorest parts of Africa and Asia.

This year's walk brought in an estimated $2.6 million in Canada, 25% more than last year. There was also record breaking participation in many cities.

In the past 18 years this entirely volunteer run event has raised millions of dollars for the funding of early childhood development, health care improvements and rural development.

I ask all hon. members to join me in congratulating the Aga Khan Foundation on another successful World Partnership Walk and in applauding them for their very important work.

Jesse RosensweetStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Sarmite Bulte Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am both happy and proud to rise today and announce to the House that a Canadian was awarded one of the most coveted prizes of the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, which ended yesterday in France.

Toronto filmmaker Jesse Rosensweet won the jury prize for his short film The Stone of Folly during the closing ceremony of the 55th Cannes festival.

His animated film, lasting eight minutes, is a dark comedy about the adventures in a hospital during medieval times. Of the 11 short films listed in the official competition, The Stone of Folly was the clear audience favourite.

I invite the House to join me in congratulating Jesse Rosensweet for this major accomplishment. I am certain that we will be hearing more about him in the near future.

Bravo, Jesse.

Hepatitis Awareness MonthStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House that May has been declared Hepatitis Awareness Month by the Canadian Liver Foundation.

Hepatitis is the most prevalent liver disease in this country. It affects over a half million Canadian men, women and children. Hepatitis C, which spread by contact with contaminated blood, is expected to reach epidemic proportions in Canada increasing the number of liver related deaths by 126% and the demand for donor organs by 61% by the year 2008.

Hepatitis A and B are the only forms of liver disease that are preventable by vaccine, yet thousands of people still contract these diseases each year because they do not understand their risks or how to protect themselves.

The Canadian Liver Foundation was the first organization in the world committed to reducing the incidence and the impact of hepatitis and other forms of liver disease.

For those living with hepatitis, the foundation's 30 volunteer chapters across the country are a valuable source of information and support. I ask the House to join me today in honouring the Canadian Liver Foundation and its volunteers during Hepatitis Awareness Month.

Member for York CentreStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I remember just a couple of months ago, when we were asking questions about the conduct of the Minister of National Defence, that he was having some trouble explaining about his men taking al-Qaeda prisoners in Afghanistan. He was not very clear on when he had been briefed, on when he had been rebriefed, on when he had told the caucus, on when he had told the Prime Minister and on why he had not told the Prime Minister. However the Prime Minister still refused to replace that minister.

That was not all. The defence minister was not sure about uniforms. He was not too clear on the rules of engagement. He was not very solid on helicopters. He was not all that impressive on any of it, quite frankly. Still he stayed on in the job until Sunday when the overwhelming incompetence caught up with the staggering lack of ethics.

Canadians deserve better.

Member for York CentreStatements By Members

2 p.m.

The Speaker

I think the hon. member knows that attacks on members are not permitted under Standing Order 31 statements.

Féria du vélo de MontréalStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Saturday, the 11th Tour des enfants launched the Féria du vélo de Montréal. During this event, more than 6,500 kids rode 20 km on bicycles in the streets of Montreal.

It took a great deal of courage and perseverance for these kids to brave mother nature and take up this challenge. Afterwards, they clearly relished the celebrations planned for them.

Throughout the weekend, Montrealers were encouraged to use their bikes to travel the streets of the city.

Adults are also invited to take up the challenge of the Tour de l'Île, which will be held at the end of the week and will close this year's Féria du vélo de Montréal. Many kilometers of streets will be reserved for the use of cyclists. Take advantage of it.

Government ContractsStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, for several weeks now, the media, the opposition parties and all those who believe in transparency have been asking the government to launch a public inquiry.

New revelations are made daily. The reports from Groupaction, the contracts to L'Almanach du peuple , and the connections linking the former minister of public works and the minister of immigration to an advertising firm seem to be just the tip of the iceberg.

Over the weekend, we learned that another minister, namely the Minister of National Defence, displayed favoritism by awarding a $36,500 contract to his ex-girlfriend.

How many more scandals will have to be unearthed before the Prime Minister realizes the need for a public inquiry?

Children's Hospital of Eastern OntarioStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, on May 23 the Ontario health minister, Tony Clement, announced that the heart and vascular surgery unit of the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario will close in April 2003.

When the CHEO unit closes, eastern Ontario children requiring vascular surgery or emergency cardiac procedures will have to travel approximately 400 kilometres to Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children to receive the medical attention they so desperately require.

CHEO serves a population of approximately 1.5 million people in eastern Ontario. Why would 140 children per year who require cardiac or vascular procedures travel to Toronto when an effective unit exists already at CHEO? Not only will this put some children at risk, it will worsen the almost unbearable stress already experienced by these children and their families. Centralization is not the best way to improve health care delivery in Ontario.

While he attempts to explain this most recent announcement to eastern Ontarians, I wonder if Mr. Clement will declare that Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children will offer its services in both official languages, as the CHEO has been mandated to do.

Member for Glengarry--Prescott--RussellStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Betty Hinton Canadian Alliance Kamloops, Thompson And Highland Valleys, BC

Mr. Speaker, let us rewind the tape to last Thursday. The minister of public works was having a very difficult day explaining to the House that he might have made a little mistake in selecting a departmental contractor's home for a family vacation weekend but that it really was not all that bad.

Opposition question after opposition question called for him to do the honourable thing and resign. “No, no, Mr. Speaker”, said the minister, “there is no reason to resign”. “No, no, Mr. Speaker”, said the Prime Minister, “I have confidence in my minister”.

Two days later the world changed. The minister was tossed out of his portfolio and was no longer credible in the role of clean-up guy.

However, in a strange twist he reappears in his old job and Canadians are left to wonder whether he was fired, punished, rewarded or given a get out of jail free card from the Prime Minister.

When it comes to ethics and morals, there is much to wonder about with this government.

National DefenceStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Janko Peric Liberal Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome the 136 Kiowa air cadet squadron from Ayr and the 21 Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada army cadets from Cambridge.

Founded two years ago, the 136 Kiowa is Canada's newest air cadet squadron while the 21 army cadet corps was formed in 1887. The 121 Galt branch of the Royal Canadian Legion sponsors both groups.

The national cadet organization promotes leadership, responsibility, discipline, good citizenship, physical fitness, communication skills and an interest in the Canadian forces. Cadets receive hands on training that complements school studies with some education boards accepting cadet subjects for school credits.

My riding of Cambridge has a long and proud history of involvement with the national cadet program and I welcome these cadets to Ottawa as they learn about parliament and our federal institutions.

Ottawa Jewish CommunityStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Ottawa Jewish community is living in fear today, its religious institutions under siege as police have warned of an impending attack on a local synagogue. This is disturbing in itself but even more so because it is part of a pattern of hate motivated crimes against Jewish institutions across Canada.

Just a week ago Quebec City's only synagogue was firebombed. Earlier attacks occurred against Jewish institutions in Saskatoon, Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton. This is not to mention the rise in anti-Semitic vandalism and personal assaults. There have been 110 reports of anti-Semitic incidents this year alone. In Winnipeg, members of the Jewish community report an increase in incidents of verbal abuse, racial slurs and damaging graffiti.

These horrific developments demand our immediate attention. As the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg has said, the situation requires the Canadian government to be bold, decisive and unequivocal in speaking out against what has become a well planned campaign of hatred and vilification.

Let us stand today against the rising tide of anti-Semitism and against racially and religiously motivated hatred any time it happens, anywhere in Canada.

Cabinet ShuffleStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, after being pressured for several months because of a series of scandals, the Prime Minister was forced to make an urgent cabinet shuffle, the second one in four months, and he demoted the minister of public works.

Yet, this minister had been appointed in January to clean up the department after the controversial Alfonso Gagliano left, in the midst of accusations of political interference.

With this new shuffle, the Prime Minister is once again hoping to clear his government of the multiple accusations that are being levelled at it.

But no one will be fooled. This is a cosmetic shuffle, a sad attempt to divert people's attention from the real problem, which is the corruption that plagues this government. We all know that the real problem remains and the Prime Minister can rest assured that the Bloc Quebecois will get to the bottom of things.

Ottawa Jewish CommunityStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I too want to speak about the events in the Ottawa Jewish community.

This weekend the Jewish community in Ottawa rose above fear and intimidation and proved that hope and courage will always thrive.

Despite threats of violence, 700 people attended the Aviv festival yesterday. This spring festival included a walk-a-thon, a relay race, a spell-a-thon, entertainment and a marketplace booth area.

The spirit displayed at yesterday's events reflects the Canadian determination not to allow the aura of intolerance and fear that plagues other countries to impact our open and inclusive society. Canadians must always be vigilant against intolerance but we must also not succumb to fear and hate.

I congratulate all those who participated in yesterday's festival. I invite the House to join me in condemning those who would threaten the freedom of any among us.

FisheriesStatements By Members

May 27th, 2002 / 2:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rex Barnes Progressive Conservative Gander—Grand Falls, NL

Mr. Speaker, again overfishing comes to haunt Newfoundland and Labrador. It could be any port in Canada but today it is ports in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Lack of initiatives by DFO and lack of action by the minister's office are causing widespread economic hardships on the fishing communities in my riding. For the minister to close Canadian ports to Faroese fishing crews for overfishing has left communities feeling like they are the ones being blown out of the water.

The time has come for the minister to start doing something about real sanctions instead of sleeping with the enemy. It is time for the minister to protect Canadian fish stocks as well as the thousands of Canadians who work in the fishing industry.

The time has come for Canada to seize the catch of countries who are overfishing and processing this catch in Canadian ports for its own people. As well, captains of these ships should be levied heavy fines. The time has come for real action for our fishing communities.

Kenner CollegiateStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, the 50th anniversary of Kenner Collegiate in Peterborough will be celebrated this summer. The school opened in 1952 as a junior high school, soon becoming a full high school by popular demand.

The school is named after the late Hugh Kenner, a distinguished scholar in our community.

Over the years, Kenner has served the south end of Peterborough and the surrounding townships well. Its students, staff and alumni have enriched the community. Its facilities, academic, technical and athletic, have become a centre for community activities. Its specialized programs have a special place in our school system.

Kenner's first principal was Dr. Eldon Ray. He was succeeded by principals and staff who built Kenner to its present position of strength. School teams, drama groups, musicians and scholars have achieved great success over the years.

I ask members to join me in congratulating Kenner Collegiate on the achievements of its first 50 years. We look forward to the next half century with confidence.

Liberal Party of CanadaStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Diane Ablonczy Canadian Alliance Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is pouring cold water on Canadians' concerns about Liberal ethical flameouts but the oily black smoke of scandal hangs everywhere.

Ministers under a cloud are shuffled off to Denmark or switched to a new post where they cannot be questioned.

The auditor general discovers, quote, “every rule in the book” has been broken under Liberal orders.

There are new, full-blown RCMP investigations into questionable Liberal contracts.

Canadians have watched a growing list of Liberal practices take heat: the billion dollar boondoggle; Shawinigate; the Prime Minister leaning on a federal bank president to give a bad loan; a luxury bed and breakfast exclusively for Liberals close to the pork barrel; uncashed cheques in the offering plate; convenient contracts for cronies; and now goodies for girlfriends.

The Liberals are burning more than crosses over there. They are burning credibility and trust.

UV IndexStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.


Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with a healthy dose of national pride that I rise in the House today to speak about the 10th anniversary of the Canadian invention: the UV Index.

Developed by three Environment Canada scientists, Dr. James Kerr, Dr. Tom McElroy and Dr. David Wardle, the index measures the levels of the sun's harsh ultraviolet radiation, a primary source of skin cancer.

Adopted by both the World Health Organization and the World Meteorological Organization as an international standard, the index is already being used by 26 countries around the world.

I ask the House to join me in congratulating these three outstanding Canadian scientists for their invaluable contribution.