Having read the amendments that the Chair has selected, I see that they deal with prohibition and payment for surrogate mothers, in particular.
I would remind the House that, for each of the groups of amendments to which I will be speaking, the Bloc Quebecois has serious concerns about the whole issue of the regulatory agency. If I understand correctly, the amendments will be discussed in greater detail when Groups Nos. 4 and 5 are considered. Because of this, I will refrain from commenting on the substance of the amendments, but I believe that the urgency of the situation that we experienced over the holidays compels us, as parliamentarians, to realize that it is important that the Criminal Code contain provisions to remind us that a certain number of practices are prohibited.
Of course, we could lament the fact that this government has demonstrated its characteristic sloppiness on this issue, and that it has taken almost ten years since the findings of the Baird commission, a royal commission of inquiry, to introduce legislation.
It is interesting to review the values to which each of the 13 prohibitions contained in the bill corresponds, for us as a society and as human beings. This bill on new reproductive technologies—or assisted reproduction, to use the official terminology—clearly contains extremely important ethical components.
We are opposed to human cloning because we believe, obviously, that every human being is unique. Every human is an entity in and of itself. We cannot imagine an equal relationship in terms of interpersonal or parental relations when a parent has a child who is identical to the parent in every way. This obviously raises questions. It raises questions about psychogenesis. How would a child be raised? How would the child's development be affected, if he or she sees a mirror image in his or her parents?
Among the prohibited procedures, we are also opposed to the genetic modification of cells to ensure that certain features are passed on from one generation to the next. Science would have enabled us to decide we wanted, for instance, children with blue eyes and blond hair who will grow to be six feet tall and weigh 180 pounds. We are talking about a choice made on the basis of specific physical features, and this can be achieved by altering a number of germ-line cells. We take it for granted that prohibitions like this one must be maintained.
In addition, we are opposed to the maintaining of embryos outside the womb for more than 14 days. We are talking about in vitro embryos here. Why this 14-day limit? It may sound like an arbitrary timeframe, but it is not. Fourteen days is the limit unanimously agreed to within the scientific community. After 14 days, the central nervous system starts developing. There would therefore be problems with maintaining outside the womb an embryo known as an in vitro embryo.
Moreover, we are opposed to a much debated aspect of the bill, that is, how far research should go. Should the creation of embryos for research purposes only be allowed? The bill—and I agree with this provision—prohibits the combination of genetic material and the creation of embryos exclusively for research purposes. We believe that when an embryo is created, it must be first and foremost for the purpose of reproduction.
As set out in the bill, this does not mean that, when there are authorizing mechanisms or cycles of fertilization that have left surplus embryos, a person cannot give consent for such embryos to be used for research. This is, however, part of another framework, which requires authorization by the agency to be created.
This authorization will, of course, make progress in research possible. But when it comes down to it, for ethical reasons relating to the concept of what constitutes human life, we believe that a created embryo must be used for reproductive purposes, not research purposes.
It is forbidden to create one embryo from another. Understandably, a child created under such circumstances would be deprived of ancestry, of natural ties to the human race, to the species. We cannot condone such a practice.
Any use of human reproductive material in the body of an animal would, of course, be an offence under the legislation. One very precise example of this: bringing ovum cells to maturity on the skin of a mouse.
In committee, there was another ethical debate on forbidding the selection or determination of a child's gender. We have the technology to do this. It is acceptable in certain specific cases, since it is known that certain gender-related diseases are passed on from one generation to the next,or skip a generation. Under such circumstances, technologies to identify sex may be authorized.
With the exception of medical considerations justifying jeopardizing the life of the mother or the unborn child, the value of individual equality stops us from wanting to see future parents able to determine a child's sex automatically. “If it's a boy, we don't want him; if it's a girl, we do”, or vice versa. This is not the kind of society we want to live in. We believe that men and women have an equal contribution to make to society, and I am sure the hon. member for Jonquière agrees with me on that.
Another very important provision is the one that prohibits the purchase, bartering or exchange of gametes. This leads me to a very important aspect of the bill: the only maternity we recognize is altruistic maternity. Under the bill, it is prohibited to pay someone to carry a child.
Of course, one can carry a child for altruistic reasons—although the Criminal Code does not recognize this type of maternity—but, as parliamentarians, we are definitely not prepared to allow someone to tell a woman, “I will give you $50,000, $100,000 or $250,000 if you agree to carry a child that will be recognized as mine”. This is bartering, buying or selling and profit seeking, and these are not values we embrace.
My time is almost up, but I will have the opportunity, during the debate on the third and fourth groups, to explain why the Bloc Quebecois will support the bill, albeit with some serious reservations about the constitutional interference that the creation of the proposed regulatory agency will lead to.