House of Commons Hansard #48 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was iraq.


Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I see quorum. Resuming debate.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.


David Anderson Liberal Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. For the record, while there happens to be a quorum in the room, I notice only three members of the Alliance, one to listen to the hon. member--

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Respectfully, that was not a point of order but I am encouraged that more members are present in the Chamber. At any time it is always very pleasing to the Speaker.

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4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, if I did not shame the environment minister, who would make such a mistake after I have just been severely scolded for talking about who is here and who is not, he should not be doing those kinds of things. One would think that as a minister of the crown he would know better.

We were talking about accountability before we had to call for quorum. Accountability is one of the biggest weaknesses of the Liberal government. It has been demonstrated over and over again and has been reported in every Auditor General report that I have ever read. Accountability is so weak that we cannot even ask for receipts from some ministers who claim up to $80,000 to $100,000 worth of expenses.

However we have a committee doing a great job of making sure that the board members on the agency, under Motion No. 72, would be accountable. The committee wanted board members to come under the conflict of interest rules. That makes sense. That is called good accountability. We cannot allow conflicts of interest in these particular matters. These issues are extremely important.

We now have a minister who wants to undo that amendment. She is not worried about appointing different individuals to this board in regard to possible conflicts of interest and she wants the board to report directly to the minister.

When will we decide in this House that we are a Parliament of the people, that we have a responsibility to all Canadians and that reporting to Parliament is a good idea when it comes to boards and committees that are working on our behalf? Why do they always report to one?

The lack of accountability is a disgrace. It is shameful and it is a practice that ought to be stopped. I would hope that the governing bodies would start thinking about that. If we are going to truly be accountable to the people who elect us and put us in our seats, then we have a right to know what is going on as well as the minister.

Unfortunately, we have found over the past that reporting is sometimes not as accurate as it ought to be, and we would like to hear it directly. I, for one, as a member of Parliament, would like to hear directly from these various committees that are working on our behalf, instead of just the minister who insists that they report to him or her and no one else.

If we were to put our imaginations to work we could imagine all kinds of things that could go wrong with the kind of body of people who would not have to live under conflict of interest rules, and maybe some other things that could have a major impact on what they are trying to do with this particular legislation.

I really encourage all members to not support Motion No. 72, in particular, and not to support Motion 52 as it weakens the intent of the committee and its hard work in trying to come up with the answers that would make this whole idea work tremendously.

We are quite enthused with the reports that we have been getting on certain aspects of adult stem cell research, even from the umbilical cord of a newborn, and how it can be used in a positive way. I think we could just forget about creating embryos for that purpose. It is a bad idea.

Mr. Speaker, I know you might not think that the speech last night on TV by the President of the United States, George Bush, would have much to do with the topic that we are discussing today but has to do with one thing. I was proud to hear the President of the United States stand in his place and say that under his representation he would guarantee to the people of America that cloning would never be allowed in that land. I would like to see our Prime Minister rise to his feet and say that under his leadership, and as long as he had a say, that cloning would never be part of Canada's plan. Cloning is not something we should get into. Cloning is not for humans to decide how this should happen.

I like the old process of creating humans myself. Maybe that is because I am a little older than some, but cloning is such a dangerous thing that I really appreciate the president's comments on behalf of the American people. I wish the Prime Minister would make the same kind of comments on behalf of Canadians.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, we are back again speaking about the assisted human reproduction act. It came before us previously as Bill C-56. We are talking now mainly about the Group No. 4 amendments. I want to make some general comments before I get into the specifics of the Group No. 4 motions and amendments.

One of the reasons that we need to have a discussion about this important issue is that we are setting the stage, not just for a single bill but for a legislated attitude toward people. We are setting up a bill that sets out a legislative attitude toward other human beings in our society. The conclusions that we reach in the House about our attitude and our decisions about other human beings will have great consequences.

For example, we have seen throughout this century what happens when governments and ideologies decide that individual human beings are not unique and that they are only basic economic units. I had the opportunity in university to sit under three years of teaching that bombarded us with Karl Marx's political theory that all events can be analyzed from a particular economic perspective, and that human beings then must fit into that perspective and into that analysis. Individuals are never seen as unique in that ideology. They are seen as a commodity that needs to be used.

Interestingly enough, through the last century we have seen that theory lived out through various socialistic and communistic governments on this earth. In the last century there has been more brutality from those regimes than anywhere that we have seen in the history of mankind. It is important that we have a unique view of the uniqueness of human life and what it means.

I can think of a couple of examples. In Stalin's Russia, one of the results of his decision to get control of the middle class farming communities was that he was willing to starve them until they disappeared. He had no concern for the uniqueness, the individuality or the greatness of human life.

In China, even today, we see that it subjects its individual citizens to the wishes of what it would call the collective. We see this show up in different situations where there is brutality toward people who may believe differently than their leadership does.

In the Sudan we see another socialist regime that is only too happy to wage war for money. It has little responsibility toward its own people and it seems to care little about the human life of its citizens.

It is important that we decide what our attitude and our view will be toward human life. Where there is a weak position taken regarding human uniqueness and individuality, there is definitely a loss of compassion for others. I would suggest that we are not as immune from this as greatly as we think we might be.

We see a number of places where the government already refuses to deal with issues that involve the value of human life. We spent a day earlier this week talking about child protection and child pornography. I would suggest that the unwillingness of the government to deal directly and decisively with child pornography is one such example of a government that is refusing to deal with those issues that say that human life has ultimate value.

Last spring we had the opportunity to meet with the police officers who deal with this material. After seeing their presentation I would agree with my colleague from Wild Rose that there is absolutely no excuse for allowing this to continue.

I was embarrassed the other day by the NDP's position that as long as people can create things out of their own imagination, that there needed to be some reason to defend that. After talking to the police officers who have to deal with the child pornography issue on a daily basis, I guess I do not have the tolerance that others might. This material is repugnant. It is abhorrent. The failure to deal with the issue really touches at the heart of how the government views the people who are its citizens.

We need to take a look at a couple of questions. One of them is, when does human life begin? Although present law says that human life begins at birth, that is a ridiculous position from a scientific perspective, and it really is nonsense. I was reminded of that the other day when I saw one of the beer companies' advertisements. They had a picture of a fetus in the womb on their poster. The point that was made was “When you drink, she feels it”. I thought it was interesting that beer companies will accept the fact that fetuses and embryos are human beings but our government refuses to do that.

Clearly, I would suggest that the point at which being becomes human is when the union of the genetic material takes place and when we have the completion of the DNA package. Whether we want to embrace that or not, scientifically that is the only point where human life really begins.

Scientists have thrown out a couple of red herrings. One in particular is when they say that they have picked a 14 day period and after that 14 days is the arbitrary decision that now this is human life. That decision has not been based on science. It basically has been meant to avoid the scientific discussion and to stay away from the discussion of when does human life really begin.

I would suggest that scientists generally have failed the test of speaking clearly on when human life begins. Because of that, they run the risk of disqualifying themselves by not dealing honestly with this issue. It has become for many scientists more of an economic than a scientific or ethical decision. They want to have the open field. They want to have the free rein to run the experiments. They do not want to deal with the moral choices that need to be made so they try to avoid doing that at all costs. It is important that someone in the country address this issue and I would suggest that it is the responsibility of Parliament to deal seriously and decisively with it.

I think we can accept that human life is put together at conception when the DNA material is put together, but there is a second important question that needs to be asked. What is human life worth? Throughout history we have traditionally valued human life from its natural beginning. There has been much discussion of it over the years but most belief systems, most religions and most philosophies have accepted that until the last few years.

In places and times we have seen the devaluing of that idea and that value. I guess one of the prime examples would be Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany where there was a prevailing ideology that he set forth, and that was that not all people were worthy of living out their natural lives. He targeted particular groups. We know that he targeted racial groups, the weak, the handicapped, the visually identifiable groups and in lots of places skin colour and complexion was enough to be questioned and persecuted.

I am reminded of a saying that no one does what they think is wrong. We all justify our behaviour and we are prepared to do that. We need to remember that Hitler's focus was on genetics; it was just on a different stage of development. We need to be very careful where we go with this issue, with this bill and how we begin to treat other human beings and human life.

I want to talk a bit about what is the result of taking a low view of human life. If we cannot come to an agreement on what human life is worth, we will always have inevitable consequences from that. One thing that happens if we set a low view of human life and we do not say that human life is unique right from its beginning, is that we always devalue the defenceless and the ones who do not have a voice. I think we have begun to see this already in the Netherlands where many who are in hospitals do not even know that they are being euthanized. They do not have a voice. They do not have the ability or the strength to say no. Because of that they are not given the voice to say no.

As I mentioned, it seems there is an inability to deal with the child pornography issue. This government cannot bring itself to deal with the issue. It shows a willingness to live with a bad and I guess some people would call it an evil court decision. A casual attitude to human life begins to manifest itself in so many different areas and I hope we are not beginning to see that in our own country.

A casual attitude to human life also shows a willingness to assign different degrees of worth to different human beings. We had the issue a few years ago, and it will continue, with Tracy Latimer, the choice her father made to end her life and the government's uncomfortable silence about that issue. As we look at the issue of human life, I hope it will not progress to include others who have what some people would say no use in our society, and that is the handicapped and the elderly.

I know my time is running out and I will have an opportunity to speak to this issue later. However we need to reconsider what we do here, take it seriously and treat it very carefully as we move into this area and issue of what we do with human life.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Diane Ablonczy Canadian Alliance Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on this group of amendments that have been proposed to the new bill on reproductive technology.

We are very pleased that an agency will be created to oversee the operations of assisted reproductive technology clinics. We think it is very important that there be some oversight. Most other mature democracies have had this for some time. Assisted human reproduction should not be a wide open field simply because from these activities come children whose interests must be protected, both before the fact and after the fact. We think the establishment of an agency is very good news, it is long overdue, and we would like to see it put into place very quickly.

The whole area of assisted human reproduction, as we know, needs to be more tightly regulated. With advances in science and some people pushing the envelope way past where moral and ethical prudence would dictate, we have the need to have tighter regulations to make the whole process safer and more effective for prospective parents to use.

Assisted human reproduction clinics will now have to be licensed and regulated by this agency which is created by this bill. The agency will be subject to access to information so that citizens can have some oversight, some input and some idea how the agency is operating, and it will have some accountability mechanism.

We support the amendment that would require the agency to produce standardized forms and have some standardized information that is required to be presented to individuals who use assisted human reproduction. We think that kind of standardization will be very helpful and necessary as people donate, use and dispose of human reproductive material.

The Auditor General, in February 2001, made it very clear that Canada has serious problems in its sperm banks, such as poor record keeping and ineligible donors. That is pretty scary when we think that the whole purpose of these activities is to produce children who will be affected by any shoddy or inappropriate operations that lead to them coming into being. Uniformity and standardization is extremely important to protect the interests of children.

However the minister wants to undo some of the committee recommendations. We are not in favour of the minister's move to do this.

First, the minister wants to undo a recommendation that people who sit on this agency to regulate assisted human reproductions must not have a conflict of interest. The minister says that it is okay if people who are regulating assisted human reproduction are also players in the whole area.

It does not take a lot of imagination to understand that people with a vested interest in the scope and what is allowed should not make the decisions. They should not be the same people. We do not understand why the minister would say that it is okay for people who have a conflict of interest to make decisions in this important area. The minister is not here to explain why this would be so.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I have to remind the member that she cannot refer to the absence of any member.

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4:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Diane Ablonczy Canadian Alliance Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, let me rephrase that, and I do apologize. The minister has not explained to the House why she feels the amendment is important or necessary. Absent the rationale behind this, we can only criticize and oppose the move to say that people with a conflict of interest should make these important decisions. Heads of projects and people who have financial interests in assisted human reproduction clearly would have a lack of credibility and objectivity that would be very necessary to make decisions in this area.

We also have a problem with the minister's amendment to repeal the committee's recommendation that the agency overseeing assisted reproduction should be composed of 50% women, again because the minister has failed to inform the House as to what her rationale might be.

We do know that assisted human reproduction is something that is very much targeted to meet the needs of women. Men are also involved, particularly when there is a family situation, although not always. We think there should be a very strong component of input from women when these kinds of decisions are being made. Maybe it does not need to be 50% but certainly there is a concern that women may be closed out to an unacceptable degree from input into the operation of the agency. Because they are the main clients and customers, I guess one could say the ones who access this important technology, it is important that their voice be heard.

Again, we would like to know why the recommendation has been withdrawn. We want to ensure that women are not closed out by their male peers in a male dominated area of endeavour without some good reason. I would urge this to be revisited by the House.

Board members should be chosen for their wisdom and judgment according to the health committee. We certainly agree with that. There should be a very strong merit principal but the people who are most impacted by this activity should also have strong input.

We think there is merit for amendments that would ensure that the agency is adequately funded. That just makes sense. There is no point in creating an agency that does not have the money to do the job. We support an amendment that says the agency would establish a dispute resolution process which may include arbitration in case there is disagreement between the agency, donors, licensees or any other relevant parties. I guess it is pretty hard, if the people running the agency can have a conflict of interest, to see how this dispute resolution mechanism could work fairly but it obviously will be extremely important.

There is an interesting provision in this group of amendments with respect to the reporting that is required of the agency. Originally the agency would report to Parliament annually but the minister would like to change it to say that the minister would report on behalf of the agency. We disagree with the report of the agency being filtered through the minister. We think the less political filtering there is in this important area the better. I would like very much to see the minister explain why she is putting the amendment forward because we would oppose it simply on the basis that it puts a undesirable barrier between Parliament and the agency.

Lastly, we believe that people entering into an agreement to produce surrogate children must have counselling. The minister would like to remove the requirement for counselling and say it would be made available. We think it must be made mandatory.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Val Meredith Canadian Alliance South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the report stage amendments in Group No. 4 to Bill C-13, the reproductive technology bill.

As has been mentioned before, our concern is that this new agency be held accountable, and that it have transparent procedures and processes that would allow Canadians to follow-through on how this legislation would affect them, and how the government would respond to the new changes in the legislation.

We are concerned with the changes that the minister has made that go contrary to the recommendations that came from the health committee when it studied this reproductive technology bill in great detail. The health committee was quite clear that this was going in a new direction, and that there were some practices and procedures that would cause some concern to Canadians. The committee was concerned that there be protection and some control over how this technology would be used.

The committee was quite upfront with how it saw the agency that would oversee this legislation. It was concerned how the agency would run its business, be held accountable and responsible, and report to Parliament. The minister, for whatever reasons, wants to hold control within her own department and within her own person over the response to Parliament and the accountability factor.

We have problems with that. We feel that in order for something to be accountable and transparent there is a need to separate it from politics as much as possible. There is a willingness on the part of this party to see that this agency be somewhat removed from the minister so it can do its job, look at the technology, look at how the bill would be utilized, how the regulations would be upheld, and respond in kind to that.

There was a concern felt by committee members that because of the issue there needed to be a presence of the female gender on the board. The committee felt it was important that women have the ability to be part of monitoring reproductive technology regulations in legislation. For some reason, and I find it quite surprising, the minister felt that was not necessary. She felt that an all male board would suffice. Even more startling, she felt that an agency consisting of one person might suffice. That causes us some concern.

There must be greater detail as to how this agency would be put together, who would become members and who it would represent. I for one think it is important that an agency of this nature dealing with the subject of reproductive technology be representative of some of the different groups of people with the knowledge and ability to monitor what happens from this day forward. The agency should have some medical persons on it. It would be sensible to have some scientific representation. It should have some lay representation, representing ordinary citizens and how they would feel on these issues. That is something we would like to see changed to better reflect what the health committee recommended in the first place.

We would like the minister to reconsider how she would form this agency and who she would appoint. We would like the minister to ensure that a female would be sitting on the board. Now would be the time to address these concerns and to amend the legislation to ensure that these concerns are considered.

Another concern that our party is expressing is that when people want to build a family and have children, and they use the new reproductive technologies that they are fully made aware of what options they have available to them. Different reproductive technologies are becoming more and more accessible. More individuals are aware that they can use these technologies to start a family. I am not sure that there is full disclosure as to what their options are, what processes are involved, and what some of the legal ramifications might be.

The Canadian Alliance feels that there should be some set-up where these individuals have not only available to them, but are encouraged to understand the legal issues. Mandatory is a harsh word. They should go into reproductive technology process with the full knowledge of what it means.

I do not think it is too much to ask that the minister ensure that all information is made available so that individuals would not end up in an unforeseen situation or one that they did not know about.

I will broaden the discussion by saying that we have seen where this has happened with pharmaceutical drugs, where individuals were referred to the use of a pharmaceutical drug without knowing in depth what the side effects might be and what harm could be caused. Now we are seeing a ramification in the legal perspective of how not having full disclosure of the risks taken come back through the courts. This is a very expensive process when something happens and a person was not made aware of what could happen.

We must take the same direction with reproductive technology that we should have taken with pharmaceutical drugs and the mandatory provision of the medical people to advise patients of what the risks are. We could avoid many legal parameters if issues were dealt with up front. If making it mandatory is the only way it can be done, then perhaps that is how the procedure has to be done.

Thus we could ensure that the individuals who are taking advantage of reproductive technologies know what they are getting into. I do not think that would be too much to ask. It is something that as we get into this whole new field that will change day by day, that we can provide that kind of background and knowledge to individuals seeking this method.

We are looking for change through Group No. 4 amendments. The two issues would be the agency and how it is put together, who is sitting on the agency and how it would report to Parliament, not the minister. The other issue is the mandatory counselling of every individual who is taking advantage of reproductive technology, or some kind of sharing of knowledge so that they fully understand and accept the dimensions of the procedures they would be undertaking.

I wish to encourage the government to have an open mind and not to shy away from making amendments to legislation to broaden it and make it more definitive, to change it so that it is a better piece of legislation, so we can avoid some pitfalls that we may find in the future simply by taking our time and doing it properly the first time.

Report of the Privacy CommissionerGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Before resuming debate I wish to inform the House that there was an error in the tabling of the report of the privacy commissioner concerning substantially similar provincial legislation. This report is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates and not as earlier announced, to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-13, an act respecting assisted human reproduction, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 4.

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4:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Canadian Alliance Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to enter into this debate from the point of view of an older person who has been around longer than most people and not only as a father, but a grandfather of eight. I have spent my entire professional life working with people. As a member of Parliament, almost half of the people who come into my office are not there for pure political reasons, but more for counselling or asking advice. I respect that and I am honoured to have them do so.

Canadians are concerned about this issue. We, as representatives of the people, should think very carefully about how we process and word the act so it is for all Canadians. I cannot for the life of me see how the federal government representing this portion of the health committee could ever come up with the idea of turning this problem over to the provincial governments, where there would be 10 different types of rules. I know it is not proposing that, but because it falls under health I would hope people would understand that this is a national program and a national policy that is being developed.

I want to make that abundantly clear because if we did not make that clear there would be so much misunderstanding that people would be blaming some of the pitfalls that they may encounter on the provincial government. All the reports and amendments of the committee that will be formed should come to the House. At the same time I am not denying that it should go to the Minister of Health, but it absolutely should come to the House.

If this is not a standardized procedure in the counselling, then that is a deep concern of mine. The people who would be doing the counselling for this particular issue, no matter which province they represent in the process of counselling, and I would imagine that is the route it would go, should be as unique and as close as it possibly could be across Canada. That is very important.

The standardization of the forms must be the same in British Columbia as they are in Newfoundland and Labrador. That is very important in Canada for the reason that if there is a fundamental error, then the blame would come back to Parliament. We would insist, therefore, that this be considered a national issue.

The public needs to be informed that this is not a business deal where someone says, “I cannot get pregnant and I want to make a deal”, and so on. That is why we must ensure that the people who wish to enter into adoption and surrogacy are mature, well counselled, well trained and well informed before we proceed. This is not an individual business deal like going out and buying a car or changing a place of residence. This is very serious, indeed.

I would recommend to this committee, and I know that a lot of work has been done, that no member of this committee should have any commercial interest or profit motive whatsoever while sitting as a member of this committee. This has to be absolutely, totally divorced from the whole procedure: that he or she will not gain anything personally by sitting on this committee. Also, I think the choice of this committee should break down all political barriers. I see this committee as being made up of wise, experienced, prudent people, not necessarily just scientists or doctors, but people who have been around, as we say, and know the results of what could develop from this.

Let us get it right and let us get it right the first time. Let us not weaken our stance of what the committee represented or what they have spoken about, that most of all, members of Parliament, whether they like it or not, no matter where they are sitting in the House, will indeed be the subject of intense scrutiny if the proper procedures are not put in place the first time around.

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5 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Canadian Alliance Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-13 again with regard to this group of amendments. My hon. colleague from Souris—Moose Mountain mentioned some of the issues which seem so apparent that we should not have to be discussing them. Somebody in an agency that will govern this reproductive technology part of our society should not have a vested interest in, let us say, a fertility clinic. That just makes sense. Sometimes we are accused of not making too much sense when we form laws, but this one does.

Before I start I would like to recognize the fact that at present the member for Yellowhead sits on the health committee and is handling the bill for the official opposition, but previously, Preston Manning, the former leader of our party, took on this file for the party. The work he did in bringing all this together, the knowledge he brought to the table, and the people he brought in to present their views on this issue resulted in probably one of the best committees and one of the best reports that was ever put together in the House, certainly in my time. I just want to recognize the fact that Preston Manning had a lot to do with this investigation and this report.

The issue of surrogacy is one that is a really important part of all of this. We feel that Motion No. 52 brought forward by the health minister wants to undo an amendment that was made at committee, and here we go again. I bring this up time and time again. There is good work done at committee. People are brought in as witnesses and an all party committee decides what would be best based on the information that has been heard, but then the minister comes along and tries to reverse the committee's work. To me that is just wrong.

Here is what the health minister is trying to do on the issue of counselling for people who want to be surrogates. The health minister has been saying that counselling should just be made available where needed, that it should not be mandatory, that people who go into this should have counselling just when needed. However, on this whole aspect of the reproductive technology debate, we feel that it should be mandatory, that people should know full well all the ramifications and all the problems that exist. Examples from other countries can be brought forward in regard to how complex this is, how it affects the mother and father, how it affects the people who are adopting and the relationships that occur, and how it can open up a real minefield of legal problems.

It is important that a lot of counselling goes into this. It should be mandatory. People going into this surrogacy situation should be very aware of all the problems. We will be opposing Motion No. 52 on those grounds: that the committee had it right and the minister is trying to go back on that.

We will be supporting Motion No. 55. This is the one that my colleague was referring to previously. It deals with what are to me pretty common sense issues on the standardization of forms and information disclosures to be used in the case of a donation. It just makes absolute sense to have that in the bill. That is why the amendment is there. We will be supporting it. The forms should be used in all fertility clinics and in any other transactions involving human reproductive material.

There have been problems in the past with poor record keeping at some of the sperm banks. Sometimes there is no way to track who the donors were and what the ramifications were when something went wrong. It is very important to have uniform rules and to apply them to all aspects of the industry. Whether it is a fertility clinic, a hospital or the agency, everybody should be playing under the same rules.

Motion No. 72 is another one that we have some problems with. This is a motion whereby the minister is trying to undo what the committee has done. One of the things the committee wanted to be absolutely sure of was that anyone who is to sit on the agency that will control this reproductive technology system has no conflict of interest in any of the decisions to be made. One would think that would be a natural, but again it is not. It needs to be spelled out, but it is not. Let us just say that someone who runs a fertility clinic somehow gets on the board and decides on limits, such as how many embryo experiments could take place and so on. That needs to be clarified. It is not going to be in this legislation because the minister has tried to undo what the committee has done.

On the whole issue of the agency, the agency absolutely has to be separate from the influence of this industry. Limits need to be placed on how many embryos can be created. The problem I see in this is that if there is not some pretty strict control then we could be creating an industry trading in embryos. That is something we need to avoid at all costs. That is trading in human life.

There is also the whole aspect of the difference between an embryonic stem cell and an adult stem cell. Most of the advancement and good work and some of the hope that has been given to people with Parkinson's, MS and some of these terrible diseases have come from the work and research done on adult stem cells. The embryonic stem cell research is lacking. There are problems; people would have to take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives. There has been so much advancement on the adult side that we feel there should be at least a three year moratorium on embryonic stem cell research until what has gone on and what is going on in the adult research side is explored in more depth.

Just in the last year there have been some startling and wonderful things happening in adult stem cell research. If we continue down that road and expend that effort to explore the adult side of it before we get into the embryonic side, we feel that there will be enough advancement and good things coming out that this whole embryonic issue, this aspect of creating life to destroy life, will not have to be brought into play.

These are just some of the concerns that we have with the bill and the amendments in Group No. 4. We will be speaking later on Group No. 5 as we move through the list of amendments.

However, once again, to me the whole aspect that a committee can sit and study and bring forward reports and amendments and then the minister can try to undo the committee's work is something that needs to be addressed, not at this point in time, but certainly it needs to be addressed in regard to the whole functioning of the House.

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5:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today once again probably in some shock, very much like I did at the beginning of the week when we discussed child pornography. Today we are talking about embryonic stem cell research. We are talking once again about a tiny cell which is a tiny baby. We are talking about life and every one of us in the House of Commons has to be so cognizant of that.

I cannot believe we would think about doing this in Canada. The other day in Saint John, New Brunswick I received in the mail a little plastic model which was supposed to be a 12 day old embryo. It was tiny baby. If everybody in the House saw it, they would not even talk about embryonic stem cell research.

The hon. member from the Alliance who just spoke said there was adult stem cell research and that there was no ethical problems with that. There is a much more promising future for it as well. We do not oppose that. As was stated, adult stem cells are being used today to treat Parkinson's, leukemia, MS and many other diseases as well. We are all in support of that. I feel very strongly that researchers should focus their efforts on adult stem cell research. There is a potential abuse of that tiny embryo which is a child. Conception is the beginning of life.

Let us look at the bill, the new group and Motions Nos. 52 through to 77. The minister wants to undo a committee amendment requiring board members of assisted human reproduction agency to come under conflict of interest rules. The health committee is saying that board members should not have commercial interests in the field of assisted human reproduction or related research. That is absolutely correct. They should not. The board members may talk about fertility clinics and biotech companies, and the board should report. Imagine an employee or investor in a biotech company with financial interests in embryonic stem cell research making decisions for Canadians on the regulation of such research. There is no way that should be done.

We are here to protect the unborn, that embryonic cell. I have been so dismayed in the past few months when I have looked at what has been happening and the direction in which we have been going. I look at our people here and at other young people. When I see these tiny babies, I ask myself how could they take a cell and stop the birth of that child. There is no question that we are in a high tech world and that we need lots of research. However adult stem cell research today is the way to go. There will be no negative debate on that.

When medical science is as advanced as it is in our age, there are times when we have to debate between what we can do and what we should do. That is exactly what we are doing tonight. Science and technology have given us another point of debate in this age old discussion. What we are debating today, with the amendments and the countless motions made by the members of the House related to it, is designed to regulate human reproduction, stem cell research and cloning. There is no way we should be into cloning.

I listened also to the state of the union address by the President of the United States. There is no way the states would allow cloning. Why would we in Canada? It was said that the legislation would put limits and offer safeguards against the kind of brutal science that some believe to be an acceptable means to an end. My immediate concern is that it allows embryonic stem cell research, the destruction of human fetuses, in the name of scientific research.

That is not Canada. That is not the kind of Canadian research we want. It is allowed, notwithstanding that adult stem cells have been found to have many of the same medicinal qualities that researchers are looking for with embryos. What if someone said that the stem cells taken from healthy little three year olds offered the greatest promise to finding a cure for cancer?

I trust and expect that there will be changes to the bill before we are asked to pass final judgment on it, but I want to be very clear tonight. I cannot, as a matter of conscience, support a bill that allows embryonic stem cell research. I have tried to make my position on this issue very clear. Would anyone realistically say that it is okay to take the lives of innocent three year olds in the name of medical science? If it is brutal and barbaric to take the life of a little three year old, why do we, as a society and as a government, not say that it is just as brutal and barbaric to end the life of a healthy fetus in the mother's womb?

I say this to my friends in the House. We have a problem with the whole way we look at things these days. I have seen it just in the past week. Human embryos are human beings and no one should be debating it in the House and saying that they are not. Life begins at conception and we all know that. Look at the young people who are here today. Would we have taken their lives away from them? No. As we look at their faces, there is no way we would do that.

I oppose the destruction of human embryos for any reason, including scientific research. We have to ensure that those who have a financial interest in embryonic stem cell research do not make decisions for Canadians on the regulations of such research, including the definition of the word necessary as specified in clause 40. Imagine a director of a fertility clinic making regulations on limits of sperm and egg donations or the number of embryos produced for IVF treatments. Conflicts of interest need to be prevented in this legislation. We have to ensure that.

Where is the minister to explain why this amendment is even being put forward? What has happened to us here? Why are we allowing all of our principles to be wiped away?

The amendment would require the health minister to table an annual report. We want an annual report that is transparent around the regulations of assisted human reproduction and related research and we would prefer that the agency itself produce such a report. We want an independent agency, not one directed by the health minister or anyone else. When talking about the life of a person, we have to have that independent agency come to us in the House of Commons.

I pray that all members in the House will not support this new group. We support the majority of the amendments that have been brought forth by the opposition members, but there is a need for every member on the government's side to be responsible and protect that embryo, that little child. There is a need for every member to stand and say that they will not allow embryonic stem cell research but that they will allow adult stem cell research. We will agree to that. However no way will we take the life of a child for research.

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5:15 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, with regard to Bill C-13 report stage motions in Group No. 4, I have four motions that I have sponsored and I would like to briefly comment on one. Members have done an excellent job with regard to my motion, Motion No. 55, which requires standardized forms for fertility clinics.

There are 24 fertility clinics in Canada. Some are publicly funded and associated with hospitals like the fertility centre at the Ottawa hospital. However a number of other private fertility clinics, which members should be aware, refused to appear before the Standing Committee on Health to explain how they operated their businesses, to show us their forms and tell us how things were going. As a consequence, there are fertility clinics out there which are not sharing how they do their business with Parliament or with the people of Canada.

I believe it is very important for us to require standardized reports for all fertility clinics so that when our reproduction agency makes decisions on applications for research and all other matters related to the use of materials from fertility clinics, its judgments will be based on informed consent information which is standard across the entire industry. I hope I can have the support of all hon. members on Motion No. 55.

Motion No. 61 is with regard to requiring that this agency be subject to the Official Languages Act. I want to thank the member for Ottawa--Vanier, who is the chairman of the official languages committee of Parliament and who spoke very eloquently on it. I also give full credit to the member for Saint-Lambert who seconded the motion, but in fact it was her motion. As a member of the committee she was unable to make the motion. I made the motion on her behalf and I am pleased to advise the House that the government has agreed to support it.

Motion No. 75 deals with the chairman of the agency and how many times that three year appointment can be renewed. Presently how many times someone can be reappointed to that position is a little uncertain. I checked with the chair of the public accounts committee to inquire as to the standard terms with regard to the Access to Information Commissioner and similar agencies or quasi-jurisdictional bodies. As of today, we have agreed that a period in total of six years would be most appropriate and most in line with other agencies. I have proposed Motion No. 75 to say that the term shall be three years plus the option of one additional reappointment. That would put it up to a maximum of six years.

Motion No. 77 calls for a dispute resolution mechanism to be established for the agency. I cannot tell the House how sensitive some of these matters will be when talking about donors of sperm and eggs, donors of embryos, in vitro fertilization processes, fertility clinics, researchers and commercial ventures. There are many parties associated with the utilization of human embryos and the extraction of stem cells and their utilization down the line. There will be problems. People will have disagreements. There will be interpretations of this act. I believe it is very important that we have a dispute resolution mechanism built into the act which is a prerequisite for licensing. That will insulate the agency from extensive court actions that would be very disruptive to the orderly process of their operations.

I would like to comment on Motion No. 71. The Minister of Health has decided that she would like to delete the clause in the committee stage motion to establish gender balance on the board of directors. I do not think there is anybody who will argue that the particular act of drugging women to the maximum to get them to hyperovulate, to harvest their eggs, to fertilize them, to make them go through all kinds of invasive procedures and social and economic pressures is a women's issue.

There is no question in my mind that on this women's health and social issue that women must have at least 50% representation on the board of directors of this agency. I want to congratulate the member for Winnipeg North Centre who made that plea in committee and convinced the committee. We passed it on her behalf and I want her to know that we will support her 100% to ensure that the minister's motion to delete that clause will be defeated by the House.

Motion No. 72 from the same member, who worked very hard, says that conflict of interest in this matter is a serious issue. Can you imagine, Mr. Speaker, the patentability of some of these technologies and the related technologies that would flow from this? There would be pecuniary interests to many people along the line, many of which we would not know.

The committee said that we do not want the board of directors of any agency filled with people who are totally immersed and involved and know everything about it. We want wise people. We want people with common sense. We want people who would be objective in their assessments. We want people who would make good decisions. We want people who have no direct or indirect conflict or interest or opportunity to have pecuniary interests as a result of any licence or research.

Motion No. 72, made by the Minister of Health, which would delete that excellent motion of the committee proposed by the member for Winnipeg North Centre is a very important motion. When we raised this issue an official told the committee that:

For the full-time members the code of conduct requires a very extensive disclosure of financial interests, which is normally not considered appropriate for part-time members of a board.

He went on to say:

But the part-time members are governed by the principles of the code of conduct. I believe the logic behind the way code of conduct operates now is that the consequences of a conflict for a part-time member are not as significant as for a full-time president, who in this case is the CEO of the agency.

Part time members of the board who have a full vote--their opportunity for conflict is less than someone who is a full time member. Nonsense, I say.

He added:

Requiring the very extensive disclosure of financial interests may act to discourage people from taking on part-time positions that have very limited remuneration.

We have an agency of 13 people. I will find 13 people who are prepared to serve on a very important agency and who are prepared to take the time to declare their conflict of interest and ensure they do a good job.

Motion No. 72, on behalf of the minister, to delete the conflict of interest provisions must be defeated. I ask the House for its support to defeat Motion No. 72.

Motion No. 52, on behalf of the minister, amends the bill related to the provision of counselling services. We had enormous testimony to say that people who go through the in vitro fertilization process have tremendous pressures and consequences. They told us they did not know what was going on. They did not get the information. We had witnesses who told us that nobody told them about what was really going to happen.

The committee came up with an amendment to the bill which said that the agency shall ensure that people who go through the IVF process will get these counselling services. The minister wants to erase that and say that we would just make the services available. We put in “must ensure” for a reason and that is because it is absolutely necessary.

I therefore move:

That report stage Motion No. 52 be amended to add after the word “person” the words “and ensure that the person receives them”.

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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I declare the amendment receivable. The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

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Some hon. members


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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.

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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

All those opposed will please say nay.

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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The recorded division on the amendment stands deferred.

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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The next question is on Motion No. 53. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?