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House of Commons Hansard #49 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was aboriginal.

Topics

Shipping IndustryOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Coast Guard is delaying releasing its decision on marine service fees for navigation and icebreaking. The shipping industry has been waiting for an answer since October 2001. This is an important financial issue, because the Treasury Board is threatening to double the bill from $7 million to $14 million.

Does the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans intend to accelerate negotiations with the industry, in order to avoid a very substantial potential increase in shipping service fees?

Shipping IndustryOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

West Nova Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault LiberalMinister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his excellent question. This is extremely important to the shipping industry. Discussions were held with the Treasury Board and officials from my department. I personally met with people from the shipping industry from all over Canada. Negotiations are ongoing, and I hope that a resolution will be reached over the next year.

TerrorismOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, Canada is part of a global coalition to fight against terrorism. As such, we have collected millions of dollars to fight terrorism. Now we hear of possible foreign aid dollars going to banned organizations like Hezbollah or the Tamil Tigers.

What assurances can the minister give to Canadians that no Canadian foreign aid money is making its way to any terrorist organizations?

TerrorismOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Essex Ontario

Liberal

Susan Whelan LiberalMinister for International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, we are very prudent when we are selecting our partners in development. We are working very closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Solicitor General. We verify that our partners are not on the United Nations' list or Canada's list of suspected terrorists or terrorists. We are doing our utmost to be prudent.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski-Neigette-Et-La Mitis, QC

Mr. Speaker, in her last report, the Auditor General of Canada urged the government to make the mechanism for setting the EI premium rates more transparent. That is what the government promised to do when section 66 was suspended.

When does the government plan to deliver on this promise to make the process of setting the EI premium rates transparent and more objective?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Vaughan—King—Aurora Ontario

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua LiberalSecretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows that the EI fund, as requested by the Auditor General, was folded into the CRF, the consolidated revenue fund. As a result the hon. member would know very clearly that is where it is. There is really no cash per se. The account is used only to record transactions in the account.

Automobile IndustryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have seen thousands of jobs in the auto sector lost to the United States and Mexico because the government has a lack of commitment to provide serious assistance. Meanwhile, states like Georgia and Alabama have provided hundreds of millions of dollars to encourage companies to locate in those states in the U.S. There is no similar commitment here in Canada.

Discussions are now underway with DaimlerChrysler to locate a state of the art plant in Windsor. Both the union and the company have come to the table and reached satisfactory arrangements to keep that production here.

Will the Minister of Industry match that? Will he get--

Automobile IndustryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Minister of Industry.

Automobile IndustryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, Canada has the most attractive investment climate in the world. Given our economic circumstances, lowering taxes, stable and low interest rates, low inflation, productive workforce, it is a great place to invest.

Working with the Ontario and Quebec governments, we are continuing efforts to attract investment in the auto sector from around the world. In the last five years there have been billions of dollars in investment and reinvestment in the sector.

We will continue to ensure that Canada gets not only its share, but continues to be a world leader in the auto sector.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

January 30th, 2003 / 3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the government House leader the business for today, tomorrow and next week.

Also, the ministers had many questions today about a possible vote on troops being deployed. I would like to ask him if he will guarantee to the House today, and all oppositions parties who want it, that a vote will take place in the House before any troops are deployed.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, let me start with the parliamentary agenda.

We will continue this afternoon with Bill C-13, the reproductive technologies bill, followed by, if there is time, Bill C-20, the child protection bill, as well as Bill C-22, the family law bill.

Tomorrow, we will call third reading of Bill C-3 regarding the Canada pension plan. The next item will be Bill C-6, the bill regarding specific claims for aboriginal people.

On Monday, we would return, if necessary, to Bills C-6, C-20 and C-13. We will continue this business on Tuesday morning, but in any case at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, it is my intention to call Bill C-22, the family law bill.

I will be consulting with a view to returning at some point to debate on the Senate amendments to Bill C-10A, the Criminal Code amendments.

On Wednesday, we will continue the debate on Bills C-13 and C-19 if necessary, at whatever stages they are at then.

I wish to announce that Thursday shall be an allotted day.

Colleagues across the way particularly have asked about what they claim to be a principle that military intervention has a vote. I have a number of them here.

For Korea in 1950, there was no resolution in the House and no vote. For Sinai in 1956, there was no vote. For the Congo in 1960, a recorded vote was asked for but no division was held. For Cyprus in 1964, there was a debate before deployment, the motion was agreed to on division with no recorded vote. For the Middle East in 1973, the motion was agreed to with no division and no recorded vote. For the UNIFIL mission in 1978, there was no motion and no vote. For Iran-Iraq in 1988, the motion was agreed to with no division. For Namibia in 1989, there was no vote. For the Persian Gulf in 1990, it was debated after deployment, with a recorded vote and a division.

There were many cases where there were no votes, no debate, no uniformity.

We have established the coherent system which we enjoy today. We have utilized it as late as last night.

I am also prepared to offer to other parties, should they want it at some point, perhaps as early as next week, yet another evening to debate the situation in Iraq. I know many colleagues on my side of the House would like that. We are quite prepared to offer that.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-13, an act respecting assisted human reproduction, as reported (with amendments) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 5.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Canadian Alliance Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and an honour to enter the debate on Bill C-13. I know we are debating certain amendments, but I wish to address my remarks to the entire bill because a lot of the amendments deal with various provisions of the bill.

I would like to suggest that the seven principles that are enunciated at the beginning of the bill are rather comprehensive. I would like to summarize them as reading them in detail would take too long.

First, priority must be given to the health and well-being of children in the application of assisted reproductive technologies; second, in the application of assisted reproductive technologies the health, safety and dignity and rights of humans must be protected and promoted; third, the health and well-being of women in particular must be protected; fourth, free and informed consent must be promoted and employed in the use and application of assisted reproductive technologies; fifth, there must be no discrimination against those who undergo assisted reproductive procedures; sixth, the productive capabilities of men and women must not be exploited for commercial ends; and seventh, the human genome, human individuality and diversity must be preserved.

Those are lofty and worthwhile principles. I would like to look at the implications of the application of those principles to the body of the bill and the legislation that follows it as presented to the House.

The first principle states that the well-being of children must be preserved. It means, among other things, that all children are created equal. That does not mean that they are all the same. It means that they are equal in the basic rights and freedoms before the Constitution and the law. This means they have at least three fundamental rights: the right to life, the right to liberty, and the right to the pursuit of happiness. They also enjoy or should be given four freedoms: the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom of every person to worship God in his or her own way, the freedom from fear, and the freedom from want.

Three rights and four freedoms should be there for all children. I think principle number one clearly implies those kinds of freedoms. Are any of those rights and freedoms denied in the body of the bill? No, they are not. I think the bill is consistent in that area. Does that mean I find each of the other six principles to be that consistently applied throughout the bill? I do not think so.

Let us examine principle number four, which is subclause 2(d). It states:

the principle of free and informed consent must be promoted and applied as a fundamental condition of the use of human reproductive technologies;

The phrase free and informed consent deserves further investigation. Free and informed consent is considered as a principle that must be promoted and applied as a fundamental condition. Let us look at that in some detail. What are the provisions of the bill with regard to the application of that?

The first of these is the prohibition of certain activities. They are found in the bill as a general provision and I think that is good. There are certain activities with regard to reproductive technologies that are prohibited. Second, the bill would create an agency to enforce the bill and the provisions of the bill. I think that too shows foresight and recognizes that a bill like this, complicated as it is and difficult as the implications might be, does require a good and solid administrative structure.

At this point it is essential that we look at what constitutes the conditions under which this agency must carry out its responsibilities. Interestingly enough, as one goes through the operation of the agency, one discovers quickly that almost all of the agency's administrative provisions or obligations are subject to the regulations of the governor in council. That is an interesting provision. This is an agency that is to carry out the administration of this act but subject to the regulations of the order in council.

Let us look at the regulations with regard to free and informed consent. Free and informed consent, as far as the orders in council are concerned, are not the subject of consultation, and are not the result of the intense seeking advice and assistance from persons or experts outside of the government.

In fact, in a parliamentary system the government represents the people. The free, open and informed consent is the Government of Canada which is elected by the people, not the governor in council. The governor in council is the cabinet which is the arm of the Prime Minister.

How would this work in terms of the agency doing its work? Clause 65 of the bill has 28 subclauses. It states that the governor in council may make regulations in 28 particular areas.

I am going to look at this particularly as it affects clause 8. Subclause 8(1) reads:

8(1) No person shall make use of human reproductive material for the purpose of creating an embryo unless the donor of the material has given written consent, in accordance with the regulations, to its use for that purpose.

Under subclause 65(1)(b) it states:

  1. (1) The Governor in Council may make regulations for carrying into effect the purposes and provisions of this Act and, in particular, may make regulations

(b) for the purposes of section 8, respecting the giving of consent for the use of human reproductive material or an in vitro embryo or for the removal of human reproductive material;

We must observe here that the consent must be written by the donor for the use of human reproductive material for the purposes of creating an embryo in accordance with the regulations.

The regulations, if any, may be made by the governor in council. However there will be somebody immediately who will say “the agency shall require written consent and the governor in council may make regulation”. One could argue what if there are not any regulations? Then any form of consent literally would be recognized.

Is it realistic to assume that to be the case? I doubt it very much. For example, written consent might be the result of coercion of some form or it might not be current or there might be any number of reasons under which written consent might occur and it would have to be regulated according to the governor in council. I can see all kinds of reasons why the governor in council might make some regulations. I can see also why the agency might want to make them.

The point I am trying to make here is that the regulations themselves are secret. They would be created in secret and then perhaps made public, but they would not be the result of checks and balances in the debate of the House.

I would like to look at clause 10, although the regulations cover clauses 10 and 11. Subclause 10(1) states:

10(1) No person shall, except in accordance with the regulations and a licence, alter, manipulate or treat any human reproductive material for the purpose of creating an embryo.

Subclause 65(1)(c) states:

  1. (1) The Governor in Council may make regulations for carrying into effect the purposes and provisions of this Act and, in particular, may make regulations

(c) for the purposes of sections 10 and 11, designating controlled activities or classes of controlled activities that may be authorized by a licence;

Interestingly further down subclause 65(h) states that the governor in council also decides what the rules and regulations are with regard to a licence.

Therefore the business of allowing these kinds of activities would be determined not by the agency, but by the regulations first of all with regard to the activities and with regard to a licence. A person wishing to do this kind of manipulation would have to have both a licence and have the regulations as well.

We have a double whammy here as the governor in council would virtually be controlling the whole operation of the agency. Who would be in control? Would it be the agency or the governor in council? It is pretty clear by now that it would be the governor in council. It would run roughshod over the House of Commons because it would not have to consult the House. With regard to this kind of arrogance Jefferson in the declaration of independence said:

...to secure these rights, [the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness] Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,--That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The bill should be reconstituted before it is brought to the House so that indeed we can have free and informed consent as to the provisions for assisted human reproductive technologies.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Madawaska—Restigouche New Brunswick

Liberal

Jeannot Castonguay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to the amendments in Group No. 5.

First I would like to remind this House that Bill C-13 addresses the wish of all Canadians to know that the use of human embryos will be subject to the strictest supervision necessary. The use of an embryo, without exception, will require authorization from the Assisted Human Reproduction Agency of Canada.

Motions No. 6, 81, 82 and 86 are not necessary because they do not add anything to the agency's ability to decide who will be granted or denied authorization, and why. Let us not forget that researchers will have to convince the agency that the use of an embryo is necessary for the research they want to conduct. Bill C-13 will allow research using an embryo as long as it is in accordance with the regulations. These regulations are intended to allow beneficial research. This is also a government responsibility. That is the balance struck by Bill C-13.

With this bill, the door to research using embryos is locked. Only the agency will have the key to open that door. The agency will have to be accountable to Parliament and to the Canadian public any time it does so. Without Bill C-13, the door is wide open to research using embryos. At the present time, anything is allowed because there are no controls. This is a huge void that we wish to address, and that we must address.

There is one thing I would like to make clear. The purpose of Bill C-13 is not to control research with embryonic stem cells, let alone adult stem cells. The purpose of Bill C-13 is to control the use of surplus human embryos. That is the objective. For example, we want to control whether or not a researcher may derive stem cells from a surplus embryo. It was created for reproductive purposes. The couple can decide that they no longer need it for reproductive purposes and allow it to be used for research.

When stem cells are derived from the embryo, they lose they initial essence in that they can no longer become embryos. This is a scientific impossibility, as indeed are the polyspermic embryos addressed by Motion No. 9.

Since derived stem cells cannot become embryos, they do not, therefore, come within the scope of Bill C-13. The source of embryonic stem cells, meaning an in vitro human embryo, does.

I would add a word here about the need for research using the two types of stem cells, adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells. Bill C-13 does not hinder research on adult stem cells. It does not change existing government subsidies for this type of research.

The government is hearing what scientists are requesting, which is that all types of stem cell research be allowed. I shall quote Dr. Freda Miller, an internationally renowned adult stem cell researcher, who appeared before the Standing Committee on Health and said:

My...fear...is that my work with adult stem cells...would be used as a rationale for halting the work on human embryonic stem cells. Then, if the adult stem cells don't come to fruition, we're left with nothing...but by allowing the co-development of both sources, you're expediting the potential therapy that will be derived from adult stem cells, so that maybe one day we don't have to use the embryonic stem cells therapeutically.

I would like to be clear about Motion No. 88. If it is passed, doctors will be required to treat each of their patients the same way. This is an unacceptable approach that could put the health and even the life of some Canadians at risk. Motion No. 88 is reckless. It goes well beyond the scope of Bill C-13.

In terms of the guidelines for Canadian Institutes of Health Research, even the criteria and requirements set out in the document entitled Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Research: Guidelines , will be subject to the regulations of the Assisted Human Reproduction Act.

The legislation does not have to comply with the guidelines; rather, the reverse. That is not the case right now because such legislation does not exist. Therefore, it is important to pass Bill C-13 as soon as possible.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on this group of amendments to Bill C-13. This is a very important group of amendments pertaining to the agency that will in fact provide ongoing oversight and a regulatory framework for developments in this field. We can see that the agency is a critical part of the legislation, and amendments pertaining to the powers and makeup of the agency are critical.

It was very interesting earlier today to hear the Minister of Health give her account of why she felt the motion, presented by me on behalf of the New Democratic Party to ensure the highest standard pertaining to conflict of interest matters, was entrenched in the bill.

It is to be noted from earlier discussions that the amendment was proposed by the NDP at the committee stage of the bill. The Standing Committee on Health agreed with the recommendation and the bill was printed with that amendment, which is, as read into the record, subclause 26(8). It clearly calls for guarantees that no appointment will be made to this new board of directors that has “any pecuniary or proprietary interest in any business” relating to this field of reproductive technologies.

The wording that was selected for this amendment was based on other legislative initiatives. It is not a new and imaginary approach to the issue. It is based on standard law and legislative wording pertaining to this issue about conflict of interest.

The minister today has tried to suggest that the wording of the amendment is so problematic and so difficult that in fact it might lead to the ludicrous situation whereby someone fixing the air conditioner in an office might be in a conflict of interest because that is part of the whole operation. The minister knows that this is not the intent of the amendment, that this is not how it would be interpreted, and that in fact it is precisely worded in a way to ensure that vested interests are prevented from having an influence over decisions pertaining to something as fundamental as the reproductive health and wellbeing of women.

There is no question: a bill can always be improved. I would certainly look to the Minister of Health or any one of her colleagues for better wording if there is a problem in any way with the proposal made by me and adopted by the committee, but for the minister to simply suggest subclause 26(9), which refers strictly to the licensee and spells out requirements in terms of vested interests in that regard, is not sufficient. We are not just talking about the actual fertility clinic or health institution that has been licensed to provide a service. We are not just talking about the front line delivery in this field. We are talking about the whole range of developments and discoveries pertaining to reproductive technology, most of which we cannot even anticipate because the science is changing so rapidly.

Therefore, it is ludicrous for the minister to leave the impression that what is in the bill, minus the good work of the committee and my amendment, is sufficient. There are no guarantees in terms of future developments. In fact when it comes to the responsibilities given the agency under the legislation, they are very extensive. It is not limited only to licensee activity, as foreseen in the amendments supported by the minister. It goes far beyond to include advising the minister on critical issues, to enforcing the law as it is written and will be proclaimed, to inspecting and monitoring developments in this area, and to offering general oversight and surveillance. So any amendment that is strictly limited to licensing provisions will not do it, will just not cut it. We still have a fundamental problem about the possibility of vested interests determining the direction of policies and practices in this very important area, an area of fundamental and critical importance to the women of this country.

Anything we can do to strengthen the agency in this bill is an important responsibility on the part of members of Parliament. It is certainly a role taken seriously by the health committee. Let me say, as many other observers have said, that the success or failure of our work in this area will really come down to the features of this new assisted human reproduction agency. As I have mentioned already, not only will it license clinics and research on human reproductive activities, it will also advise the minister on developments in this area and will be involved in monitoring, enforcement and surveillance. It will have responsibility for providing advice to the Minister of Health on a whole range of assisted human reproduction issues and will play a powerful role in shaping the future of Canada's regulations in this expanding area of social, health and economic policy.

Our concern today, the question we are asking, is this: Will this agency be absolutely independent? Will the directors be free from any ties to the interests of biotechnology companies or fertility clinics? These are fundamental questions. They are critical to the issues at hand.

In fact I would suggest to members in the House that the influence and profits of multinational biopharmaceutical companies are enormous. To presume a lack of interest on their behalf in this burgeoning field of technological innovations and genetics is absolutely naive. It flies in the face of the pharmaceutical industry's own declared intention to direct its activity to genetics products and sciences.

It is also worth nothing that the government's original version of the bill provided absolutely no conflict of interest protection at all, none, so it is not surprising that we are disputing the issue today. Conflict of interest is a concept on which this government has a curious track record. For instance, it does not recognize that there is the possibility of a conflict of interest when a person who is the director of a major provider of a for profit nursing care facility, Extendicare in this case, heads up a government study of health care options, including policy choices that could lead to more business going his way. It is not that someone is personally applying for a licence or a contract; it is that he has responsibilities to shareholders that could, and I say could, influence his policy decisions.

This amendment was approved by an all party committee. It ought to be upheld by Parliament. We ought to register our grievances to the government for the Minister of Health's interference and regrettable actions.

Let me also say that when it comes to the issue of women's involvement on the board, the government's actions have been equally offensive. The committee I worked on accepted an amendment put forward in good faith to ensure that there be at least 50% women on this board of directors that has so many important powers and responsibilities, for very good reason. We put that amendment forward because we knew that in this area that is so important to women's health and wellbeing, women must be represented on at least an equal basis and the expertise and knowledge that women bring to this field must be acknowledged and included in the process.

For the minister and the parliamentary secretary to suggest that they want to be open to all qualified people and that they do not want to discriminate is an insult to women. It is contrary to the notion of women's equality. I would suggest to members on the government side that they rethink this issue and come back to the House with a motion respecting the fundamental issue of gender parity and equality between women and men.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on debate at report stage of Bill C-13, an act regarding assisted human reproductive technologies and related research.

These amendments in Group No. 5 deal principally with the statutory framework for the agency created by the bill to provide licences to institutions or individuals, presumably scientists or scientific laboratories, who will be permitted to participate in in vitro fertilization as well as embryonic stem cell experimentation.

Most of the amendments under Group No. 5 seek to clarify the intent of Parliament to enhance protection for the parents of offspring by ensuring their consent for any scientific research, and also some of these amendments seek to strengthen the sanctions for licensees that violate the terms of the bill.

Let me go through these various amendments that I believe were all put forward in the name of the hon. member for Mississauga South, who has done yeoman's work in taking the legislative process very seriously with respect to the bill.

First I will turn to Motion No. 6, which seeks to amend the definition of consent. In the third clause of the bill, consent currently is defined as meaning:

...fully informed and freely given consent that is given in accordance with the applicable law governing consent.

The member's amendment states:

with the applicable law governing consent and that conforms to the provisions of the Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Research Guidelines released by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research in March, 2002, as detailed in the regulations.

Rather than simply leaving it to the new agency to create its own guidelines for consent, he is fixing it. The amendment proposes to fix in the bill an already extant proposal from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research on the question of donor consent.

Next, at Motion No. 80, the member for Mississauga South suggests that before a licence is granted to a scientist or a firm to engage in in vitro fertilization there be ethical guidelines and a peer review. Clause 40 states:

A licence authorizing the use of an in vitro embryo for the purpose of research may be issued only if the Agency is satisfied that the use is necessary for the purpose of the proposed research.

The amendment states:

...proposed research and the Agency has, in accordance with the regulations, received approval from a research ethics board and a peer review.

This seems sensible to me, to ensure that there are clear ethical considerations and a peer review, which is conventional of course for any scientific research, but it would be good if we were to make that a requirement in the bill, in my opinion.

Motion No. 81 would add to clause 40 of the bill a grandfather clause. It basically suggests that any embryos created prior to the coming into force of the bill, that is to say any embryos that are already perhaps frozen today, could only be treated in the future in accordance with the pre-existing CIHR guidelines. Essentially the member is saying that we will protect the existing embryos according to existing guidelines so that they do not end up in a kind of legal limbo, which could otherwise be the case.

Motion No. 82 seeks to amend clause 40 of the bill by saying that “a person who wishes to undertake research involving stem cells from in vitro embryos must provide the agency with the reasons why embryonic stem cells are to be used instead of stem cells from other sources”. This would place an obligation on the applicant for a licence to do this kind of research to demonstrate that embryonic stem cells are necessary and that the same results cannot be possibly achieved through non-embryonic stem cells.

I was not able to participate in the committee hearings, but anybody who has followed the matter will be very aware of the enormous new scientific potential posed by non-embryonic stem cells, be it stem cells harvested from umbilical cords of newly born babies or stem cells from infants or adults. I believe all these can offer far more significant scientific research possibilities than creating nascent human lives in the form of embryos in order to destroy, manipulate and research on them. Motion No. 82 would place that onus to demonstrate the necessity of using embryonic stem cells on the applicant for a licence.

Motion No. 83 says that the agency “shall not issue a licence under this section for embryonic stem cell research if there are an insufficient number of in vitro embryos available for that research”. This is a sensible motion.

No. 84 requires the written consent of the original gamete provider, that is to say the biological parent, before any scientific research can be done. This clarifies that the donor cannot become someone other than the biological parent. This is an important amendment which I will support.

No. 85 is a technical amendment which seeks to clarify the language.

I will turn to Motion No. 88 which is probably the most substance in this series. It says that the agency would insert the following under clause 40:

The Agency shall establish, for in vitro fertilizationprocedures, limits regarding, but not limited to, the following:

(a) the amount of all drug dosages that may be administered;

(b) the number of

(i) ova that may be harvested,

(ii) ova that may be fertilized,

(iii) in vitro embryos that may be implanted at any one time,and

(iv) embryos that may be cryogenically stored forreproductive purposes; and

(c) the length of time that an embryo may be stored.

These are critical issues and really central to the ethical consideration of our treatment of nascent human lives. Without this amendment, the bill would give virtual carte blanche to the agency to regulate these matters perhaps in a very lax fashion. We know from testimony and standard practice that in the whole field of in vitro fertilization an enormous number of nascent human lives are unnecessarily created because in a sense, as some might say in the vernacular sense, it is a numbers game. It is only a fairly small percentage of embryos created in vitro which will implant and come to term as children.

In some cases fertilization clinics are creating dozens of nascent human beings to have one successful baby come to full birth. This says that we would not allow these clinics to produce dozens, hundreds and cumulatively thousands of embryos which would end up being frozen and then end up being used for research purposes. This would close or at least limit a very large loophole which exists in the bill.

I look forward to speaking to other amendments as we continue consideration of the bill.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, the debate on Bill C-13 has been going for a while now. We are currently debating the Group No. 5 amendments to the bill. The Group No. 5 amendments largely deal with clause 40 in the bill, which deals with the functioning of the regulatory agency.

I appreciate the remarks that other members have contributed to the debate already today, including the member from Calgary who just spoke. However I want to first go back to one intervention related to the Group No. 4 amendments since the minister herself stood just a few moments ago and addressed an issue related to an amendment that would strike section 26, clause 8, regarding the conflict of interest code.

I agree with the member from Winnipeg North who spoke just a few minutes ago on this matter. The committee took this quite seriously. The minister implied that subclause 9 of clause 26 is adequate for determining who is and who is not eligible to serve on this agency.

As a committee, we did not feel that the conflict of interest regulations were tight enough. For that reason the committee, after a lot of intense debate, included a clause that would restrict members of a board from having any pecuniary or proprietary interest in any business which operated in the industries related to reproductive technology. That was for a very specific reason. We felt this provision was necessary and that members should not support the striking of that clause.

Going on to the Group No. 5 amendments, these amendments deal largely with the regulatory agency, as I have alluded. The bulk of these amendments, beginning with Motion No. 80 up to and including Motion No. 90, deal with various aspects of the use of embryos for research.

In our minority report, the Canadian Alliance put forward the position that we would prefer a position that would make all these motions unnecessary, and that relates to the use for which cells will be used. We feel, as Canadian, we are dealing with this at a time when more information is available to us than other jurisdictions. Therefore it is incumbent upon us to make decisions that may be different from other jurisdictions that have gone before us, when scientific information on the alternatives to embryonic stem cell use were not as clear as they are today.

I want to underscore some of the reasons why we feel that it is wrong. The bill states that it is wrong to create embryos, in fact, it is forbidden to create embryos for research but what is happening as a consequence of the bill is precisely that.

I want to speak for a moment about adult stem cells because the committee heard abundant evidence, and there is abundant scientific evidence today. I will to quote from some of the top scientists who spoke to committee in just a moment . Briefly I want to say that adult stem cells are a safe, proven alternative to embryonic stem cells. Sources of adult stem cells are umbilical cord blood, skin tissue, bone tissue, and I will talk a about that in a moment. Adult stem cells are easily accessible, are not subject to immune rejection and pose minimal ethical concerns, as opposed to embryonic stem cell transplants that are subject to immune rejection because they are foreign tissues. The body has cells that check licence plates, it checks the DNA and it checks out the markers on the other cells. Cells from another body will be rejected until one takes anti-rejection drugs.

Adult cells today are being used in the treatment of Parkinson's, leukemia, multiple sclerosis and other conditions, but embryonic stem cells have not been successfully used in the treatment of anything.

I make reference to some of the distinguished scientists who spoke at health committee.

Dr. Alan Bernstein, President of the CIHR, the Canadian Institute for Health Research, stated at committee November 26, 2002:

I would say that if one knew that adult cells would work in therapeutic settings... then there's no question that this would be the preferred route of treatment, as opposed to using embryonic stem cells, where one doesn't know about the transplant rejection situations and all that.

I thank Dr. Bernstein for that. Clearly adult cells are better. However there is the “if” word there.

Dr. Ronald Worton, who is the head of the Stem Cell Network at the University of Ottawa, “There is no question that autologous stem cells hold a lot of promise”. Those cells are taken from one's own body and put back into one's own body. He went on to say, “We believe a lot of the therapy that will be done with stem cells in the future will be done with adult stem cells”.

Dr. Prentice, University of Indiana, testified that he took stem cells that were isolated from his own blood for research purposes. Because these stem cells are smaller, they can be centrifuged and separated from other cells and can be used to grow in vitro and in Petri dishes.

I ran into a person in the city of Toronto just a short time ago, who is related to a person who is a very well known Canadian. I will not mention his name because I have no permission to do so. This man had a condition called multiple myeloma. That is a very serious bone cancer. Bone marrow cells had been extracted from him, then they isolated the stem cells. He had been given chemotherapy to kill the tumours in his bone. Then after the tumours had been killed with the chemo, his own stem cells were reintroduced, and he is doing just fine without medication.

Thursday, November 28, Dr. Freda Miller, now of Sick Children's Hospital in Toronto, spoke on the prospects for profit of adult stem cells. Dr. Miller was formerly from McGill University. She made a lot of headlines for her skin based precursors, cells which she isolated from the skin that were able to transform into stem cells and grow into other types of tissue. When the headlines on Dr. Miller's research hit the paper they said that researchers had found gold.

About the prospects for profit in adult stem cells, she said that they were very low. As a matter of fact, she said that she did not think that any company would fund the kind of dream scenario we were talking about, autologous transplantation for individuals.

Dr. Worton is saying that there is tremendous potential in autologous transplant, but Dr. Miller is saying there is not much money in autologous transplant. That will have to be funded by the public system, health charities or something as a purely medical treatment because there is not any money to be made.

The concern we have is that this important area of research should not be driven by money or by where profits are highest. The corollary is that there is a lot of interest from industry in promoting embryonic cells because if we can get it to work, it will have strings attached to it that may be patentable. Maybe the cells are patentable. Maybe the procedures are patentable to get something that is not a good fit to fit. We feel that this important area of research should not be driven by what will be most profitable for industry. It should be driven by what is most profitable for Canadians.

We have had petition after petition in the House from Canadians from all ridings. I have heard members opposite present petitions from their ridings asking Canadians to pursue adult stem cell research and make morally ethical research available to Canadians, the ones that show the most promise. That is the position of this party. I wish the members opposite would take this seriously so that we can advance what is in the best interest of Canadians. This is good science. It is not bad science or moral people trying to hold back good science. This is good science that would be better advanced by promoting adult stem cell research.

If we were to go that way, if we would follow the advice of minority report from the Canadian Alliance, these amendments would not be necessary. However the minister seems determined to keep the door open to use embryos, embryos that were intended to produce children. That was the whole focus of our draft legislation, building families, and the committee was determined to try to keep the focus on building families.

I applaud the member for Mississauga South who has brought in amendments that would require the agency to at least, if we are to go this way and use the most vulnerable people, the ones trying to produce babies, to encourage them to give up the surplus embryos to industry. At least this would require the agency to keep track of those embryos, to be accountable for them and to put requirements on the agency to monitor the use of these embryos and to try to restrict the commodification. We applaud the member for Mississauga South for his effort in bringing forth these amendments and I hope all members of the House will support them.

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3:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dick Harris Canadian Alliance Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to talk about Bill C-13.

My party has a lot of concerns about Bill C-13. My colleague from Nanaimo—Alberni has pointed out a lot of concerns and why our party would not support the use of embryonic stem cells in research. He has pointed out the alternatives and the medical scientific breakthroughs that have been made in adult stem cell research.

I want to mention some more concerns that we have. First, there are some things in the bill that we do agree with. For example, the bill does point out that the health and well-being of children born through assisted human reproduction must be given priority. We certainly would support that.

We support the bans on reproductive or therapeutic cloning, chimeras, animal-human hybrids, sex selection, germ line alteration, the buying or selling of embryos and paid surrogacy.

We support an agency to regulate the sector, although we want changes to it that we believe are necessary.

There has probably not been a bill put to this House in the last several years that has caused me to receive more mail in my office than the issue of stem cell research. I can say that the citizens of Prince George—Bulkley Valley have overwhelmingly expressed their opposition to embryonic research over the past several months and have asked me to speak on their behalf in the House of Commons.

Embryonic research is a very ethically controversial proposal and type of medical research. It is dividing Canadians. We have witnessed that in the House with the different views of members of Parliament supposedly speaking on behalf of their ridings. We have seen the numerous petitions that have been tabled in the House calling for ethical stem cell research.

It has been pointed out by my colleagues and in petitions that embryonic stem cell research inevitably results in the death of the embryo, which is the death of early human life. For many Canadians, this practice would violate the ethical commitment to respect human dignity, integrity and life.

There is an incontestable scientific fact that supports the statement that an embryo is early human life. It states that the complete DNA of an adult human is present at the embryonic stage. Whether that life is owed protection is one of the issues we want to talk about today and one of the issues that should be present in this entire debate.

Embryonic research also constitutes an objectification of human life where human life in a way can become a tool that can be manipulated and destroyed for other ethical ends. Adult stem cells, on the other hand, are a safe, proven alternative to embryonic stem cells. My colleague from Nanaimo on Vancouver Island has spoken about that at length.

There are innumerable sources of adult stem cells such as skin tissue, bone tissue, and umbilical cord blood. There is no shortage of a source for adult stem cells. We must question why some in Parliament and some in the medical community appear so determined to pursue embryonic stem cell research when adult stem cells are so readily accessible and have been proven to be beneficial in research.

Adult stem cells are not subject to immune rejection and pose minimal ethical concerns. Embryonic stem cell transplants are subject to immune rejection because they are foreign tissue. Adult stem cells used for transplants typically are taken from one's own body.

Adult stem cells are being used today in the treatment of Parkinson's disease, leukemia, MS and many other conditions, and are working very well in that type of treatment. Conversely I must point out that embryonic stem cells have not been used in the successful treatment of a single person. Given a lot of these facts, one must wonder why this drive to get into embryonic stem cell research is so ongoing.

In our minority report from the health committee we called for a three year prohibition on experiments with human embryos corresponding with the first scheduled review of the bill. It should be pointed out that the government disregarded many of the points that were made in the health committee in order to put forward Bill C-13.

When we look at the bill we see many things that were left out. Amendments pertaining to the regulatory agency have not been included in Bill C-13. The health committee recommended many things like an end to donor anonymity. That has been left out of the bill. Our minority report said that where the privacy rights of the donors of human reproductive materials conflict with the rights of children to know their genetic and social heritage, the rights of the children should prevail. That was not included in the bill. When the issue came up during the review, the Liberals defeated our amendment to end anonymity in a six to five vote, so there was a split among the government members.

The bill supposes to support the health and well-being of children born through assisted human reproduction and that must be given a priority. We do support that. We support continued research using adult stem cells in medical research and treatment, as we have seen it being successful now.

However, our party cannot support Bill C-13 as it stands. We have amendments that we will be putting forward at different stages of the bill and we trust that the Liberals and the other members of the House will see the wisdom in our amendments and support them.

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4 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is a serious and sober bill. There are many times in the House when we become involved in debate dealing with such issues as Iraq, Parks Canada or any number of things. I recognize that, for example, in the case of Iraq and whether we should be going to war that we are talking about life and the lives not only of the people who represent Canada who would be going and potentially representing us in a theatre of war, but the people on the ground in Iraq as well.

This piece of legislation goes even further. It goes right to the very essence of who we are as a created being. I wish to go on record clearly and unequivocally with respect to the issue of embryonic research as opposed to adult stem cell research. I am absolutely opposed to any continued research in the area of embryonic stem cells for the reason that, as my colleague from Prince George—Bulkley Valley pointed out, there has been absolutely no success. Conversely, if we are talking about adult stem cell research, there has been some amazing success. It confounds me to try to understand why in the world the research community would be continuing to press in an area where there has been no success and actually take away resources from an area where there have been some really far reaching successes.

I can only speculate, and this is pure speculation on my part, but it seems to me that if I understand the situation correctly, where there is embryonic stem cell research, should that research be successful, there would be a far more significant ongoing drug expenditure to maintain the life that was created or maintain whatever the therapeutic instrument was that was created from the embryonic stem cell research as opposed to the adult stem cell research.

If indeed that is correct, and the only reason why I am speculating is because I believe it to be true, then it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that if we are going down a path that has the potential to generate far more revenue to people who are involved in the development, production and sale of drugs, that perhaps they are the people who are behind this illogical move to continue to put resources out on what to this point has been a failed attempt.

That being said, I want to deal specifically with the regulatory agency. The bill would create an assisted human reproduction agency of Canada to issue licences for controlled activities, collect health reporting information, advise the minister, and designate inspectors for enforcement of the act. The board of directors would be appointed by the governor of council with a membership that would reflect a “range of backgrounds and disciplines relevant to the agency's objectives”. The bill as amended at committee would require board members to have no financial interest in any business regulated or controlled by the act. The health minister is now trying to undo these conflict of interest provisions.

In this respect, the action or the position taken by the health minister is virtually similar to every other piece of legislation that comes before the House, although the minister would not go to a board to bring some expertise to a given situation, that is, to bring more heads as it were, to bring two or three or ten intellects to try to deal with a situation. The fact is that invariably that board ends up reporting to the minister and not to Parliament. It goes back even to the question of the ethics counsellor reporting to the Prime Minister rather than us having an ethics commissioner who would report to the House and be responsible to the House.

Because we are dealing with the very foundation of who we are, in this particular case, where we are talking about literally manipulating the very essence of human life, it is absolutely unacceptable that the board would end up reporting back to a minister and not to this Parliament, hence to the people of Canada.

The board will have to deal with a tremendous number of mercilessly complex issues and, in dealing with those issues, it will be challenged morally, ethically, spiritually, scientifically and intellectually. The board will be challenged with virtually every decision it makes. Even with the number of people on the board and their applied intellect, when the board comes out with a decision, for them to be responsible solely to the minister of the crown is simply unacceptable. This is an issue that, in my judgment, requires the ability of the people of Canada to hold the board accountable.

Clause 25 allows the minister to give any policy direction he or she likes to the agency and the agency must follow it without question. The clause also ensures that such direction will remain secret. If the agency were an independent agency answerable to Parliament such political direction would be more difficult. The entire clause should be eliminated for the very reasons that I just finished enunciating.

The Canadian Alliance proposed amendments specifying that agency board members be chosen for their “wisdom and judgment”. This was a health committee recommendation in “Building Families”. We want to avoid an agency captured by special interests.

It is understandable that people are very passionate about these issues. Some are very passionate on one side, and then a different group is very passionate on the other side. People will pull together and, with their passion, they will come together with other people and literally create a special interest group to make sure that their point of view is brought forward.

How easy it would be for this agency to come under the direction and bias of such a special interest group, which is why the agency board members must report to Parliament. We do not want to end up in a situation where we could potentially have a health minister who would have his or her own agenda and would bring that agenda to bear on the board.

The health minister wants to undo a committee amendment requiring board members of the assisted human reproduction agency to come under conflict of interest rules. We come back to the same situation. I am not now talking about conflict of interest relative to an interest. I am talking about a conflict of interest with respect to business. Again, this circles right back to where I started, and that is, we have to be sure that the decisions that are being made are being made in the best interests of Canadians and Canadian life; human life without influence.

Therefore I find it very unfortunate that the health minister wants to undo the committee amendment requiring the board members of the assisted human reproduction agency to come under the conflict of interest rules, specifically subclauses 26(8) and (9). The health committee got it right: board members should not have commercial interests in the field of assisted human reproduction or related research, that is fertility clinics or biotech companies.

As I started off in my presentation today I made the point that this issue is a very passionate issue but that this issue must be handled with precision by the House of Commons.

It would be my hope that we would manage to stay away from any partisan barbs and that we would manage to stay away from any partisanship as we work this issue through. Perhaps, with the 301 members of Parliament in the House, we might be able to use, to quote the holy scriptures, the wisdom of Solomon, because we know we need it for the bill.

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4:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

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

Mr. Speaker, I rise again to speak to Bill C-13. It is no surprise that the bill has raised a number of controversies with the Canadian public. Some Canadians feel that the very use of stem cell research violates the ethical commitment to respect human dignity, integrity and life, and, in believing life begins at conception, that any use of stem cell research would be a violation of that.

There also are those who see the use of stem cell research as an advance in science and technology.

Appreciating the fact that we have these two ideologies, these two groups of people in Canadian society, the onus is on the government to tread very lightly, to be very sensitive to the different sides and the different concerns that people have, and to make sure the legislation acknowledges and deals with the concerns from various communities within Canadian society.

A lot of the proponents who would not like to see stem cell research used at all would suggest that adult stem cells are the ones that should be used. Unfortunately, we are dealing with reproductive technologies and reproductive technologies lead us into the discussion of embryonic stem cells. Adult stem cells kind of fall outside of reproductive technology.

However the argument is, and one that certainly can be supported, that where adult stem cells can be used in research, they should be used. The onus should be on the government to make sure that if embryonic stem cells are used for research purposes that there are some protections.

The committee on health looked at this legislation before it was presented to Parliament and came up with a number of recommendations. Those recommendations were well thought out. The committee spent a lot of time looking at it and the minister would be wise to consider some amendments to this legislation that would better reflect what the committee recommended when it studied this before coming to the House.

Some of the comments that the committee came up with were very valid. One was that the protection of the rights and the health of the children who are a product of in vitro fertilization must be a priority. The other priority has to be the parents who have gone through this process in order to have a family. There must be an understanding of the stress, not only economically but the emotional stress, that is involved when two people have to go through a scientific process in order to conceive and have a child.

The government has to be sensitive, not only to the physical attributes of what this legislation will create but also to the emotional and the psychological concerns.

The bill deals with the control of not only the development of this agency and who will sit on it, but the control of how these clinics will operate and how the research is done. There is talk about controlling the volume of material that would be available for stem cell research. These are very sensitive issues.

It is very sensitive when a government tries to say that a person can only use so many ovum, so many Petri dishes, and can only implant so many fertilized eggs when the sole purpose of it is to create a child and create a family. It is pretty touchy because there are two sides. There is the couple who, in many cases, have waited a long time to conceive and are using this as a last ditch method, and are very anxious that they conceive this child before the natural clock takes over. The sensitivity from that standpoint, along with the sensitivity of other issues, has to be addressed.

The board that has to make those kinds of judgment calls will have to be very well selected. The members of the board need to be people who have the ability to use good reason, who are wise, compassionate, understanding, as well as people who can make decisions.

The selection of the people for the board is very important. They must be able to show that they will well represent the end response to this legislation, which is the protection of the child who is created and of the parents.

Another issue that comes up in this proposed legislation is the aspect of consent. Who gives consent for the unused embryos, the unused fertilized eggs to be used for research? Is it just one of the parents? Is it the donor of the egg? Is it the donor of the sperm? Is it a joint decision? What kind of consent should be required?

I think all of us are aware of many cases that have gone through the courts where a child has been conceived by a surrogate mother and the surrogate mother decides she wants to keep the child and then it becomes a legal wrangling. We know of where they have used frozen embryos in a bank and one of the people involved has died and the other person wants to resurrect it and there is the question of do they have the right. There are legal parameters that will come into play with this proposed legislation.

It is very important that the government be very sensitive to not only those issues but to the potential issues that this proposed legislation will create.

When we go beyond consent we then start looking at the issue: does this child, who is created through a process, have the right to know the donor? I would suggest, as an adoptive parent, that there are times when the information is necessary for medical reasons. Maybe the child is perfectly happy in his or her family but finds himself or herself with some kind of genetic disorder or illness and needs to know who his or her biological parents are for medical purposes.

As I understand it, the legislation does not allow for that. How do we accommodate that which may happen and, should the proposed legislation be amended, to keep in mind that the time may come for good, scientific medical reasons why that child needs to know the donor.

I think the legislation also goes into surrogacy and the parameters of how that works. Again, it is very touchy. We have situations where we have legal contractual arrangements for paying the expenses of an individual. Will it be deemed that the individual will be paid to bear that child, or is that paying for the expenses of what that individual will go through in order to bear the child? Is that a necessary process or is that just a chosen process?

Again, we are getting into a territory that the results of the bill will have an ongoing legal implication. I hope that the assisted human reproduction agency of Canada will be made up of people who will have the ability to see through all these different issues that will occur.

The final point I want to make is that with this kind of a bill, which deals with such a touchy issue that affects all Canadians, no matter what side of the issue they are on, whether they are offended by it or whether they support it, I would suggest that it is extremely important that the agency report back to Parliament. It is not good enough that the agency would report only to the legislative branch of government.

The reason I say that is the people are connected more closely to their elective legislative branch than they are to the executive branch of government. On an issue that touches Canadians in such a human and familiar way as the reproduction of children, it is essential that the agency report back to Parliament.

In wrapping up, many amendments need to occur to this legislation to make it acceptable to all Canadians. In order for this to be accepted by all Canadians, those amendments must be seriously considered by the government during report stage.

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4:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

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

Mr. Speaker, when we come to the House of Commons we accept that we are going to take responsibility for some very serious issues. This is no longer a simple world and some of the things we have to deal with in the House of Commons today are ethically challenging. There are moral issues and issues such as the possibility of a potential war.

I do not think any issue has had a greater impact on me than this issue. I am not a scientist and I have no scientific background. Like many members of the House, what I have to rely on to make decisions and to think things through is my experience. I add to my experience by listening to the experiences of my constituents.

I do not need to tell any member of the House that the volumes upon volumes of information that flows across our desks every day is almost impossible to keep up with. However, if we read it and listen to debates and talk with colleagues throughout the House, we gain a different perspective and I hope that is what we are supposed to be doing here. We are supposed to be representing all of Canada and those perspectives are very important.

I know there are a great number of members in the House who first and foremost consider this to be a moral issue. I respect that point of view. There are members in my own caucus who feel very strongly about that side of this and there are members across the House and other members of opposition parties who feel equally strongly.

Before I try to explain how I drew the conclusions that I did on this bill, I should give some background. As I said, I am not a scientist but I am a human being and I have lived a few years and have had some experiences. That is what I have based my conclusions on.

When my husband and I started our family, we were blessed with three children. When our first daughter was born we were absolutely delighted, as are all parents with their first child. As parents we learn a little later on that there is going to be some trouble that goes with those children but we do not think about that. We are just overwhelmed with the joy of having these children.

Our first daughter was born looking perfectly healthy, slightly jaundiced, but perfectly healthy and we were very delighted to welcome her into our home. As it turned out, there was a small defect called a biliary atresia and in this case it was called a complete biliary atresia. Unfortunately, even in this day and age it is an incurable problem and the child simply cannot survive. Most children born with this live to be three months old. We were very blessed. She lived to be 10 months old.

From my own perspective as a mother and from my experience of going through that, if someone had offered me a solution that would have saved my daughter and let her live, I would have taken it. Whether that solution was embryonic stem cell or adult stem cell would not have mattered to me at that point in my life; all I wanted was something to take away the pain and to cure her. It was not available and as I said earlier, it still is not available.

For those people in Canada who wonder how we arrive at our decisions, I want to let them know that I can empathize with situations where they have a chronic disease that is going to kill them or they have children born to them who have something terribly wrong with them and they are going to lose them. I know from experience I would have walked through fire to save my daughter as would have my husband, but it was not possible.

When I talk about embryonic and adult stem cell research, I want people to understand that because of that experience, this is not a moral choice for me. I would be lying if I stood in the House and said that there would be no way I would go either way if it would have saved. I would have. From my perspective, I had to do more homework. I had to read more volumes. I had to think this through more thoroughly and I had to talk to people who were wiser than me on the scientific end about what could and could not be done.

My conclusion is that the best way for us to proceed is to stay with the adult stem cell research. My reasons for that have been outlined by many of my colleagues in the House today, but they bear repeating.

Adult stem cells are easily accessible. They are not subject to tissue rejection and they pose minimal ethical concerns.

On the subject of tissue rejection, that is something we have to think about very seriously. When embryonic stem cell research is used, there will be a rejection problem. The person who receives this life-giving stem cell is also going to receive the penalty of having to take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of his or her life.

I do not have to tell members that we are facing a health care crisis in this country. We will work together and we will find a way to fix it. If there will be people all across the country on anti-immune suppressant drugs for the rest of their lives, let me say that the problems we have now will look minimal in 10 years time.

There has been so much positive progress that it is the reason my party has been adamant that the government could avoid this divisive ethical issue by instituting what the Canadian Alliance has asked for. We want a three year prohibition on stem cell research in order to give the potential for adult stem cell research time to develop.

There have been such tremendous inroads made in adult stem cell research. Why abandon that now knowing full well that we cannot possibly as a country afford to do justice to both kinds of research? We are here now to make a choice. To me the choice is clear. Stay with the adult stem cell research, continue on with the good work that has happened and put all the support and resources we can possibly find behind it. There are literally tens of thousands of people in this country counting on us to make the right decision.

I must repeat for those who are wondering, for me this was not a decision based on moral beliefs. I do agree with my colleagues about the moral issue. My decision was not based on a moral decision. It was based on the evidence put in front of me, the experience that I have had in my own life and the constituents who have come to me and explained the situations they are facing.

One in particular stands out, a constituent with a little boy two years old who has diabetes. He came to my office and he asked me if I would be supporting embryonic stem cell research because from everything he had read, that was the answer. I explained to him the research I had done and what I had learned. He left saying to me to keep the course and insist that it become adult stem cell research. We have a vested interest in finding the right cure for that child and every child in Canada.

There are people all across the country who suffer from Parkinson's disease and all kinds of other terrible diseases. They could probably benefit from the research.

It is incumbent upon us to make certain that we do this right. Doing it right does not mean doing it fast. Once again we have a problem in the House in that a committee that is made up of members from all sides of the House spends valuable time and energy considering all of the issues put in front of it. Then those recommendations come in front of the House or go to the minister and they are all overridden and there is an agenda that is put in place of all of that hard work.

I have to repeat what another colleague said earlier. Given that embryonic stem cell research will require a drug for the rest of the days of the person who has received the stem cell research, is it not possible that there may be an agenda on behalf of the pharmaceutical companies that are the ones that promote and push the embryonic stem cell research in the strongest possible way?

Is there not a possibility that those companies may have a vested interest? Maybe we should take their opinion and water it down considerably and listen more carefully and more closely to Canadians who are trying to deal with this problem on a day to day basis.

We have the capability of finding the solution. I hope that all members of the House will work together to do that.

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4:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Dewdney—Alouette, Young Offenders.

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4:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Philip Mayfield Canadian Alliance Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am here today with pride on behalf of the riding of Cariboo--Chilcotin to speak to Bill C-13 on human reproductive technologies.

I find it interesting the manner in which the issues of great ethical and moral concern are dealt with in this place. It is not that they reach an impasse, but that after months and years of study, that study can be set aside and a whole course of action can be put in place and no one really understands the roots or origins of where the changes have come from, but one can guess.

I find it also interesting that at this particular time while we debate this serious ethical issue of the origins of life, of correcting genetic mistakes by using both adult and embryonic stem cell research, we are also in the ethical dilemma of how to conduct our affairs in another part of the world as we consider the Iraqi situation and our relationship with our allies and neighbours. These too are the result of deep moral concern and division.

What concerns me is that we come to this place and while we take part in the exercise, it is as though the end result has already been determined and the debate in the House is only filling up space. I hope there are people who are concerned about this legislation. I hope they are concerned about what it is going to accomplish. I hope there are members of the government who are carefully listening and understanding the depth of concern of people here on these moral issues.

At this moment I am concerned about the issue of embryonic research. It is an issue that divides Canadians. It is an issue that has attracted much attention. Many petitions have been tabled in the House expressing people's concerns, hundreds and hundreds of petitions representing thousands and thousands of Canadians. I wonder what benefit the petitions have been in the process of determining in which direction our country will go in setting out guidelines, in legislating the details of how this research will be conducted, of how the benefits of this research will be used.

It disturbs me when I realize that as part of the legislation there will be an agency that will not be responsible to the representatives of the people, to Parliament, but in fact will be responsible to the executive branch of the government, to the ministers at the cabinet table. In fact, that agency will be susceptible to directions from that executive group and these may be secret instructions that no one has an opportunity or a way of knowing anything about.

This really is not clarity. It is not open government. This is clouding the issue of how the morality of our people can and will be expressed. It causes deep concern for me that we cannot do this in a transparent way where everybody knows the way the decision was taken, where everybody knows the course of action that was followed, where everybody knows how the rules apply to them specifically.

It is wrapped up in a cloud and we do not entirely understand why there is this lack of clarity. Is it because of the big minds and big egos of scientists who want to put their mark on a new area of research? Is it because of commercial considerations? Does somebody have an opportunity to obtain a patent on a process or gene, or a way of harvesting the cells that are needed?

These are issues that would add a lot of light in my understanding of what we are doing and would go a long way toward settling some of the concerns I have as we discuss these issues. What we are looking at is an objectification of human life. We have been proud to say that every person is absolutely unique. We talk about the uniqueness of a person's facial characteristics, their fingerprints and their DNA, yet what are we doing? We are making people far less than subjects, subjects of God or subjects of the country. We are objectifying people and making them clones, not in the cloning process, I hope, because we are absolutely opposed to that, but in using procedures so close to it that they are very terrifying.

Life is not a tool. Life is a gift. It is a gift as much to the unborn as it is to the born, as it is to the middle aged and the elderly. Life is a precious gift. That is the basis of many of the great religions of the world and certainly of the religion of Christianity, of which I am a part. Life is precious. Human beings are subjects. Human beings are not objects to be manipulated. That is the basis of our freedom. The basis of our freedom is that we are unique, that we have a means to act independently and express that uniqueness, and that we know we are cherished for that individuality, not manipulated and not subject to destruction for somebody else's purposes, unless that is a choice someone might choose to make.

We have virtues such as courage. People have taken that individual choice and have chosen to give their life for something very special. To give a life for a life is one of the most precious things that we can contemplate, but we are trying to play God by saying that we can make life and we can take it away. It is not interesting that we do not believe in capital punishment, that we do not believe in killing people who have done bad things, but we do believe in killing people for other purposes? Ethically, I find that most disturbing.

There is another thing that disturbs me. As we consider the benefits of embryonic versus adult stem cells, there is a way of pursuing the research and avoiding so many of the ethical snags we run into by taking life, for whatever virtuous reason. It is not a life that is given. It is a life that is taken.

I was happy to hear that Quebec is setting up a clinic to take umbilical blood for the harvesting of adult stem cells. This clinic will be one of a number around the world and of two in Canada. The other one is in Alberta, I believe. That is the way we should be going. We should not be trying to satisfy the curiosity of a scientist who says this can be done. We should not be trying to satisfy the curiosity of a scientist who would like to know how to do it and have the means to do it. At what cost to our society do we take such an immoral, in my opinion, course of action?

Embryonic stem cell research has caused many problems even in the research and the results of that research. We are still trying to follow that course. At what price? For what cause? To satisfy what ego, which would take a life that has not been offered, which would kill the innocence when there has been no opportunity for productive realization of that life?

While I am pleased to speak on this, members can tell that it is a matter of great urgency and of great concern for me. I plead with those who are responsible to keep our nation whole, to preserve the integrity of our nation, our people and our course of action, because unless we do have that integrity, upon what base will we continue to grow and thrive as one of the family of nations in the world that has something to offer the world?

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Larry Spencer Canadian Alliance Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-13, an act respecting assisted human reproduction.

Before I begin I would like to commend the hon. member for Mississauga South for his outstanding work on this portfolio, the bill and these recommendations that have been put forward. The health committee also has done outstanding work. The health critic for the official opposition along with the member for Nanaimo—Alberni have done great work in keeping this party informed. I want to express my sincere appreciation to them.

Before I start I want to give the conclusion, because I usually get cut off before I conclude.

I have heard that diabetes is a fatal disease. I suppose I will find out some day, because I have it. Knowing that I have it and knowing that diabetes is one of the diseases targeted for possible cure through stem cell research, I still make this conclusion in spite of that. Even though there are many needed aspects to the bill, especially if amended properly, I still cannot support a bill that opens the door to the intentional destruction of innocent human life. Now I have said that. That is where I stand.

We have had information about the bill provided to us. The bill allows for human embryos to be used for experiments under four conditions: first, all embryos must be byproducts of the AHR process, not created solely for research; second, if written permission is given by the donor; third, research on a human embryo if the use is necessary; and fourth, all human embryos must be destroyed after 14 days if not frozen.

I think we are creating a great dilemma for ourselves. We all value life. Just prior to this, the member spoke of the value of human life. Not one of us would fail to value human life, especially if it is our own life. Somehow or another God has built within every one of us that desire to survive, to survive well and to be healthy. We can even observe it in the animal kingdom. If we corner an animal that thinks it is in danger of losing its life, the fight comes out in that animal like it will not be observed in any other manner. That is a natural thing.

However, we are talking about sacrificing other lives in order to benefit our lives. That is what embryonic stem cell research is permitting. We all appreciate technology. Or at least we appreciate the benefits of that technology. We like the conveniences of the modern life. We like the many things that happen because of technology. But sometimes technology goes awry. Technology becomes, in part, a curse on humanity rather than a blessing. Running in my mind is the example of gunpowder or dynamite. I have been told that its inventor is very sad to see that it is now used for such destructive purposes. Yet I come from a part of the country where there are many rocks, quite similar to what we would find in Nova Scotia, and the roads built through those hills and chiselled out of those rocks required the use of dynamite. That is a proper use of that technology. When we use it to kill and to take away other lives, that is an improper use. We appreciate it, but we do not want it to become an instrument of death such as it has in many cases.

I think back to the days of my youth. I remember growing up on the farm where we of course had a variety of animals. It was my job to take care of some of them. We had quite a number of brood sows. We raised pigs, fattened them for the market and sent them away. That was a part of our cash income on the farm. I remember that on one or two occasions in that operation we had a brood sow that took on a particularly destructive trait, which was that as soon as the newborns hit the ground she would turn around and eat at least one or two of them. When that tendency did not stop, we of course eliminated that particular specimen from our herd. We attribute that to a low animal that does not understand.

However, what are we doing as human beings when we take the lives of our own embryos, our own offspring, and excuse it because we need to find a cure for diabetes?

We cannot assist human reproduction at any cost. There has to be a limit. There has to be a place where the cost becomes too high. There has to be a place where we say stop. We all appreciate the need to assist couples who do not have children. They are childless and they are anxious about having a child in their home. We appreciate that very much. I understand the desire in the heart of these people to have children. I appreciate so very much my own children, and let me say that one of my four children was adopted. There are the means of acquiring children besides natural birth. It is not impossible for people to have children if we do not go ahead with investigating all the technology available.

The bottom line is this: assisted human reproduction, yes, but not at any cost.

Motion No. 88 is a very needed motion. I again commend the member for his work in putting forth these motions. The amendment recognizes abuses that can and do occur in some fertility clinics and the potential for abuse. I know that already some sort of limits are implied and now there are going to be more specified limits on this kind of thing, but there are always those words “as necessary” written in, which are open to interpretation.

I appreciate the remarks of my colleague who indicated that there was a need for the opportunity to do an unlimited number of fertilizations or have an unlimited number of implants. That is the cost I am talking about: not at the cost of human life. We must not create human life in order to play God, sort through it, choose the life we want and destroy the rest or even do research with it. There is a better way to avoid this dilemma. I have with me copies of three articles which emphasize the fact that non-embryonic stem cells are very promising, much more promising than the embryonic stem cells.

I see that my time is running out. It always happens, I do not know how. I will skip to another important statement, one from the Law Reform Commission of Canada in a working paper from more than 10 years ago: “It is a scientific error to refer to the human embryo or foetus as a potential human; it is a human with potential...”. If that one statement could sink through into our heads, in fact, it would change our approach to this.

The present code has a curious provision in section 206 to the effect that a child does not become a human being until it has proceeded completely from its mother's body and is breathing. Thus, far from being a proper definition of the term, it runs counter to the general consensus that the product of human conception in the womb or out of the womb is a human being. There is no question of that and we should remember that any time we allow the destruction of a human embryo.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think the reason why time always runs short on this kind of speaking arrangement is the same reason why we always find what we are looking for in the last place we look.

I would like to begin by saying that I have four nieces and nephews who were all born as a consequence of assisted human reproduction. They are certainly cherished in our family. We have all just returned from family get-togethers over the Christmas season. I was reminded every day for 10 days about the precious products of assisted human reproduction. I cannot imagine our expanded family without their beaming presence as part of that collective.

The other interesting part about this story is that the father, my brother, is a geneticist and a scientist working at a leading scientific institution. He was very much a part of the decision and followed it through all its stages. Of course he was concerned about how it was done scientifically, but he was also concerned about the ethics and the consequences of the exercise they went through over these three successive endeavours.

A few things are very clear. First, we do need regulations. Second, when we set up a board, as would be conceived by this legislation, the people who would be controlling and regulating this type of activity must include people who are not from the scientific community, not part of this biotechnology or other scientific processes, but are there because they represent the ethical side of this whole issue. We cannot entrust this process, which is so important to society, to scientists only or to business people or to politicians. Clearly that is a major failing of the bill. It has not been fixed in committee because of actions taken by some government members.

The other disquieting action is that the minister is diluting the conflict of interest portion of the requirements for appointments to the board and suggesting that his or her ministerial judgment would be good enough. According to the language, the board of directors would be appointed by governor in council, in other words by cabinet, with a membership that would reflect “a range of backgrounds and disciplines relevant to the agency's objectives”.

I consider that a clear statement. These appointments would be a self-fulfilling conflict of interest simply because they would be there to somehow fulfill the agency's objectives. That is most inappropriate. Unless there are strong changes this would soon be subverted into a board that would perpetuate its own objectives and would not constitute a proper set of checks and balances that reflect the greater needs, aspirations and wishes of society to regulate, control and keep up to date with changes, not just in social mores and values, but with changes in technology that can influence all of that.

In 1995, for example, my brother, being aware of advances in technology, took umbilical cord cells from his first child at birth and went to a private institution that was in the business of freezing and storing those umbilical cord cells for the possibility of future medical advances. That would mean that these special cells, which are only attainable from the umbilical cord at birth, would be available.

The company offering those services was basically drummed out of the advertising game by people who were suggesting that it was taking advantage of people's gullibility and that there was no validity or likelihood that the service it was purporting to provide would lead to anything of any value in the future. Within two or three years everyone was talking about the scientific value and the medical breakthroughs that could be obtained through using those very stem cells from the umbilical cord, the non-embryonic stem cells. These are the ones that avoid the whole argument about using embryonic cells in medical research.

I point that out just to say how fast this field can move. The general direction that is pointed to right now is that non-embryonic research is much more favourable to advances, breakthroughs, treatments and so on. People are using that scientific argument to bolster their argument that we should ban embryonic research.

We must clearly identify, from an ethical standpoint, that we do not want embryonic research in our country. If there are going to be advances, we are going to make a decision based on ethical grounds rather than scientific grounds because that is the appropriate way to do it.

If someone decides 20 years from now, or whenever, that it needs to be changed, that is what the Parliament of Canada is for and that is what legislators are for. Maybe they can make a different decision at that time. I think that would be the enlightened position to take now.