Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-13. In fact I am one of the few members of the health committee who is in Ottawa today. The committee is on a cross-country tour on the pharmaceutical industry. I wanted to be here for this debate, as did other members, but sometimes I guess it is a question of one's priorities. As I have not spoken at third reading, I thought it important to be here.
This is an example of how a bill can go wrong. From the very beginning there was quite a bit of enthusiasm for this bill. This stems back to the royal commission on reproductive and genetic technologies about 10 years ago. Legislation concerning this subject has been before the House many times under different Parliaments and has yet to be passed.
There is a level of support for some clauses of the bill, those which pertain to reproductive technology. I do not think there is any question that there is support in the House for that. Our concerns are with some of the darker sides of the bill, which have been addressed by members today and which have to be acknowledged by the government.
It is the heavy-handedness of the government which put itself in the position of playing cat and mouse on the bill in terms of whether or not the bill will actually survive a vote on the floor of the House of Commons. There are many members on the government side not to mention on this side who are clearly upset with the direction the legislation is taking.
Many members will remember Hubert Humphrey, a famous American politician of a generation of politicians just slightly ahead of us. In fact at one time he was vice-president of the United States. He had an expression that the true measure of a government was how it cared for the elderly, the poor, the disenfranchised. I am paraphrasing, but basically he was saying that how a government looks after those people who need looking after is the true measure of a government. If that test is applied to this bill, it is a flawed piece of legislation.
It reminds me very much of the 1989 abortion bill that was on the floor of this House, Mr. Speaker, just shortly after you and I entered this place in 1988. I may be wrong, it may have been 1990, but somewhere in that timeframe we came into the House on a very contentious piece of legislation which many of us thought was flawed. We had an opportunity to vote on it.
My position always has been that I would never support any legislation that would basically destroy human life. I would only support abortion if the life of the mother was clearly endangered. Members of Parliament were under a lot of pressure to pass that legislation. Despite that pressure I stood and voted against the government on that bill and I have never regretted it.
On this bill, truly we are looking at just about the same dilemma. We do not want to deny the advancement of science which is really what the bill is founded on. It is a very wide-ranging bill. I will get into some of the banned practices later. Some members have mentioned them and maybe there is no need to go over them precisely.
It is interesting to note that nowhere in Bill C-13 is there an acknowledgement that its purpose is to stop infertility. That was supposed to be the focus of the bill. There is no mention in the bill of genetic testing of embryos and fetuses or how that would impact upon people with disabilities. There is nothing in the bill prohibiting the patenting of human genes. Therein lies the problem. The bill leaves openings big enough to drive a Mack truck through, as was mentioned by the member for Scarborough Southwest.
If we go through the minute detail of Bill C-13, the question becomes does it in fact prohibit cloning? I do not think any of us here in the House could claim to be experts on this subject, but there is no question in the minds of many experts that the bill would not stop cloning. It does not prohibit the very thing it says it would prohibit. The member pointed that out as well as he stepped through some of the details of the legislation.
Where does that leave many of us? None of us wants to be perceived as stopping the advancement of medical science. We know there is a balance between ethical concerns, moral concerns, philosophical concerns, religious concerns and so on against the advancement of medical science. We have to be sensitive to those concerns that haunt many of us.
I was stricken with cancer a number of years ago. I am probably one of the few members in the House who has had a stem cell transplant which basically translates into a bone marrow transplant. Through the advancement of medical science, individuals do not have to wait for a perfect match within their family where the risk is somewhat diminished versus the risk involved with someone outside the family. Over the last number of years stem cells can be harvested during the chemotherapy process when one becomes “cancer free” and has no cancer cells in the body. I am abbreviating much of the procedure because it is very complicated and I cannot pretend that I understand all of it.
I am here because of that advancement in medical science. My stem cells were harvested. Once I went through the bone marrow transplant, those stem cells were put back into my body thereby reducing the possibility of cancer reappearing. I am the recipient of that huge advancement in medical science in that particular area.
Some members may say that I should be the last person to object to some of the advancements that might take place because of the experimentation on the embryos. What concerns us is the ethical dilemma that we are in where these embryos, which are basically the beginning of human life, will be destroyed in the process.
Our party will have a free vote on this issue. I will be voting against it because of some of the concerns I have just outlined. Bill C-13 is flawed legislation. The government has had 10 years to get it right and it is not right yet.
I want to thank some of the government members opposite on the good work they have done on that, particularly the member for Mississauga South and others, including the member from Scarborough who just spoke.
I will conclude with that. I have appreciated the opportunity to put a few words on the record.