Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-13, the assisted human reproduction act.
The recent history of the government has shown that the government likes to divide Canadians. We are already divided on lines of urban and rural demographics, and by regions. We are even divided on moral lines as witnessed by the proposed legislation regarding same sex marriage and some of the debate that has taken place in this House.
It is unfortunate that we spend so much time debating issues that divide this country.That is a question that this government and future governments need to address.
I believe this House is an instrument that should unite Canadians. If we cannot do the research and come to common sense positions, we should certainly not bring it into this House where it divides the country even more.
The other point I would like to make is that the work of the committees needs to be listened to by governments, not only today but down the road. There is no point in spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers' money, listening to witnesses and travelling across the country, only to end up with legislation that does not reflect at all the views of Canadians, the experts of this country.
It is so unfortunate that too often to talk about divisive issues in this House rather than issues that unite this country.
Again, this is one of those social-moral issues that the country wrestles with from time to time. We know that on the science side there are advantages and benefits to research. At the same time there are moral issues that need to be addressed by this country. We cannot just throw them into one pot and hopefully make a decision that makes all Canadians happy because that will not take place.
Maybe the first way to deal with this is to call for a free vote in this House. That way members of Parliament can represent their constituents. There are 301 constituencies in this country. We all come from different regions and locations. The makeups of our ridings are different in nature.
Our constituents have the last say. Certainly, in a represented democracy that is the key. The constituents sent us here and they should have a say in terms of how this country is run and the kind of legislation we should put in place.
Bill C-13 seeks to prohibit or control reproductive technologies such as cloning and establish a new federal agency to regulate and license fertility clinics and biomedical research involving human embryos.
A bill solely addressing reproductive technologies would have easily passed over a year ago. However, since the vast majority of MPs would have voted to ban human cloning--which I am sure would have taken place in this House--it was thought that the bill could piggyback the ethically sensitive issue of destroying human embryos and still get passed. Having underestimated the significant public backlash, the bill became the subject of intense public scrutiny. That is the conflict we have today.
Initially, the concern was the ethics of destroying human embryos to harvest stem cells for research; however, as time passed, many other weaknesses of the bill were discovered.
Despite the fact that Health Canada has already corrected one error in the definition of a human clone, the bill still does not ban all known forms and techniques of human cloning. I can assure the House that the people of Dauphin—Swan River do not support human cloning. The majority of my constituents do not support Bill C-13.
The bill would permit the implanting of human reproductive material into non-human life forms. The biomedical definition of chimera involves the implantation of reproductive material from a human into an animal or from an animal into a human. However, the definition in the bill only refers to the latter.
Experts have estimated that there are less than 10 embryos available in Canada that would meet research quality requirements. The number of surplus embryos is not expected to increase since medical technology has improved. Comparatively, the UK has destroyed 40,000 human embryos without any positive research results.
The conflict of interest provisions are so weak that they would allow biotech and pharmaceutical companies to be represented on the board of the agency that would approve and license research projects.
Significant clauses of the bill have been qualified by phrases such as “as per the regulations”. There are 28 areas in which regulations must be developed and these will not be known until at least 18 months after the bill is passed. Effectively, members of Parliament are being asked to vote on a bill without knowing the full intent. Furthermore, MPs will not be permitted to approve regulations.
The Royal Commission on Reproductive Technologies and the health committee both recommended that paid surrogacy be prohibited. The bill would permit surrogates to be reimbursed for lost employment income if they get a doctor's certificate.
The bill would ignore women's health issues by not establishing reasonable limits on the amount of drugs used by them or on a number of ova that could be harvested, or embryos that could be implanted.
The bill would prohibit the purchase or sale of human reproductive material, but Health Canada has not explained how researchers would get embryos from for profit fertility clinics without paying compensation.
The bill would not establish uniform disclosure or informed consent practices to be used by all fertility clinics. Such disclosure would protect the interests of the infertile.
The health committee urged that the bill state what constituted necessary research. Specifically, it recommended that research on human embryos be permitted only if it could be demonstrated that there was no other biological material that could be used to achieve the same research objectives. The bill would reject the recommendation and delegate the decision to the federal agency.
Let me close by saying that the health committee made 36 recommendations on the draft bill. Its report received no response and most of its key recommendations are not reflected in Bill C-13. In other words, why did we waste all that money doing the work that the committee did? The government still refused to listen to the committee. We will certainly oppose the bill.