Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address the House on this very important bill. I have talked about the bill before, but unfortunately I ran out of time. Therefore, I want to make a couple of comments on a couple of specific issues.
I want to begin where the hon. member for Wild Rose left off. He was talking about definitions and what we were talking about here. I just want to remind everybody that there is a definition of the word embryo in this statute, and I will read it.
--“embryo” means a human organism during the first 56 days of its development following fertilization or creation...
That means that by the very terms of the bill, by the very words of the bill, it is confirmed that an embryo is a human being. It is right in the act, so what are we talking about?
Of course it is a very complicated bill. There are many things in it. It has been partly drafted by lawyers, partly drafted by doctors and partly drafted by bureaucrats. However, there are many important fundamental considerations that must be addressed when we are talking about the bill. One is what are we doing when we are talking about experimentation on embryos, which by definition are human? It strikes me as utterly macabre to be talking about legislating permission to experiment on humans. Ultimately, that is exactly what we are talking about.
Experimentation on humans has occurred before, much to the distress of the world community. It is a question of where in the development of the human being this experimentation would take place. Here we are trying to have a regime where it will be possible to experiment on human organisms from the time they are conceived up until a certain defined time. That to me is something that we must not rush into.
I am heartened in my resolve by a survey which was recently conducted. The survey results were released on October 21. I would like to talk to members and to Canadians about the results of that poll.
I for one am a person who does not believe that we should legislate by polls, because after all if we legislate by polls, we do not need to be here. Everybody could ask the questions by polls and the legislation would occur. However, it does give us an opportunity to find out where Canadians stand on questions. I do know that whatever government is on this side of the House at any time, it will always stand when polls are favourable and say “The polls show that our policies are favourable to Canadians”. Of course the polls are ignored when they are not favourable.
Be that as it may, this poll was conducted by Léger & Léger. It was conducted between October 6 and October 13. It has a maximum margin of error of 2.5%, 19 times out of 20. The poll asked 1,500 Canadians a question. Basically they were asked if they thought it was acceptable to use human embryos for stem cell research or if they thought it would be preferable to use other sources of stem cells which did not involve loss of life or harm. The results are pretty clear. Only 21% thought it was acceptable to use embryonic stem cells, 33% said that it was not acceptable, while 37% said that it would be preferable to use other sources. What does that mean? It means that 70% of the people polled favoured ethical alternatives to embryonic stem cell research.
That is an important statistic because once people are educated to what it is we are talking about, they realize that they do not want to go down that dark road where we authorize the permission to experiment on human organisms. That is a very dangerous path which we must not follow.
There are numerous problems with this bill and one of them, which I would like to talk about, is the position of the government that says that the bill bans cloning. This comes up because there is a discussion going on right now in the United Nations. The United Nations delegates are considering whether there should be a resolution to ban cloning. One of the discussions is, should the ban apply only to reproductive cloning, or should it apply to therapeutic cloning or should it apply to all forms of cloning?
I do not know this for a fact, but it would appear as if the Canadian position at the United Nations is to favour a resolution which would ban only reproductive cloning. If that is true, it goes contrary to the stated position of the government in the House of Commons. On Monday, October 6, during question period, the Minister of Health was asked about this issue and about what was going on in the United Nations. I will quote her answer directly. While speaking about Bill C-13, she stated, “we ban all forms of human cloning”.
A supplementary question was asked and the Minister of Health answered, “Bill C-13 bans all forms of human cloning for any purpose, howsoever done”.
That is pretty darn clear. That is the same minister who, when she was minister of justice, indicated that there was no possibility there could be any interpretation of the definition of marriage other than that it was the union of one man and one woman. Wrong once, it is certainly possible to be wrong twice.
The definition in the bill of human clone states, “an embryo”, and that is a human organism:
--that, as a result of the manipulation of human reproductive material or an in vitro embryo, contains a diploid set of chromosomes obtained from a single - living or deceased - human being, foetus or embryo.
In my view this definition would cover a number of things, but would it cover everything, which is what the minister has told us it would cover in her answer. In my view, by using the word “single”, it would not cover pro-nuclei transfer. It would not cover the formation of chimeras and back breeding. It would not cover mitochondria transfer. It would not cover DNA recombinant germ line gene transfer or eugenics. All these kinds of cloning techniques have been described in several articles that we have been sent and, of course, that the committee has considered. To say categorically that all forms of human cloning have been banned, in my respectful opinion, is at best a mistake. I could go on.
It becomes a very complicated process to discuss this in medical terminology. However, suffice it to say, although I am not a doctor, I am a lawyer and I know that if definitions are not nailed down six ways to Sunday, someone will drive a Mack truck through that definition. We will see things happen that we did not anticipate and it will be too late to close the floodgates.
I urge the House to consider very seriously whether it wishes to pass this bill at this time. I am thankful for everyone's attention.