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House of Commons Hansard #69 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cloning.

Topics

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the motions in Group No. 2 concerning Bill C-13, formerly Bill C-56 which in turn, as the hon. member for Drummond will recall, once was Bill C-47.

It is especially difficult to speak on this kind of issues since, as we know, the debate raises so many questions. Given that the motions in Group No. 2 which we are debating deal with prohibited activities, I would like to remind the hon. members that the Bloc Quebecois would have liked to see the bill divided in two. There is basically not much rationale. One could ask: Why do we, in the Canadian Parliament, get to vote on a bill concerning the provision of services in health care institutions?

The reason the government claims that Bill C-13 is legitimate is because it criminalized a certain number of practices. I moved a motion a few months ago calling on Parliament to split the bill. Today, from what I have heard, several political parties, including the Liberals even, realize that the Bloc Quebecois was absolutely right. You might say that this is not the first time that the Bloc Quebecois has enlightened this House. No it is not, nor will it be the last. Nonetheless, it would be better if we could say, “Yes, let us stick to criminal law, for which the federal government has a responsibility.

The public was quite astonished between Christmas and New Year's when Clonaid tried to have us believe—it still has not provided any evidence—that cloning was possible.

The Bloc Quebecois has had a longstanding interest in reproductive technologies. I am especially pleased to point this out because my colleague, the member for Drummond, is in the House today, and this House should applaud her. As early as 1995—and I call on the Alliance members to join in the applause as well—and in 1997 and 2000, the member for Drummond introduced a private member's bill. This took some foresight. The Baird Commission had produced its report. We knew that because one couple in five had fertility problems, technological and medical solutions to those problems had to be explored. The member for Drummond, relying only on her courage and her science, introduced a bill. There happened what happened. Unfortunately, the government did not cooperate as much as it should have and at the time we did not have a system whereby all bills were automatically deemed to be votable as soon as they were introduced by any one of our colleagues.

It is pretty sad to think that if we vote on this bill, the Bloc Quebecois will be torn. We do want provisions included in the Criminal Code as soon as possible. We are talking about cloning but there are 12 other prohibited activities in the bill. But at the same time, can we accept the creation of a regulatory agency, which will interfere in areas of great sensitivity for the provinces?

I will give a few examples. As we know, the Government of Quebec is one of the best governments ever to have been in power since the quiet revolution. This government run by Bernard Landry listed the pieces of legislation that would be inconsistent with the agency, if it were to be established.

Of course, we could talk about the regulations. These are more important than the bill itself. I will come back to this. Let me however set out the inconsistencies between the bill and existing legislation in Quebec.

In Quebec, we have chosen to consider pregnancy as an altruistic act. Wanting to help someone have a child or to do so ourselves is an altruistic act.

It is out of the question for this act to become a business transaction, for a monetary value to be placed on it.

As it stands however, the bill provides for the reimbursement of certain expenditures incurred in connection with the pregnancy, if receipts can be provided. This is fundamentally inconsistent with a philosophy of intervention found in the Quebec civil law.

Another inconsistency has to do with the fact that, as we know, the Quebec government has legislation respecting health and social services. It would pretty strange for it not to, given that the provincial governments are responsible for providing health care services.

What would it mean if the bill were passed? The fact that a power currently vested in our Minister of Health and Social Services, namely the power to designate institutions for the exclusive delivery of certain services, would be taken over by the regulatory agency should certainly be of concern to my hon. colleagues. That is in section 112. It is unacceptable for the federal government to act this way.

The regulations would prescribe not only the conditions under which gametes are to be preserved, but also the qualifications of health professionals to carry out insemination procedures.

This is a matter of interference, and what is the most upsetting to the Bloc Quebecois. If, tomorrow morning, we learned that a public or private laboratory in Calgary, Montreal, Quebec City or the Maritimes had been involved in experiments with the potential to lead to therapeutic or human cloning, there would be nothing in place to deal with it. Neither the Minister of Justice nor the Minister of Immigration would have any recourse, because there is none in criminal law.

At the same time, however, what can we expect of a regulatory agency? We are faced with a problem on which all MPs need to reflect. The member for Trois-Rivières is extremely eloquent on this point when he talks of it in private—and only seeks an opportunity to do the same in public. The problem is that the federal government wants to use health for nation building. The Romanow report is very clear on this.

It is not possible to accept the creation of a regulatory agency with considerable powers, including those concerning professional qualifications of people who are governed by regional bodies of the Government of Quebec.

To repeat, a minimum of 14 acts are incompatible with the creation of this agency proposed by the federal government.

That said, I would like to take this opportunity to say that I personally believe that research has a role to play here. The bill states that therapeutic cloning and cloning for reproduction are prohibited.

Why? It is because we want to promote the extremely important value that each of us is unique. If we put out a call in the Greater Montreal or Greater Ottawa region for someone like the Minister of Immigration, we would not be successful. Each person is unique. We have our own values and personality, and this is especially true for the Minister of Immigration. But I would not want to say too much about his personality for fear of violating the charter even if, in some respects, the Minister of Immigration is likeable.

That said, why are we opposed to cloning? It is because we cannot imagine that parents can raise children who are their exact copy and that, in terms of personal development, a child could be their exact copy. It is not possible.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

An hon. member

We do not want to clone the minister.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

We particularly do not want, I am being told, to clone the Minister of Immigration, and I think that we can all agree on that.

For these reasons, we must be cautious. Given the importance of this debate, Mr. Speaker, I wonder if you could seek the consent of the House to grant me another five minutes to finish my remarks.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Does the hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve have the unanimous consent of the House for another five minutes?

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues. Maybe I will ask for consent again in five minutes.

When the then Minister of Health, who is the current Minister of Industry, defended the bill before the committee, he reminded it that each restriction corresponded to values in Canadian and Quebec society. I think it would be wise to remember this.

For instance, we do not want it to be possible to predetermine the sex of a child through genetic manipulation. We do not want a parent or a couple to be able to say, “I want to bring a child into this world, but only if it is a girl; I only want to have girls”. This might be acceptable for preimplantation genetic diagnosis of certain degenerative diseases, but that is different.

Why do we not want the sex of a child to be predetermined? Because we believe in equality of individuals. No one in the House thinks that men are superior to women, certainly not the member for Berthier—Montcalm. No one here believes that women are inferior to men. We believe in the intrinsic equality of men and women.

Even if technology or genetics made it possible to select certain genes that are responsible for specific characteristics, for example if a father wanted to have a daughter with blue eyes and blond hair—which is possible with today's technology—we do not want this to happen either; that is called reproductive selection and the bill prohibits this. We believe that discrimination must be avoided. All human beings are equal; we cannot use genetic manipulation except to prevent the transmission of diseases that, in some cases, affect very specific individuals or skip a generation. Those are the extremely important values that are at the heart of our concerns.

Again, setting aside criminal law, the Bloc Quebecois finds it difficult to see legitimacy in what is happening and in what such a bill sets out to do.

Let us move on to research, which is very important. In the case of some degenerative diseases, we could improve people's lives. It is true that some aspects of the research require the use of stem cells.

The member for Châteauguay has taken an interest in these issues; I would like to thank him for the material he sent me. Let us examine this issue of stem cells.

An embryo has about 150 cells that have the distinctive feature, in the first moments of conception of an embryo, of being extremely malleable and they can be used to regenerate tissue.

We know that, in principle, dead cells cannot be revived. Indeed, the dead cells of people suffering from cerebral palsy remain dead. Except that stem cell research could make it possible to use these cells to regenerate certain tissues.

This is true for cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis, and we were also told about the need to do research on stem cells for diabetes. This is extremely important. We know that diabetes affects an increasing number of Canadians. There may be hereditary predispositions to diabetes, as well as factors related to obesity, determinants of health. The food that we eat plays a critical role.

Stem cell research must be allowed, but it must be monitored. This bill would allow such research, with a protocol approved by an ethics committee, provided it is demonstrated that it is not possible to conduct research on other genetic material.

I see that my time is almost up. So, I will conclude by saying that stem cell research is extremely important. I think it would have been imprudent on the part of Parliament to say that we do not want any kind of research to be conducted on stem cells.

Remember those witnesses who told us that, in the fifties, the use of insulin was frowned upon. Yet, today, no one would question the progress that has been made with the use of insulin.

So, the bill had to achieve a balance between stem cell research and a total and uncompromising ban on reproductive technologies and cloning.

I must remind hon. members that some activities are not compatible. Would the Chair be kind enough to see if I could get an additional five minutes?

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

Noon

The Deputy Speaker

Does the House give its consent to extend by five minutes the hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve's speech?

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

Noon

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

Noon

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues. It is this climate of genuine camaraderie which brings us closer to a reform of democratic institutions.

The other thing we must point out to our colleagues is that the Government of Quebec—whose excellent track record the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is very familiar with—has passed legislation on personal information.

I will draw a connection with the identification card. I read the speech the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration gave before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration and I agreed with what he said. The Canadian public is currently debating this. Do we need an identification card? Hopefully, privacy will remain a consideration.

If I recall correctly, the minister—he will tell me if I am wrong—gave the example of Great Britain, where a debate is under way. I was even told that Great Britain has the most cameras in public places of any society.

All this to say that, if passed, the bill would establish a registry of those who use the technologies and a donor registry. People who go to a fertility clinic, be it public or private, will have to provide a certain amount of information, naturally.

The desire for a public registry of donors is understandable because of concerns about consanguinity. Still, at committee, we heard very poignant testimony. It was argued that donations of sperm or ovules should remain anonymous. If I, Réal Ménard, go to a clinic and make a donation, it is not to have my own family. It is a humanistic, altruistic, philanthropic act designed to help a couple experiencing fertility problems.

But we heard testimony to the effect that, where the development of the individual is concerned, for his or her psychogenesis, it just made no sense not to know the identity of the donor. This is referred to as the right to know who you are. For our personal development, it is good to know not only who our sociological father is—the one who raised us, took care of us and instilled values in us—but we also want to know who our biological father is.

The committee members had an number of questions, among them wondering whether obligations would be created under family law by doing away with anonymity and requiring all donors to disclose their identity. When the children in question reach the age of 18, 19 or 20, might they not go to court to get financial assistance for their studies? To seek support? To seek any other kind of assistance one expects from biological parents?

This was not a simple matter, because we heard from many children conceived through the new technologies who reported problems growing up, troubled childhoods, because of not knowing who their father, the donor, was.

The committee recommended donor disclosure to the government, but the government did not comply. I agree that this was not a simple question to settle. There are arguments for both sides.

The purpose of everything I have had to say is to indicate just how much this bill goes to the very depths of our humanity, of our understanding of the potential of science and of the values we hold with respect to the protection of privacy.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that I do support, in principle, the bill, for two reasons.

First, it does attempt to put parameters around the whole question of cloning and the use of reproductive material, DNA and so on. I think that is very important. More importantly, what attracts me to the legislation is the very prospect that makes it so controversial; that is, the prospect that stem cells can be used for research.

I have received many representations from people in my riding, and elsewhere, who suffer from diseases, like Parkinson's or muscular dystrophy, and they see some hope in stem cell research. The reason why they urge embryonic stem cell research is that there at least is a doubt that adult stem cells from other parts of the body may not be as effective as embryonic stem cells. Any extra hope that research can give to these people who have these awful diseases is enough, in my view, to want to make embryonic stem cells available for research.

But, and this is the key point, no one would argue that these embryonic stem cells should only come as a result of procedures that would lead to them otherwise being discarded. In other words, there is a universal feeling that embryos should not be created for the purpose of being killed in order to further research. That is a current that runs under the debate that has been led by my hon. colleague from Mississauga South.

He has introduced a number of motions that would, I think, correct some of the details in the bill that are inadequate. However, I would like to draw his attention, because he is in the House, to something he missed in the categories he is dealing with that gives me concern, even though I support the bill. I come back to the point that I do believe that if embryos are to be discarded and they can be used for research to save lives, then that is what should happen.

However, I also agree with the many people who have made representations to me that embryos should on no account be created purely for research. Yet, despite the assurances of the minister that this is not the intent of the bill, that there are safeguards in the bill that this would not happen, the House might note that there is a clause that would permit the creation of embryos for the purpose of research, which I think my colleague from Mississauga South has missed.

I draw his attention to paragraph 5.(1)(b) which he mentions in his Motion No. 14. Under the heading “Prohibited Activities”, subclause 5.(1) begins with “No person shall knowingly” and paragraph (b) states:

create an in vitro embryo for any purpose other than creating a human being or improving or providing instruction in assisted reproduction procedures;

That paragraph actually says that it would be permissible to create embryos for experimental purposes in order to provide instruction on assisted reproduction procedures. In other words, the bill clearly states, at least in this paragraph, that the law would permit the creation of in vitro embryos for the purpose of instruction and research. In other words, not for the purpose of human reproduction, not for the purpose of creating a human being.

I would suggest, at the very least, this particular paragraph flies in the face of the assurances that we have received from the minister, and I take those assurances at face value. I believe the minister does truly intend to create legislation that would see embryonic material used for research purposes only if it was discarded from other procedures. But here we have an instance in the bill where very clearly there is permission to create embryos for the purpose of experimentation in developing better techniques for assisted reproduction.

That raises a doubt that there may be further problems in this legislation that need to be addressed and I think the member for Mississauga South, through his various motions both in this set and in other groups, has indeed advanced some detailed criticisms of the bill that the government should look at very seriously.

What I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, is that the House is doing Canadians a disservice by stringing out this debate so that we can look at the flaws that exist in the bill even though many of us, and I am one of them, support in principle what the bill is trying to do.

I am sorry that I come late to this debate and that I was not studying the bill at an earlier stage so that I may have been able to submit my own report stage amendments because certainly, Mr. Speaker, had I noticed the problem before, I would have been standing here in the House with my own motion amending paragraph 5(1)(b). I do not think it is acceptable the way it stands.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, again I am pleased to enter the debate on Bill C-13, a very important bill dealing with reproductive technology and related research. The Group No. 2 amendments, which are the subject of discussion today, involve a very important section of the bill that deals with matters like reproductive cloning. It deals with the delicate area of research in terms of embryos. There are some extremely important matters to be discussed in this section and the amendments that have been brought forward are very important to the way this bill will be implemented, if indeed it is passed.

The issue of cloning is an extremely important one. We hear a lot about cloning today and in the last few years in particular. There was Dolly the sheep and Matilda the sheep. Matilda, the Australian version, died when not quite three years old. There was a news report just recently that said “Australia's first cloned sheep dies of unknown causes. She appeared to be remarkably healthy” and now she is gone.

Dolly the six year old Finn Dorsett sheep, and the most famous one, was unexpectedly euthanized as she had progressive lung disease. A sheep ordinarily would live 11 or 12 years.

Scientists are alarmed about the dangers of human closing. The bill purports to ban cloning. However the hon. member for Mississauga South very ably addressed his concerns this morning that the scientific terminology was very loose in the bill. In fact there are many procedures now whereby cells can be manipulated and can step around the prohibitions that appear in the bill. The definitions in the current bill related to cloning are not adequate to protect Canadians, as the language of the bill would purport to do.

There is a group of people, the Raelians, running around. We have heard that name mentioned a few times today. The Raelians are a cult and they work through their company called Clonaid. Their vision is to perpetuate human life by creating a clone. Again the hon. member for Mississauga South used the Acting Speaker, the Speaker before you, Mr. Speaker, as an example. He said that if we took one of his cells, extracted the nucleus and put it into an ovum, one could stimulate it electrically and allow it to grow. The so-called therapeutic clone would be to take the immature model of Mr. Speaker and extract an organ, if he needed one, killing the clone in the process. That is so-called somatic nuclear cell transfer or therapeutic cloning.

Scientists, including many of the ethicists such as Dr. Françoise Baylis, Dr. Bartha Knoppers and I believe Patricia Baird as well as our stem cell scientists such as Dr. Worton and Dr. Alan Bernstein, the head of the CIHR, and many others, said at committee that we should open it up for therapeutic cloning. They do not want to close the door.

Frankly, there is very compelling reasons, ethically and morally, why we would not want to do that. I think Canadians would be averse to that as they came to understand the implications of the bill. Also, we feel many members of the House are just beginning to delve into the depths of this. The weighty matters involved with this and the scientific terminology causes some to bail out and take a whatever approach.

The members of committee sat through, waded through and listened to the scientists and experts who tried to help us understand this and work through the tangle. I have to compliment the member for Mississauga South for the efforts he has made to inform himself, as a layperson, on the very profound scientific implications of this bill. In fact he has probably become one of the most reliable experts around here. The work he has done and the book he has produced on stem cells to try and raise the level of understanding on all sides of the House is very commendable indeed.

The Raelians want to take some of their cells, take a human egg and implant some of themselves into this new being. They somehow feel that they would be able to transfer their being into a new clone that would look like them. We have to wonder where people are going with this.

The bill also deals with hybrids. Some amendments in Group No. 2 deal with the creation of hybrids. Motion No. 26 would bring some restrictions. Motion No. 27 and Motion No. 23 address various aspects of creating a hybrid for the purpose of reproduction. Motion No. 23 would add paragraphs into the prohibitions, paragraphs (j) and (k). Motion No. 23 states in part:

(j) create a hybrid for the purpose of reproduction, or transplant a hybrid into either a human being or a non-human life form; or

(k) combine any part or any proportion of the human genome with any part of the genome of a non-human species.

We have to think about the question of chimera. That is another word with which Canadians may wrestle. What on earth is a chimera. We are talking about these hybrid life forms. We have to wonder why would scientists want to take genes, or cells or cell parts from lower life forms and plant those into human beings, just to see what we might get out of it. It is kind of alarming.

Recently the Friendship Group of Parliamentarians for UNESCO met. The subject of the day was reproductive technology and Dr. Françoise Baylis was one of the invited speakers. She is an expert from Dalhousie University. I was rather shocked Dr. Baylis' remarks regarding chimera. She said:

I am asking people to think about chimeras because they represent for us the possibility that we will say one day that personhood right now means that human is a necessary but, for some, not sufficient condition for moral status. Chimeras between the species will force us to ask the question, ‘‘Do you even have to be human to get personhood?’’

What does she mean by this? She also said:

It is fascinating from a moral point of view to understand chimeras, intelligent computers and the world toward which we are moving because we will need to make fundamental value decisions about how to treat other beings.

Is it the purpose of scientists to create some other being? I may be part mouse and part human. Are we talking about something like Greek mythology, some kind of creature with a goat body and human trunk and a head? Where are we going with this? What do we hope to get out of it? Is it possible that she is contemplating that we would create another species with human life, part of it maybe has a human head, human ears and eyes and a mouse body and we will use this for research, but it will not be considered human.

Where on earth are they going with this? Why would we need to go there with the resplendent array of human genetic material we have available to us? There are about six billion of us on the planet. We come in various sizes, shapes, colours and with various racial descriptions. We are pretty well represented in the House of Commons in the type of human beings who are available on the planet. What an array of genetic diversity there is available to us. Why would we need to mix human life with other life forms?

From my knowledge of how viruses work, I am very concerned that this kind of research has the potential to open the doors to the transmission of viral diseases from other life forms that would never have crossed to human beings and offer the potential for catastrophic consequences. We have seen some nasty examples, such as growing human polio vaccine on monkey kidney and monkey brain cells. We ended up with monkey virus, like SV40, being transmitted to human beings. Health Canada right now is looking into whether over nine million Canadians have been infected with a cancer causing virus because of growing a virus on another species to which it would never have had access. Therefore the possibility of spreading disease is there.

The member has raised some excellent amendments in the Group No. 2 motions. They bring some measure of accountability to the bill. I hope all members of the House will look at them seriously and will vote the right way when it comes to voting on these motions. They will tighten up the bill and the definitions and restrict the creation of the mixing of animal and human genes.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the discussion today of the amendments in Group No. 2.

We have been at this a long time. It is important for us to ensure that we expedite the process as quickly as possible to have legislation adopted by the House, ideally before International Women's Day. Obviously it will be hard to do that by March 8, but it would be a strong message to Canadians that this place is serious about putting legislation in place.

A number of individuals have made comments this morning. One in particular suggested that the purpose today was stringing out debate. I hope that is not what we are doing today. I hope we are not stringing out debate for the sake of talking and prolonging an important decision. I hope we are not using tools available to us to kill very important legislation. However that is not to say that we in the NDP support everything in the bill. We have so many concerns that we may end up voting against Bill C-13 at the final stage.

It seems to me that when we talk about the important issue of cloning, we need to be absolutely clear about what the bill says and about the issues at hand. As everyone in the House has said, the issue of cloning must be dealt with on an urgent basis. We have seen too many developments of late, too many reports, around the potential of human cloning to sit back and not take immediate action.

The question before us today is whether the bill is adequate to the task. Does the bill need further amendment? It seems to me that legislation can always be improved. There are certainly problems with this legislation.

With respect to the provisions in Bill C-13 which deal with human cloning, I suggest to hon. members that the bill offers a fairly clear set of recommendations that should accomplish what members have suggested this morning.

We were reminded this morning by the health critic for the Bloc that it was the member for Drummond who began the process that ended in the bill before us today with respect to human cloning. That member brought forward a private member's bill requiring strict prohibitions on human cloning. That bill was sent to committee, was subsequently reviewed and agreement was reached that a broader set of provisions needed to be undertaken to accomplish both the need to prohibit human cloning and address outstanding issues pertaining to reproductive technologies, an area that has been outstanding for 14 years.

I acknowledge the work of the member for Drummond in keeping this issue before the House. The onus is now on all of us to ensure that legislation is adopted as quickly as possible.

I also want to remind members how long this process has been going on and how outstanding this policy area is. Let us remember that it was in 1989 that the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies was struck. That is over 14 years ago. Let us not forget that we have been through numerous stages and procedures in the House trying to accomplish legislation reflecting the recommendations of the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies, recommendations that were presented to Canadians and to the House in 1993. The commission wrote 293 recommendations which gave clear direction to Parliament at that time about required action.

Let us not forget that we dealt with this matter in several forms, including Bill C-47 which was tabled in the House in 1996 and then died on the Order Paper when the election was called in 1997.

Let us not forget that the Standing Committee on Health and the Parliament of Canada have been dealing with this issue now for a couple of years. They have been studying a draft piece of legislation and we now have the final bill before us today. The work of that committee was very important to the process at hand. There are concerns that many of the suggestions made by the committee were not accepted by the government and that the bill falls short in that regard.

However, focusing on the amendments at hand under Group No. 2, we are talking about the strength of the bill to prohibit human cloning. It has been suggested that the bill would create a mirage, an illusion, of prohibiting human cloning and therefore needs numerous amendments to strengthen it.

That is not my understanding of this particular section of the bill. I am not sure that the amendments before us today presented in Group No. 2 would do anything in terms of strengthening the bill. In many cases they appear to be redundant to the provisions outlined in the bill.

The bill, under clause 5 listing prohibited activities, is very clear about restricting and outlawing any human cloning. In fact, paragraph 5(1)(a) states:

No person shall knowingly create a human clone, or transplant a human clone into a human being;

The bill goes on to list specific prohibitions with respect to the areas that are listed in these amendments before us today. I want to reference some of those because members will see that we are dealing more with an attempt to string out the bill and prevent its passage than we are trying to improve the bill and make it clearer in terms of prohibited activities.

The bill is clear about prohibitions with respect to the creation of in vitro embryos for any purpose other than creating a human being or improving instruction in assisted human reproductive procedures.

The bill is clear that there would be an absolute prohibition on the creation of an embryo from the cell, or part of a cell, of an embryo or fetus for the purpose of creating a human being. The bill is clear about prohibitions on maintaining an embryo for more than 14 days outside of a woman's body. It is clear about prohibitions in terms of sex selection. It is clear in terms of prohibiting germ line genetic alteration. It is clear about prohibitions in terms of transplanting a sperm, ovum, embryo or fetus of a non-human into a human being.

The bill is clear about prohibitions in terms of using human reproductive material previously in a non-human for the purpose of creating a human being. It is clear about prohibitions with respect to creating a chimera or transplanting a chimera into either a human being or a non-human life form. It is clear about prohibitions on the creation of hybrids for the purpose of reproduction or transplanting a hybrid into either human beings or non-human life forms.

Those are the clear prohibitions in the bill right now. Perhaps there is some fine-tuning that is needed. I would suggest to the member who has introduced these amendments that they are in many cases redundant and that the bill needs to be passed as soon as possible with respect to the urgency we all feel around developments in the area of human cloning.

I would suggest that we do everything we can to ensure that this bill becomes law, that we respect the work of the royal commission, and that we recognize that this is an urgent issue facing the health and well-being of all women.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central to participate in the report stage debate on motions in Group No. 2 relating to Bill C-13, the assisted human reproduction act.

This long overdue bill would regulate some activities such as the research involving human embryos and criminally ban others such as commercial surrogacy, non-medical sex selection, and all forms of cloning involving human reproductive materials.

It is imperative that we realize that we are creating legislation that would greatly affect the lives of many present and future Canadians.

The motions in Group No. 2 deal with such important issues as human cloning and the use of human embryos. The bill declares that human cloning, either reproductive or so-called therapeutic cloning, would be illegal. The total ban on cloning would put Canada at the forefront of an internationally contentious issue.

The bill would ban the creation of in vitro embryos for the purpose of research. Yet, it would permit embryos to be created for the purpose of reproduction and any surplus embryos would then be used for medical research, which means their destruction 14 days after conception.

For many years, adult stem cell transplants have successfully been used to treat a variety of diseases such as Parkinson's, MS and Crohn's. Adult stem cells include those collected from the umbilical cord, the placenta, brain tissue and bone marrow.

Embryonic stem cells, on the other hand, are those extracted from an embryo in a procedure that kills the tiny, yet 100% genetic human living being. Despite the hype we may have heard, embryonic stem cells have never been successfully used in clinical trials.

The University of Minnesota Stem Cell Institute researchers showed that adult bone marrow stem cells can become blood vessels. The Duke University Medical Centre researchers turned stem cells from knee fat into cartilage, bone and fat cells.

Last summer, a Montreal woman newly diagnosed with leukemia received a stem cell transplant from the umbilical cord blood of her new infant daughter. Seven months after the transplant the woman was in full remission and considered cured.

Canada is already a leader in adult stem cell research. For example, by supercharging adult blood stem cells with a gene that allowed them to rapidly reproduce, a team of Canadian researchers at the University of British Columbia healed mice with depleted blood systems. One day these adult stem cells may replace bone marrow transplants in humans.

Unfortunately, research using human embryos has not yet led to human healing therapies. We should focus our energies and scarce resources on research that is making a difference now.

In spite of these facts, Bill C-13 focuses on the use of the in vitro embryo and would regulate its use for research and experimentation. Such activity disregards the dignity of human life and reduces its value to that of a commodity.

I will be dealing with Motions Nos. 13, 14, 16, 17, 20, 22, 23, 24, 26 and 27 which all deal with some aspect of clause 5 in the current draft of the bill.

In brief, the proposed amendments call for changes that deal with the elimination of the option to clone a human being through any technique. They propose that the technology should be used for no other purpose than human reproduction including the experimentation and transplanting of an embryo, a sperm, ovum or fetus and that there would be no combining of any human genome with any part of the genome of a non-human species.

The subjects addressed in Bill C-13 are ethically complex and highly controversial. The Canadian Alliance supports some aspects of the bill. Some of the things in it are actually very good. We support the banning of human and therapeutic cloning, animal-human hybrids, sex selection, germ line alterations, the buying and selling of embryos, and paid surrogacies. However, the bill is far from perfect and needs amendments, including those amendments that we are considering today.

Given the great moral sensitivity of the decision, I believe the government ought to allow the conscience of every individual member of Parliament in the House to be freely heard by allowing a free vote on the bill.

The official opposition's minority report called for a three year prohibition on the experimentation with human embryos to allow time for the use of adult stem cells to be fully explored. We recommended that the government strongly encourage its granting agencies and the scientific community to place the emphasis on adult post-natal stem cell research.

We must make changes to the bill before it is voted upon. I hope that all hon. members will be listening to their constituents and voting accordingly on this important bill. I am sure the House is aware that 84% of Canadians are against the cloning of human beings. Let us also remember that medical therapies developed using human embryos may be refused by people who do not believe they are ethically derived. I am sure members are aware of the blood transfusion case in Alberta. Ethical concerns are important and we should look into those ethical concerns as well.

I remind all members that the bill is about improving human health, not destroying it. I am a pro-research person. I believe in research and we must give research a chance. The Canadian Alliance strongly supports research at this end, wherever it is compatible with the dignity and the value of human life. We should not forget that. The Canadian Alliance will strive to protect the dignity and value of human life because nothing is more precious than a human life.

The bill is about the best interests of children born through the use assisted reproductive technology. Along with my colleagues in the Canadian Alliance I will work to protect them. With this in mind I would urge all members of the House to vote with their conscience and to listen to their constituents.

I received many e-mails, phone calls and letters from my constituents asking me how I intend to vote. We should respect human life. It is known that human life exists after conception. We must have a free vote in the House and I would urge all members to vote with their conscience.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

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

Mr. Speaker, I know on this issue that is before the House there are strong moral and spiritual views. We must respect all points of view in this most serious and challenging debate. Points of view will be expressed here that flow from deeply personal experiences, whether they are of a spiritual or moral experience or from a deeply personal, sad and tragic experience.

In my own case, it was the latter that helped shape my views on this issue. Like many members present, all I bring to the discussion is my own experience. I do not pretend to have scientific knowledge, nor do the constituents I consulted on this issue. All we have is our own personal value systems and experiences to guide us.

When my husband and I began our life and family together, we were blessed with the arrival of three children. Every mother and father in this place will testify to the joy that children bring to our lives. Our first daughter was born and appeared perfectly healthy, but we soon learned that there was a small defect called biliary atresia and in her case, it was complete biliary atresia. It was, and remains to this day, incurable. We were told that most infants born with this live for only three months. We had 10 months of joy with our baby and still consider ourselves blessed for those additional months.

From our own personal perspective and from my own sorrowful experience, I can stand here and say that if there had been a cure offered, no matter how it was developed, I would have demanded access. Even if I had no scientific knowledge of embryonic stem cell and adult stem cell research, if that had been offered as a cure, I would have accepted it and thanked God for saving my daughter. No such solution was available then and tragically, there still is no cure today.

If some Canadians wonder how we in their Parliament arrive at our conclusions and our decisions, I want to tell them that many times it is from our own experience. My heart goes out to people who are stricken with chronic diseases, and to parents who learn their newborns are suffering from incurable problems. I want them to know that I would have walked through fire to save my baby and I expect nothing less of them. I would have accepted a cure, and still would, no matter what research took place to arrive at that cure.

When I stand here to talk about embryonic and adult stem cell research, I want all members and the Canadian public to know that I believe that because of my own personal experience this is not a moral choice for me. I would be lying if I stood here and said that I would have changed my mind with regard to saving the life of my own daughter. I would not have.

Since that time, and because this issue is before Parliament and the people of Canada, I have delved as deeply as possible, both personally and in terms of broadening my knowledge, into stem cell research. I have arrived at my conclusion only after weighing everything very carefully, the knowledge I have gleaned through study and my own personal experience and views.

I have concluded that the best way for us to proceed is to stay with adult stem cell research. Colleagues on all sides of the House have outlined similar reasons but I want to repeat them so there will be no doubt as to where I stand on this issue.

Adult stem cells are easily acceptable. They are not subject to tissue rejection and they pose minimal ethical concerns. Tissue rejection is a serious consideration. When embryonic stem cell research is used, there will be rejection problems. The person, infant or adult, who receives this life-giving stem cell is going to be on a regime of anti-rejection drugs for his or her lifetime.

We know we have a health care crisis in Canada and we are working to fix it. The system now and in the future could not possibly afford perhaps thousands of patients on anti-immune suppressant drugs for thousands of lifetimes.

There has been so much positive progress through research that we in the Canadian Alliance have concluded that the government has but one option. We recommend that this divisive ethical issue and debate could be avoided with a three year prohibition on embryonic stem cell research. That would give science and research into adult stem cells time to develop and make even more progress than has been made to date.

We ask, considering the tremendous progress that has already been made, why abandon adult stem cell research? There is simply not the funding available to do justice to both types of research.

The choice we face today is clear and simple. Stay with adult stem cell research and put all of our financial skill and resources behind it. Much good work has been done in this area, much progress has been made, and there are thousands of people in Canada relying on us to make the right decision.

I would like to go back to an earlier theme. I did not arrive at this decision because of my moral beliefs, although I certainly respect those. I agree that this is a moral issue but mine was not a moral decision. It was based on the evidence put in front of me and what I was able to learn through my own study, through conversations with my constituents and from my own personal experience. I am grateful to those people in my riding who came to me to relate their own painful or tragic experiences, to help me arrive at my conclusion.

I would like to relate one of the stories told to me by a constituent. It is that of a little boy of under five with diabetes. The father and I discussed this very issue and when he departed he told me he agreed with my decision to stay the course and focus on adult stem cell research. We have a moral obligation to that child and we have a moral obligation to all children in the country to do what is right.

We have an obligation to the people of Canada who suffer from Parkinson's disease. There is evidence to suggest they might be helped by adult stem cell research.

We must do the right thing and the right thing is not necessarily the fast thing. Canadians who are following this closely should know one other thing. We have committees in Parliament spending countless hours, energy and resources on issues such as this. They work together to arrive at conclusions and recommendations and bring them to the House and then, after all that work, they learn that their conclusions and recommendations are overridden and either a ministerial or bureaucratic agenda is put before the House. It takes us back to the observations of many. The Liberals are intent on making Parliament irrelevant.

I am heartened by the knowledge that there are some Liberals who are as concerned about this as we are on this side. Perhaps one day the real democrats in Canadian society will band together and make Parliament, and members of Parliament, relevant to Canadians.

In an earlier debate a colleague wondered if the government was putting the interests of drug and pharmaceutical companies ahead of the interests of Canadians. Is it not those companies that are pushing the idea of embryonic stem cell research? Would it not be companies like that that would benefit from treatments that would require lifetime prescriptions of anti-rejection drugs?

All opinions on the issue should be brought here to the House. All opinions should be considered. The vested interests should be heard as well as those with deeply held moral and spiritual values. In the end though, we as parliamentarians must make the decision. My own is to support only adult stem cell research. My hope is that it will lead to fantastic advances and miraculous cures for suffering Canadians.

My hope is that some day in the future some young mother will be told her child has biliary artesia but that she should not despair. My hope is that a future doctor will tell the young mother that due to wise considerations and decisions made by the Canadian Parliament in the year 2003, a cure for her infant is available. I hope she would offer up a prayer of thanks for us in this place because we did what was right when we were called upon to do so.

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12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I speak again to this subject. I certainly do not view myself with any particular expertise or expert knowledge of the subject, but I am extremely interested in it as a lay person. I believe, as do a great number of my colleagues in the House, if not the majority of us, that the whole issue of assisted human reproduction and especially of human cloning is one of the defining issues of our time.

With the tremendous explosion in technological expertise in this field, all human beings, whether they be Canadians or from other parts of the world, are extremely concerned that the noble human society may be severely impacted by the whole issue of cloning. It may introduce notions and changes in our societies that would have a profound effect on the way these societies conduct themselves in the future.

This is why I am interested that the bill reflect the tremendous concerns that citizens at large, including all of us here in this House, have about the bill and especially about the issue of human cloning. As I said, I do not pass myself off as having any particular knowledge of this field beyond what I have read. I would like to rely on the expertise that I have found as it relates to when the health committee studied the issue of cloning, and especially that of Dr. Dianne Irving from Georgetown University, who is one of the foremost experts in the whole issue of cloning.

It was due to the representations made by Dr. Irving that the definition of human cloning in the bill was changed to include a new sentence. I would like to read the definition of cloning as it presently appears in the bill:

“Human clone” means an embryo 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.

I emphasize the word “single”. According to Dr. Irving, the use of the term “single” means that we do not cover all the possible impacts of cloning. It would not cover, for instance, pronuclei transfer, formation of chimeras and backbreeding, mitrochondria transfer, or DNA-recombinant germ line transfers, eugenics. Such techniques would require more than one source of the genetic reproductive material used. Because those techniques would require more than one source, the definition of “single” would not cover them.

For example, by pronuclei transfer one could clone two types of chimeras. The first would be a human/human chimera which is a human embryo, but a cloned human embryo produced with male and/or female pronuclei from two different human IVF or cloned embryos.

The second would be a human/animal chimera, produced pronuclei from a human embryo and from an animal embryo, from which the human genetic material could be retrieved before syngamy or later by backbreeding.

Dr. Irving goes on to say that the definition as it is would not cover germ line gene transfer, where foreign DNA molecules are cloned or replicated by means of the passing down of these molecules of foreign genes through the generations.

She also states that it would not cover mitochondria transfers, which technically would produce a cloned human embryo. Such a human embryo would have genetic materials from two mothers and from one father.

Therefore it is quite clear, according to Dr. Irving, who produced perhaps the leading paper on the subject to the health committee, that using the word “single” in the definition restricts the definition very significantly, and that word has to be removed.

I suggest that in presenting a bill with the tremendous impact that a bill of this nature has for future generations, for society in general, it is imperative that we as parliamentarians ensure that we are using the best possible definitions, the best possible provisions and the most secure provisions in the banning of human cloning.

I would say that there probably is a unanimous feeling on all sides of the House that we are for banning human cloning. If this is the case, as I believe it is, then it is for us to make doubly sure that our definitions are complete, watertight, comprehensive and secure to the degree that we do not leave any doubt whatsoever that certain aspects of human cloning could be left out of the bill, as Dr. Irving, who should know more than any of us here, believes that we have done.

My plea to the minister, to the House in general, is that we review the definition of human cloning and that we take into account what Dr. Irving has put before us, that using the word “single” restricts the definition to the extent that a large number of possibilities of cloning are left out of the bill.

I plead with the minister that this be revised as soon as possible, that this definition be changed at report stage. This is really what I am hoping and pleading for today. This is my reason for having intervened today.

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1 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to stand in the House of debate. I sometimes call it the word factory because our job here is to crank out words which then become part of the permanent record. It is a privilege to stand here and debate.

I would like to begin by saying how very frustrating this is. This is undoubtedly one of the most, if not the most important bill that we will debate in this Parliament. It has extremely large, long term ramifications. It has a huge dimension to the value that we place on human life. I find it very frustrating when I think of what is going to happen.

We have before us in Group No. 2 a number of amendments. Those amendments are all very important amendments. They are amendments which correct the flaws in the bill. I would love to debate with members of Parliament in a meaningful way the merits of these amendments but I guess I will just have to be brutally honest and say that I have a big suspicion that no members are really paying attention to this debate. Very few are actually listening or participating. Very few will actually go back and listen to the debates or watch the tapes later. They are disengaged from what is undoubtedly one of the most important issues facing us. I really regret that and I think that is a huge flaw.

Add to that another flaw. My predecessor, Mr. Brian O'Kurley, who represented Elk Island before I did, and who by the way will be the only other member for Elk Island, since he was there in the first term when Elk Island came to be, because the riding is disappearing. It will be gone.

Mr. O'Kurley told me before the election that when I became a member of Parliament I would find out that my most important work would be done in committees. I came here and found that to be true.

When we are working in committee there will be members around the table engaging in debate with each other and with the witnesses. We actually grapple with these big issues and come up with conclusions and recommendations which are included in the report.

In this particular instance, this very important bill was studied at length by the members of the committee. The committee did a lot of good work and made recommendations. What do we find? Does the government, in finishing off the legislation, take these recommendations into account? Does it look at the actual proposals made by the committee, for example to split some of the conditions of the bill? No, it just motors right along.

As a matter of fact, it is my opinion, and I think I am right, that the decision on where this bill is going is not even made by parliamentarians. I think it is people in the back rooms who have determined how this is going to be. They have persuaded the minister to carry the ball for them here and all the government members will vote on command as they always do.

Members may think I am wasting the time that I have in my speech now but I think it would be wasted no matter what I said because I do not think anybody is listening or anybody is hearing. That is very unfortunate.

There are issues here which are of tremendous importance. I have a tendency, when speaking on issues of this nature to try to deal with very deep principles, really fundamental principles. I think the overriding principle that should drive any bill at all on genetic research, on reproductive technologies, on issues like cloning and medical research, should be, and it should be written in huge bold letters on the top of the bill, that we value explicitly each human life. The value of human life should be our priority when we are discussing these things.

I sometimes think our society has lost, as represented in this Parliament, the sense of the special value and the sacredness of an individual human life. We have lost the sense, certainly, of the sacredness of reproduction if we look at some of the things that have come before this Parliament, such as the issue of child pornography and other pornography, the issue of reproduction, and the issue of marriage and divorce.

I do not know how we can separate a debate on these issues from the deep, abiding, moral structure that has held our country together for many years and is now being seriously challenged and eroded. I believe there is a sacred component to human life that we need to get back to. It is an affront to any individual who has that deep conviction to suggest, even for a moment, that a human being in any form is dispensable for the sake of research.

I do not want members to get me wrong. Even though I place great value on human life, I am also a strong advocate of research and development in medical areas. What I am not in favour of is abandoning the respect for one person's life in order to promote the respect for another. When we do that we go beyond the realm of what we should be doing as humans.

When we think of things like cloning and toying with the genetic make-up of a human being and the setting up of a situation where we get an exact replica of another human being, I think we are dabbling in an area where we ought not to go, because instead of taking genetic material from a male and a female, we have imposed on the new individual the genetic make-up of only one of those individuals, and hence the clone. I believe very strongly that we are dabbling in an area in which we should simply stay away from just on principle.

We can use many other ways to look for cures for diseases and ways of preventing other diseases. There is so much to do. I cannot help but think of several of my friends who are in long term care. Actually my mother is in long term care having gone through a recent hip operation. I think of my younger friend who has premature Parkinson's disease and who is totally disabled and unable to communicate most of the time. He is unable to walk and is in a wheelchair. How desirable it would be to have a cure for that disease. However there are many things we can do without encroaching on the moral dilemmas that a bill such as this brings to our minds.

We need to make sure that our legislation and our work here is such that it is directed toward a proper and moral solution that upholds the value and sacredness of human life. I am committed to that. I wish we all were.

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1:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak on Bill C-13 and the Group No. 2 amendments. No one can underestimate the importance of this issue with respect to the health of all human beings.

I want to say that unfortunately the bill has been bogged down with a lot of issues surrounding the definition of life and has actually polarized two groups: those who believe in choice and those who really are part of the anti-choice movement and believe that the definition of life begins with the fertilization of an egg. Both sides must have their views respected and certainly both are understandable; however, this detracts from the larger issues, I would say, that the bill could afford all Canadians.

A person may be sick or have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's disease, or Parkinson's disease, or diabetes, which is epidemic in our country, and it is easy for those of us who are healthy to say that we should ban and prohibit science on the basis of our moral conviction that life begins at the moment an egg is fertilized by a sperm. Unfortunately, when we do that, we will deprive thousands upon thousands of people, not only in our own country but around the world, of potentially life saving tools, technologies and treatments that will improve their lives and indeed save their lives.

One of my colleagues mentioned this to me because I am of the view that human cloning should be banned. That is generally accepted by scientists, ethicists and the general public, but there is a far greater range of views on and a far greater acceptance of using medical technology, particularly when, at the early embryonic stages, it can provide that information. I will tell members why. When an egg is fertilized by a sperm, what happens in that ball of cells are things that we simply cannot get or understand out of any other science we have today. Cells that are undifferentiated and look much the same have what we call a potential to develop into any part of our body. It is truly an extraordinary time in the life of those cells.

What happens with those cells is that they begin to differentiate into organs. They also move and migrate around various parts of the body. Why this is important is that this kind of behaviour is the same type of behaviour, in many cases, that occurs with cancers. Cancerous cells suddenly become one normal cell and then, for reasons that we do not fully understand today, become cells whose behaviour changes. In the changing of that behaviour, they start to move into various parts of the body and they start to eat and erode away at other cells and other tissues, too often ultimately killing people.

What we can understand and glean from the first fertilization of that egg are behaviours in the cell patterns and a differentiation that we really cannot get from any other source, including adult stem cells, although I will certainly agree that the research in adult stem cells has changed dramatically.

My colleague said to me that he had a gentleman call him up after he heard my comments on television, the same comments I have just made. The gentleman said he was a man who was dying of cancer and he would not sacrifice a single fertilized embryo even if it were to provide life saving knowledge that would save his life from the cancer eating away at his body.

That gentleman is perfectly free to make that comment. However, should we use that viewpoint to prevent or deny other people who do not have that luxury from having the medical knowledge and the tools that could ultimately save their lives? I would submit that we cannot do this.

Bill C-13 really deals with two important areas: assisted human reproduction technologies without compromising the health and safety of individuals, a very worthy endeavour, and prohibiting certain practices, what are known as unacceptable practices, such as human cloning.

I would submit that we should allow the use of embryonic stem cells up to seven days, and many scientists would agree, so that we can glean that invaluable knowledge on the differentiation, migratory pathways and communications that cells have between each other. It is absolutely essential for our ability to combat the cancer that kills so many people in our country and around the world.

On the issue of surrogacy, the bill seeks to provide compensation for costs incurred in surrogacy. We have between 50 and 100 women per year who actually become surrogate mothers, providing infertile couples with a child. The bill states that if an arrangement is made such that the woman receives more compensation than just costs like air fare and such, she will be criminalized to the extent of anywhere between $500,000 and up to 10 years in prison.

Let us imagine a woman who is a surrogate, who is giving of herself in an enormous way in terms of the pain and suffering, the time off work and the effects on her own body. If she has a child for another couple and receives money that somebody deems to be more than just compensation for costs, that woman would be criminalized and thrown in jail for up to 10 years. That is ridiculous. We need regulations because we do not want to commodify human reproduction, and everybody would agree with that, but for heaven's sake, to criminalize a woman or a couple for engaging in this is absolutely unbelievable.

The second point I want to make is what some put under the rubric of the buying and selling of sperm and eggs. Again, nobody wants to commodify that. However, people need to receive fair compensation for the time and effort it takes to make those donations. The extraction of eggs from a woman is not a simple procedure and is not without risks. Surely the person deserves a lot more than the bus fare to get down to the clinic. Those decisions should be made in a reasonable way with guidelines, not laws, that will enable reproductive groups to provide fair compensation to those people who give of themselves so that infertile couples will have the opportunity to have the children they want.

Another point is the issue of identification. The bill seeks to make public, or at least public for the interested parties, the identification of the donor. If this passes, we will see that up to 75% of people who donate sperm or ova will no longer be donors. They will be gone. They will not want to make their identities known.

I believe that the intent of the bill is to ensure that the child born of that conception and the parents of that child should have access to and knowledge of the medical health of the donor. That is perfectly reasonable. That has relevance for the child's future as well as for the parents taking care of the child. There is no reason, however, to make the personal identification of that donor known to any other party. That is not necessary.

The bill will also put a chill on and do an enormous amount of damage to the ability of organizations that deal with infertile couples to gain access to the material they require. I want to close, if I may, on that point and quote the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society, which is the professional body of fertility physicians. They object to Bill C-13 and its prohibition of payment. I want to quote the society, because it says this very well:

We believe as strongly as anyone else that human gametes are not commodities; they are things to be given freely.

That was said by Dr. Roger Pierson, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Saskatchewan and chair of communications for the society. However, he also said:

But we have to recognize there is considerable nuisance and time involved, and that deserves some form of compensation.

That is the point I want to make on the bill. The bill should not be passed until that is cleared up.

The bill also has to deal with the issue of language, because it is extremely vague. I would like to quote Dianne Irving, professor of philosophy and ethics, who appeared in front of the standing committee and said:

Of all the legislations that I have analyzed--on the basis of the correct science used, the linguistic loopholes employed, and the “genre” of “ethics” assumed--this Bill is probably the most problematic...it is my recommendation that this Bill should not be passed, even with amendments.

I support that and recommend that the government take the bill back and modify it so that it can be a fair bill that does not commodify the reproductive tools we have, a bill that enables infertile couples to have the babies they would like to have in the future, and a bill that does not inadvertently quash good science that could save people's lives.

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1:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise again to speak on Bill C-13. This is the third time I have spoken on the bill. My colleagues before me have eloquently elaborated the concerns and problems they have with the bill. I would like to re-emphasize exactly what they are saying, because this is one of those new areas, new science, that we are going into, and it causes a great deal of concern to Canadians and to everyone around the world.

Last time I spoke, I mentioned the news about human cloning that had come at the beginning of the year, which shocked everybody around the world and once again brought to our attention the question of where we are going with this bill and with this technology. This technology has the potential of going in any direction if it is not checked or regulated. As such, by itself, having the bill brought in front of Parliament is a good thing. It is an attempt to regulate this new science that has the potential of either bringing forth a Frankenstein or, as said by my colleague who spoke last, being a huge benefit to humankind.

There is no debate about what stem cells can do and how beneficial they are to people who are suffering from diseases. Therefore, I do not think there is any debate coming along and saying we do not want stem cell research. The issue that comes out here is which direction we should go to. Because this is a new technology, it is better to err in favour of caution than to go ahead and blindly move into this science and then have to face the consequences further down the road. The consequences could be horrendous because we are talking about the science of cloning, the science of human beings, the basic structure of human beings.

Today we are speaking on the Group No. 2 amendments brought forward by the member for Mississauga South. I am glad that he has brought forward these concerns, because, like everyone else in the House, he has listened to the people and as such has brought his point of view forward in these amendments, most of which the Canadian Alliance will support.

We have two issues in his Group No. 2. One is that the member for Mississauga South has brought forward Motion No. 13 which intends to make it absolutely clear, in no uncertain terms, what human cloning is and which direction we will take. The majority of it is saying to proceed with caution, that this is an area where we must tread very slowly and very carefully because of the potential for not knowing what will happen.

My colleague from Calgary Southeast has brought forward Motion No. 17, which says the same thing. He is expressing an absolute concern saying that he does not wish to take the route of cloning, period. That is his motion. It is a motion that I will support. I do not think I want to take the route of cloning.

We do have the issue of stem cell research, adult and embryonic. Right now the adult stem cell research that is going on has a lot of potential. Whose potential? We have not actually evaluated or seen how deep the potential can go.

Perhaps it will answer a lot of the questions we are asking more specifically on using stem cells to assist people who have diseases such as cancer. If we have not yet examined the potential of stem cell research, then why do we want to go into the arena of cloning when we do not know where it is going?

The motion put forward by my colleague from Calgary Southeast which calls for a total ban on this route of embryonic cloning research is fine. We wish to support it. The Canadian Alliance put forward amendments at the committee stage saying that there should be a three year stopgap. In that way we could see in which direction we were going with stem cell and adult stem cell research. Down the road we could slowly and distinctly see its impact and maybe never have to resort to cloning. I am sure the majority of Canadians do not want to go the route of cloning.

Canadians are aware, as are we, that the health benefits of this kind of research are very good and that scientists need these routes and in wanting to go down these routes they have good intentions of assisting in the cure of diseases. Nevertheless, as those who make laws and regulations we need to use caution on this issue because this is one of the sciences that we do not know which way it will go.

I rose to speak to the bill to express the concerns that we have. I hope that when the time comes to vote on the bill, the government will allow a free vote so Canadians can, through their elected representatives, express their points of view on the bill.

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1:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to touch on the broad subject of reproduction and replacement. It has come to the knowledge of many that a Sea King helicopter has crashed on to the deck of the HMCS Iroquois and two people have been injured. That ship, which was intended to be a command ship in the Gulf of Oman, is right now on its way back to Canada because of that.

I would like to touch briefly on the subject of replacement and reproduction. We are touching on that with regard to Bill C-13. We understand when we talk about the bill that replacement and replenishment is important when it comes to human beings, but for some strange reason the government has taken far too long to do the right thing when it comes to our Canadian armed forces, our navy and the Sea King helicopter replacement program. That is a real shame. I just wanted to get that on the record.

I would now like to talk about Bill C-13 and about human dignity and respect for human life. It is ironic, when I think of that as the first touchstone with regard to this speech, acknowledgement of human dignity and the respect for human life, I would like to think that the government does have respect for human life. I am grateful that no sailors died with regard to the HMCS Iroquois crash. Maybe that makes me think about whether or not the government really does have a commitment to those principles when I talk about Bill C-13 and whether or not the government is doing its level best to safeguard the lives of our littlest citizens.

Bill C-13's preamble does not provide an acknowledgement of human dignity or the respect for human life and I think it is very important that it does. There is also no overarching recognition of the principle of the respect for human life in the bill.

Our minority report recommended that the final legislation clearly recognize the human embryo as human life. We would like to have it such that the statutory declaration include the phrase “respect for human life”. We also believe the mandate of the proposed agency should be amended to include reference to the principle of respect for life. Some of our objections stem from the following ideas.

The complete DNA of an adult human is present at the embryo stage. We need to understand and respect that with regard to the bill.

Also, we in the Canadian Alliance recognize that adult stem cells are a safe, proven alternative to embryonic stem cells. Adult stem cells can come from umbilical cords, blood, skin tissue, bone tissue, et cetera, and are all perfectly valid sources for us to get stem cells. The adult sources also are easily accessible, not subject to immune rejection and pose minimal ethical concerns. They are not treated as foreign tissues by the body and they are often taken from one's own body, never mind anyone else's. It seems the logical way to go.

Currently, adult stem cells are used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease, leukemia, MS, and other conditions for that matter. Our minority report called for a three year prohibition on experiments with human embryos corresponding with the first scheduled review of the bill.

On a different subject but which is still related to Bill C-13, it does not seem very fair that the bill only requires the consent of one of the donors when it takes two donors to make an embryo. It takes two sets of genetic material. The bill does not recognize that both parents need to be required to give written consent for the use of the embryo, not just one. They have made the embryo collectively.

One of the things that really shook me and made me an advocate for the pro-life position was that I remember the debates that took place with regard to Chantal Daigle. I was a young man at the time, but as that decision was coming through the Supreme Court, I thought it was profoundly unfair that I as a man was deemed discounted from having any relevance or influence with regard to that decision and with regard to the definition in respect of human life. The idea that it was only one person's decision and that we as a society, or that I as a man, had no relevance in the decision with regard to human life struck me profoundly. I was not any more than a very young teenager at the time.

This bill, I feel, replicates that very same mistake. It does not recognize that it takes two people to create a child, not just one, and that the implications and the ramifications of those decisions are far above and beyond just the one individual carrying the child. Just as with regard to our Criminal Code, one rape does not just involve the victim or the criminal, it involves everybody else that it touches as well.

That is the reason we have a Criminal Code. We recognize that we do need to set laws that determine the difference between right and wrong and that set a standard of behaviour for all of us. If we do not have that, then we merely have capriciousness. We have anarchy. We have mob rule. We have a situation where people can do whatever they want so long as maybe it is consensual or reciprocal and is done in the privacy of their own homes or something, as some of those arguments go.

It is not quite that simple. Those things really do have an impact on the quality of life for the rest of us. They do impact the society we live in, the culture we have, our civilization. Therefore it is very important that we take firm stands on these things.

That is the reason we do not arbitrarily say murder is something that is up to somebody to decide whether it is right or wrong. We say firmly, through this place and our Criminal Code and through the police officers who enforce it out in the public at large, that murder is wrong regardless of how it comes about. If a person takes another person's life just because the person is upset or angry with the other person or it was done during some bar brawl or because of some grievance or something like that, it is wrong.

We have certain situations in this country where we do justify the taking of life, for example, in the case of war. Of course we know how serious and grave a situation that is and how long we deliberate before we take on something like that.

It is interesting and it is profound that there are parties in this place that will object strenuously to the use of force to remove somebody like Saddam Hussein and object to the potential harm of innocent life, and I think of our friends in the Bloc and in the NDP. I understand there are sensitivities, particularly in Quebec for example, with regard to the situation of war.

I find it ironic that there can be such concern with regard to people in Baghdad yet when it comes to Canada's littlest citizens, there is not that type of concern about people who may have sat in this place but will never get the chance because of some of this legislation, the way the Criminal Code is set or not set in this place, the grey areas it leaves in the law and the arbitrariness it leaves with regard to the definition of life. As a result there will be people who may never sit in this place.

It is profoundly ironic that some people are very upset about some nature of death but not others. It is interesting.

I want to quickly touch on a few points I wanted to make with regard to this bill. The regulatory agency would not report to Parliament but only to the minister. That is a profound mistake. Also, I believe there needs to be a free vote on this subject and the legislation.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be here to speak to Bill C-13. I have had the opportunity to speak to the bill a couple of times before but today I will speak specifically to the Group No. 2 amendments.

A number of the amendments which we are dealing with today have to do with stem cell research and embryonic stem cell research. I want to explain what stem cells are, where we can find them and some of the roles they can play in medical research.

Stem cells are the master cells that we find in every tissue of our body. These cells continue to reproduce throughout our lives. They can be manipulated in the laboratory to produce different kinds of cells and tissues. Scientists have found that stem cells have some very valuable possibilities for them in terms of medical research.

At the present time stem cells can be obtained from many different places and from different organs and tissues. Blood, bone marrow, skin, brain tissue, muscle and fat all contain stem cells.

Adult stem cells are cells that have reached a certain degree of maturity. They can be specialized stem cells. They can be taken from various tissues and organs including placental tissue and umbilical cord blood. Over the years scientists did not realize the advantages of using those placental cells and the umbilical cord blood. However in the last couple of years they really have moved on research in that area.

Embryonic stem cells are taken from embryos. I will talk a little today about adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells. A consequence of using embryonic stem cells is that, by necessity, the embryos die when the embryonic cells are removed. That is in contrast to the adult stem cells which can be taken from living human beings without hurting or damaging the person.

Adult stem cell research is really exciting and is an essential frontier in medicine, especially for those who are suffering from degenerative diseases such Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis. It also is thought that there is a potential to treat Alzheimer's through adult stem cell research. Another area in which stem cells have some tremendous potential is in the tragic spinal cord injuries. Hopefully a cure will be found for that condition.

We often hear announcements of medical breakthroughs in the use adult stem cells, which include those cells taken from umbilical cords, placental tissues and other tissues. There is a great benefit to adult stem cell research. We see it is has a significant impact in a number of areas.

Bone marrow transplants are an example of stem cell research and has been very successful over the years. Parkinson's disease is another area. Canadian neurosurgeon, Dr. Michael Levesque, is treating a patient with stem cells taken from that patient's own brain. It has had a tremendous positive effect for that patient.

There have been cases dealing with multiple sclerosis, four of them in particular in an Ottawa hospital. Researchers have been able to use stem cells taken from patients' own bone marrow. They have helped with a significant improvement in the condition of multiple sclerosis.

We may not think Crohns disease would be an area where this research would be useful. American patients have been treated successfully with their own stem cells and have received some relief from that terrible condition.

There have also been other blood diseases that over the years people have got some relief from by using adult stem cells.

This new data is being incorporated in the consideration of which avenues to take in stem cell research. There are researchers who would like to focus on embryonic stem cell research. I want to point out some of the scientific risks in embryonic stem cell research.

First, in spite of all the noise and hoopla that we have heard on the TV and read in the newspapers over the last few months, there has never been a successful case using embryonic stem cells. Regardless of those results, we often hear of people pushing for the use of embryonic stem cells. They want them to be used and developed, but there are some real problems with using embryonic stem cells.

One problem is that embryonic stem cells often appear to be subject to completely random and unacceptable growth. In certain situations they have been implanted in people and all of a sudden there has been the growth of a tumour that doctors cannot explain. The embryonic stem cells have mushroomed and ballooned and have caused the condition to get worse rather than better. Adult stem cells seem to be a lot more predictable in responding to growth factors and hormones that function to redirect their development.

Another real problem with embryonic stem cells is that they have been found to often grow into the wrong type of cells. Scientists have not been able to direct them in the way they would like to and in some cases they have found things like hair and teeth cells growing in the brain of patients who have received treatment of embryonic stem cells. This is strange but it is true. I do not think that any one of us would enjoy or like to have that situation happen to us or anyone that we hold near and dear.

However, there is an even bigger problem with embryonic stem cells. There is an issue of rejection. When we introduce foreign materials into our body of course, our bodies reject them. One of the main problems that we have had with embryonic stem cells is that throughout the patient's life he or she will need to take anti-rejection drugs. These stem cells cannot be absorbed from someone else.

It is clear that the focus of research really should be in the adult stem cells. There has been some good success with that and it is an area that we really need to focus on and try to develop.

One other thing the bill does not directly do is address the value of human life and lay out a framework for valuing and cherishing human life. I have talked before about the fact that we all recognize now that human life begins at conception. When the DNA package is put together, we understand that human life has begun. There has been a lot of debate on that over the years but really that debate has subsided and scientists and the general populace believe that when that DNA package is put together, we then have a human being.

The question then becomes what value do we give to that human being? I spoke about that before. We need to engage in the discussion on what value we will give to that DNA when put together. Many of us believe and know it is a human being. We have to decide what we will do with it then. Will we take it apart and allow it to die? Will we treat it as though it is something unique and we want it to develop and grow?

That actually brings me to the Group No. 2 amendments. I do not have time to speak to all of them but I want to speak to one specific motion, Motion No. 17 proposed the member for Calgary Southeast. The member has brought forward a clause that would prohibit embryonic stem cell research. It clearly states that no person shall experiment or harvest on an embryo. I support this motion, and I hope that members in the House will as well.

The current wording in the bill states that embryonic research can be undertaken under licence if the agency is satisfied that such research is “necessary”. I am not comfortable with that. I had a chance to sit in on a couple of health committee meetings with the director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. I am not comfortable with the lack of what I would call accountability.

Scientists felt that they could run with whatever experiments and experimentation they wanted. I felt they were trying to get ahead of this bill so that they could have those experiments in place. By the time the bill would be passed, they would be able to say that they were already doing certain research and that it was not the place of Parliament to interfere with them.

I would like to support the member for Calgary Southeast's motion that we prohibit embryonic stem cell research. This research of course is very controversial. It divides Canadians, as I have said before. There are no benefits to it that we know of as yet. We really need to focus on adult stem cell research.

My main point is that human life begin at conception when the DNA is put together. It is important that the leaders, the people in this House, consider the value that has. It is important that we take a position that we will not take that apart, kill that life and treat it as a commodity. Instead we will treat it with the uniqueness that it deserves.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Peter Goldring Canadian Alliance Edmonton Centre-East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I believe it is very appropriate that we take the time to wish the men and women of the Canadian navy from the HMCS Iroquois well following the tragic crash into its deck this morning of a Sea King helicopter. I hope they arrive back in Halifax soon to be with their friends and their families. Our wishes and our prayers are with them too.

Defending Canada's interests and freedoms has a toll, the price of peace can be very high. This should remind us all of the increased cost as lives and health are at risk in dated equipment. Today it is a 40 year old Sea King helicopter. Yesterday it was an under armoured and under gunned Sherman tank put up against Tiger tanks in World War II.

Perhaps this bill being discussed today has relevancy to this. Imagine the injured, the wounded, the high toll of World War II and what advances will be made by stem cell research over the next years, and how that could have aided our past generations of wounded from World War II.

I am pleased to speak to Bill C-13 today. It should be noted that we support a number of aspects of the bill. We fully support bans on reproductive and therapeutic cloning, animal human hybrids, sex selection, germ line alteration, the by and selling of embryos and paid surrogacy. We also support, with changes, an agency to regulate the sector.

We oppose human cloning as an affront to human dignity, individuality and rights. We have repeatedly spoken out against human cloning urging the federal government to bring in legislation to stave off the potential threat of cloning research in Canada.

In September we tabled a motion at the health committee calling on the government to immediately ban human reproductive cloning. The Liberals deferred a vote on the motion. The preference was to deal with cloning in a comprehensive reproductive technologies bill. However Motion No. 13 seeks to clarify the bill's current cloning prohibition.

What the bill says is that the health and well-being of children born through assisted human reproduction must be given priority. Human individuality and diversity and the integrity of the human gene must be preserved and protected. We support the recognition that the health and well-being of children born through assisted human reproduction should be given priority.

In fact the health committee came up with a ranking of whose interest should have priority in the decision making around assisted human reproduction an related research: children born through assisted human reproduction; adults participating in assisted human reproduction procedures; and researchers and physicians who conducted assisted human reproduction research.

While the preamble recognizes the priority of assisted human reproduction offspring, other clauses of the bill fail to meet this standard. Children born through donor insemination or from donor eggs are not given the right to know the identity of the biological parents. The bill's preamble does not provide acknowledgement of human dignity or respect for human life.

The bill is intimately connected with the creation of human life and yet there is no overarching recognition of the principle of respect for human life. This is a grave deficiency.

Our minority report recommended that the final legislation clearly recognize the human embryo as human life and that the statutory declaration include the phrase “respect for human life”. We believe that the preamble and the mandate of the proposed agency should be amended to include reference to the principle of respect for human life.

We have several concerns with stem cell research. The first would be that embryonic research is ethically controversial and divides Canadians. Embryonic stem cell research inevitably results in the death of the embryo, early human life. For many Canadians this violates the ethical commitment to respect for human dignity, integrity and life. An incontestable scientific fact is that an embryo is an early human life. Complete DNA of an adult human is present at the embryo stage. Whether that life is owed protection is what is really at issue here.

Embryonic research also constitutes an objectification of human life, where life becomes a tool which can be manipulated and destroyed for other even ethical ends. 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, et cetera. Adult stem cells are easily accessible, are not subject to immune rejection and pose minimal ethical concerns. Embryonic stem cell transplants are subject to immune rejection because they are foreign tissues. Adult stem cells used for transplants are typically taken from one's own body.

Adult stem cells are being used today in the treatment of Parkinson's, leukemia, MS and other conditions. Embryonic stem cells have not been used in the successful treatment of a single person. Research focus should be on this more promising and proven alternative. Our minority report called for a three year prohibition on experiments with human embryos corresponding with the first scheduled review of the bill.

Bill C-13 states that embryonic research can be undertaken if the agency is satisfied that such research is necessary.

During its review of draft legislation, the health committee recommended that such research be permitted only if researchers could demonstrate that no other category of biological material could be used for the purposes of the proposed research.

During the committee's review of Bill C-13, members tried to restore the spirit of this recommendation with an amendment specifying that healing therapies should be the object of such research. No embryonic research should be done for the development of cosmetics or drugs or for providing instruction to assist human reproduction procedures. The committee rejected this amendment and the Speaker rejected it coming forward for the report stage debate.

Bill C-13 specifies that the consent of the donor of human embryos is required in order to use a human embryo for experiments. The bill leaves it to the regulations to define donor. There are two donors to every human embryo, a woman and a man. Both donors, parents, should be required to give written consent for the use of a human embryo, not just one. Motion No. 17, put forward by our party, calls for a complete prohibition on embryonic research.

National Homelessness InitiativeStatements by Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to point out today the importance of the National Homelessness Initiative introduced by the Government of Canada to find local solutions for local needs and problems related to homelessness.

All the major cities are dealing with youth homelessness. Thanks to this initiative, in Laval, the Bureau de consultation jeunesse and Oasis received financial assistance from our government to build a shelter with 10 transitional housing units. This assistance will fund the purchase of a mobile intervention unit to more effectively reach and serve youth living in isolation on the streets.

I am convinced that the purchase of a new vehicle for Oasis and the new transitional housing will greatly improve the quality of life of homeless persons in Laval.

JusticeStatements by Members

February 27th, 2003 / 1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canadians have had enough of the government's lax attitude toward violent crime.

A woman was handed a conditional sentence of two years less a day for killing her partner in 1993, even though crown said that she was likely to reoffend.

Now, 10 years later, she is charged with allegedly attacking her new partner with a hammer.

Earlier this month two street racers were convicted of criminal negligence causing death for killing a pedestrian. One was even caught speeding while prohibited from driving as a condition of bail. Their punishment: two year conditional sentences.

A man who caused brain damage to his own baby gets house arrest.

Child pornographers regularly get house arrest.

A 58 year old man rapes a young girl he gets house arrest.

Abusers who traumatize their victims for life get the equivalent of a time out for punishment.

Any remaining confidence in our justice system was shattered last week when a man got five years for his part in the killing of 329 people with a bomb.

Canadians are not impressed.

National Engineering WeekStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Oak Ridges, ON

Mr. Speaker, National Engineering Week is a national celebration of engineering excellence. This year engineering week will be from March 1 through to March 9.

Without engineers and their ingenious inventions there would not have been the Canada as we know it today. We must inform our youth that engineering is an exciting, fun and rewarding career choice.

The mandate of National Engineering Week is to raise public awareness of the importance of engineering and technology in our daily lives and encourage young people to consider careers in engineering and technology.

National Engineering Week activities give Canadians of all ages a chance to explore, discover and appreciate how engineering, science and technology contribute to our quality i life. The emphasis is on activities for youth that show how math and science can be fun and that demonstrate real life applications of engineering.

When we drive across a bridge, make a telephone call, fly in a plane or use a computer, we experience firsthand the work of engineers.

This is a young person's chance to explore engineering, to consider it as a career and to discover the impact it has on all our lives. Engineers prove every day that anything is possible.

Jeune Chambre de commerce de QuébecStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, last Friday, Quebec City's junior chamber of commerce held its Gala de la jeune personnalité d'affaires, an event attended by the Secretary of State of Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions. This is an occasion for selecting the top finalist from among the eight selected over the year by the governors of the junior chamber of commerce.

At this event, a high point in the year for young entrepreneurs from the Quebec City region, Sylvain Parent-Bédard, CEO of Québécom, won the Jeune personnalité d'affaires de l'année award.

We want to congratulate Mr. Parent-Bédard, as well as point out that youth entrepreneurship is a priority for the Government of Canada. Our objective is to help young Canadians confidently take their place in society.

Congratulations to Sylvain Parent-Bédard.