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House of Commons Hansard #53 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was life.

Topics

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, perhaps I could read the answer. It states that the National Energy Board has no documents relating to the ratification of the Kyoto protocol that sets out the benefits, how the targets ought to be reached and its costs to their department.

Normally I would be asking the member to withdraw his motion, instead I would ask that this Motion for the Production of Papers be transferred for debate.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick

Liberal

Claudette Bradshaw LiberalMinister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that Notice of Motion for the Production of Papers No. P-24 be transferred for debate.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

The Speaker

The motion is transferred for debate.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that you be so kind as to call Notice of Motion for the Production of Papers No. P-25 in the name of the hon. member for Vancouver Island North.

Motion No. P-25

That an Order of the House do issue for copies of all documentation, including reports, minutes of meeting, notes, e-mails, advertising, memos and correspondence since January 2002 within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade that relates to the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol that sets out the benefits, how the targets are to be reached and its cost to the department.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, in this case the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade does not have any records that relate to the ratification of the Kyoto protocol that sets out the benefits, how the targets are to be reached and its costs to the department.

Therefore I would normally be asking the member to withdraw this motion but in this case I will ask that it be transferred for debate.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick

Liberal

Claudette Bradshaw LiberalMinister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I ask that Notice of Motion for Production of Papers No. P-25 be transferred for debate.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

The Speaker

The motion is transferred for debate.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all other Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from January 30 consideration of Bill C-13, an act respecting assisted human reproduction, as reported (with amendments) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 5.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I was talking about all the ramifications of these different procedures that we are going through in order to enhance the reproductive ability of people who are supposed to be looking for help because they cannot have children on their own. There are many problems involved with this.

In conclusion I would like to say that it is very important that we do the right thing, that we pay very careful attention to the motions in this particular group and that we support them because they are worthy of that.

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3:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deborah Grey Canadian Alliance Edmonton North, AB

Madam Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to speak in the debate. This is a huge issue that has gone on for many years.

I would like to pay tribute to a former colleague, Preston Manning, who stayed in the House longer than he had actually planned so that he could participate in the debate in committee and in the research that was done. The House owes him a debt of gratitude. I would also like to pay tribute to my present colleague from Yellowhead, our senior health critic, who has done an amazing amount of research.

Not one of us in the House of Commons is an expert in this field. I know some members have more training than others and some have done more research than others, but I do not claim to be an expert at all in this field. However as legislators we need to be wary of what it is we are passing and what the long term ramifications will be for families, for children and for research over the next several years.

The debate would not have happened 10 or 15 years ago because we simply did not have the mechanisms and the research available to us. Interestingly enough, I find myself participating in the debate although I am not an expert on the issue and do not make any bones about that.

When I think of technology from when I was first elected in 1989 until the present, it is amazing how, because of science and technology, we are even having this debate. I watched the royal commission on reproductive technologies for some years.

Therefore, as we look at this we need to think about the positive attributes of Bill C-13. We in the Canadian Alliance share some concerns as I am sure members of the government do as well. We need to come up with the best possible legislation that will provide the best possible situation for researchers and for communicators, because this is such a huge field, as well as for adults who want to start a family but are unable to do so. Bill C-13 would affect not only families but all kinds of people right across the spectrum in our society.

When the bill was introduced I was relieved to see that cloning would be completely banned and prohibited. I was a little concerned about it beforehand because I was not sure where it was going. It is easy for people to say that research and technology is available so society might just as well move in that direction but I think that would have been a grave mistake. I believe in the sanctity of life from the moment of conception through to natural death. For some government to say that cloning would be allowed would be a very dangerous move.

Therefore, when the actual legislation came out I was grateful to see that cloning would not be legal. It will be interesting to see what the upshot and the ramifications of that will be on some of the groups that have claimed to have cloned a human being.

I think about what it is that we actually want to accomplish with the bill. In an all candidates forum during an election campaign if one of the voting public asked what it was we were attempting to do with the legislation I would be interested to hear what government members would have to say about that.

By introducing Bill C-13 we are attempting to accommodate what and whom? We are interested in accomplishing what? These are huge questions. When we see legislation like this that will affect real people, I think we need to be able to answer those basic questions. I am not sure I have heard an answer to those questions.

We should be saying that we are not sure what all the bill would accomplish but that some of the positive aspects of the bill are that we would be helping families who are having difficulty bearing children. We would see people with real illnesses, many of whom have been mentioned already, such as people with MS and Parkinson's. I recently met with some people with juvenile diabetes. The bill could contain practical measures that would solve some of these problems.

Of course the debate rages on about whether stem cell research with adult stem cells would be better, but with the remarkable technology and research we have these days I think we can see that there are some amazing accomplishments happening regarding both. I suspect that the debate will carry on and rage regarding stem cell versus adult stem cell research, but we need to celebrate that it is going on at all because, as I said earlier, we would not even have had this debate when I was first elected here 14 years ago.

When I think about the bill and some of the things it is going to accomplish, I must say I am concerned that the preamble of the bill does not provide an acknowledgement of human dignity or respect for human life. It seems to me that if we are going to build a foundation for all these other things, we need to have a rock solid, firm foundation about what it is that life is all about anyway. I think this would be very beneficial in the preamble of the bill, for everyone, regardless of people's feelings about it. We are not going to go off into the abortion debate about when life actually starts, but it surely starts at some time before birth. Just a general statement about the dignity of human life would be a very smart thing to have in the preamble.

I also mentioned this earlier. It is not a surprise to anyone, or a secret, and I am not ashamed to say it. I do believe in the sanctity of life from the moment of conception through natural death. That stems from my deep regard for life as well as my most deeply held religious beliefs. I think we need to celebrate how important this is, not just for this research to go on, but for families, for instance, for a couple who wants children but is simply not able to bear children. There are not just these kinds of issues in reproductive technologies. There is even the simple option of adoption. My younger brother Shaun is adopted and I cannot imagine what our lives and our family would be like without him.

These are possibilities for people. If we are looking at it from the family aspect, it is important for people to be able to celebrate human life. I am very grateful to somebody somewhere for giving birth to my brother Shaun. I do not know who she was and I am not sure about her mate, but I do know that he is alive and that because that human life was respected before he was born and when he was born, I have a kid brother who is now 46 years old and I am very grateful that he is a part of our family.

These are the real life emotional issues with which we have to deal when we are looking at this particular legislation. The government certainly would do well to acknowledge the dignity of human life in its preamble.

When we look at some of the things that we are grappling with in terms of genome research, in terms of how we actually write up a bill like this, I think we can see that many people have put excellent things on the table. There are many amendments coming from the opposition side. There are many amendments coming from the government side as well. Again I would caution all sides of the House to look at them on their merits and probably not pay too much attention to which political party they come from. People should take them on merit alone and define what it is we are trying to come up with, because when we bring in legislation it is going to be pretty long term. Not only is this historic, but it is leading the way for future generations as well as leading the way in what will happen with technology. We have seen such monumental steps taken in technology in the last few years, and it probably is going to continue at a pretty exponential rate.

When we put these guidelines and this legislation in place, I know how important it will be to make sure that we are on the right track. Celebrating families and human life is surely what has to be the firm and solid basic foundation of this piece of legislation. It seems to me that if we get that right, then everything else flowing out of it also will be solid and firm for future generations as we continue to work with this legislation.

Let us make it the very best we can right now. Let us get it right now so that when people come along after us they will at least say that we did something right when we brought in the legislation.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. When we were talking about Group No. 5 of Bill C-13, the Speaker interrupted me because we had to proceed to oral question period. If I am not mistaken, I had six or seven minutes remaining to finish my speech.

I was unable to do so within the timeline projected in the standing orders, but I think that, given the spirit of collegiality that reigns in this House, and if you were to seek it, we could obtain consent for me to continue my still much anticipated speech.

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3:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Does the hon. member have consent of the House to finish his speech?

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3:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yes.

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3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleagues and the government. Clearly, anything is possible with good faith, and the parliamentary secretary is not the least charming member of this House.

I think that it is worth repeating that Group No. 5 of Bill C-13 is very important for parliamentarians. First, Bill C-13 is important in and of itself. We can, perhaps, remind people listening that the genesis of Bill C-13 has been fraught with difficulties; since the Baird commission tabled its report, 10 years ago, it has taken quite a while to get to the legislative stage.

Understandably, it was not easy to legislate reproductive technologies. These technologies must be carefully considered, because one in five couples in Canada experiences some form of infertility. It is clear that legislators, in proposing solutions, must come up with the right ones.

One can ask why the federal government, which is not, in principle, responsible for programs related to health and social services, intervened with regard to reproductive technologies. I understand that the federal government did so under its authority set out in subsection 91(27) of the Criminal Code prohibiting certain practices.

Furthermore, if there is an aspect of this bill on which the House is unanimous, it is that of having a certain number of practices prohibited.

On this point, the Bloc Quebecois was obviously quite comfortable. Witnesses—the parliamentary secretary will remember—came to tell the committee that we should have had fines only and summary convictions.

I think that this would have been a bit irresponsible, given the potential offences and the stakes. Imagine if, in a federal clinic or private research lab, people conducted experiments in the absence of a research protocol that had been approved by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, for example, and there were experiments in reproductive or therapeutic cloning. What kind of situation would we find ourselves in then?

All this to say that it was up to legislators to establish a link with criminal law. We have done so by prohibiting some 13 practices, including, of course, cloning for reproductive and therapeutic purposes, the creation of chimeras, and conserving an in vitro embryo outside the body of a woman for more than 14 days. The clause contains approximately 13 practices that were agreed upon, as the member for Charlevoix knows.

That said, we were somewhat saddened, even hurt to see that the federal government took advantage of subsection 91(27) of the Criminal Code to establish an assisted human reproduction agency.

I would like to draw the attention of the Minister of Labour, who seems very taken by this debate, to the fact that the regulatory agency may not have been the solution. In fact, the regulatory agency will create extremely important regulations that will interfere with existing practices in the areas of health and social services.

Allow me to provide an example for my good friend, the Minister of Labour: the preservation of sperm. Everyone knows what sperm is. There is not one person in the House who has not had some contact with sperm. Even our friends in the Canadian Alliance know about sperm, even the purest of them know what sperm is.

The issue of sperm preservation is one that is hotly debated. And it is already covered by existing regulations. Sperm cannot be donated any way, anywhere, and in any condition, without any regard for its preservation. Are we to believe that the Government of Quebec, the excellent government led by the Parti Quebecois, would have left an issue as sensitive as this one unregulated?

Of course not. There are regulations on preserving sperm and embryos. Even the practices of health care professionals are regulated. That is why, not so long ago, the National Assembly amended section 112 of the Act respecting health services and social services.

We are in an unfortunate position with regard to the government's wish to establish a regulatory agency. This agency will receive $10 million per year and will subject health professionals, at least those in Quebec—I am less familiar with the situation in Ontario and the other provinces—to two sets of regulations.

Another extremely important issue has to do with payment for surrogacy. The Civil Code has very clear provisions on this. Motherhood is an altruistic act. When a woman decides to get pregnant and to bring children into the world, it is certainly not for commercial reasons. No one wants to live in a society where children are bought and sold.

The Chair is indicating that my time is up. Time goes quickly when one is among friends. I will finish during the debate on motions in Group No. 6.

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4 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak about embryonic stem cells and how we should protect embryos because we are talking about protecting the children of this country.

I must say that the argument for the use of embryonic stem cells for research, ESCR, is based on three serious misunderstandings. First, the idea that the fundamental principles of ethics are appropriately based on a consensus of interested persons who express their opinions in regard to moral choices rather than on the divine law is understood by human reason and is given in Revelation.

Second, there is a failure to realize that a human being, innocent and possessing the inherent right to be protected and not killed or harmed in any way, comes into existence at the moment of fertilization of a human ovary by a human sperm. This fact had been denied by those who promote ESCR when they define the beginning of life at implantation rather than fertilization, which is a minimum of seven days. That human life begins at fertilization is attested to in current standard world textbooks and medical dictionaries. It is there; it is a proven fact.

Third, the misrepresentation of scientific and medical facts in regard to the practicality, therapeutic promise, and results in the dangers to both health and life of ESCR in comparison with adult stem cell research. Those are three misunderstandings.

There is a difference between embryonic stem cell research and adult stem cell research. We are not opposed to the adult stem cell research, but we are certainly opposed to taking a little baby out of the womb, using it and killing it. There is no way this should be happening.

When I look around the House of Commons and see all these young people coming up on the Hill, I ask myself, would we have harmed any one of them? Would any one of us have harmed them? No, we would not, but if we allow Bill C-13 to pass we would be harming the future of our country and the young people out there, God love them, who need to be protected and need some voices.

The case against embryonic stem cell research is that a human embryo is a human being. The fact that the one cell human is a member of the human species, a human being, has been established since the 1880s and is accepted by embryological science today. The retrieval of embryonic stem cells from the human embryo kills the embryo. Since the embryo is an innocent human being and has the inherent right not to be killed or harmed in any way, it is not morally acceptable to obtain to stem cells from embryos.

We in the House of Commons are here to protect the young. We are here to protect all the people in Canada from coast to coast. However, we would not be protecting anyone if we were to allow this to happen. This is a step in the wrong direction.

There are problems and they have been spelled out by Dr. Peter Andrews of the University of Sheffield, England, who said, “Simply keeping human embryonic stem cells alive can be a challenge”. Doug Melton, a Harvard University researcher, has said, “In my view (human embryonic stem cells) would degrade with time”.

Human embryonic stem cells have never been used successfully at any time in clinical trials. They have a lacklustre success in combating animal models of disease and carry significant risk, including immune rejection and tumour formation.

This is a matter that concerns every member of the House. I do not know of any member in the House who would want to kill a child. I do not know of anyone. However, this is exactly what we are talking about when we talk about embryonic stem cell research.

We are in favour of adult stem cell research. Adult stem cells have been used in many clinical trials with great success, when it comes to multiple sclerosis, severe combined immunodeficiency, Crohn's disease, cancer and others. As far as embryonic stem cell research and human cloning, we are totally, completely opposed to it.

There are two types of cloning: reproductive and therapeutic. The cloning process is the same in both types, only the intended use of the manufactured embryo is different. In the one case, reproductive cloning, the embryo is intended to be implanted and to live. In the other, therapeutic cloning, the embryo is designed to be killed. The process of producing the embryo, somatic cell nuclear transfer, is the same no matter what use is made of the embryo.

There are great problems with the bill. We have so many people coming forward with concerns and I know many of our colleagues have said that as well.

Motion No. 82 seeks to amend clause 40 to require research applicants who wish to use surplus embryos to do research on embryonic stem cells to provide reasons why they cannot use stem cells from other sources. Non-embryonic stem cells are readily available and used extensively in research with substantial success. If a non-embryonic stem cell can achieve the same research objectives then embryonic stem cells are not necessary and the application should be denied.

Motion No. 83 would add a new subclause in clause 40 to the effect that if there were insufficient surplus embryos to sustain meaningful research then no further licences should be issued for embryonic stem cell research. Since only about one in one hundred embryos can produce stem cells which meet the quality requirements of researchers it would be totally inappropriate to destroy so many when they could be made available for adoption by infertile couples.

There are so many people today who want to adopt children, who want to look after young people, and give them the foundation for their future and the future of Canada. However that opportunity would not be there if we were to allow embryonic stem cell research to take place.

It bothers me when I think about all the little children who I used to work with through the school system. I look at them today and wonder, would we have hurt any one of those children? Would we have killed those children? No, we would not and I cannot think of any members in the House, if they understand what embryonic stem cell research means, that would vote in favour of the motion without the amendments that are being put forward by our people.

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4:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Diane Ablonczy Canadian Alliance Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Madam Speaker, it may be helpful for people watching the debate to mention again that the bill we are debating is entitled “an act respecting assisted human reproduction”. The bill seeks to regulate the use of embryos and assisted human reproduction in a way that best meets the needs and wishes of our society.

Canada is probably one of the last first world countries to put regulations into place respecting these important matters. We applaud the government's efforts in this regard.

We support a number of provisions of the bill. We support the bans on cloning, chimeras, animal-human hybrids, sex selection, germ line alteration, buying and selling of embryos, and paid surrogacy.

We also support the concept of an agency to regulate this whole sector of assisted human reproduction, although we believe that the government's approach to setting up this agency is flawed in some respects.

Today we are debating the amendments in Group No. 5. These are amendments to the bill that are roughly grouped together because they deal with the same subject matter. All of the amendments in this group have been put forward by the Liberal member for Mississauga South. I support and applaud each and every one of the amendments that the member has put forward.

I think it is important in the House that we look at what is best for Canada, not which party puts the ideas forward. I am sometimes happy to support amendments and ideas that come from the Liberal side, even though I am on the official opposition side.

There are three issues in the bill that we believe have not been well handled by the government. The first issue is the matter of the regulatory agency. When the agency is regulating such an important area we believe it should be fully accountable and transparent. The health committee also agreed that the agency should be fully accountable and transparent when it reported on the bill after extensive study and hearing from many witnesses.

However, the minister changed the provisions of the bill as they were originally set out. The minister now says that instead of the regulatory agency reporting directly to Parliament and to Canadians, that report would be filtered through the minister.

It is somewhat ironic that I speak on a day when a minister of the crown stands indicted by members of the opposition for failing to fully and fairly inform them of important information that he had in his hands. On this same day we now have another minister saying to trust him to give Canadians important information, rather than letting an agency report directly. We simply cannot accept that. We believe it is very important that the agency itself directly report to Parliament and to Canadians.

The second issue is with respect to the treatment of embryos. This is such an important debate and, of course, as has been heard, there are a range of opinions about this.

The Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies carried out an exhaustive study. One of its members, Suzanne Scorsone, said:

The human embryo is a human individual with a complete personal genome, and should be a subject of research only for its own benefit....You and I were all embryos once. This is not an abortion question. When an embryo is not physically inside a woman, there is no possible conflict between that embryo and the life situation of anyone else. There are many across the spectrum on the abortion question who see the embryo as a human reality, and hold that to destroy it or utilize it as industrial raw materials is damaging and dehumanizing, not only to that embryo but to all human society.

Once again we debate today, in the context of an even hotter debate in some ways, whether we should participate in a coalition of nations determined to stop, what many consider to be a strong danger to ourselves, our country, our communities and our families, an individual who has been shown to be a rogue dictator and who is believed to have, and there is much evidence of this, weapons of mass destruction.

People who oppose intervention against Saddam Hussein say that we cannot do this because it would put innocent life at risk. However often these same individuals do not strongly support the concept that human life is extremely important, that respect for human life and upholding the dignity of human life from the time of creation of human life in the embryo is important.

It is critical that we uphold in all respects a careful and anxious concern for preserving and protecting the dignity and the sanctity of human life. Therefore when we use embryos, we must do so in a way that promotes societal values.

With respect to the use of embryos for medical research, it is interesting that such research can easily be carried out by the use of adult stem cells. In fact these are a safe and proven alternative and in many ways are preferable to the use of embryos. If I have a disease, my adult stem cells, which are available in my skin or from other parts of my body, would not be subject to immune rejection if they were used in a way which research demonstrates would help deal with a medical condition I might have. Adult stem cells are being used today in the treatment of several important diseases such as Parkinson's, leukemia, multiple sclerosis and others. Embryonic stem cells are not being used in any successful treatment.

Even though we want to ensure that we do everything we can to address serious medical conditions, there are many arguments that embryos and the human life in them can be protected and we can also do what is necessary to make progress in the treatment of some serious diseases.

That is the basis upon which we should support legislation. Embryos should not be treated as disposable industrial material. Many people agree with that. I believe this Parliament should uphold that principle.

Parliament also should uphold the principle that children who come about because of assisted human reproduction should have the widest possible access to information about the people who were behind their creation so they have a sense of belonging, of roots and of some perspective about their place in the world.

Those are the three issues we believe are important. Once again, I thank the member for Mississauga South who brought forward these amendments, all of which I support, and I hope the legislation will be improved by such measures.

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4:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Canadian Alliance Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Madam Speaker, I too would like to start by giving my support to the amendments proposed by my colleague from Mississauga.

I want to talk generally about Bill C-13, the assisted human reproduction act and begin by saying that there is always an important ethical question inherent in any discussion around embryonic research.

Embryonic stem cell research inevitably results in the question that was raised earlier by our colleague from St. John's, that being the death of the embryo, early human life. For many Canadians, this violates the ethical commitment to respect human dignity and it is a hard question for many people in relation to this bill.

It is an incontestable scientific fact that an embryo is an early human life. It has the complete DNA of an adult. The DNA is present at the embryo stage. Whether that life is owed protection is really at issue. Other members made the argument that life should be protected, and I would agree with that. That is one of my great concerns with the bill. While the bill attempts to regulate human reproduction, it raises many questions of this ethical nature by members on all sides of the House.

For that reason, many of my colleagues have suggested in earlier speeches that we focus on adult stem cell research instead. In doing so we would take away the divisive nature of the embryonic stem cell research debate altogether.

Adult stem cells are a safe and proven alternative to embryonic stem cells. Sources of adult stem cells are in the umbilical cord, skin tissue, bone tissue and many others. We recently have seen some companies develop the ability to preserve the umbilical cord should it be needed in the future, not only for that baby but also for any other family member who might be in need of stem cells. That is a resourceful answer to this question as well, one that should be explored and expanded upon.

Adult stem cells are easily accessible and they are not subject to immune rejection if they are the individual's own stem cells. Embryonic stem cell transplants are subject to immune rejection because they are foreign tissues while one's own adult stem cells, which are used in different therapies, are not subjected to the same rejection question.

As my colleague for Calgary—Nose Hill just noted, adult stem cells are being used today in the treatment of Parkinson's, leukemia, MS and other conditions.

On a personal note, our own son is battling leukemia right now and has been for a number of years. I know my colleagues in the House have been very supportive of that. I thank them for their words of encouragement and thoughtful comments and prayers. I also thank my constituents and my board at home. Our son will be undergoing a transplant very soon so this is a question that is of utmost importance to me personally. He will be receiving transplant from another donor. He will be receiving adult stem cells.

Medical technology has taken us a long way from where we once were and leads us to all kinds of promise. However we need to frame these important questions, ones that seek to put in context those ethical questions I raised earlier. If we do focus on adult stem cell research, we alleviate a lot of those questions and concerns individuals have about issues of life which have been raised and will continue to be raised.

I know my colleague from Vancouver Island mentioned earlier, and I am loosely paraphrasing, the ability to patent different technologies with embryonic stem cell and that ability to patent them was not easy to do. Thereby the whole issue of profit in developing medical technologies with stem cells becomes a driving force behind whether we pursue adult stem cell research or embryonic stem cell research. That should not be the question, a profit driven question, that leads our medical researchers down one path over another. The adult stem cell path is one that satisfies the ethical question and provides hope for many people in treating many diseases, and in the whole area of human reproduction as well.

I would urge the government, in strong terms, to focus on that path in pursing Bill C-13.

As my colleague noted, we are one of the last countries to address this question. It certainly should have been addressed much sooner. Individuals have been calling for this for many years. We are behind because of the low priority the government has put on this topic.

We should examine the bill in detail. We have pointed out the considerable problems we have with the bill, some which have been addressed through amendments. Upcoming amendments will be talked about in Group No. 6 in the next part of the debate.

Before supporting the bill, we should ask the right the questions. In asking the right questions, we must ensure that we get a bill that puts us on the right path and does not unlock doors about which we have not thought. When a bill is before us in the House, it is incumbent upon us to ask hard questions and to get it right, particularly in such sensitive area as embryonic stem cell research and assisted human reproduction. If we do not get it right now, we know the process will be long and convoluted to remedy it. We need to get it right the first time.

We are generally not supportive of the bill because there are many questions that remain unanswered. If the bill is passed in its current form, down the road it will open all kinds of unlocked doors in terms of ethical questions and in terms of putting us on the right footing.

I would encourage all members to look closely at the bill. I urge them to tell the government that it needs to put in place a framework that focuses on adult stem cell research, not embryonic stem cell research.

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4:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance Lakeland, AB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak on Group No. 5 motions which, if passed, will amend Bill C-13.

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4:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have heard my hon. colleague speak many times before and I know that what he has to say is extremely interesting. I think it appropriate that there be a proper audience of government members present for this speech so they can hear his good words. Therefore, I would ask that you call quorum.

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4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The fact is all parties are absent and there is no quorum. Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

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4:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

We have quorum. Resuming debate, the hon. member for Lakeland.

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4:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance Lakeland, AB

Madam Speaker, as I said when I started my presentation just a few minutes ago, I am happy to once again be speaking to Bill C-13 and specifically to the Group No. 5 amendments.

It is interesting that all of the amendments in this group are from a member of the governing party. He was very dissatisfied with much of what was and was not in the legislation when it came before the House. He did not feel that it accurately reflected what the committee said in some cases, and he felt that it just was not suitable legislation to deal with such a sensitive, serious and important issue. Because of that, the member brought forth these amendments and I believe all of them will be supported by most, possibly all, Alliance members. These amendments are important to producing better legislation than that which the government has tabled.

It is important for people to take a careful look at what Bill C-13 really is about. It is of course, in very basic terms, about human reproductive technology. It is, as I have said before in presentations, an issue which carries with it some very controversial matters, at least in the way it has been presented to the House.

One of those matters, which I spoke to last time, is whether stem cell research should be allowed immediately on embryonic stem cells as well as adult stem cells. What I said in my presentation last time is that so far, against all predictions, the best results in terms of stem cell research have come in the area of adult stem cell research.

The research has not been focused on adult stem cell research for long. It has been focused for much longer on embryonic stem cell research and, quite frankly, the corporations involved in doing the research fully expected the best results to come from embryonic stem cells. They felt that strongly enough that they put their money into embryonic stem cell research, but reality has shown something entirely different. First of all, it has shown that research on embryonic stem cells has not been productive. There is not one cure or effective treatment to date coming from research done on embryonic stem cells. I am sure that some of the corporations that were involved are extremely disappointed. Of course they are going to continue to push the issue because if they put millions and even billions of dollars into embryonic stem cell research, then they certainly are going to want results to come from that research.

We have seen a much newer type of research on adult stem cells being far more effective. Just over the few months that it has been concentrated on, we already have had some incredible results. We already have found effective treatments in some areas and some things that are very close to cures in other areas, and I think it is really exciting.

I want everyone to know that our party fully supports stem cell research. We think there is an almost unimaginable potential for dealing with some of the most serious diseases and problems that Canadians face and that in fact people around the world face. It is exciting. Anybody who is really interested in science, who has a scientific approach to things and likes to let their mind go sometimes and imagine what can be done, has to be excited about stem cell research, not only about the potential but about how already after such a short time of research the results from adult stem cell research are just remarkable.

It is exciting and I think Canadians should expect that legislation which regulates stem cell research would in no way inhibit that research which is most likely to bring those exciting results.

Our party also says, in fact, that we should not allow research on embryonic stem cells to continue until we can be quite certain that adult stem cell research will not bring about the cures being sought. One of the main reasons we have said to stay away from the controversial issue of using embryonic stem cells is the whole issue of pro-life and pro-choice. This is one of the most divisive issues in the country. What we say is let us not make this legislation something that brings that type of division to the country or that exacerbates that division. Why do we need that? I do not think we do.

Let us give it three years and look at the results from adult stem cell research. So far there have not been exciting results from embryonic stem cell research. In fact, we have seen some huge problems with embryonic stem cell research. It has been found that embryonic stem cells are too unpredictable and during experimentation brain tumours have been produced in mice. There is just too much instability in this. I do not think we would want to try such uncertain cures on humans until such a time that they are well proven. In the meantime, with all the exciting results coming from adult stem cell research we should go full bore with that. I believe that in three years we will probably find that this is where the research should be focused.

My party has talked about some of the problems we have with the bill but there are things we support in the bill as well. It is important to make it very clear that we fully support the bans on reproductive or therapeutic cloning, chimeras, animal-human hybrids, sex selection, germ line alteration, buying and selling of embryos, and paid surrogacy.

We also support having an agency to regulate the sector, although we want changes to that agency. From what I have seen and heard, everyone in the House supports the agency and it is only a matter of how we think it should operate. That can be extremely important. We have to get it right when setting up this agency. There are some amendments to the legislation that deal with this.

We do have concerns about human embryonic research and I have talked about the controversy this causes as well as its instability. Last time, I talked about some of the remarkable and exciting cures that have been found through adult stem cell research.

We also have concerns about the regulatory agency. I will mention a few of the highlights. The bill would create the assisted human reproduction agency of Canada which would issue licences for controlled activities, collect health reporting information to advise the minister, and designate inspectors for the enforcement of the act, which I think we all feel is important. The board of directors would be appointed by the governor in council with a membership that reflects “a range of backgrounds and disciplines relevant to the Agency's objectives”.

One of the highlights of the regulatory agency, which was amended at committee, is that it would require board members to have no financial interests in any business “regulated or controlled” by the act. The health minister is now trying to undo these conflict of interest provisions. We certainly do have a problem with that, as I think most members of committee do who dealt with this issue in depth. When we are looking at this regulatory agency, we should not see the health minister, who is the minister responsible, entirely overruling without any appropriate explanation the good work the committee did. Yet that is what we have seen.

When it comes to this agency we have to undo the harm being done by the minister. We have to respect the committee in that regard. We have to deal with some of these important issues and I will be speaking about some of them later.