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.