Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-13 today. It is a very important subject matter and one that is not to be trifled with and one that is not to be decided lightly.
I will begin my analysis of the bill by dividing it into two steps. First is the analysis of the process by which we have arrived here. Second is an analysis of the substance of the bill.
As I proceed with my remarks the House will see that for a variety of reasons I will be unable to support the bill. I want to explain those reasons because, in my view, this is truly a very important bill in respect of the dignity of the human person.
I will begin with the process. I find the process that the bill took objectionable for four particular reasons. I would like to discuss each of those four reasons in some detail.
First, there are two aspects to the bill. Of course I am simplifying what is an extremely complicated bill. Some parts, in my opinion, one cannot understand unless one is a scientist or medical doctor. However, I am a legislator and a lawyer and certainly I can understand the legislative and legal aspects of the bill. One aspect of the bill is that it would prohibit certain activities, in this case cloning, and another is the portion which deals with the regulation of certain aspects of this particular medical practice.
When the bill was first being discussed by the then minister of health, now the Minister of Industry, there was a great deal of discussion, certainly within our caucus, as to the nature of the format that the bill should take. A lot of members of Parliament very strongly urged the minister to, in effect, split the bill so that there would be a separate bill dealing with cloning and another bill dealing with regulated activities.
I can say, with as much certainty as one can have, that if that advice had been taken and a bill had been brought in to prevent cloning simply by itself, leaving all regulated activities to another bill, that bill undoubtedly would have sailed through the House of Commons, likely in record time.
I do not say this simply because I am pulling something out of the air. I want to bring to the attention of the House the act in the United States that did just that. It could not be shorter unless it was a joke. It is really two sentences and a maximum of a couple of pages. Basically, it prohibits human cloning, end of story. It has very few sections but it is very clear. I will get back to the definition of human cloning a little later in my remarks but it defines human cloning very clearly and broadly as follows:
The term 'human cloning' means human asexual reproduction, accomplished by introducing nuclear material from one or more human somatic cells....
I underscore the words “or more”.
It could have been done. It has been done in the United States. There would have been no reason not to do it. One has to ask why it was not done. Why was a bill not presented to ban human cloning and then another bill presented dealing with regulated activities?
My speculation, as a member of Parliament, is that it was done to either entice or coerce. I will let members choose the word they wish to use. Members of Parliament who had great difficulty supporting certain aspects of the regulated part of the bill were reluctant to not vote for the bill because it also bans human cloning. We would be left with a situation where if we were to vote against the bill, because there were parts of it with which we could not agree in terms of the regulated aspect, we would also be voting against banning human cloning. How can we do that?
On the other hand, if I were to vote for it I would be banning human cloning, which is something we all want, but I also would be literally approving parts of the bill with which I cannot live. That was a very difficult thing for me to deal with. Because the bill was proceeded with in that way, for me that was strike one on the issue of process.
The previous minister of health, currently the Minister of Industry, asked a question of the health committee. I am not a member of the health committee but I commend its members for their work on the bill. It was an onerous task over many months. The minister asked the committee to examine a bill prior to second reading and make certain recommendations.
The health committee took that request very seriously and travelled across the country to hear witnesses who had many interesting and important things to say about the bill. The committee debated and basically did what the previous minister of health, now the Minister of Industry, wanted it to do, which was to examine the bill and present a report for the minister's consideration.
Sure enough, that was exactly what it did. The health committee requested a comprehensive government response to that report within 150 days. That is not unusual because if we look at Standing Order 109 it states:
Within 150 days of the presentation of a report from a standing or special committee, the government shall, upon the request of the committee, table a comprehensive response thereto.
It is not “may”. It is not “can”. It is “shall”. It is mandatory under our rules that the government, when requested, shall table a comprehensive response to the committee report in the House of Commons. Did that happen? No, it did not.
If we look at Marleau and Montpetit at page 886, under the subject “Government Response”, the learned authors state:
Speakers have consistently refused to define “comprehensive” in this context, maintaining that the nature of the response must be left to the discretion of the government.
That is fine. I have been in this place 14 years and I have enjoyed every minute of it. In my experience on numerous committees I have never seen a request for a comprehensive response by the government either ignored or, as I see it in this case, toyed with by saying “Our comprehensive response to your considered report is another bill”. That to me is a slap in the face to the work of the health committee and to the people and witnesses who contributed to that work.
Why is a comprehensive government response required? It is because the committee made numerous recommendations. If the government did not like the recommendations it would have been incumbent on the government to explain. Therefore when the committee studied the new bill old ground would not need to be rehashed. The committee would know and perhaps even agree with the government's reasons for not agreeing with some of its recommendations. If the government agreed with some of its recommendations, then there would be no need to talk about those recommendations.
In this case, on the 150th day after the request was made, the government tabled Bill C-13. That is not a comprehensive response by any definition in my opinion as a member of Parliament.
Marleau and Montpetit goes on to state:
The Standing Orders do not provide for any sanction should the government fail to comply with the requirement to present a response.
That is true. There is no sanction in the rules. However if we believe the government, in ignoring what it is supposed to do under our rules it has taken away our ability in committee to enact proper legislation for the country. Therefore the sanction each and every one of us can use is to vote against the bill and send a message.
Because the government did not table a comprehensive response to the committee report, that is, for me, strike two on process.
When Bill C-13 was called, it is my understanding that the present Minister of Health at no time appeared before the health committee to discuss the bill or its predecessor under the subject matter of the bill. I am not talking about an idle question or two when the minister appeared for estimates. I am talking about a minister of the crown appearing before a health committee, presenting the bill after it has been passed at second reading, discussing the issues, encouraging the committee to make whatever amendments it wishes to make or do whatever study it wishes to do, answer responsible questions of committee members and then allow the committee to proceed with its work.
When I have been on committees where legislation has been presented the ministers have appeared. I do not know whether the committee asked the minister to appear. If it did not it should have. It is inconceivable to me that a committee would proceed with a bill without asking a minister to appear to defend the bill. Let us assume the committee did and if it did then the minister did not appear despite being requested to do so. That is wrong.
If the committee did not ask the minister to appear that also is wrong but the minister should have appeared of her own volition. If one believes strongly enough in a bill one should be there to defend the bill in front of the committee. That to me, on process, is strike three.
After considerable study, the bill went through the health committee which made numerous amendments. One presumes that those amendments were thought out, debated, perhaps even hotly debated, a consensus eventually arrived at, and the bill was brought forward to the House with the committee amendments. What happened?
The government immediately filed amendments to negate the amendments that the hard-working committee brought forward and, for all intents and purposes, offered, certainly to me, very little guidance as to why I, with my limited knowledge of the bill, should overturn amendments thoughtfully brought forward by the health committee simply because the bureaucrats in the Department of Health did not like it. That is the wrong way to approach a bill. It has happened numerous times and I am sick and tired of it.
If there is some reasonable reason for a committee amendment to be overturned then let us hear in debate from the government why it should be overturned. We are being accused in the media all the time of being trained seals, getting up and doing what we are told. That is not true and it certainly is not true on this bill.
The government wants to overturn amendments thoughtfully brought forward by the health committee. It has happened with the environment committee and the justice committee, and it should stop. If the government wants to continue doing that then it had better provide reasoned responses as to why, not just a blanket statement saying that this is not required. That is, for me, strike four on process.
To go back to a comprehensive response, if the government had tabled a comprehensive response when I originally talked about it, some of the amendments might not have even come forward because the explanations would have been there. It is a self-defeating thing for the government not to provide a comprehensive response. That is four strikes on process alone, never mind the substance of the bill.
Let us turn to the substance of the bill. It is a complicated bill. I am not a scientist but we are legislators. We are required to pass this act. The bill reminds me, and I will paraphrase, of the example of a camel being the result of a committee being asked to design a horse.
The bill is a combination of clauses drafted by the Department of Justice, by the Department of Health and by scientists. It is a hodgepodge. It is very difficult to understand. As a lawyer, I look to certainty of wording and that is what I want to talk about. Let us look at the actual bill and the words therein. I do not need to go very far into the bill in order to demonstrate what I am talking about. Let us look at the definition of embryo:
“embryo” means a human organism during the first 56 days of its development--
Human organism is a new concept. Notice that it does not say “human being”; it says “human organism”. At least for once in our statutes we are actually acknowledging that upon conception, the product of conception is human. At least that is in the bill. It is human on conception; it is a human organism.
What is the bill going to do? It will allow experimentation on humans. I cannot agree with that. In any event, at least there is a definition. It says that an embryo is a human organism during the first 56 days of its development. What a human organism is after 56 days of development is another matter.
We then go to clause 5, prohibited activities. It says, “No person shall knowingly” and it goes through a number of prohibitions, many of them using the phrase “human being”.
Human being is not defined. Why is human being not defined? Because there is a logical disconnect. It makes sense that there is a logical disconnect because we get into the issue of life and when life begins.
The minister says there is no need to define “human being”, that it is well defined in case law and therefore there is no need to define it in the statute. This is the same minister who, when she was minister of justice and I brought forward a bill to put into statute the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, said to me, “Oh yes, the government supports that concept. It is clearly defined in case law. We do not need to enshrine it in statute because the common law recognizes what marriage is”.
What has happened is that advice that was given to that minister and previous ministers and subsequent ministers by the Department of Justice is wrong. It has been proven wrong. One or two judges on one or two courts can change 150 years of case law just like that. That is exactly what has happened.
All of the lawyers who gave that advice to those justice ministers that it does not need to be put into statute should be fired. Those lawyers should try and make their living on the streets because by giving that kind of advice they would starve to death.
If the government cannot define marriage because it is defined in case law and it will never change, and a year later we are into a huge discussion of what marriage is, can we imagine what the definition of human being is? In fact, there is a definition of human being and it is in the Criminal Code. The definition of a human being is:
A child becomes a human being within the meaning of this act when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother, whether or not it has breathed--
A child is not a human being according to the Criminal Code until the child is right outside its mother.
What does that mean? That means for example, in the bill a person cannot for the purpose of creating a human being make use of any human reproductive material. What if a person does not want to make a human being? What if someone just wants to make a human organism? Then there is no prohibition.
What about clause 5(1)(g):
--transplant a sperm, ovum, embryo or fetus of a non-human life form into a human being;
What if a person does not want to be transplanted into a human being as defined which is coming out of the mother's womb? What if a person wants to transplant it into something just before it comes out of the mother's womb?
There has to be a definition. Words have to be tied up. It is absolutely ridiculous to suggest that the common law will cover the term “human being”.
I did not think I would talk for 20 minutes and I am shocked that I did. However, I think I have given enough reasons that the bill has to be defeated.