April 1, 1998

REF

Jack Ramsay

Reform

Mr. Jack Ramsay

Mr. Speaker, just at the time the member was posing his question he was interrupted. I do not know if I can address his specific question.

My view is that generally speaking our judges, including our JPs and everyone who is called upon to interpret the law and render a decision in a situation such as in the courts must have the support of the people—

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Judges Act
Permalink
?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The member's time has expired.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Judges Act
Permalink
REF

Mike Scott

Reform

Mr. Mike Scott (Skeena, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, I see by the clock that I will not have time to complete my intervention today, but I would like to say a few words about the judicial system in this country. I am going to cater my remarks to the supreme court.

I want to give an example of how our judicial system has a profound influence not only in criminal matters but in civil matters and in civil matters that have widespread consequences to Canadians and, in this particular case, to British Columbians.

I am going to talk about the Delgamuukw case in British Columbia. It was a case where an Indian band, the Gitksan and Wet'suwet'en decided some 13 years ago that it was going to lay legal claim to about 58,000 square kilometres of land in the north central part of the province.

In the initial case that was heard by Justice McEachern, the learned justice heard over 378 days of testimony. This is a judge from the Supreme Court of British Columbia. He heard arguments put forward by the Gitksan and Wet'suwet'en people, by the province of British Columbia and by Canada.

Incidentally, the justice for much of this sitting was actually in Smithers, British Columbia, in my riding, where the Gitksan and Wet'suwet'en people live. This was so that he could better understand them, their claim, the other non-aboriginal people and the other aboriginal people for that matter in the area.

In his reasons for judgment, the learned judge pointed out that he not only sat on the bench in Smithers to hear arguments, but he also took the time in the evenings and on weekends, rented a car and drove around visiting many of the communities. He visited the Gitksan communities and the non-aboriginal communities so that he would understand to the best that he possibly could what the case was all about.

After more than two years, after more than 375 days on the bench, he rendered a decision. The learned justice's decision was overturned after the supreme court heard arguments for a day and a half. This case now throws a cloud of uncertainty over whether British Columbia as a province has the right to assert sovereignty and has control over the crown lands of that province.

This case has profound implications. It is a good thing I have parliamentary immunity because I am going to say something harsh about the court. Nine justices from the supreme court, politically appointed, largely from Quebec and Ontario, decided British Columbia's future. This is unacceptable.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Judges Act
Permalink
?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The hon. member for Skeena will have approximately 16 minutes remaining in his time when the bill comes back to the House again.

It being 5.30 p.m. the House will proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's order paper.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Judges Act
Permalink

The House resumed from February 17 consideration of the motion that Bill C-247, an act to amend the Criminal Code (genetic manipulation), be read the second time and referred to a committee.


BQ

Maurice Dumas

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Maurice Dumas (Argenteuil—Papineau, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I am particularly pleased to speak today in connection with Bill C-247, because my hon. colleague for Drummond is its sponsor, and also because I am a member of the Standing Committee on Health.

Public awareness was suddenly aroused around the world when the news was released that an adult ewe had been cloned by a team in Scotland.

I would like to start with a definition of the word “clone”. The popular definition is that it is an organism, a person, an animal or a plant that is a completely identical or nearly identical copy of another organism in terms of appearance or function.

On the biological level, it refers to a population of organisms, cells or genetically identical DNA molecules resulting from the asexual reproduction of a single organism.

The concerns world-wide about cloning human beings are justified. First a brief historical overview is necessary.

The first government inquiry into the new reproductive technologies was the 1989 Baird Commission. Its mandate was “to look into current and foreseeable progress in science and medicine relating to reproductive techniques, their repercussions on health and research, their moral, social, economic and legal consequences, and their impact on the general public, and to recommend policies and protective measures to be adopted”.

The Baird Commission tabled its report only in November 1993. The main conclusions and recommendations were broadly similar to the foreign studies on this topic.

So the federal government announced in January 1996 the creation of an interim advisory committee with a mandate to put the moratorium into effect, to follow developments in new reproduction technologies and to advise the minister.

So, on June 14, 1996, the federal Minister of Health at the time, David Dingwall, introduced Bill C-47. There was no provision for the application of the Criminal Code.

The federal government's proposed second stage involved amending Bill C-47 to include a regulatory framework for all reproduction and manipulation technologies.

Despite its approval in principle of Bill C-47, the Bloc vigorously opposed the establishment of a new national agency and deplored the fact that the Criminal Code was not applied.

During the hearings of the Standing Committee on Health, witnesses expressed a number of reservations about the content of this bill.

Clearly, at this point in time, there is no justification for cloning human beings, regardless of the process used.

I should mention that one of the clauses in Bill C-47 prohibited human cloning. This clause is found in Bill C-247. It criminalizes human cloning, without prohibiting scientific research in genetics, which may be beneficial at several levels.

Clauses 2 and 3 of this bill also make liable to punishment anyone who deliberately offers to carry out or requests experiments in human cloning.

The Bloc has repeatedly called for government intervention to prevent practices related to new reproduction technologies.

The Bloc Quebecois called for criminalization of the sale of ova, embryos and foetal tissue. In May 1994, the then Minister of Justice stated that the bill was slated for introduction in the fall of 1994. The moratorium followed only in 1995, and Bill C-47, which merely makes the moratorium law, was introduced in June 1996.

It is clear that the use of these technologies challenges our values, because it involves the very definition of the foundations of our society, our descendants. Limits must be set, but what should those limits be? We see that the entire world is concerned by this problem.

In March 1997, the following comment by Dr. Joseph Ayoub appeared in La Presse “France has thus played a role by creating, in 1983, a national advisory committee on ethics in the life sciences and health. It advises on the ethical problems raised by the progress of knowledge in the fields of biology, medicine and health, and publishes recommendations on these topics”.

After 10 years of work, the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe recently approved a draft agreement on human rights and biomedicine. The approved document allows research on in vitro embryos under two conditions: if it is in the interest of their development or if it is related to the diagnosis of serious diseases.

But any creation of embryos for research continues to be prohibited. Now, what remains to be done is to obtain an international consensus on the human genome and human rights from the UNESCO international bioethics committee.

The British parliamentary inquiry on science and technology called for international regulation of cloning, in order to prevent any deviation into eugenics.

As far back as March 1996, the Collège des médecins du Québec launched a commission to examine the practice of medicine in the year 2000. Its mandate was to examine the future prospects of medicine, the changes it will have to face, and the steps to be taken to deal with these new realities in relation to the major ethical issues of the day, which mainly affect the beginning and end of human life.

One of the commission's recommendations to the Collège des médecins was to ensure that human integrity and dignity takes precedence over technical progress. It also recommended that surveillance systems be put into place in order to avoid any deviations, and to create a standing committee on ethical issues.

Obviously, cloning raises a number of ethical and legal problems. Cloning does not seem to be a solution for ensuring the survival of our planet. Consequently, the Bloc Quebecois supports Bill C-247 introduced by the hon. member for Drummond.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink
REF

Garry Breitkreuz

Reform

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton—Melville, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to compliment the hon. member for Drummond for introducing this bill to ban human cloning. It is unfortunate, is it not, that a private member has to be introducing this important and urgent initiative when in fact the government should be making it one of its highest legislative priorities?

How come the government thinks the Judges Act, raising the pay of judges, is more important than this? Give me a break, Mr. Speaker. I cannot see how that can be.

Despite the qualified support and several requests for amendments made by various members during the first hour of debate, I will be voting in favour of this bill.

If an omnibus bill like Bill C-47 which was introduced in the last Parliament is not introduced soon then it will be up to individual members of this House to take legislative action, even if it is in a step by step fashion. We should not wait any longer for the government to implement a ban on human cloning.

Considering the morale and ethical questions involved with each and every aspect of prohibiting and regulating reproductive technologies, I think it may be better to debate each and every issue separately in this House. That is how important this is.

For example, the vast majority would probably support a ban on human cloning, but to prohibit or restrict the use of technology to help an infertile couple conceive a child of their own would probably seem unreasonable to most. The question is where to draw the line. The line is right here before us today: ban human cloning.

During the last hour of debate on February 17, the member for Drummond explained the purpose of her bill and how it would work. I agree with her approach, making human cloning a criminal offence, although I think a lengthy jail term should be a sentencing option for the courts.

Bill C-47, the government bill on reproductive technologies from the last parliament which died on the order paper last year when the election was called, called for a maximum penalty of a $500,000 fine and 10 years' imprisonment.

For everyone's information, here is a list of practices that were prohibited in Bill C-47:

Sex selection for non-medical purposes.

Buying and selling of eggs, sperm and embryos, including their exchange for goods, services or other benefits, but excluding the recovery of expenses incurred in the collection, storage and distribution of sperm, ova and embryos for persons other than a donor.

Germ-line genetic alteration: Manipulation of the genetic material contained within the eggs, sperm or embryo. Any changes to the germ-line which may be passed on to the next generation.

Ectogenesis: Maintaining an embryo in an artificial womb.

The cloning of human embryos.

The creation of animal-human hybrids.

Retrieval of sperm or eggs from cadavers or fetuses for fertilization and implantation, or research involving the maturation of sperm or ova outside the human body.

Commercial pre-conception or surrogacy arrangements.

Transfer of embryos between humans and other species.

The use of human sperm, eggs or embryos for assisted human reproduction procedures or for medical research without the informed consent of the donors.

Research on human embryos later than 14 days after conception.

Creation of embryos for research purposes only.

The offer to provide or offer to pay for prohibited services.

I was impressed when I read the member for Drummond's words “new reproductive technologies raise an extremely serious and worrisome problem for the very future of our society as we know it”. She went on “the use of these technologies challenges our values because it involves the very definition of the foundations of our society, our descendants”.

Her warning about the scientist who said “cloning and reprogramming DNA is the first real step toward taking his place beside God” was particularly alarming for me. When scientists start playing God, everyone ought to be alarmed. Parliamentarians should be doing something about it now.

In November 1993 the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies released its final report. I do not think it was an accident that the report was titled “Proceed with Care”.

The hon. member for Thornhill spoke on behalf of the government during the last hour debate. She informed the House that the Minister of Health was in fact planning to table legislation that would address many of the issues regarding reproductive technologies, including the issue of cloning.

I suggest the government proceed with care and not try to lump issues that have widespread public support with ones that are highly controversial. This is a trick that has been used in the past and we should not tolerate it.

I disagree with her contention that the banning of human cloning should be in health legislation and not in the Criminal Code. Failing to register a firearm, which is regulation of private property, is a Criminal Code offence punishable by up to 10 years in jail. Why cannot something far more serious like cloning of human beings not be in the Criminal Code? This is another example of the misplaced priorities of the government.

I disagree that we should wait for the government to introduce comprehensive legislation. I think we should pass this bill and immediately move amendments to strengthen it as suggested by members during debate.

My hon. colleague from Wanuskewin spoke in favour of this bill. He outlined a number of dangers associated with the cloning of human beings, including unknown health risks, considerable psychological and emotional risks and the moral and ethical dilemmas that would inevitably flow from it.

I suggest that these are dangers our society cannot control by a voluntary moratorium. They are dangers that require a clear and unequivocal statement by Parliament that in Canada human cloning will be a criminal offence. If scientists want to play God, they will have to play it in another country.

As I mentioned, I agree with my hon. friend's position that fines are not a sufficient deterrent to rich multinational companies. Prison terms for owners, officers and directors of these companies will be a deterrent.

It was also mentioned that 19 countries in the European Union have moved to officially ban human cloning. I suggest this is a list to which Canada should be proud to add its name.

I read with interest the comments of the hon. member for Charlotte on this issue. I plan to talk to him to learn more about the prior political experience he had and the discussions in the House in 1989 surrounding the creation of the royal commission new reproductive technologies.

I have noted my reservations about this omnibus bill and others, how members are often forced to accept some bad in order to get something good. Why should this be? Why can the government not just introduce a bill which, with open and honest debate, will eventually gain the support of the majority of the public and the majority of parliamentarians? These omnibus bills should not be brought to Parliament. I think the bill before us today would be supported by the public and by members of the House.

Finally, I wish to comment on the statement made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health in response to this bill.

Rather than issue platitudes to the hon. member who introduced the bill and rather than just make vague promises of some bill the government will be introducing in the future, he should be supporting this bill now.

The government needs to send a clear message that, regardless of the bill to be introduced in the future to deal with a myriad of issues, in Canada human cloning will be a criminal offence right now.

This is the message Canadians want to hear from their government. I encourage the government to support this bill. Further, when it is passed, the government should propose amendments to strengthen it. When this is done, the government should communicate to everyone in Canada that human cloning and playing God is banned in Canada.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink
LIB

Lynn Myers

Liberal

Mr. Lynn Myers (Waterloo—Wellington, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the issue of the criminal law power in prohibiting reproductive and genetic technology such as human cloning because it is very important.

Bill C-247 proposed by the hon. member from Drummond, Quebec proposes an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada to add after section 286 a section that would prohibit genetic manipulation leading to human cloning.

The two practices covered in proposed Bill C-247 were prohibited in Bill C-47 which was tabled in this House in June 1996 and which passed second reading in November 1996.

In March 1997 the subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Health approved the bill with minor technical amendments. Unfortunately the call for the federal election came on April 27 and Bill C-47 died on the order paper.

It is interesting to note that the wording used in Bill C-247 is exactly the same as that used in Bill C-47 pertaining to human cloning. One major difference is that the hon. member proposes Bill C-247 as an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada.

The 1996 proposal by the federal government was for health legislation which relied on the criminal law power to protect Canadians' health and safety and to uphold our common values. This government does not take the use of criminal law power lightly as its means of prohibiting certain uses of technology.

Our Constitution divides jurisdiction over health matters between federal and provincial governments. The federal government has the power to make laws when issues relating to public health and safety are at stake or to maintain peace, order, security and morality.

This legislation lies squarely within the Canadian tradition of using criminal law to protect Canadians' health, safety and values. Most federal health law is based on the use of this criminal law power and the courts have recognized this as a valid exercise of the federal government's authority.

In the case of human reproductive and genetic technologies legislative action by the federal government is not only valid, it is necessary. The federal government has a duty to establish the basic perimeters of public health, safety and morality on which Canadians may rely.

To ensure adequate protection for all Canadians in the area of reproductive and genetic technologies there must be uniformity across the country with respect to what practices are prohibited, what practices are allowed and what safeguards apply. As with all criminal legislation provinces would be free to take as active a role as they choose in prosecuting the offences which were set out in Bill C-47.

Parallel provincial legislation in the field of reproductive and genetic technologies is welcome. Even if several provinces were to enact such legislation this would not diminish the need for a federal law to ensure that no region of Canada becomes a haven for unregulated practice of these technologies. To date no province has comprehensive legislation dealing with reproductive and genetic technologies.

The courts have traditionally recognized the protection of public health and safety and the maintenance of peace, order, security and morality as valid exercises of Parliament's exclusive authority over substantive criminal law. Most federal health legislation relies on the criminal law to protect Canadians' health and safety and to uphold our common societal values, for example the Tobacco Products Control Act, the Narcotics Control Act, the Food and Drugs Act and the Hazardous Products Act.

It is a constitutionally valid exercise of the criminal law power to define a crime not only by defining what acts are prohibited but also by exempting from criminal sanction certain acts when they are not carried out under prescribed conditions.

The government has already recognized the need for some form of regulatory regime for reproductive and genetic technologies, to regulate those practices which are considered acceptable to Canadians. In one respect, the hon. member's bill is admirable. However, Bill C-247 covers only two specific procedures out of the 13 which Bill C-47 would have prohibited and does not address the need for regulation of acceptable practices.

While the hon. member's bill does address one of the major areas of concern with reproductive and genetic technologies, we would like to reiterate that human cloning is indeed only one of the issues. There are many other aspects of equal concern which must be addressed which include sex selection for non-medical purposes, the buying and selling of eggs, sperm and embryos, germ line and genetic alteration, maintaining an embryo in an artificial womb, the creation of animal-human hybrids, the retrieval of sperm or eggs from corpses or fetuses and commercial surrogacy arrangements.

The final report of the royal commission on new reproductive and genetic technologies in November 1993 recommended both prohibitions of certain practices and a regulatory component to the legislation to manage those reproductive and genetic technologies which are considered acceptable.

The hon. member's proposed amendment to the Criminal Code would deny the possibility of regulations which would make certain technologies available to Canadians under certain and carefully monitored standards.

Bill C-47 dealt exclusively with absolute prohibitions but it was always intended that the regulatory component or conditional prohibitions would be added. Indeed much of the support from key stakeholder groups was premised on the understanding that this would be so.

The Minister of Health is sensitive to the concerns of Canadians regarding the need for comprehensive legislation. The minister remains committed to introducing a bill which will accommodate the reasonable concerns that are and have been expressed. The overwhelming response to Bill C-47 from virtually all quarters was for the addition of a regulatory regime to absolute prohibitions to form comprehensive legislation. The proposed additional components outlined in the white paper include the establishment of a regulatory agency and its powers of operation, licensing to permit acceptable practices, information registry and equivalency agreements with the provinces.

These proposals would ensure that acceptable technologies and practices are delivered in an ethical and socially responsible fashion and in a way that solicits the input of all sectors of society concerned with the issues raised by reproductive and genetic technologies.

This government intends to introduce in the near future legislation which will enhance Canadians' well-being by permitting them to make choices about their involvement with reproductive and genetic technologies, secure in the knowledge that their choices do not include any that are unethical or harmful to their health or to that of the children they bear.

It will balance the need to protect the interests of vulnerable women and children with the aspirations of individuals to become parents and the need of the research that will help them attain that goal. It will set the boundaries within which reproductive and genetic technologies can be regulated for the good of all Canadians.

Bill C-247 proposed by the hon. member is likely to draw criticism from many quarters. Canadians have clearly shown us during the consultations following the royal commission's report that there are many issues involved in reproductive and genetic technologies which require control, and not just human cloning.

Health Canada's overriding goal is to protect the health and safety of Canadians. We also seek to ensure the appropriate treatment of human reproductive materials and to protect the dignity and security of all persons, especially women and children.

Canadians have told Health Canada, as they told the royal commission, they want the federal government to act to manage reproductive and genetic technologies in a way that protects those most affected and which reflects our collective values. Canadians want unethical practices prohibited by law, and so does this government.

In an environment such as this Canadians would criticize passage of an amendment to the Criminal Code which merely prohibits human cloning. They have a concern to be answered about the total spectrum of reproductive and genetic technologies, and this government is committed to such legislation.

I believe it is necessary to wait for the introduction of new legislation by this government to encompass all the aspects of reproductive and genetic technologies which we have seen through the consultation process. They are of great concern to all Canadians.

I also believe proposed Bill C-247, an amendment to the Criminal Code, is premature and would be viewed as being heavy handed and failing to address the greater part of concerns of Canadians on this matter.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink
BQ

Maud Debien

Bloc Québécois

Mrs. Maud Debien (Laval East, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, last February, my colleague, the member for Drummond, introduced Bill C-247, an act to amend the Criminal Code (genetic manipulation).

This bill builds on the report tabled by the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies created in March 1989, commonly known as the Baird commission. The primary purpose of this commission was to analyze the impact on our society of genetic manipulation, pre-selection of sex, the phenomenon of surrogate mothers and artificial insemination. This study had long been demanded by a Canadian coalition of feminist groups.

It was another four years, and millions of dollars, before the commission tabled its report, and then only after going through some rough patches, as the House will recall. The government then imposed a voluntary moratorium in July 1995 and subsequently introduced Bill C-47, which died on the Order Paper when the election was called.

That government bill contained an important flaw, however. It did not criminalize human cloning. Today, we therefore find ourselves in a legal vacuum where only the voluntary moratorium applies.

The bill now before us deals with a very important issue, because its purpose is to prohibit human cloning, that is to say, the replication of human beings, in Canada. The chair of the royal commission, Mrs. Baird, also called on the federal government to bring in legislation in this regard. However, since the election, the government has been slow to take action.

It is therefore urgent, and if it is the pleasure of the House to pass this bill, Canada will follow the example of many countries, including the United States, Italy, Norway, Australia and France, which have already passed legislation prohibiting human cloning.

Many international bodies have passed similar resolutions. They include the Council of Europe, the British parliamentary commission on science and technology and UNESCO's Universal Declaration on the Human Genome.

Finally, the World Health Organization has declared that the techniques that produced Dolly the sheep cannot be used on humans.

It is interesting to note that the World Health Organization did not want to prohibit commercial ownership of cloning techniques. It protested only against the use of cloning in human reproduction.

In Quebec, consideration of the subject continued too. The commission set up for the task by the college of physicians proposed respect for the absolute precedence of human integrity and dignity over technical success, especially at the beginning and the end of life.

As you can see, the various experiments at the frontiers of science and life have given rise to a major ethics debate.

Recently, the successful cloning of Dolly the sheep by a group of Scottish researchers has revived the debate. What makes Dolly the sheep such a special case and why has it attracted so much attention?

Dolly is not the result of traditional fertilization involving the combination of the genetic material of two creatures of opposite sex. Rather, Dolly is the result of asexual laboratory reproduction of a single parent. In other words, Dolly was created from a single cell, that of the mother.

We have to admit that, from a purely scientific standpoint, this discovery is quite extraordinary. Professor Charles Thibault, a French specialist in biological reproduction, said that understanding nuclear fission and then fusion meant a better understanding of matter. Mastering cell division meant better understanding the living, in his opinion.

Great scientific discoveries have improved the lives of men and women. They have also enabled us to kill one another. Does the new race to clone mean progress for humanity by separating it into two species—the natural and the reproduced, the real and the false, the weak and the strong? This is what the bill introduced by my colleague from Drummond is attempting to answer.

It has the advantage of making cloning a criminal act, without prohibiting scientific research in genetics, which must also be closely monitored. For some researchers, for instance, animal cloning and its application to human beings is of particular interest to the pharmaceutical companies, needless to say, for the manufacture of drugs, organ transplants, and research into hereditary diseases and cancer.

Animal application of cloning would make it possible to rear perfect animals or to save endangered species. To quote Libération , “the race to clone all species is on. Now it is international, with the British and Americans in the lead, and commercial, of course. What is involved now is improving techniques for fast and efficient transgenic cloning—in order to provide humanized organs and drug-proteins. A major industrial and medical undertaking”.

There is no denying it, successful cloning is now part of our reality. Yet it is opening the door to the cloning of all superior animals, up to and including man. This is where the bill of my hon. colleague for Drummond fits in, and this is where the question arises: are they going to be cloning men, women and children?

According to the French publication Libération , American clinics already have in hand “catalogues of sperm donors and egg donors, with the physical and intellectual characteristics of each , so that a genetic cocktail may be concocted which will come as close as possible to producing the ideal baby”.

The same newspaper also reported the implantation of frozen embryos and the “terrifying image of supermarkets where one would go and choose one's ready-to-wear baby like a frozen hamburger”.

We must not fall into the trap of considering human beings merely based on their genomes. Are we prepared to live in a society in which it would be possible to create armies of identical individuals, for a specific purpose, such as to ensure a stock of livers, hearts or lungs to be transplanted into other individuals born as a result of true fecundation?

The newspaper goes on to say that this would lead to “a society in which the most incredible scenarios would become reality: a dictator duplicates himself ad vitam aeternam, a dead child is reborn in her mother's womb, a woman delivers a baby that is her husband, her father, even herself”, and so on.

We are fascinated by science and technology, by irresistible challenges and incredible achievements. But there is also a human being, with a body and a mind, whose genes are only the foundations.

This major debate has to do with ethics, with the reversal of the natural order, with individual freedom and with values.

While all major discoveries bring about significant benefits, they also present potential dangers. According to the same newspaper, there is already a disturbing split. “The rich already send their children to the best schools. Tomorrow, they will want genetic improvement, better health and more advantages to help their children succeed”. Yet, democratic societies have always used science and technology to try to reduce the perverse effects of these inequalities.

Is this the type of society we want? I do not think so. We must reflect on this. Where do science and medicine stop? Where does the temptation to legitimize a eugenist project begin? It is a fine line.

To adopt this bill is to refuse to cross that line, which is so fine but which can have huge consequences for our own mutation and that of human beings in general.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink
LIB

Steve Mahoney

Liberal

Mr. Steve Mahoney (Mississauga West, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, this is obviously a fascinating and interesting subject.

One of the members of the Bloc said that party is not in support of one of the proposals that was in the government's Bill C-47 which would establish a new national agency. I understand why they would not be in support of a national agency. They are not in support of the national government. They would like to do away with it all. If the bill had included a suggestion that a provincial agency be established perhaps there would have been more acceptance.

It is fascinating. This bill is almost an anomaly. It is a private member's bill based somewhat on the model of a government bill that was introduced in the last parliament. Basically the same government is now in power and is saying that it is prepared to bring forward a government bill that will address more of the issues of concern that are talked about by members opposite. Yet they want to ignore that and go ahead with this particular bill which seems to be a halfway solution to the concern.

The member for Waterloo—Wellington made a very good point that this bill only deals with two issues of concern that were addressed in Bill C-47. It does not go nearly far enough.

There is an opportunity, if members opposite would just have a little patience, to have a government bill which would have substantially more significance. It could go to committee. We need to hear from Canadians, rather than just presume they are going to accept the changes that exist in a bill. The way to do that is to have the Minister of Health, not the Minister of Justice, bring in a full, properly researched bill that would deal with all areas of the selling of sperm, eggs and embryos, and the reproductive processes that are being discovered through science. Let us do our homework on this.

It is interesting. Normally we would have the reverse scenario where opposition members would be demanding that the government bring forward a bill. Instead they are saying we should support this particular bill, even though it does not go far enough. It is just opposition politics.

I have not heard anyone in this place say they support the cloning of human beings. Everyone is basically saying that the member's bill is the right way to go, but it does not go far enough. We think it should go further.

I quite agree with members opposite that the voluntary moratorium is not sufficient. It does not go nearly far enough.

This bill would indeed amend the Criminal Code. That is really the crux of the problem and the concern that we have on this side.

Rather than deal with the merits of the proposed prohibitions in the bill, I want to compare this bill to Bill C-47.

Similar prohibitions were contained in separate legislation, as was mentioned by other members, back in 1996. If it was not for the fact that the election came about that bill likely would be in place today. It was a dramatically more comprehensive bill than the one that is before us.

The Criminal Code contains provisions for general application. They apply to everyone and are aimed at keeping the peace and ensuring individual conduct is not a threat to the maintenance of a civilized society. However, what we are trying to do here is use the Criminal Code in an inappropriate way.

From the perspective that I have outlined, the code is not the appropriate vehicle for the prohibitions component of a comprehensive management regime in the complex area of scientific and medical procedures and research. The proper place, in my submission, is for all of this to be wrapped up and put into a principal piece of legislation that could then go to the health committee. It would then be taken across the country for input, for discussion, and parliament could then enact the bill.

Perhaps some of the amendments I have heard other members talk about should be in the bill. Perhaps there should be a way of addressing those concerns. But by simply passing a half-baked private member's bill that does not go far enough we will lose the opportunity that is before parliament.

The real opportunity here is to set the direction for the moral infrastructure of our society. Do we really want to cross that line that I have heard other members mention? Everyone says no, but let us make sure that no means no, that in this particular case we are indeed dotting the i 's, crossing the t 's and going far enough to ensure that we have covered all areas of the human reproductive system and all areas of scientific study of the human reproductive system.

When separate legislation containing these prohibitions against certain practices related to the new reproductive and genetic technologies was introduced in this place the intention was expressed to introduce further legislation to add to the regulatory controls. I would suggest that is very critical. The bill does not deal with the regulatory controls that I think will be so necessary to make this effective.

Those controls would provide a comprehensive management regime for many years for NRGTs. That made it clear at that time that it was not an appropriate subject for a Criminal Code amendment.

I have to ask hon. members opposite why the push all of a sudden. Is it just because it happens to have wound its way back to the surplus of the legislative agenda that they see fit to push this through? Or, would they not agree that it would be more appropriate to take a step back, to make sure that we are indeed dotting the i 's and crossing the t 's.

I would suggest that this ongoing management regime is a critical issue for the future of all Canadians. A major component of that regime was to be the issuance of licences for acceptable practices when it came to these reproductive technologies.

There are also health and safety issues which were to be prominent in the principles guiding the issuance of those licences. I think all Canadians would understand it is important that the scientific community has an opportunity to have input in a direct way with the parliamentary community through the health committee to deal with the issues of health and safety. It is absolutely critical that takes place. Under the bill that would not occur.

We believe this regulatory structure would also maintain information registries and help surveillance systems on various aspects. The bottom line, from what I can see and what I have said here, it seems clear to me, is that any proposed prohibition would find its proper place in the integrated structure of separate principal legislation sponsored by the government and containing a comprehensive management regime for the NRGTs rather than being put inappropriately in the Criminal Code.

For that reason I will be opposing the bill and hopefully looking forward to the government introducing a bill that we will all be able to support.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink
REF

Grant McNally

Reform

Mr. Grant McNally (Dewdney—Alouette, Ref.)

Madam Speaker, I rise today to address an issue that is part of a much larger body of interrelated questions pertaining to new reproductive technologies.

In examining the question surrounding medically assisted reproductive technologies, we start to see how complex the whole body of issues really is. Questions of human dignity, rights and freedoms, genetic engineering and make-up, in vitro fertilization, consent for medical research, profiting from financial gain of the use of the human body and organ transplants, rights to private life and information, and the need for public debate and consultation are only some of the issues on the table.

As we know many of these issues were touched on and analysed through the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies which reported in November 1993.

My colleague, the hon. member for Drummond, introduced legislation that specifically addresses one aspect of the realm of complex questions, that of cloning and genetic manipulation.

The Liberal government claims that it will introduce its own legislation on reproductive technology, but it has also indicated that the government's legislation will not amend the Criminal Code. In a debate in the House, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health indicated that the government would treat reproductive technologies as a health issue and just a health issue.

However, a consideration of some of the complex issues that I just listed reveals that increasingly the domains of health and medicine, science, law, ethics, safety, human rights and privacy are all interwoven. We cannot easily distinguish how these issues are connected to the realms of business, society and government as the lines blur and the relative roles of the players constantly adapt and change.

There are social, legal, economic and human rights and scientific and medical interests at stake when we start talking about new reproductive technologies. It is naive to think that a clear distinction can be made so that these questions could only be classified as being health related.

Thus we cannot hope to adequately address the risks and concerns related to human cloning without also addressing the need to amend the Criminal Code to explicitly prohibit a practice which cannot be justified by any ethically acceptable motive.

In 1996 the government introduced Bill C-47, the Human Reproductive and Genetic Technologies Act, which did not make practices or techniques an offence under the Criminal Code. Bill C-47 was also to include a regulatory framework on all techniques of reproduction and genetic manipulation.

We have waited long enough for the Liberal government to act. Voluntary co-operation is simply not enough in an area that so drastically affects the life, security and safety of Canadians and the integrity of the value of health and justice that we hold dear.

My colleague, the hon. member for Mississauga West, asked members in opposition to wait. He wants members to wait. I ask him how long he wants Canadians to wait for legislation in this area. Does he want us to wait until after human cloning has begun?

I commend my hon. colleague from Drummond for taking action, for she has seen something that needs to be addressed. She has gone ahead with the bill and has asked other members to support it. She has seen inaction on the government side, and we in opposition are taking action in this area. That is why we are addressing this concern today.

The whole issue of timing is important. How present is the danger and fear about the possibility of cloning humans? In Nature , the scientific journal published the Dolly paper to which we are all now referring, indicated that “cloning humans from adult tissues is likely to be achievable any time from one to ten years from now”. That is why my hon. colleague is bringing the bill forward. There needs to be action on this issue and we do not see any action coming from the government.

While there have been many concerns and risks raised related to the cloning of humans from adult cells, none has been able to offer any ethically acceptable reason for cloning humans. The suggestion that humans might be cloned to provide spare parts for their progenitors has been widely condemned by individuals and groups all around the world.

It is interesting to note the premise of convention considering what we are debating today. The convention that is happening in Europe around this same topic starts from the premise the interests of human beings come before those of science or society.

I conclude by saying that in Canada we take pride in being an international leader in areas of health, safety and quality of human life. It is important that we take action on this issue and set the ethical basis for further biological and medical developments both now and in the future.

Certainly questions of this nature will continue to permeate our social, legal, ethical and medical institutions. It is critical to address the issue now. As we see in the European example, criminal penalties are included as stipulation for state legislation. This same logic should be applied to our own consideration as we face larger issues in bioethics and law.

In its final report the Royal Commission on Reproductive Technologies concluded:

We have judged that certain activities conflict so sharply with the values espoused by Canadians and by this commission and are still potentially harmful to the interests of individuals and of society that they must be prohibited by the federal government under threat of criminal sanction.

The list of activities specifically mentions cloning. It is time that we in Canada follow suit with the initiatives of other members of the international community and explicitly prohibit this practice. That is why I will be supporting the bill and encouraging all other members of the House to do so.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink
LIB

Marlene Jennings

Liberal

Mrs. Marlene Jennings (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, let me begin by saying that I do not support the bill, in case you did not know.

This private member's bill amends the Criminal Code to prohibit the manipulation of a human ovum, zygote or embryo at various stages of the development of a fertilized ovum for the purpose of producing a cloned zygote or embryo. It will also prohibit altering the genetic structure of an ovum, sperm, zygote or embryo if the altered structure is likely to be transmitted to subsequent generations, which is commonly known as germ-line genetic alteration.

These prohibitions come straight out of a Health Canada bill on the new reproductive and genetic technologies, which contained other prohibitions and which died on the Order Paper during the last Parliament.

There has been evidence that cloning of human embryos is technically possible. However, there is no evidence that germ-line genetic alteration is being carried out.

The Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies recommended that cloning of human embryos be illegal. The royal commission did not support the practice of germ-line genetic alteration since it was at odds with the commission's guiding ethical principles.

Before the Health Canada bill was introduced in the last House, a member asked that prohibitions dealing with new reproductive and genetic technologies take the form of amendments to the Criminal Code. She considered that a separate federal statute on new reproductive and genetic technologies would be invasion of the provincial jurisdiction over health.

An official of the health legal services met with this member and explained that the relevant prohibitions were properly the subject of separate federal legislation and that there was no intention to amend the Criminal Code for this purpose. This is still justice's position and that of the government.

In introducing the bill on the new reproductive and genetic technologies, the then Minister of Health indicated it was the government's intention to bring in a second bill setting out a regulatory framework, which would affect the first one, dealing with prohibitions. The purpose was to establish a comprehensive management regime for new reproductive and genetic technologies. However, the second bill was never introduced.

I will not discuss the merits of the proposed prohibitions. I understand that there were similar prohibitions in a separate bill introduced in this House in 1996. The document entitled New Reproductive Technologies: Setting Boundaries, Enhancing Health , published under the authority of the Minister of Health, outlines the government's intentions at the time.

The Criminal Code contains provisions of general application, that is they apply to everyone and are aimed at keeping the peace and ensuring that individual conduct is not a threat to the maintenance of a civilized society. From this perspective the code is not an appropriate vehicle for the prohibition component of a comprehensive management regime in a complex area of scientific and medical procedures and research. The proper place for such prohibitions is in the principal legislation.

When separate legislation containing prohibitions against certain practices related to new reproductive and genetic technologies was introduced in the House, the intention was expressly to introduce further legislation to add the regulatory controls that would provide a comprehensive management regime for new reproductive and genetic technology. That made clear that this was not an appropriate subject for a Criminal Code amendment.

Licensing should be a major part of the management regime for new reproductive technologies—

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink
?

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I must interrupt the hon. member at this time, but when the bill returns to the House, she will have approximately five minutes to conclude her speech if she so desires.

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper .

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink
LIB

Lynn Myers

Liberal

Mr. Lynn Myers (Waterloo—Wellington, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, as the former chairman of the Waterloo Regional Police, I was disturbed by recent reports which suggested that some police officers and prosecutors have backed away from investigating motorcycle members fearing for the safety of their families. I do not know if this is accurate or not. What I do know is that threats, harassment and intimidation have long been used as favourite weapons of bikers.

It is understandable how this can have an impact and a chilling effect on police officers and prosecutors. It is especially understandable because of the pressure it places on their spouses and their children.

There is a lot at stake here. This is not about bikers riding around on their motorcycles. This is about money. This is about big business which is illegal. This is about the sale of illicit drugs.

As a society and as a country we need to ensure that our police officers and our prosecutors can continue to carry out their duties without fear of threats, harassment or intimidation.

I again ask the solicitor general to fully outline what exactly the federal government is doing to protect our police officers and our prosecutors from these kinds of threats, harassment and intimidation by motorcycle gang members. We owe them our full protection.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink
LIB

Nick Discepola

Liberal

Mr. Nick Discepola (Parliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Waterloo—Wellington for his question. I praise him for the interest he has shown in the field of organized crime and protection of Canadian citizens.

The government has done numerous things. In 1996 we implemented the Witness Protection Act. In 1997 we implemented the Criminal Law Improvement Act. The most recent thing we did was implement the anti-gang legislation.

These are tools that we feel have gone a long way to help police attack gang activity and criminal activity. The RCMP as well as all the other law enforcement agencies throughout the country have one goal and that is a unified approach with a national strategy to combat outlaw and motorcycle gangs. However the responsibility and the jurisdiction for enforcement falls with the local authorities.

We consider all threats to the safety of police officers a very serious matter. I can assure the hon. member that all threats, whether made to the police or to a prison guard for example, are investigated fully and acted upon fully.

We need to deal with the problem of motorcycle gangs and more specifically with organized crime in a very organized way. I would like to inform the hon. member that to that end the Ministry of the Solicitor General on April 24, 1998 will be bringing together all law enforcement agencies from across Canada to assist in developing a national strategy against organized crime.

We have done some good work. There is still some work to do.

I want to thank the hon. member again for his question.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink
REF

John Cummins

Reform

Mr. John Cummins (Delta—South Richmond, Ref.)

Madam Speaker, on February 9 I questioned the minister of fisheries on his response to a British Columbia provincial court decision which ruled that aboriginal communal fishing licence regulations were invalid.

In granting me an absolute discharge for participating in a protest fishery that challenged the legality of the minister's regulations, Judge Thomas noted that I had acted in good faith and served notice that the courts of British Columbia will not enforce the minister's program of racially based commercial fisheries.

Judge Thomas' words are clear and unambiguous. The regulations allowing for an aboriginal commercial fishery “have no legal validity and are therefore null and void”. Judge Thomas stated “the fishery was not lawfully open to anyone”.

Once the courts have ruled a set of regulations to be invalid, it is not open to the minister to say the regulations are valid. Yet the minister has done just that. Within an hour of the conclusion of my sentencing hearing, the minister issued a statement saying “I appreciate the views of the judge in this case. However, opinions are opinions. Such opinions are not binding on superior courts of British Columbia”.

The minister stated further that this decision does not suspend or nullify the aboriginal communal fishing licensing regulations. He noted that it does not preclude the department from authorizing aboriginal commercial fishing under the existing regulatory regime.

The minister is right when he says that the decision does not bind the Supreme Court of British Columbia. But it does bind the minister. The Supreme Court of British Columbia can overturn a lower court decision, but the minister of fisheries cannot. That is the rule of law.

It is up to the courts to decide if regulations established by the government are consistent with an authorization given by Parliament. When the court decides that regulations were not authorized by Parliament, it is not open to the minister or the government to ignore the clear and unambiguous words of the court. The government may write regulations, but it does not have the last word on their validity or legality.

Judge Thomas challenged the government on February 6 stating that if it was not happy with his decision, then it must appeal it to a higher court. Judge Thomas concluded his remarks to the court on February 6 with the following admonition. He said “It is, I think, appropriate to note that the rule of law does exist, not just for individuals but also for the government”.

This country and this Parliament is founded on the rule of law. The crown made much of that at my sentencing hearing on February 6.

On February 23, 1998 the minister was quoted in the Hill Times as saying “it would be a strange impression for a minister to give, to break the law”. On March 6, 1998 the minister was quoted in the Globe and Mail as saying “but you have to recognize that everyone has to obey the law, or the law breaks down”.

I challenge the minister to live up to his words, to obey the law and respect the decisions of our courts.

If the minister believes that the judge has erred in law, then he must find a way to take the matter to a higher court for a ruling on the issue. Until that is done, the law in British Columbia is clear. The aboriginal communal fishing licences regulations are invalid and have no legal authority.

It is now time that the minister acknowledged that the government is not exempt from the rule of law. It is now time for the minister to stop using the courts to harass fishermen who protest fisheries regulations already found to be invalid by the courts.

Currently 30 fishermen are before the courts on trumped up charges. Such a flagrant abuse of power smacks of jackboots and the KGB, not the fisheries minister in a democratic society.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink
?

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Order. The time has expired.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink
LIB

Wayne Easter

Liberal

Mr. Wayne Easter (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, the hon. member alleges that the minister is defying the courts and that the policy of pilot sales should be dropped.

DFO is not defying the court. The judge offered opinions, only opinions, on the validity of the aboriginal communal fishing licensing regulations. Those comments were made in obiter, in passing so to speak, and had nothing to do with the case before him, which was the hon. member's prosecution for illegal fishing.

This decision does not cancel the aboriginal fisheries strategy. It does not nullify the aboriginal communal fishing licensing regulations. It does not preclude DFO from authorizing aboriginal commercial fishing, including pilot sales arrangements under the existing regulatory regime.

In short, there is nothing in Judge Thomas' decision that alters the minister's authority to allocate and manage fisheries resources in the interests of all Canadians.

The judge's comments were taken seriously by the minister. He asked for a review of the regulations and the legal basis for pilot sales.

During the week of February 2, 1998, based on expert advice, he concluded that the current regulations provide a sound legal basis for the pilot sales fisheries.

The minister intends to continue with the pilot sales program in 1998. Pursuant to this decision, DFO officials are currently discussing with all affected parties how to refine and make improvements to the fisheries that will be acceptable to all parties in the fishing community.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink
?

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6.39 p.m.)

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink

April 1, 1998