STANDING COMMITTEE ON HEALTH
COMITÉ PERMANENT DE LA SANTÉ
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Thursday, May 3, 2001
The Chair (Ms. Bonnie Brown (Oakville, Lib.)):
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
I'd like to call this meeting to order.
This is the
thirteenth meeting of the Standing Committee on Health.
This morning we are here to welcome the minister.
Before we begin, I'd like to ask the media to please
leave, because they're distracting us. We have to think
carefully about this new territory we're going to
explore together. Thank you very much, ladies and
gentlemen of the press.
Now we'll ask the minister to begin his presentation.
Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Health): Thank
you, Madam Chair. Good morning to you and good morning
to my colleagues.
Madam Chair, I believe this day is a milestone on
a journey that will bring us to the point where Canada
will enact measures to govern assisted human
reproduction and related research activities.
I am today presenting to you, my colleagues in
Parliament, draft legislation that we in government
believe is the best approach to these complex issues;
best for women and men who use advancements in
fertility treatments to build their families; best for
children born of assisted human reproduction, who will
want and need access to information about their medical
histories; and best for Canadians who suffer from
illness or crippling injuries and may some day benefit
from the exciting potential of research.
Madam Chair, today I am presenting to you draft legislation
which will guide us in a sector that is both promising and full
of challenges. I would ask that the committee examine this
legislative framework with Canadians.
By defining what Canadians will and will not accept in the
area of assisted reproduction, this draft legislation sets out
some guidelines for a complicated scientific and ethical
The work we are doing builds on important
contributions made over the years past: the Royal
Commission on New Reproductive Technologies, which was so
ably chaired by Dr. Patricia Baird, tabled its
landmark report in 1993; the negotiation of the
voluntary moratoria that were put in place in the years
since 1995, where there was consensus reached on what
practices should not be pursued; and Bill C-47,
introduced in 1996, which died on the order paper a
year later, but which proposed a series of prohibitions
on certain activities, such as cloning.
Throughout this whole period, Madam Chair, scientific
developments have continued and multiplied, making this
work all the more necessary, while making it all the
more complex. Other countries have taken steps of one
kind or another to regulate in this field. Canada
should have a framework to do the same. That's why
today we are engaging members of Parliament in this
process to ensure there is a safe and appropriate
environment here in Canada.
Given all of these developments, why are we not
tabling the legislation directly in Parliament? Why
are we starting here with the health committee?
Madam Chair, this legislation is like no other. These
issues are like no others. The issues are at once
extremely personal for individuals and their families,
yet at the same time of profound interest to all
of society. They are in a way issues that are at the
heart of the human condition.
People worry about being unable to have children.
Many hope for medical developments to ease the
suffering of loved ones. These issues raise questions
that are not just technical or scientific, but have a
moral and an ethical dimension.
In short, there must be a higher notion than science
alone, Madam Chair, that can guide scientific research
and endeavour. Simply because we can do something
does not mean that we should do it.
These issues are like none other. Truly, they are issues
that are extremely personal for the individuals and their
families and yet, at the same time, they are of profound interest
to all of society. These issues are at the heart of the human
condition where people worry about being unable to have children
and others hope for medical development to ease the suffering of
their loved ones.
These issues raise questions. These questions are not simply
of a technical or scientific nature but encompass moral and
ethical aspects. In short, there must be a higher notion than
science that can guide scientific research and endeavour. Because
we can do something does not mean that we must or should.
That is why we have chosen to put draft legislation
before this committee to begin, before members of
Parliament who deserve an opportunity to see and
evaluate what the government is proposing, to reflect
on it, to consult with Canadians, and to express their
opinions about whether we're on the right track.
Madam Chair, we're not talking here about a partisan
issue; we're talking about a human issue. That is
why we thought it best to come before members of
Parliament, to invite them to determine whether public
consensus exists on the means, the methods, and the
principles we're proposing.
Canada is not the first to grapple with these issues.
Various countries are dealing in their own way with
these questions. The measures we propose would,
however, put us at the international forefront along
with the United Kingdom and Australia.
The U.K., for example, took the lead with the
establishment of a national authority to oversee an
array of prohibitions and regulations. We foresee a
similar arrangement, a comprehensive pan-Canadian
approach that would not follow the patchwork situation
that exists in the United States.
We believe that the government of Canada should provide
leadership by putting in place a legislative framework that would
ensure consistency across the country, of what is permitted and
what is not. As with other federal health protection legislation
such as the Food and Drugs Act and the Tobacco Act, the draft
legislation is founded upon the federal responsibility for
In Canada, it is well recognized that the criminal law power
supports the creation of this legislation.
This is surely an area where federal leadership is
needed, where the Government of Canada is uniquely
positioned to lead, where a consistent approach is
needed to deal with national issues that reflect
It's a fact, Madam Chair, that more and more
Canadians suffer from infertility and are unable to conceive
children. They look to science for help through donor
insemination, in vitro fertilization, or other
How would this draft legislation help? First, it
would offer reassurances that treatments are safe.
Second, it would ensure that information is provided so
individual Canadians can make informed and educated
choices. Third, it would ensure that children born of
these techniques would be able to gain access to their
own medical histories and vital information about
inherited conditions. Fourth, it would ensure that men
and women who chose to help others build their families
or to advance science would be assured of their privacy
and respect for their reproductive materials. And
finally, assurances would be available, both to
researchers and Canadians generally, that we have rules
governing the pursuit of scientific discovery.
Against that backdrop, let me provide an overview of
what this legislation is all about. It basically
covers two things: assisted human reproduction and
related research. In both cases we are proposing those
activities that would be prohibited and those that
would be allowed but regulated.
Let me take a moment to expand on the assisted human
reproduction section. Broadly speaking, the draft
legislation covers the donation of sperm and ova, its
storage and use; it addresses the fertilization of the
egg by the sperm outside the body of a woman; it deals
with the fertilized egg up to the 14th day after
fertilization, outside the body of a woman, or longer,
if it's frozen for some later use.
But let me emphasize that the draft legislation does
not deal with pregnancy and therefore with procedures
such as amniocentesis or ultrasound, nor does it have
anything to say about embryos inside a woman's body,
which means it would not in any way interfere with a
As to what we believe should be prohibited, there's
broad consensus on practices that are found on this
list. Every one of the prohibitions we propose,
such as human cloning, is on that list of prohibitions
because it's inconsistent with human
dignity. The prohibitions that we propose are these:
cloning of human beings; germ line alteration, which is
changing the genetic code passed on from generation to
generation, which would put at risk the diversity of
humanity and raise the spectre of designer children;
creating an embryo directly from another embryo without it ever
having become a human being, potentially resulting in children not
being born from a human being; development of embryos outside a
woman's womb beyond the internationally agreed to 14-day limit;
sale and purchase of human embryos;
purchase of sperm and ova; gender selection; commercial
surrogacy, which is the practice of a woman bearing
another's child for purposes of financial gain;
transplanting of animal reproductive materials into a
woman, or transplanting into a woman human reproductive
material that has been previously inside an animal;
the creation of embryos solely for research purposes. I
might say that while the legislation in the United
Kingdom permits this practice, we believe it should be
prohibited, and our proposal is consistent with the
guidelines recently published for discussion by the
Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
Turning to what would be regulated, Madam Chair,
in the area of fertility treatments and related
activities, our primary goal is to protect the health
and safety of all individuals concerned. We want to
make sure that treatments that offer some women a
better chance of having a child are safe. For example,
we would limit the number of embryos that can be
transferred to a woman. This would be intended to
reduce the incidence of multiple births, which often
result in low birth weights and later health problems
for the baby.
We want to ensure that records are collected and
outcomes are assessed so that information can be
available to Canadians who are considering their
treatment options. When it comes to human reproductive
materials themselves, Canadians want to be able to
depend on concrete rules. This will include how these
materials are to be collected, how they are to be
stored, and what use can be made of them. Surrogacy for
altruistic purposes will be permitted, but only with
proper informed consent.
Up until now, most of these practices have been
governed by voluntary guidelines. We believe that when
a woman appears at a clinic or a physician's office for
a treatment such as those we're discussing, she
should be able to rely on something more than a
voluntary guideline or a moratorium that's informally
arrived at. She should be able to feel safe and that
her health is protected by the force of law through
regulations that reflect our values and protect her
Now let me turn to the regulations with respect to
research practices in this area. Clearly, there is
enormous potential and great hope here that Canadians
can benefit from research in such areas as infertility
but also inherited disorders. Moreover, scientists are
working on advances that represent great hope for
Canadians living with diabetes, cancer, spinal cord
injury, blindness, and degenerative conditions such as
Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
But some of this work, Madam Chair, depends upon the
availability of genetic materials such as stem cells
that are derived from embryos. The proposal that we
put before the committee today would regulate the use
of embryos in research to make new advances in treating
disease possible while remembering that we're not
allowing the creation of embryos solely for research
purposes. Through regulation we would seek to ensure
that embryos are accorded proper respect. Doctors
need to have all the information required to get
genuinely informed consent from donors. Licences would
be required to perform this research and would only be
granted following full scientific and ethical review.
I would also add that this approach is consistent,
once again, with guidelines recently proposed by the
Canadian Institutes of Health Research and broadly
supported by the Canadian research community.
It's clear there are many different views on
these complex issues, moral and ethical, as well as
scientific and legal. I think it's very important
for this committee to hear from Canadians on these
issues, and I look forward to your reflections regarding
the scope and substance of these proposed regulatory
I would like you to know that I have shared a copy of this
legislation with my provincial and territorial colleagues. I have
advised them of this process and have encouraged them to come
forward with their comments.
Provinces and territories will have every opportunity to
assist in the development of the regulations. You should be aware
that there is provision in the legislation for provinces and
territories to develop their own legislative framework equivalent
to that of the federal government. This therefore allows provinces
and territories to have their own processes while maintaining
consistency across the country.
There's a provision in the legislation for provinces
and territories to develop their own legislative
framework equivalent to that of the federal government
we're proposing today. This would therefore
allow provinces and territories to have their own
processes, while maintaining consistency across the
My officials will continue to work with their provincial and
territorial colleagues, as well as other interested parties, in
developing the regulation when the time comes.
In addition to proposing what should be regulated, we are
looking for guidance on how this should be administered. We will
need the capacity to implement and enforce the legislation, to
develop policy, to address emerging issues and to serve as a source
of reliable information and education.
Ideally, such an organization would be broadly representative,
transparent and accountable—but it should also be flexible to
respond in a timely and effective manner.
We need your advice on how this body could be
structured—whether it should be part of Health Canada or an
external organization. I hope that you will seek the views of
Canadians on this matter.
Madam Chair, let me close by noting that what we're
talking about today is an issue that touches all
Canadians. It leaves no one indifferent. This is an
issue that is not partisan; it relates to the human
condition. And that's why we're here before we table
legislation. We ask this committee to initiate a
dialogue with Canadians, to look at the work that's been
done, to assess the proposals that are being made, to
see what would be prohibited and what would be
permitted subject to regulation, and to report back on
whether a broad consensus exists to support these
If possible, we would welcome your report by about the
end of January of next year. We trust that this will
give you the time and the opportunity to fulfil this
important task that you are being asked to undertake.
I've naturally asked my officials and my department to
support you in any possible way. I look forward to
working with each and every one of you as we examine
this increasingly important and complex area.
Thank you, Madam Chairman.
The Chair: Thank you, Minister. You were very
clear, and we're grateful for that clarity. In
spite of that, I'm sure my colleagues will have a series
of questions, so let us begin.
We'll begin with Mr. Manning.
Mr. Preston Manning (Calgary Southwest, Canadian
Alliance): Thank you, Madam Chairman, and thank you,
Mr. Minister, for your presentation.
I think probably all of here would agree—and I'm not
given to exaggeration—that this bill is perhaps one of
the most important the 37th Parliament will deal with,
for the reasons you outlined. I therefore trust all of
us will try to keep this above partisan politics and
just try to do the very best job we can.
I have several questions. The first one is that, as
you remarked, it's been eight years since the royal
commission made its recommendations for a national
regulatory tribunal. It's been five years since the
last bill. Canada, I think it's fair to say, is quite
a long way behind a number of other countries. The
British bill establishing the regulatory authority you
referred to is almost ten years old.
I wonder if you could tell us what the obstacles have
been that have delayed bringing this legislation
forward at this time. We're going to have to deal with
those obstacles; they're out there. If there are
reasons why the federal government has not felt free to
bring this forward or start this dialogue with the
public, I think we should know those, because we're
going to have to encounter them when we enter into this
dialogue you asked for.
Mr. Allan Rock: Madam Chair, first let me say that
I welcome Mr. Manning's adoption of the spirit of
non-partisanship. The issues we're talking about don't
pertain to the Alliance Party or the Liberal Party or
the Bloc Québécois; they pertain to all Canadians.
That's exactly the basis on which I hope this
discussion can commence today.
It has been a long time since 1989, when the Baird
commission was first appointed. I was in the justice
portfolio in 1993, when that report was tabled toward
the end of that year. I recall that we immediately
looked at what federal jurisdiction there was. I know
the commission was very emphatic in saying that there
should be federal legislation, federal regulation, and
that we should use the criminal law power. I can
recall discussing with the Minister of Health of the
day just which areas were properly federal jurisdiction
and how that jurisdiction might be exercised.
I can recall as well that in the years 1994-95 there
were discussions with groups—whether they were
researchers or physicians or infertility
groups—concerning the almost 400 recommendations the
Baird commission made. They weren't universally
supported. There were different views on some of them,
In 1995, because of the time that was elapsing, Madame
Marleau, who was the minister at the time, explored the
possibility of a voluntary standstill agreement among
all participants until we could get to the point where
consensus had been reached to go forward. That took
In 1996, as you know, there was legislation, which was
debated and went to this committee and then died in
1997 with the election. I became Minister of Health in
June of 1997, and I guess you're going to want to know
from me what I've been doing for the last four years.
Frankly, what we did was take stock, first of all, of
where we'd been and where we're going. What I found
early on, when I began meeting with Madame Baird and
others, is that science had proceeded apace in the
intervening years. There were things that weren't
thought of in 1993 that were possible in 1998, and we
looked at whether the instruments proposed were
sufficient to deal with those.
We also, later on, toward the end of the last
Parliament, before the election, Mr. Manning, were
engaged in very vigorous discussions with some
provinces on the proper role of the federal as opposed
to the provincial governments. It wasn't until after
we sort of devised this proposal for equivalency
agreements that we felt confident we had a way of
accommodating those concerns.
Just when we reached that point, an election was
called. I've tried to put this before you at the
earliest possible time after the election, having
regard to other demands that have been made on your
time and mine.
Mr. Preston Manning: I gather that part of the
reason for the delay has been trying to get the
federal-provincial ground laid properly. I certainly
think that's a key part of this legislation. If it's
not on the right constitutional ground, if it's subject
to constitutional challenge, that's going to make it
very hard to implement or to enforce.
It does seem to me that this bill, even by its title,
is dealing directly with an area of human health, for
which the Constitution assigns primary responsibility
to the provinces.
I know that the federal government is attaching
criminal sanctions to the things it prohibits, and I
suggest perhaps the real reason for that is it
strengthens federal jurisdiction. If you criminalize
things it puts it under the Criminal Code, which no one
disputes is a federal power. I question whether that's
the best way to establish the jurisdiction.
Apart from that, it seems to me that for this to work
there does have to be extensive cooperation from the
provinces, particularly in the delivery of reproductive
technology to become part of treatment programs. I
wonder if you could tell us to what extent there has
been a real consultation with the provinces on this
bill. For example, has there been, over the last eight
years, a single federal-provincial conference at the
ministerial level to deal with reproductive and genetic
Mr. Allan Rock: I think you're inviting me to deal
with two aspects of the matter, each of which is
important. The first aspect has to do with a technical
issue: from a constitutional viewpoint, does the
Government of Canada have authority to legislate in
this area, and if so, what is that ground of authority?
But the second and broader question, it seems to me, is
does one believe there ought to be uniform legislation
in this area? Does one believe that in a federation
such as ours there ought to be consistency in the way
we approach these issues of such fundamental
importance, no matter where we find ourselves in the
country? Let me deal with each of those in turn, first
the technical question of jurisdiction.
The Food and Drugs Act and the Tobacco Act are both
examples of the use of the federal authority in the
criminal law sphere to deal with matters related to
health and safety. Constitutional experts tell me that
quite apart from the pure constitutional law authority,
the Government of Canada also has a general
jurisdiction to legislate where there are broad matters
of health and safety and order concerning all
If I may say so respectfully, Mr. Manning—I don't
want to be categorical about this—I'm satisfied in my
own mind, as a minister, as a person, as a lawyer, that
the draft legislation we put before you would be upheld
by the courts if it were challenged on the basis of
That gives rise to the second aspect you're raising;
namely, quite apart from the technical issue, is it
appropriate that the Government of Canada legislate in
this area, or should we leave it to be dealt with by
the provinces? Let me express my view, the view of the
government, which is that there ought to be a
consistent approach to these issues, that we should
have one uniform approach across the country, which
reflects values that pertain across the country, that
leaving it to patchwork legislation doesn't do justice
to the importance of the issues we're dealing with.
On the question of consultation, I can tell you there
has been consultation with provincial governments. I
can't tell you that there's been a special meeting of
ministers called solely for the purpose, but I can tell
you that there have been officials who have been asked
by ministers to work together on these questions for
some time. This does not come as any surprise to
provinces. And certainly the proposal that there be
consistent federal regulations but also the power of
the provinces to enact equivalency agreements we
believe would be welcome, especially when we're
consulting the provinces on the form of the legislation
and they will be involved in the development of the
The Chair: Thank you, Minister. Thank you, Mr.
Mr. Stan Dromisky (Thunder Bay—Atikokan, Lib.):
Thank you very much, Madam Chairman. And thanks for
appearing before us, Minister Rock.
In light of the presentation you made and the
briefing the other day, the information we gleaned
there, the search of the literature in terms of what's
happening in legislation in other countries,
and the fact that we just received the draft copy
a few minutes ago, so I have no knowledge of
all the fine details within this presentation
you're making today; in light of what's happened in
other countries so far, and the great goal
you're setting before this Parliament—it's extremely
comprehensive, that's my impression, and it's covering a
great deal, areas that other countries have not
yet possibly touched—I feel possibly there might be a
danger in the fact that we're kind of jumping the gun
in light of the statements you made pertaining to
today's values nationally.
Could it be that we could be building roadblocks for
future development? This whole area is so dynamic. So
much knowledge has been generated in the last 10 years.
We have no idea what's going to happen in the next 10,
15, or 20 years. Is it possible that this legislation
could impose restriction on future development?
Mr. Allan Rock: I hope not. And may I say that I
believe the intention is to do the opposite: it is to
draw a line in the sand with respect to some practices
that are simply unacceptable, because they're not
consistent with human dignity, such as cloning a person
and creating animal-human hybrids, beings that reflect
both animal and human elements. Those are
unacceptable, because they're just not consistent with
On the other hand, what this draft legislation tries
to do, after setting up a framework that reflects
our values in those respects, is to permit research
activity that will push back the frontiers of science
and medical and health understanding and permit a
flexibility within the framework of values that we're
For example, with proper consent, with proper
safeguards as to information, health and safety, with
proper licences in place, with proper premises that are
appropriate for the purpose, professionals would be
permitted to collect human reproductive material and
engage in certain techniques or treatments with them.
Research scientists would be permitted to make
application for approval of certain research projects
that used these reproductive materials for purposes
that were vetted in advance on the basis of ethics and
science. So it's permissive, but within a framework
of rules that we believe reflects Canadian values.
The objective is not to stand in the way of science,
but to permit science while recognizing that science
alone is not always the last arbiter of what's
appropriate. If we leave science alone, then we leave
out the ethical and the moral dimensions. They must
also be a part of it, and that's the purpose of the
Mr. Stan Dromisky: Regarding limitations, I look
at the literature and see what's happening in a lot of
other countries. There are seven countries that have
legislation we're looking at: Sweden, Spain,
Germany, United Kingdon, Denmark, France, and
Switzerland. There are very definite stipulations
regarding who can donate and who can receive.
Now, I don't know what the details are in your proposal
here before us. In most countries—countries that I've
mentioned—it's only married couples, or in some cases
it could be common-law. There are other
restrictions—nothing can be done with infertile
couples where the woman is over 45, for instance.
What are the limitations in your bill as far as
recipients are concerned? There are many questions
that come up in my mind pertaining to that area. What
about donors and the information pertaining to the
donors? Can the offspring in the future determine who
his true biological father or mother really is? Are
there any restrictions being imposed in this area?
Mr. Allan Rock: In terms of who can participate
in techniques or treatments involving assisted human
reproduction, we haven't chosen to propose a set of
rules of who can and who can't. Rather, we've keyed in
on safety and informed consent. We've talked about
anybody taking part in such treatments being informed
in advance, getting consent, which is an educated or
We've talked also about regulations, so that when a
woman walks into a clinic or a doctor's office seeking
such a treatment, she will feel that she's protected,
that her health is not at risk, that there's a certain
set of rules that are respected that will keep her
safe and give her the information she needs to make
decisions about her own course of treatment.
In relation to offspring, we believe that it's
important for offspring to get access to medical
information about their biological parents that deals
with their own health.
For example, if there is evidence that certain disorders
are inherited, or there's a genetic link to things like
prostate cancer, the offspring should be able to
have access to that information, which will enable the
offspring to better look after their own health.
But what we also do is draw the line and say that
without the consent of the donor, the offspring should
not get access to identifying personal information of
the donor—in other words, who the person is, where
they live—because we feel if we did that, it would be a
significant deterrent to people actually donating sperm
for the purposes of allowing human reproduction.
The Chair: Thank you, Minister. Thank you, Mr.
Mr. Rob Merrifield (Yellowhead, Canadian Alliance):
I'll waive it over to Preston.
The Chair: Mr. Manning.
Mr. Preston Manning: Thank you. I'll be leaving
early, so thank you very much for doing that.
The draft bill vests responsibility for regulation in
the hands of the minister. Now, I know this bill
itself is in the draft stage, but I think there are
references over twenty times to “the Minister may”, “the
Minister shall”. The minister is really the
regulator, as this draft bill stands. It surprised me
a little bit that the draft bill did not contain the
government's ideas as to what should be the ultimate
regulatory body. Surely it's not the intent of the
government that this regulation would rest ultimately
in the hands of the minister, but rather that it would
be in a regulatory body.
As you know, when you talk to scientists and medical
people and the public at large, there's a fair
consensus, I think, on what the characteristics of that
regulatory body should be. You mentioned some of them:
flexibility, scientifically informed, offering standing
to ethicists in faith communities, open and transparent
hearing process, efficiency in developing its
guidelines, monitoring investigating capability to
harness the exist machinery that exists and bringing it
to bear on these types of issues.
Why is there not more on the government's
view on the regulatory body in the draft legislation?
Is it the minister's view that if we're to come up with
this regulatory body, one of its characteristics should
be independence from the government? Should it be
quasi-judical rather than part of the department? The
sad record in the 20th century was that it was
governments that abused reproductive and genetic
technologies even more than private individuals of the
Mr. Allan Rock: Mr. Manning,
that's one of the very issues we want the
committee to look at. There are two views. One of
them is that there ought to be an independent body,
representative of the various perspectives that are
relevant and important—clinicians, ethicists,
consumers—and that they ought to be arm's length from
government, outside Health Canada, and be independent,
to make their own judgments and to account for
themselves. The other view is that this is a proper
role for government that we should have a bureau in
Health Canada, which has the necessary expertise and
is, through me, accountable to Parliament, so that the
government's accountable to Parliament through the
minister in the House.
Those are two different views. There are arguments
for each. I have my own personal view, but I'm
interested in what the committee concludes after
listening. Mr. Manning suggests that there's already a
broad consensus with respect to the independence of the
tribunal. I know that there are voices raised in many
directions out there on this subject. If the committee
comes to the conclusion that it believes that's the
best course, we'd be happy to take your advice.
I should add that if an independent body were to be
created, that would affect the machinery of government,
and therefore engage the prerogative of the Prime
Minister. But the views and the advice of this
committee, based on the work it's going to do, will be,
obviously, of very great weight.
Mr. Preston Manning: I'm sure
that's going to be a huge subject of discussion for the
committee. Really one of the main things you're asking
this committee to do is come up with that regulatory
I have one last question. You referred, Minister, to
the fact that a higher notion than science alone should
guide science. In your opinion, what is that higher
notion and from whence is it derived?
Mr. Allan Rock: My point in saying that was
simply this. If we leave science to its own devices
and let it be pursued to whatever ends it might
reach, if science alone is to predominate then I think
what we're leaving out are human values that are shared
by all Canadians. I think Canadians acknowledge and
understand that when we're talking about this
subject—about human reproduction and treatments and
techniques that are available to assist in human
reproduction—we're not just talking about scientific
or technical matters. We're talking about something
that has a dimension that is human, moral, and
ethical. I think women who resort to these treatments
want to see us acknowledge, in the way we regulate
them, that this dimension exists.
As to what the source of it is, Mr. Manning, I think
the source of it is a common awareness and acceptance
among Canadians that there have to be human values
involved in the governance of these scientific
procedures. We have to go beyond ourselves, beyond
just a technical laboratory analysis, and recognize
that we're dealing with a dignity of human life and
that we should govern the procedures accordingly.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Manning.
Ms. Judy Sgro (York West, Lib.): Thank you, Madam
Mr. Minister, I guess we're supposed to say thank you
for bringing forward this draft piece of legislation,
but I must tell you that I'm not sure whether I want to
run and hide and not deal with it, or hurry up and go
forward and try to put all the enforcement things into
place to prevent some of these other things that give
me great feelings of injustice that are also happening
out there. So I sit here extremely uneasy with the
issue, but knowing that it is a very important one.
I applaud you and the department for having the
courage to bring it forward in the way you have.
Bringing it forward at this particular draft time is
going to give all of us the chance to approach this in
a very non-partisan manner and do what's right for the
Canadian public. This is what I know certainly the
health committee intends as its role.
You raise a lot of issues in here that need to be
looked at in a variety of ways. You talk about a short
timeline of asking the committee to report back. It
feels like a short timeline for such a complex issue
that all of us have to deal with both morally and in every
other possible way regarding our own principles and
within the law. January 2002 will come quickly. I
didn't think anything came quickly at the federal
level, but all of a sudden this feels like it will come
quickly. After 13 years, now we say it's quickly.
Is there a particular reason you feel the
committee has sufficient time to report back in
January? What if we aren't able to—will you have a
problem with that?
Mr. Allan Rock: Madam Chair, the committee is the
master of its own procedures, and if you find you need
more time, then you must take more time. I don't think
any artificial deadline should govern your work.
I wanted to give you some sense of what my estimate
was, but I may be completely wrong. You may find, once
you get into this work, that you'll need more time.
There will be the summer break intervening, and you do
have other committee and House responsibilities. We
have the entire fall before us—the autumn of this
year—but time goes very quickly and you have other
demands upon you.
Let me just say a word about your opening comments.
You were very frank in saying that the complexity of
these issues is very daunting. Of course it is. But
I'm glad that you agree that as tough as it is, one of
our responsibilities as people in public life is to
come up against these questions and do our best to
As to the way in which we're proceeding today, I
looked at alternatives. I looked at the House procedure
of tabling legislation and going to committee after
second reading. The problem with that is second
reading vote means approval in principle. In my
judgment, it wasn't appropriate to ask members to have
an approval in principle of issues where the issues
haven't really been addressed in this setting. Even
tabling and referring after first reading commits the
government to a form of legislation. What we've done
today is simply table a document in the House to
demonstrate our respect for Parliament before coming
here—but a document that's only draft legislation. It
reflects my judgment of the way we should go. But I
have no monopoly on wisdom in this area.
I think this is uniquely a subject where we can engage
members of Parliament as active participants in the
process of preparing the ultimate product, the ultimate
legislation. That's why I'm here, in a sense to
share my burdens, but also to take advantage of a
parliamentary process that will enable us to have the
kind of dialogue I think we need.
Ms. Judy Sgro: The issues of prevention and
ensuring that people know there is legislation
prohibiting a variety of
activities I think is extremely important as we go
How would you see the enforcement aspect of
this bill being there, in order to make sure the
items you have suggested, as well as whatever else
comes forward when we talk about prohibitions, are adhered
to? What is the penalty? What were you thinking along
Mr. Allan Rock: You've raised a very difficult
issue, a complex issue. How do we enforce the
standards or the principles that we would put in the
statute? I think this again is uniquely a place where
we have to have cooperation among governments. I
think, for example, of the Tobacco Act, which I referred to
earlier in answer to Mr. Manning's question, which draws
upon the federal criminal law power and creates
offences such as selling tobacco to minors. What we do
in that situation is rely upon the provinces to see to
enforcement. We provide them with funding, and they are
in a position then to follow through with enforcement
and surveillance on the ground.
It may be that through some similar cooperation here
we can have both federal and provincial governments
involved in making sure these principles are
respected. The bottom line is that men and women who are
worried about their ability to conceive and have
children, who want to have access to these procedures,
should have a level of confidence that they're getting
good information to help make decisions and that they're
being treated in a way that's safe. So it's important
that we have a way to enforce these regulations and
make sure they're respected.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Sgro. Thank you,
Mr. James Lunney (Nanaimo—Alberni, Canadian Alliance):
Madam Chair, I will defer my time to my esteemed
colleague, Mr. Preston Manning.
The Chair: Mr. Manning.
Mr. Preston Manning: Coming back to the regulatory
body that hopefully you'd like the committee to make
recommendations on, as the minister knows, there is a
lot of subsidiary regulatory machinery out there
already, in a way a patchwork-type system: there
are research ethics boards that are connected with
most of the big science projects, particularly ones
dealing with human research; there are the tripartite
guidelines that the big federal research funding
agencies themselves have developed.
Do you see this regulatory body replacing those
functions, or do you see it more trying to harness the
existing machinery out there rather than
reinventing a whole new layer of regulation in this
Mr. Allan Rock: I think it would be an ambitious
undertaking to create one body that would provide
ethical analysis for every research proposal across the
What I would like you to consider, Mr. Manning, is
whether we can lay down the basic ground rules and have
a regulatory body, either independent of or part of the
Government of Canada, which would make sure that
wherever such research is carried on there's the
capacity to pass these ethical judgments and provide
the ethical analysis.
There's the capacity to grapple with these broader
questions, so that we can be assured that before any
particular research institute authorizes a licensed
practitioner to engage in such research, that analysis
has been done to standards that are accepted as
appropriate. In other words, it wouldn't be this one,
single national body looking at every research
proposal, but it might be a national regulatory body
that made sure that work was being done in an
appropriate way. Does that respond to your question?
Mr. Preston Manning: Yes, in part.
question pertains to some of the definitions that are
in the draft legislation. I note that there's a
definition of a human embryo as meaning “a human
organism during the first 56 days of its development
following fertilization or creation”. There's a
definition of the human fetus as meaning “a human
organism during the period of its development beginning
on the 57th day”.
I think in the draft bill
five years ago there was a further distinction at the 14-day
Could the minister explain the derivation of
these particular definitions, these particular time
periods? Is that something he wants the
committee, or at least the regulatory body, to address?
Where do these particular definitions
come from? Are they rooted in other federal government
policies, and is this something he wants examined as
part of this examination as well?
Mr. Allan Rock: We've tried as best we can, Madam
Chair, to reflect current research and scientific
guidelines or standards. For example, it's
internationally accepted, or so I'm told, that after
the 14th day there are developmental changes that cause
the embryo to be significantly different from what it was in
the first 14 days of its existence, with the formation,
for example, of the nervous system. So that's a
milestone in the development of the embryo.
I'm told that internationally, where such
standards are put in place, up to the 14th day is
pretty well accepted internationally as the period
during which stem cells, for example, might be taken.
Fifty-six days has a significance for other developmental
I think those time periods reflect
scientific understanding of the cellular developments.
But, by all means, if the committee wishes to comment
on whether those timeframes should be different or
whether learning would have them put at different
places, or to provide any other commentary, that's
entirely open to the committee to do after it has heard
the evidence on the subject.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Manning.
Mr. Stephen Owen (Vancouver Quadra, Lib.): Thank
you, Madam Chair, Minister.
I'd like to address my comments to the issue
of governance, somewhat building on Mr. Manning's
comments, and perhaps leave a question on the third
issue of governance.
The first issue is the legislative aspect of
governance. In that regard I'd like to thank you
for bringing the bill forward in its draft form, like
this, to this committee.
As I think you all know, I'm new at this game, but
from my vast parliamentary experience of three months,
it seems to me that this is a particularly constructive
and perhaps instructive process for other such bills,
particularly ones that have a high public interest and
public importance as this one. But I look forward to
this process of finding common ground and perhaps
building something that we all share and take forward
with recommendations for legislative approval.
The second aspect of governance is the regulatory side
that Mr. Manning mentions. While I understand and
have some knowledge of the range of regulatory agencies
that exist in the health field and other fields in this
country, it's my observation that occasionally, or
perhaps increasingly, we tend to be responding to
individual problems in society by spinning off more
commissions, more agencies, more arm's length, albeit
qualified as transparent and accountable and
representative, entities that are one step removed
from the direct accountability of government. I
sometimes worry that in this genuine desire to respond
to anxieties in the public about direct government
involvement in some of these areas, we weaken
government's capacity to actually deal directly with
what it is, first and foremost, entrusted to do.
So I hope in our committee we can reflect a bit
on the pluses and minuses, and you've mentioned
both, the two points of view, as to the value of having
this regulation actually implemented within or outside
of formal government and line ministries.
The third governance issue I'm interested in is a
constitutional one, and that is the one of scale. We've talked
briefly about the issue of constitutional division of
authority between the provinces and the federal
My issue of scale goes beyond that to the global
scale, which of course is where research and practice,
increasingly, of reproductive technologies and other
groundbreaking technologies are played out. I
would be interested in your views on the work of your
officials and your thoughts so far on how this
legislation will blend with, contribute to, and draw
from experiences in other countries and the extent to
which we can hope it can
in fact be effective, given the global nature of research
and even medical practice.
Mr. Allan Rock: Let me touch upon each of those
elements briefly, Madam Chair.
First of all, in relation to the role of this
committee, my own experience has been as Minister of
Health, less so as Minister of Justice. I don't think
an issue like this arose. As Minister of Health, I've
had occasion in the past to turn things over to the
committee, pretty difficult issues, and simply ask that
they look at them from stem to stern, conduct public
hearings, and return with recommendations.
One was in relation to the regulation of natural
health products. You spent 18 months and came back
with 54 recommendations that we accepted without
exception. We put them in place. We now have
regulations ready to go that will reflect every one of
The second one was organ donation and transplantation,
where I asked you to come up with a regime that we've
now adopted and announced. We've acted on it.
I think going to the committee and asking colleagues
in the House to share the burden and the process of
developing a position is a very fair and effective way
of governing the country.
Coming to your other questions, in terms of
arm's length or not, you've provided some of the answer
to Mr. Manning's question as to which might be
preferred. There are arguments both ways.
You may wish to look at what has happened in the U.K.
since 1991. Ten years ago they put in place the human
infertility and something else committee or
authority. It is an arm's-length independent body that
has been doing this kind of work. You may wish to
speak to the people who have been dealing with it, have
been running it, and have been responsible for it in
the English Parliament, to see their reactions.
Lastly, I think you raise a very good point, Mr. Owen,
with respect to international practice. There are some
international protocols to which Canada is a signatory
that acknowledge that certain practices, such as germ-line
alteration, are not acceptable. There are gaps. The
danger exists that an entrepreneurial scientist who
wants to create a market or perceived market for
certain services, such as cloning, would take his or her
skills and move from one country to the other,
shopping to find a place where it was permitted. It's
for that reason I think the international arrangements
should be looked at.
I'm going to Geneva in a couple of weeks with some of
my colleagues on this committee to the annual meeting
of the World Health Organization. I'm going to bring
to the meeting the suggestion that we look at it in a
more structured way. We look and see whether the kinds
of things we're proposing here in Canada should be
assessed internationally. There can be agreements
between and among governments to make it less likely
people will abuse gaps in governance to engage in
practices elsewhere that we don't think are appropriate
at all, no matter where they're carried on.
Mr. Stephen Owen: Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Owen.
Thank you, Minister.
We'll move on to Madame Bourgeois, please.
Ms. Diane Bourgeois (Terrebonne—Blainville, BQ): No, thank
The Chair: Ms. Lill.
Ms. Wendy Lill (Dartmouth, NDP): Thank you.
It's a real pleasure to be part of this event today. I
must say I'm sitting in on behalf of my colleague from
Winnipeg Centre, who I'm sure will be very eager to be
involved in this process.
I want to ask you a couple of questions I think are
going to be raised as this committee goes around the
country. They are certainly areas that are going to
have to be dealt with. Quite frankly, there are fears
out there around a lot of health issues. This is a
major health issue.
The issue of privatization is a real fear now around
health care. We look at all of these procedures. I
have to understand how it is they are going to be
protected against privatization under the legislation
I think someone mentioned the idea that the research
is happening at a global scale. There are many issues
around copyright and intellectual property of
The question is, how can we really guarantee there is
going to be a regulatory body, a national
oversight body, that is going to rule the day? I worry
about that, and a lot of Canadians worry about that.
In that vein, there's the matter of future trade
deals. We've been told that health services are not on
the table. But if in fact health services become more
and more out there and in trade deals, the question
again is, can we feel confident that there is going to
be federal oversight of all of our health procedures?
That's a central question I feel we're going to have to
Mr. Allan Rock: Madam Chair, much of what Madam
Lill has raised is beyond the scope of this
legislation. For example, the issue of copyrighting or
patenting procedures would be the subject of separate
legislation, the whole issue of what can be patented.
While it's an important and interesting subject, this
legislation deals more with what research can be
carried out and under what circumstances, rather than
who has a proprietary interest in the discovery once
it's made. So it's really beyond the scope of today's
With regard to the question of whether private
facilities would be involved, this draft legislation
deals more with the techniques of assisted human
reproduction themselves and the scope of research than
with who owns the facility in which those activities
are carried out. Nor does the legislation deal with
whether the public pays for these procedures. That's a
very major issue, too, as you know. Couples or
individuals who seek help in having children often have
to pay a lot of money for these procedures, and they
argue that they should be covered by public health
insurance. But that's not the issue for this
legislation. That's something for the provinces to
What I can speak to is the need for a national
oversight body. Ms. Lill, I can tell you that I worked
with the Minister for International Trade in preparation
for the FTAA discussions in Quebec City, and it was
very clear that our own national health services are,
as I say, off the table and not part of the
for the trade agreement. We have the right to have our
own public health system, and we're going to keep that
right. It seems to me that, similarly, we have the right to
establish and enforce our own rules governing our
values as to what procedures are appropriate. Although
I think they're harmonious with global values, we have
the right to have our own legislation in that regard.
Ms. Wendy Lill: Then I'll ask another question,
which you may feel isn't applicable, about national
standards. I would like to know how this legislation
fits in with the Canada Health Act. As you say, it is
not a matter of these procedures necessarily being
available through any kind of provincial health care
plan. But the question is, how do these things work
together? This is a major piece of health legislation.
Where does it dovetail with or relate to the Canada
Health Act? There are grave concerns about national
standards. I live in a part of the country that often
does not seem to have the same level of access to
procedures as someone in downtown Toronto. I'd like
you to comment on that, please.
Mr. Allan Rock: I think this legislation will bear
the same relationship to the Canada Health Act that the
Food and Drugs Act bears to the Canada Health
Act. In other words, they both pertain generally to
health, but they deal with very different and separate
matters. The Canada Health Act provides for financial
transfers from the Government of Canada to provinces on
conditions that reflect principles that are accepted by
all provinces as part of a national scheme.
This statute deals with a particular area of human
activity, assisted human reproduction, and governs the
treatments or techniques themselves and sets up a
framework to govern research. So they're apples and
In terms of standards, the relevance of that term to
today's exercise is that what we're proposing is a
consistent approach throughout the country so that
common human values shared by Canadians are reflected
wherever in the country you happen to be when it comes
to the governance of the techniques of human
reproduction or research in that domain.
The Chair: Thank you, Minister. Thank you, Ms.
The time is starting to shrink, and I have five names
on the government side. I will assume that the three
people on the opposition side who haven't spoken would
like to do so. We're really going to have to become very
succinct in our questions. We barely have two to
three minutes each.
With that in mind, we'll move to Mr.
Mr. Yvon Charbonneau (Anjou—Rivière-des-Prairies, Lib.):
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would like to say, Mr. Minister, that the challenge you are
presenting to us is an exciting one. First, the process that you
are proposing will allow us as members, who try to represent our
citizens as best we can, to participate in an open manner, without
being held to a partyline. This is a health issue, but it is also
a social issue.
The second interesting thing is that the draft bill that you
have brought forward does not deal solely with what is prohibited,
which was the case with Bill C-47 in 1996. It will also set out
what can be done within a regulatory framework. You are even
proposing to provide us with a regulation-making authority, so that
the whole system can be flexible and adjust over the years. We will
therefore benefit from getting a late start, because we will be
able to take advantage of the experiences, the early beginnings and
the trials and errors of other countries.
My question has to do with research. There are provisions for
regulating research in certain areas of activity. Now, some
research is subsidized by public monies, while other research is
conducted by the private sector, in fields such as technology,
pharmaceutical products, and so on. Does the intention to regulate
apply as much to private activities as to publicly-funded research
Mr. Allan Rock: Yes, absolutely. The principles that we are
proposing today will apply to all research, regardless of whether
it is publicly or privately funded. The same principles will apply.
Mr. Yvon Charbonneau: Thank you, Madam Chair. You asked that
we go quickly, and I did.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Ms. Hélène Scherrer (Louis-Hébert, Lib.): Thank you, Madam
Good day, Mr. Minister. I am in complete agreement with
Mr. Charbonneau, that this draft legislation should be debated as
a social issue. As a woman, I find it of particular interest,
especially since we are talking about fertilization that takes
place totally outside the two partners. We are no longer talking
about one partner being involved, but about something that can
practically be done in isolation, without the two partners being
able to follow the process.
I am especially pleased that we will be going beyond the
scientific aspect. It is my view that, as far as assisted
reproduction is concerned, we should not dwell exclusively on the
science, since we are helping women who want to have children. Too
often, the media only report the success stories. They do not do
stories on women who, month after month, year after year, go
through a very difficult process that sometimes resembles very hard
work. In this bill, there are social considerations, economic
considerations, personal considerations and emotional
considerations. I would not like it to be made into a piece of
My second concern has to do with research, and I have a
question in that regard. The commercial aspect of assisted
reproduction is what worries me a great deal. When we talk about
ova, sperm and embryos, we are not dealing with cans of soup that
can be counted. Once they are collected and stored, you cannot say
that there are so many ova or so many sperm samples in one
I don't know whether enough teeth can be put into a bill to
ensure that no trade takes place, and that women and men are aware
of what is happening when sperm or embryos are collected, and what
is done with them afterwards. It is my view that the provisions
should be very strict in this area.
Is there currently a law that covers this?
Mr. Allan Rock: No, Madam Chair. There is a real need for such
provisions, and that is why we have proposed a regulatory
framework. I heard you raise the personal dimension, Ms. Scherrer.
These problems are truly distressful for the couples, and
particularly the women, who are affected, and you alluded to this.
In fact, the draft bill sets out certain basic principles in
the preamble, one of which is a specific reference to women, who
are particularly affected and concerned by all these matters. Of
course, that is the fact of the matter, and we must reflect that in
With respect to the purchase and sale of reproductive
material, clearly, we intend to prohibit the commercialisation of
all that, or, as Patricia Baird said, the “commodification” of
these materials. That is unacceptable. Consequently, we have
suggested a certain approach and some game rules. We have suggested
some fairly harsh, significant consequences if the rules are
As with all other aspects of our draft bill, if you think we
can do more and that we can achieve these objectives more
effectively, we will be open to your recommendations. I will be
very pleased to get your comments on this.
The Chair: Thank you, Madam. Thank you, Minister.
Mr. Rob Merrifield: This is a very good subject, and
I really appreciate the opportunity to have it come
before us in this forum. I hope it is a pattern we'll
see more often in other areas.
I'm intrigued by Ms. Sgro's discussion with regard to
whether you shrink away from this subject or you erase
it. When I look at the last decade, I see the genie
already being partially out of the bottle, because
technology has moved so fast in this area. We've seen
this legislation partially come forward, and then we
shrunk away from actual implementation. When I look at
the task ahead of us, I would suggest to you that we
should accelerate that and do something before the
genie is all the way out of the bottle. Many taxpayers'
dollars are being spent in this area, and I think
Canadians are looking for direction and comfort in
knowing that we're addressing the problem.
A year from now we will have completed our work, or
hopefully earlier than that, by January. Can you give
me a time period and tell me what you plan to do with
it at that stage?
Mr. Allan Rock: It's difficult to be precise, but
what I would envisage is the committee reporting—and I
would hope the committee could find common ground on
its recommendations—and then the government receiving
your report when you're able to produce it, considering
our position, and introducing legislation shortly
I think it's well recognized, Mr. Merrifield, that
this is an area where there should be some regulation.
I think there's a consensus in the research community
among people who are involved in infertility issues
that we need regulation and the science is
accelerating. I think the societal need is there.
The process proposed for this committee will enable us
to have a dialogue with Canadians on the principal
issues. I can tell you that after we receive your
report, the Government of Canada will respond in a way
that reflects our understanding of that need.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Merrifield.
Mr. Ray Bonin (Nickel Belt, Lib.): Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you very much for your presentation, Minister. Once
again, you have demonstrated that you are very familiar with your
files. When we ask questions, we get answers.
I am sure you will be invited back before the committee, and
I will certainly have some questions for you at that time, once I
have studied the subject further.
Mr. Minister, today is conception day for this
committee. Consequently, committee members will become
the parents of the document that will be returned to
you. I'm wondering if the fact that you suggested the
end of January is a coincidence or if it's based on
science, because it's nine months from today almost to
Mr. Minister, you could have drafted this bill and
tabled it in the House. What you would have done is to
take individuals like myself and force them to make
decisions on moral grounds without knowledge of what is
in there. By doing it the way you have—and I want to
thank you for this—you have allowed me to participate
intelligently, to do research based on sound
information, and hopefully to contribute to the
research we are doing.
People who know me know that as it's a moral issue,
this will be a free vote for me. You're allowing me to
contribute, you're allowing me to participate, and
you're allowing me to learn. Perhaps I will accept
everything that is there.
I want to thank you for that opportunity. You can be
assured that I will contribute to the best of my
ability, because this is very important.
Mr. Allan Rock: Thanks, Mr. Bonin.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Bonin. Thank you,
Mr. James Lunney: Thank you, Madam Chair.
It is certainly going to be an interesting prospect
before us. It's something Canadians have been waiting
for a long time. As has already been mentioned, much
change has already happened since the earlier studies
on reproductive technology, the royal commission and so
on. Many advances have been made. There are still
many important questions that are being raised, and
we've talked about some of them already.
The whole question of raising embryos for research,
even up to 14 days, is certainly a thorny one. How
long do you store them? Then, if there are surplus
embryos produced by in vitro procedures and so on, how
long do you store them? What do you do with surplus
embryos? These are very challenging questions, and I'd
be interested in the minister's response to that.
One other thing I think is interesting, perhaps a good
thing that has come out of the delay, is that advances
in technique or science have shown us that there is now
a possibility of adult stem cells being located. These
have the promise of creating tissue in vitro from the
very person who will be the recipient. We look forward
to hearing evidence from the experts in this area, to
the development of best science practices, and to
having some input into that. I'd be interested in the
minister's comments on those areas.
Mr. Allan Rock: Thank you, Mr. Lunney.
I share your interest in the subject. In fact, I've
spent just enough time preparing for this and learning
about the issues that I'm going to see if I can
volunteer as another member of this committee. I'd
love to be part of the work you're going to do. It's
going to be absolutely fascinating. It will really put
you at the cutting edge of what's going on in these
remarkable areas of research and human development
across the country. I'm going to be following the
committee's processes very closely for that reason.
Let me deal with two of the things you raised. Just
to clarify, you made reference to the phrase “raising
embryos for research”, which is a thorny issue. I
want to be clear that the draft legislation we put
before the committee will prohibit the creation of
embryos only for research. It would not be allowed.
Apparently it is allowed in the United Kingdom. In my
judgment it's not something that Canadians would agree
with. I would propose it be prohibited. But then you
go on to say—quite rightly, if I may say so—that
there are embryos that might be created to assist a
woman in becoming pregnant; you say that if there are
embryos that are not used for that purpose and if
consent is given by the donor, then under strict
conditions that embryo might be made available to
highly trained researchers. These would be licensed
for the purpose of carrying out procedures that are
vetted in advance in terms of ethics and science.
Yes, that is a thorny issue.
I didn't think it would be fair for me to come and
dump this whole issue on the committee and say you
figure it out. What I did was to take a position. I
believe we should permit research under those
circumstances, and this draft legislation reflects
that. It permits the donors to give their consent that
an embryo created for the purpose of assisted human
reproduction but not used for that purpose can under
strict conditions be used for research. That's my
judgment, and now the committee will have hearings and
Madam Chair, the other issue Mr. Lunney raises is the
interesting field of adult stem cells, and they hold
the promise of providing help and aiding research when
they're culled from adults. Apparently—and I can't
brag of a PhD in genetic science, so I'm telling you
what I've learned—there's very limited knowledge.
Apparently stem cells derived from adults don't have
the same potential as embryonic stem cells because they
bear the burden of age and experience in the genetic
circumstances of the donor. Nor, while stem cells are
available in the adult, do they have the same research
potential as embryonic stem cells. You will hear more
about that from people who understand vastly more than
I do about the detailed, technical aspects.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Minister. Thank you,
I was trying to get the minister out by 12:30, as
was suggested to me—
Mr. James Lunney: I have one little comment.
The Chair: Okay, you may have one quick one.
Mr. James Lunney: This is just a brief comment for
the record and concerns the experts Mr. Manning brought
in for the Human Genome Project. Dr. Hudson,
one of the heads of the Human Genome Project in Montreal,
made reference to adult stem cells being taken from a
mouse and then reinjected into the mouse. The cells
were cultivated in vitro and then put back in a mouse
with a mild cardial infarct, and it was able to
regenerate healthy myocardial tissue. Anyway, it's an
area of very promising research. Again, it's a
breakthrough that's just starting to be developed, a
little slower in the science, but one I think shows a
lot of promise. I'm sure we'll all be looking forward
to hearing more about it.
Mr. Allan Rock: In fact, Madam Chair, Mr. Lunney's
quite right. These developments are remarkable.
Last year I went to the University of Alberta laboratory
where Dr. Ray Rajotte and his team have
developed what's called the Edmonton Protocol. It's
known internationally as the Edmonton Protocol and
holds the promise of curing type one diabetes, of
making it possible for persons who depend on insulin
through a needle never to have to use a needle again.
What they do is transplant islets from the pancreas of
a donor to the recipient, allowing the recipient's body
to produce the insulin needed internally.
Dr. Rajotte told me his biggest challenge now is
getting enough pancreases to harvest the islets for
that procedure. That's one of the reasons we
accelerated the work on the organ donor and
transplantation initiative this committee invented.
We've put that in place, we've established the
secretariat in Edmonton, we've given it money, we have
a national council, we're ready to go with the
awareness programs, the Governor General's agreed to be
the patron, and so on.
The technologies using embryonic stem cells we're
speaking about hold the promise of our being able to
produce islets for pancreases that will allow us to
cure the diabetes those Canadians are suffering from.
The research we're talking about holds promise for
spinal cord reactivation. In fact, Rick Hansen,
whose institute is one of the leaders in research in
this field, sent me a fax this morning to express his
enthusiastic support for what we're proposing. It
would allow, within a framework of rules, the stem cell
research he believes holds the secret to getting people
with spinal cord injuries to walk again.
This is an enormously exciting field. We're very
lucky to have a committee of people who are as
knowledgeable, as engaged, and as committed as those
who are here today. Madam Chair, I very much look
forward to working with my colleagues on these exciting
projects in the months ahead.
Thank you very much for having received me this
The Chair: Minister, I have one more person who
has one more question. Could you manage to answer, or
do you have to be somewhere?
Mrs. Carolyn Parrish (Mississauga Centre, Lib.):
Thank you very much.
I was on the committee that reviewed Bill C-47, and what
happened was that we had a lot of restrictions and no
regulations. I'm very pleased to see that you're
looking at the flip side of the coin.
This is not holistic medicines and this is not
transplants. This is probably the most potentially
devastating and emotional committee we've ever had.
I think your approach is frightening as well as
I have one question. I'd like to follow up on Mr.
Manning's question. I've been here eight years, and
this is probably the most important question I've ever
asked. For eight years I've been very concerned about
this country's lack of any regulation on abortion—and
I'm not pro-abortion or anti-abortion. I'm very
concerned that we have left it open with no
regulations. If we come up with definitions for an
embryo and a fetus—and we talk about the 54-day
limit—will that have any impact on any other
legislation in any part of this government?
Mr. Allan Rock: It's hard to speculate, but my
first reaction is to say that this draft
legislation is not intended to deal with the fetus
inside the woman's body. It deals only with the
fertilized ovum outside the woman's body, and then only
in the first 14 days after fertilization unless it's
frozen for use at some future time. My first reaction
to the question is that the draft legislation would
have no application to what happens to the fetus inside
the body of the woman. As I mentioned, it doesn't deal
with amniocentesis, it doesn't deal with miscarriage,
and it doesn't deal with the doctor-patient
relationship. It only deals with the process of
assisting someone who wants, through in vitro
fertilization, to become pregnant or, as we've been
discussing, assisting someone who wants to carry on
Mrs. Carolyn Parrish: But as you know, when you
open a Pandora's box, sometimes things come out you
don't expect. If this committee were to come up with
definitions as to things that were acceptable outside
the womb, do you think it would have any impact on
future legislation on factors affecting the inside of
Mr. Allan Rock: It's very difficult to say. I
think that the focus of this legislation is much
narrower than that, because it deals only with
assistance in getting pregnant. I wouldn't want to
speculate, but my first reaction is the legislation is
indeed focused on a specific part of the process, the
Mrs. Carolyn Parrish: Okay. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Minister.
Thank you, Mrs. Parrish.
On behalf of the committee, Minister, I'd to thank you
so much for giving us your time, for being so clear,
and for being so forthright in answering the questions.
As Mr. Bonin suggested, we will probably want to see
you again when we get a little further into the
subject. Thank you very much.
Mr. Allan Rock: Thank you.
The Chair: To my colleagues on the committee,
we'll have one motion before this meeting is over, so
could you just hold tight for a minute. Mr. Dromisky
has a motion.
Mr. Stan Dromisky: Yes. Thank you very much.
Mr. Minister, would you please just wait for a second?
The Chair: He wants you to hear his motion.
Mr. Stan Dromisky: Yes, you have to hear the
The motion has three parts. The first
one is that this committee would like to officially
thank you for allowing us to become involved in the
formative, creative stages of this bill. We really
sincerely thank you for that, and you've heard us many
times express our thanks.
The second portion of it is that I would like to say
this committee has already indicated that we
wholeheartedly accept the challenges you are presenting
to this committee.
The third portion of the motion is directed to the
staff: that as soon as possible we will have a work
plan presented to this committee so we can go full
speed straight ahead.
Mr. Ray Bonin: I ask for unanimous consent.
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: We have unanimous consent to that
motion. Thank you.
Mr. Allan Rock: Thanks again, Madam Chair.
The Chair: I would like to ask you to consider
holding the meeting at which we consider the work plan
in camera, so we can feel free to criticize anything
without embarrassing anybody.
Thank you very much.
This meeting is now adjourned.