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Reproductive & Genetic Technologies
 
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It has been over a decade since the federal government first began to address the need for legislation governing reproductive and genetic technologies. In 1993, the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies called for immediate intervention and concerted leadership at the national level to control the development and use of reproductive technologies. Since the Royal Commission, there have been numerous public consultations and two failed legislative attempts.

In 1995, the federal government asked researchers, scientists and medical practitioners to respect a voluntary moratorium on nine practices including commercial surrogacy, cloning human embryos, forming animal-human hybrids and retrieving eggs from fetuses and cadavers. Anyone using these technologies does not receive government funds; however, newspaper reports indicate these practices are ongoing[2].

The government has twice introduced legislation that died on the Order Paper when Parliament was prorogued. Finally, Bill C-13 was passed Parliament in March 2004 and the Assisted Human Reproduction Act became law. It establishes a framework for regulating human biotechnology and reproductive technology and for prohibiting ethically unacceptable practices.

AG Canada vs AG Quebec Response

In December 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada released its decision in Attorney General of Canada vs. Attorney General of Quebec, Reference re: Assisted Human Reproduction Act.

In March 2009, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada filed its written legal argument (factum) with the Supreme Court of Canada for an EFC/Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops joint intervention in the case.

The Government of Quebec had challenged the Government of Canada’s constitutional capacity to regulate assisted human reproduction technologies and associated scientific experimentation.

The legislation in question, the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, aims to protect the health, safety, human rights and human dignity of Canadians by either prohibiting or regulating certain activities, such as human cloning, surrogacy, sex-selection, and in vitro fertilization. The Act seeks to create a uniform legislative framework across the country to address these issues. The EFC’s intervention arguments were based on the uniqueness of human life and the national public interest in having one Canadian standard in regard to scientific research and medical applications.

For more information:

Open Letter to Ministers of Justice and Health, July 16, 2012

Commentary: Supreme Court to Render Decision on Assisted Human Reproduction Technologies on December 22, 2010 at ActivateCFPL Blog

EFC Media Release: Supreme Court Renders Mixed Decision on Assisted Human Reproduction Act

EFC/CCCB Joint Factum (Legal Arguments)

EFC/CCCB’s March 13, 2009 joint press release

AG Canada v. AG Quebec, Quebec Court of Appeal, 2008

Assisted Human Reproduction Act, 2004

The Act contains long-awaited and important prohibitions on activities such as human cloning, commercial surrogacy and the sale and purchase of human sperm and eggs. However, the bill does allow human embryos to be destroyed for research purposes.

The Act also establishes the Assisted Human Reproduction Agency of Canada, a regulatory body responsible for licensing and inspecting activities controlled under the Act. Health Canada is currently engaged in consultations to develop regulations under the Act. In September 2005, Health Canada released the first set of proposed regulatory guidelines for section 8 of the Act, the last prohibition under the Act to be brought into force and the only one that requires the development of regulations. The Act lists prohibited and controlled activities, and it is the controlled activities that will be subject to regulations[3].

Section 8 prohibits the following activities unless a donor has given written consent:
• Using human reproductive material to create an embryo
• Removing human reproductive material from a donor’s body posthumously for the purpose of creating an embryo
• Using an in vitro embryo for any purpose

Health Canada has requested comments on an issue paper on pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), the genetic testing of in vitro embryos prior to implantation in a woman’s womb. PGD is a controlled activity under the Act, and therefore Health Canada will need to develop regulations to govern the practice. The EFC made a written contribution in response to Health Canada's request for public input regarding the regulation of PGD.

In December 2006, the federal government appointed the members of the Board of Governors of Assisted Human Reproduction Canada, the federal agency responsible for overseeing the development, implementation and governance of Assisted Human Reproductive guidelines in Canada.

UN Resolution on Human Cloning

In a momentous victory for pro-life advocates worldwide, in February 2005 the United Nations adopted the Declaration on Human Cloning condemning all forms of human cloning. Ending a week-long special session devoted entirely to resolving this issue, the UN called on its Member States to adopt urgent legislation to outlaw all cloning practices "as they are incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life."

The declaration ends three years of UN deadlock caused by countries seeking approval for cloning research; the United Kingdom, Belgium and Singapore led the opposition to a total ban, claiming that stem cells from cloned embryos will treat various illnesses in what they call “therapeutic cloning”. Not a single person has ever been helped by these stem cells, while ethical adult stem cells are providing miraculous treatments for numerous conditions, including spinal cord injuries, Parkinson's Disease, cancer, heart failure and blindness, doing what cloning supporters can only promise. Accordingly, this declaration sets an international standard and represents the international community uniting in condemning all human cloning as exploitative and unethical.

 

[2] "Surrogate motherhood a growth sector despite federal disapproval," The Globe and Mail, May 31, 1999; "Web site offers $2,000 to human egg donors," The Globe and Mail, May 13, 1999.
[3] Health Canada, Proposed AHR (Section 8) Regulations: Q & A,  http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/reprod/hc-sc/legislation/question_e.html

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