“We were known internationally for having the gold standard of reproductive technology laws,” states Faye Sonier, Legal Counsel for The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) visit site. “Now what do we have? The brass standard? It’s deeply disappointing.”
On July 19, the EFC issued an open letter to the federal Ministers of Justice and Health noting the need to address the December 22, 2010 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada that struck down many critical provisions of the Assisted Human Reproduction Act.
“The province of Quebec, supported by other provinces, disputed the legitimacy of the federal government to enact legislation criminalizing experimentation with human genetic materials and, as a necessary related matter regulating assisted human reproduction and related genetic research with a consistent national standard,” explains EFC General Legal Counsel, Don Hutchinson. “Quebec argued that such regulation was a health matter, and therefore provincial jurisdiction. The Supreme Court agreed, in part, in a legally interesting 4-4-1 split decision.”
“Areas of research that raise deep and significant ethical issues, including human embryonic research and the creation of animal-human hybrids, were to be regulated activities,” explains Hutchinson. “The decision resulting from the Court split has created confusion and a virtual open season now exists in regard to certain aspects of human-animal genome experimentation and embryo importing, exporting, research and destruction.”
“The Act was one of the most researched and consulted upon pieces of legislation in Canadian history, and it was considered a thorough, precedent-setting model for legislation the world over,” continues Sonier. “Nearly three decades of consultation, research, hearings and Parliamentary debate went into that law. In one fell swoop, the most essential aspects of the Act were struck down.”
“The Act provided for a strong, national standard across the country,” explains Sonier. “Lack of a national standard is precarious. Problems arising include the proper collection of patient data so that children born of new technological procedures can access information about their genetic and medical history and heritage.”
“As Chief Justice McLachlin noted in her reasons, there are ‘serious health risks’ that could arise from creating ‘human life in clandestine facilities.’ She explains, ‘it would cheapen human life to permit artificially created newborns to die simply because a facility was not equipped to meet their special needs. These prohibitions speak to our fundamental notions of humanity.’”
After not seeing action following earlier communications, the EFC undertook the research to offer up what is needed. In its report, Recovering what was Lost: Recapturing the Integrity of the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, the EFC recommends that the federal government closely examine the Chief Justice’s analysis of the law and the means by which the government can re-establish a national standard for what Chief Justice McLachlin referred to as “the pressing moral concerns raised by the techniques of assisted reproduction.”
“The EFC encourages Parliament to take the necessary action to legislate absolute prohibitions, where appropriate, in order to strengthen the Act; and then to again engage in national consultation with the provinces and territories to ensure a consistent national standard for treatment of the assisted reproduction of human life,” concludes Hutchinson.
More information on the EFC’s position on the Assisted Human Reproduction Act can be found here.