The Canadian federal government has reintroduced its bill on assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) and related matters. Last October, bill C-13, entitled 'an Act respecting assisted human reproduction and related research', was passed by the Canadian House of Commons by 149-109 votes, after almost ten years of debate and despite vigorous pro-life opposition.
The Canadian legislation, which must still pass through the Senate to become law, bans human cloning (for both reproductive and therapeutic purposes), the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos, sex selection of embryos for non-medical reasons, payments to women acting as surrogates, payment for donated gametes and the buying or selling of human embryos. It also regulates the collection, alteration, manipulation or treatment of any human reproductive material for the purpose of creating an embryo, storage of reproductive material and information about donors. Under the Act, donors must give fully informed written consent before their gametes or embryos are used, and children born following donation will be entitled to receive medical information about the donors. Donors will be identifiable only if they consent to be so. In addition, the bill allows embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research to take place on surplus IVF embryos, but prohibits the creation of embryos specifically for stem cell derivation. The bill also establishes a regulatory body, the Assisted Human Reproduction Agency of Canada (AHRAC), which will license, monitor and enforce the new law and store data on ARTs, in a similar way to the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).
But the bill died when former prime minister Jean Chretien retired and prorogued Parliament in November. Paul Martin, the new Prime Minister, previously voted in favour of the bill and has now sent it back to the Senate for consideration, where debates are expected to take 'weeks or months'. It is widely expected that Martin will call an election sometime after April. This would mean that the Government must pass bill C-13 before the election, otherwise the process would have to start from scratch again after the election. In January, a Health Canada spokesman said 'we are working to pass this legislation in a timely manner'.