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Canada's fertility-industry watchdog under scrutiny again

21 June 2010
Appeared in BioNews 563

A Canadian MP has suggested that Canada's fertility-industry watchdog, Assisted Human Reproduction Canada (AHRC), should be shut down because it is doing so little with its annual $10 million budget.

Carolyn Bennett, the Liberal health critic, noted the government has yet to pass regulations to enable the organisation to carry out its key roles of licensing and inspecting fertility clinics and overseeing sensitive reproduction-related research, which raises the question of what the body has been doing during its past three years of operation.

'How can you have an agency to enforce regulations that don't exist'? Ms. Bennet said. 'Do you have any idea of disbanding the agency until you've got, maybe, new legislation, with regulations, that would actually serve the couples having trouble forming families in this country'?

The Health Minister said the regulatory process is on hold because of a court challenge of the assisted-reproduction legislation by the Quebec government, and that the agency is carrying out other parts of its mandate that justify keeping it going. 'Disbanding the board and the agency is not on the table at this point in time', she said.

Diane Allen, head of the Infertility Network, said that closing the organisation would be ill advised. Rather she called for an inquiry into the agency's problems, and replacement of its top management and board.

This report comes after a long string of other concerns regarding the AHRC, which BioNews has reported on over the last few months.  

Such incidents include the sudden resigning of three members of AHRC's board due, in part, to concerns about how the body is spending taxpayers dollars.

Although Dr Elinor Wilson, the agency's president, said the financial management of AHRC is sound, she too has been put under scrutiny over the past week amid accusations that she has been mixing business with pleasure at the expense of the taxpayer.

A Quebec newspaper reported that Wilson had travelled to Vancouver at least 16 times since 2007, and that the trips sometimes coincided with traditional Canadian holidays. Dr Wilson also apparently has family in Vancouver.

Dr Wilson defended her position, saying that the AHRC is currently moving its employees from Ottawa to Vancouver, where its head office is supposed to be located.



SOURCES & REFERENCES
Fertility industry watchdog criticized
National Post |  17 June 2010
Head of reproductive agency defends travel
Toronto Sun |  15 June 2010
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