Page URL:

Canadian company charged with illegal trade in surrogacy services, sperm and eggs

25 February 2013
Appeared in BioNews 694

A Canadian fertility consultancy firm and its owner have been charged with buying or offering to buy sperm or eggs and surrogacy services.

The investigating authorities have released few details of the specific allegations but the National Post said that two egg donors, who had been recruited by the firm, disclosed to the newspaper last year that they were paid $5,000 for their contribution.

The money was supposed to cover expenses, but one of the women, a university student, said she had no obvious costs. The other said payment helped her deal with financial troubles. However, the National Post also said one woman who used services provided by the company to arrange a surrogate was 'surprised' by the charges brought against it. She told the newspaper she paid her surrogate only expenses for which there were receipts.

The payments of sperm donors, egg donors and surrogate mothers other than for reasonable expenses is explicitly prohibited by the Assisted Human Reproduction Act 2004 (AHRA), although surrogacy remains lawful. 

Allegations against the company, Canadian Fertility Consulting (CFC), were raised in September 2011 to the Assisted Human Reproduction Canada Agency, who turned the matter over to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. An investigation led to the company and its owner, Leia Picard, to be charged under the AHRA and also for forgery. The company says on its website that it offers a 'fixed price' for its services.

Ms Picard's lawyer said his client had since received many emails in support. 'The law is bewildering and its enforcement is uneven', he said. '[Ms Picard] was not offered an opportunity to tell her side of the story before they made the decision to lay charges. So, we will just have to settle the issues in court'.

Diane Allen, executive director of the Infertility Network, Canada, believes the charges against CFC are a positive development but suggested it may be unfair to single out Ms Picard when others are engaged in similar practices. 'Some things, including human life, should just not be for sale', she said.

Dr Juliet Guichon, a bioethicist at the University of Calgary, Canada said: 'The very fact that finally charges have been laid will send a strong signal to others'.

However, others who work in the fertility consultancy business are concerned about the impact the allegations could have on the industry. Sally Rhoads-Heinrich, who runs Surrogacy in Canada Online, explained that fertility consultancy firms help intended parents and surrogates through the complex and emotional process without being exploited.

'If we have to cease working, it means they're on their own and more subject to being taken advantage of. They're just left with Kijiji and Craigslist', she told the National Post, adding that some Canadian fertility clinics are already paying US women around $8,000 for eggs under an apparent legal loophole.

In 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that certain provisions under the AHRA were unconstitutional but upheld provisions regarding the remuneration of donors and surrogates (reported in BioNews 591).

In response to the ruling, the Canadian government announced in 2012 that it would wind down Assisted Human Reproduction Canada by the end of March 2013, and that its federal functions would be transferred to Canada's healthcare regulator, Health Canada.

Ms Picard is scheduled to appear in court on 28 March.

Canadian fertility company charged with multiple counts of illegal activity
LifeSite News |  19 February 2013
Illegal purchase of sperm, eggs and surrogacy services leads to 27 charges against Canadian fertility company and CEO
National Post |  15 February 2013
RCMP charge owner of human fertility consulting business
Canada Newswire (press release) |  15 February 2013
5 November 2018 - by Nina Chohan 
The Canadian government has proposed updates to existing assisted reproduction law, including payment of expenses to gamete donors and surrogates...
4 June 2018 - by Kulraj Singh Bhangra 
A private member's bill aims to decriminalise payments for sperm, eggs and surrogacy in Canada...
8 August 2016 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
Fertility clinics in Australia have been warned not to offer flat fees to egg and sperm donors, reports the Sydney Morning Herald...
21 October 2013 - by Rebecca Carr 
For me, this extremely interesting Cafe Scientifique debate on the human egg trade in Canada shed light on many of the ongoing ethical concerns that seem to torment parties engaged in this field...
28 May 2013 - by Dr Pamela White 
The Quebec Health Minister Réjean Hébert has announced a review of the province's publicly funded IVF program in light of rising costs, but has made assurances that provincial funding will not be cut....
6 June 2012 - by Jessica Ware 
Around half of the 2,000 babies born to surrogate mothers in India last year may have gone to British parents, an investigation by the Sunday Telegraph has revealed....
5 March 2012 - by Rosemary Paxman 
A respected adoption lawyer has been sentenced to prison for her role in an international baby-selling operation. Theresa Erickson, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud in August 2011, was sentenced by a San Diego court to five months in prison followed by nine months in home confinement and ordered to pay a $70,000 fine....
8 June 2009 - by MacKenna Roberts 
Last Friday, UK authorities began a legal test case to prosecute two businessmen who were arrested for not having a valid licence to broker the sale of 'fresh' sperm from anonymous donors. The sperm was provided to women for their use in DIY fertility treatments through an online business - Nigel Woodforth and Ricky Gage, the directors of the business, face up to two years imprisonment if found guilty of illegally running a website that is reportedly believed to have matche...
28 August 2007 - by Ailsa Stevens 
The Glasgow Centre for Reproductive Medicine (GCRM) has begun accepting sperm donation as 'payment in kind' for fertility treatment, in a pioneering new approach aimed at combating severe sperm shortages in Scotland. It is thought that nationwide shortages were partly triggered by a change in the UK...
14 January 2002 - by BioNews 
Women in Israel are to be allowed to buy imported eggs because the Israeli government has overturned a six-month ban. It is the first time that the purchase of body parts or tissue has been allowed for medical use in Israel. Previous laws in Israel only allowed the donation of...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.