OTTAWA, Ontario, December 22, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A Supreme Court of Canada decision Wednesday morning threatens to result in the destruction of even more embryonic children, say pro-life groups, as the high court decided to give control of the creation, destruction, and manipulation of human embryos to the provinces.

In a 4-4-1 decision, the Supreme Court upheld in part the Quebec government’s constitutional challenge against the federal Assisted Human Reproduction Act, ruling that key sections intrude on the provinces’ jurisdiction over health.

The Act, passed in 2004, regulates the artificial reproduction industry, and bans such activities as creating animal-human hybrids, human cloning, sex selection prior to implantation, and paying for surrogacy, sperm, and eggs.

Today’s decision left these bans in place, but the provinces will now have jurisdiction over the handling of human “reproductive material” - including licensing for how it is obtained, stored, destroyed, imported, exported, and manipulated.

The provinces are also given control over the issuing of licenses for embryonic research.  As well, the court struck down a section governing transgenic manipulation, which is the combining of genomes from humans and non-human animals. This is different from the creation of hybrids.

The Supreme Court was deeply divided, with four justices upholding the Act, four favoring provincial jurisdiction, and one striking a middle way.

“Parliament has a strong interest in ensuring that basic moral standards govern the creation and destruction of life, as well as their impact on persons like donors and mothers,” wrote Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin in her opinion upholding the Act.  “The Act seeks to avert serious damage to the fabric of our society by prohibiting practices that tend to devalue human life and degrade participants.”

“While this initiative necessarily touches on provincial jurisdiction over medical research and practice, these fields are the subject of overlapping federal and provincial jurisdiction,” she added.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, who jointly intervened in the case, had argued that regulation of the industry is appropriately a federal matter in order to protect the public’s safety and the dignity of human life.

Campaign Life Coalition, the political arm of Canada’s pro-life movement, said the ruling makes an already bad situation worse. The pro-life movement had fought the Assisted Human Reproduction Act for many years, leading up to its passage in 2004, arguing that the bill was flawed by a basic false assumption that a human being is no more than a biological machine, a collection of cells. 

“We already opposed this bill because it removes the child’s right to be conceived in the loving union of husband and wife and because IVF causes the death of many thousands of Canadian embryonic children,” said Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition.  “But with this ruling the permissions to engage in such procedures will be broadened, leading to even more deaths.”

“While we feel compassion for those couples who are unable to reproduce, the creation of new human life must not become a commodity that is bought and sold to the highest bidder in the province with the most liberal laws,” added Hughes.

While Hughes said that the Quebec challenge does not deal with the parts of the Act that ban the creation of animal-human hybrids and the use of human embryos for experimentation, he asked, “how long would it take for this ‘Pandora’s Box’ of horrors to be opened for each province to explore?”

Faye Sonier, legal counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, wrote on the Activate CFPL blog that a federal law is needed “to ensure consistency in law and in practice across Canada and to ensure the equal protection of all Canadians.”

“This Act communicates our country’s position on the creation, alteration and destruction of ‘human reproductive material’ as well as human and non-human life,” she wrote.  “It will also shape, and perhaps alter, relationships between citizens - parents, children, siblings and spouses.”

Sonier also pointed out that allowing different standards in the provinces could create “competition” where some provinces would “‘push the envelope’ on the use of such technologies, forcing others to follow them or risk being found by the court to have created an inconsistent standard across the nation.”


The Supreme Court decision can be found here.