Release Conceals that Project Involves Destructive Research on Human Embryos

OTTAWA, April 17, 2002 ( – The first publicized federal government funding for embryonic stem cell research was announced last week. Genome Canada and the Government of Ontario will share in providing an $11.1 million grant to researchers at the Ottawa Health Research Institute. The funding of the “Stem Cell Genomics Project,” headed up by Dr. Michael Rudnicki, was announced by Genome Canada, a $300 million federal agency under Industry Canada.

Rob Merrifield, M.P. (Yellowhead) and Official Opposition Health Critic, questioned the government on the matter in the House of Commons yesterday. “Why would the government hand over funds for research on human embryos before Parliament has even seen a bill on this subject?” said Merrifield. “Who is calling the shots on these profoundly important Canadian issues? Not the Parliament of Canada.”

Merrifield used the occasion to criticize the federal Canadian Institutes of Health Research for pre-empting parliament’s legislation on the issue by releasing funding guidelines. “Now we have two federal agencies driving the agenda of embryonic stem cell research: the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Genome Canada. The government, meanwhile, shrugs its shoulders and pours millions of dollars into these agencies. This is beginning to look like a well-orchestrated plot.”

Of note, Merrifield expressed concern that the Genome Canada release concealed the fact that the project involved public funding of destructive research on human embryos. “The press release was eerily silent on whether controversial embryonic stem cell research will be part of this project,” said Merrifield. “But a call yesterday to the lead researcher confirms that research on human embryos is envisioned under the project.”

See the Genome Canada release on the project: