By Anne Kingston - Monday, April 2, 2012 - 0 Comments
The agency was largely useless but its shuttering curtails federal oversight of fertility treatments
Of all the cuts made in last Thursday’s budget, the axing of Assisted Human Reproduction Canada was one of the least contentious—even though it leaves the country without official federal oversight of assisted reproduction and fertility treatments, an arena rife with health, legal and ethical imbroglios. Only last month, the RCMP launched its first investigation into potential breaches of this country’s murky fertility law, leading to a shutdown of an Ontario fertility-treatment consultant.
Those who work in the field weren’t surprised by the AHRC’s demise: founded in 2006, the agency has been barren for years. Its original mandate was to enforce the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, legislation stemming from a 1989 Crown Commission that took 18 years of bickering to become operational. The act cut a wide swath: from prohibiting human cloning and transplantation of non-human and human life—the theme of Sarah Polley’s 2009 sci-fi flick Slice–to regulating the terms of third-party human reproduction by banning outright payment for surrogacy, donor eggs and sperm.
As it turned out, that swath was too wide. In December 2010 a Supreme Court decision stemming from a Charter challenge launched by Quebec declared sections of the act unconstitutional (though it didn’t touch the sections which prohibit the payment of a surrogate mother or donor eggs or sperm), thereby denuding the AHRC of much of its authority.