After the recent passing of Bill C-13 in the House of Commons and all the controversy that went along with it, human cloning has been a prominent issue on the minds of Canadians for the past year. The government of Canada has also had to discuss cloning at the international level, since France and Germany put the topic on the General Assembly agenda back in 2001.

What has Canada been up to while nations have argued whether or not to create a total or partial ban on cloning at the United Nations?

Over the past two years of negotiations, Canada has presented itself as a model for the world to emulate. Canadian representatives proudly and repeatedly referred to proposed federal legislation that would “prohibit all forms of human cloning.” But instead of making this a platform for negotiation at the international level, the Canadian delegation sided with proponents of a partial ban on reproductive cloning only, because “given that some member states have already adopted domestic policies which have evolved from a wide range of ethical premises, a broader international consensus at this time may be elusive.”

As the sixth committee vote on cloning loomed, members of Parliament were urged by Campaign Life Coalition to take action and write letters to the Canadian delegation to implore them to “honestly represent the views of Canadians and co-operate with the efforts to achieve a comprehensive ban on human cloning.”

Canadian Alliance MP Rob Merrifield asked Health Minister Anne McLellan why Canada was supporting the “weaker” resolution. To the surprise of pro-lifers, minister McLellan assured that Canada would vote in favour of Costa Rica’s resolution to ban both reproductive and experimental cloning.

However, instead of holding a substantive vote on either the Belgian partial-ban proposal or the Costa Rican comprehensive-ban proposal, a procedural motion was passed by a single vote to defer the cloning discussion for two years. The motion passed 80-79 with 15 abstentions. Canada abstained.

Samantha Singson, a UN lobbyist for Campaign Life Coalition, sent a letter to the Canadian delegation the morning before the vote, warning them that “it would be irresponsible and unethical to support the non-action proposal” and that only support for Costa Rica’s total ban proposal would truly represent the wishes of Canadians.

Upon hearing the news that the motion to defer had passed by one vote and that Canada had abstained, Singson pledged to remind the Canadian government of its promise to support a total ban on cloning when the issue comes up again in the General Assembly in 2005.

Merrifield reacted to the news by issuing a press release stating that Minister McLellan “misled” Canadians. “Canada’s abstention cost the vote and the likely passage of the Costa Rican resolution to ban all human cloning,” said Merrifield. “The minister and her government have a lot to answer for.”