The federal government enacted the Assisted Human Reproduction Act in 2004 in an effort to regulate reproductive technologies and to prevent its commercialization. However, when examining the practical effects of its provisions, it would appear that the title is a complete misnomer insofar as it has effectively rendered the most routine and elementary aspects of assisted reproduction illegal. The Act prohibits the purchase and sale of sperm and eggs, and, in doing so, has virtually eradicated the legitimate supply of genetic material in Canada.
Unlike other regulated products, the business of paying for sperm, eggs, and surrogates, is not as covert and hush-hush an operation as other illicit markets. The sale of sperm, eggs, and the marketing of surrogates is conspicuous and widespread across the internet on popular websites like Kijiji and Craigslist. There are also fertility clinics that have not been complying with law as a matter of routine business practice. The utter lack of enforcement of the laws, despite the severe punitive sanctions, is likely what encouraged a laissez faire attitude towards its adherence and lulled the fertility industry into a false sense of security. That is, until February 2013, when a fertility company, known as Canadian Fertility Consultants (CFC) was raided by the RCMP. Leia Picard, an Ontario surrogacy consultant, and her company, were charged with 27 offences under both the Assisted Human Reproduction Act and the Criminal Code.
This type of crackdown, the first Canadian enforcement of its kind, will deprive vulnerable parents of the assistance of companies like CPC who help navigate them through the complex and emotional process of surrogacy motherhood without being exploited.
Ms. Rhoads- Heirich, who runs Surrogacy in Canada Online, a company similar to CPC, comments: “It’s a really sad day for Canadians, and for the babies that won’t be born. 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.”