Bill C-68, the Protection Against Genetic Discrimination Act, has received second reading in the House of Commons. The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) has come out in favour of the law, which will amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to prevent discrimination on the basis of genetic testing. The legislation will also amend the Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act to protect genetic information specifically.
The CHRC has expressed its support for the law. “There is currently no legislation in Canada that specifically prohibits genetic discrimination. This is a concern because there is the potential for employers to use genetic test results in a discriminatory manner. For example, an employer may refuse to hire someone if a genetic test suggests the person has a good chance of getting ill,” reads a statement issued on June 9. “This proposed change to the Canadian Human Rights Act is an important step towards making it clear that everyone has a right to be treated equally regardless of their genetic characteristics.”
Late last year, the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA) clarified its position on genetic testing and adopted a new industry code to deal with the subject (see our article in the archives). The code requires "equal information" at the time of application; anyone who has had a genetic test but does not know the results is not obliged to report the test to the insurance company, but someone who is aware of the results must share relevant information with the insurer.
Bill C-68 will die on the order table when the federal election is announced this fall. "We have introduced a number of bills, rather late in the session, that demonstrate what will be the core of an agenda for a Conservative government re-elected when we return in the fall," said Government House Leader Peter Van Loan when speaking to reporters earlier this week. "We have a full agenda of work that we will continue to work on when we are re-elected."
with files from Mathieu Carbasse