Genetic Nondiscrimination in Canada

Canada’s parliament is set for a final vote on a proposed genetic nondiscrimination act.

Mar 9, 2017
Joshua A. Krisch

WIKIMEDIA, SAFFRON BLAZECanada’s parliament threw its support behind bill S-201, legislation similar to the U.S. Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which would fine insurers and employers for making decisions based on the results of genetic testing alone, according to The Hill Times. The bill passed a “third reading” on Wednesday night (March 8), the final chance for the House of Commons to debate its contents. The legislation will now return to the Senate for what many hope will be a final vote.

See “Protecting Patients from Genetic Discrimination

Under bill S-201, it would be illegal to force Canadian citizens to undergo genetic testing or provide results to insurance companies or employers. As with GINA, the main opposition is that the bill would be a blow to insurance companies and could raise premiums across the board, if insurers are required to assume more risk. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has opposed the bill, telling reporters that “one of the elements in the proposed bill is unconstitutional,” according to Global News.

Specifically, some members of Trudeau’s Liberal Party believe the bill is an act of government overreach. They have proposed taking less drastic steps, such as amending the Canadian Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on genetics in place of passing new legislation.

Advocates of genetic nondiscrimination legislation have said that insurance companies shouldn’t be using genetic information alone to make decisions anyway. “Genetic testing is being applied quite broadly without us necessarily understanding the implications clinically,” Shubhayan Sanatani of the British Columbia Children’s Hospital told The Scientist earlier this month.