Canadian Human Rights chief commissioner concerned about genetic discrimination ruling

By The IJ Staff | January 17 2019 09:30AM

Photo: Freepik

The Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission has released comments outlining her concerns about the risk of genetic discrimination following a recent court opinion on the constitutionality of the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act.

Marie-Claude Landry made the comments January 16 following an opinion by the Quebec Court of Appeal in late December that the criminal sanctions in the federal law prohibiting genetic discrimination are unconstitutional and beyond the power of the federal government.

“While acknowledging that the Court of Appeal’s opinion was based on its interpretation of the law, the Canadian Human Rights Commission is nonetheless concerned by the implications,” said Landry. “The opinion increases the risk of genetic discrimination and jeopardizes the legal protections in this rapidly-developing area of technology that impacts us all,” said Landry.

DNA tests could put people at risk of being denied coverage or services

She said taking a DNA test puts all people at risk when they try to get a job, adopt a child, travel, get insurance, or access health care. “We risk being denied benefits or services because of our genetic information or because of our refusal to disclose it,” she said.

When the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act was passed in 2017, people who wanted to take genetic tests felt it was safer to do so, said Landry. “This opinion by the Quebec Court of Appeal makes the choice to have a genetic test more difficult, and it leaves people in Canada more vulnerable to genetic discrimination.

"While the protection against genetic discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act remains in place, it is limited. That is why we strongly encourage the federal government to ensure more protection at the federal level, and to work with provincial and territorial counterparts to urge them to swiftly put in place their own protections.”