Genetic Non-Discrimination Act comes into force

By Donna Glasgow | May 05 2017 01:30PM

The Genetic Non-Discrimination Act was given Royal Assent May 4. The law prohibits anyone from requiring an individual to undergo a genetic test or disclose genetic test results as a condition of providing goods or services, or entering into a contract. This is of great concern to insurers.

However, the Justice Minister of Canada, Jody Wilson-Raybould, has previously stated that she intends to refer the legislation to the Supreme Court of Canada for its opinion on the law's constitutionality.

Concerns over unintended consequences

The legislation has raised a great deal of concern in the insurance industry over potential “unintended consequences”, in particular that the cost of insurance could rise as a result of the law.

The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA) has pointed out that insurers have already committed to never asking a life insurance applicant to take a genetic test. Also, the industry has said insurers will not ask for or use genetic testing results for new life applications up to $250,000.

Important protections

The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) welcomed the coming into force of the Act in a statement issued May 5.

"Taking a test that could help save your life shouldn't have to be a calculated risk," said Marie-Claude Landry, Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission. "Every Canadian deserves these important protections so that we can all live without fear of our genetic information one day being used against us."

Connection between human rights and privacy

Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien said the issue illustrates the increasingly important connection between human rights and privacy. "Unfortunately, the collection of personal information, including sensitive genetic information, can result in discrimination down the road. In a time of unprecedented demand for personal data, this new law adopted by Parliament is a critically important development for privacy protection," he said.