Genetic Discrimination Legislation Makes It Way to House of Commons

By Kirkup, Kristy | The Canadian Press, May 3, 2016 | Go to article overview

Genetic Discrimination Legislation Makes It Way to House of Commons


Kirkup, Kristy, The Canadian Press


Genetic discrimination bill in Commons

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OTTAWA - Canada needs to pass legislation to protect patients who fear genetic discrimination, Liberal MP Rob Oliphant said Tuesday, as a bill addressing the issue made its way to the Commons after receiving unanimous support in the Senate.

Oliphant, who supports the legislation originally proposed by Sen. James Cowan, said the legal landscape needs to be reformed to ensure third-parties, such as a insurance companies, cannot access the results of genetic testing.

If passed, the legislation would add genetic characteristics as a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Protection against genetic discrimination is already afforded in a number of developed countries, Oliphant noted.

"We are significantly behind the Americans on this," he said.

"In the United States, they found very few documented cases of discrimination but a high fear of discrimination. We can actually lower the fear of discrimination and make sure we have better results at the same time."

Canadian laws have not kept pace with science, escalating the risk of discrimination based on a person's genetic profile, he said, noting fear makes patients more hesitant to pursue testing despite recommendations from their doctors.

"I'm a United Church minister and for many years, I dealt with people who had fears," he said.

"Some of them would discover a lump on their body (and) would not go to a physician because they were afraid of the bad news. There's something human about the way many people handle that ... As well, if people have a sense there's going to be discrimination about having genetic testing, that can also stop them from going and getting the information. …

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