Statement - More needs to be done to protect people from genetic discrimination in Canada

January 16, 2019 – Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Human Rights Commission

Following the Quebec Court of Appeal’s opinion concerning the constitutionality of the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act, Marie-Claude Landry, Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, issues the following statement:

“Late in December, the Quebec Court of Appeal gave its opinion that the criminal sanctions in the federal law prohibiting genetic discrimination, which was passed in 2017, 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. The opinion increases the risk of genetic discrimination and jeopardizes the legal protections in this rapidly-developing area of technology that impacts us all.

“Taking a DNA test puts anyone 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. After the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act was passed in 2017, people who wanted to take genetic tests felt it was safer to do so. 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.

“We have yet to fully understand the potential risks we all now face when taking a genetic test—whether with a doctor or a home testing kit. In this information age where people’s personal data is being widely collected and misused, genetic information can be used in ways we did not predict or expect. As we develop new technologies, strong protections against genetic discrimination are even more important than ever.

“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.”

— Marie-Claude Landry, Ad. E., Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission 

Associated Links

Quebec Court of Appeal’s reference concerning the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act

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