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New legislation introduced to protect Canadians from discrimination based on genetic test results and information

June 9, 2015 – Ottawa, Ontario – Department of Justice.

Today, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Peter MacKay, announced the introduction of legislation aimed at better protecting Canadians and their personal information, by preventing the misuse of genetic information in Canada. This legislation proposes amendments to three federal laws, namely, the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, and the Privacy Act, to provide greater legal clarity on the protection offered by these laws with respect to genetic test results.

Quick Facts

  • The proposed amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act would make it clear that discrimination on the basis of genetic test results is prohibited. This Act applies to the federal government and First Nations governments, as well as to federally regulated businesses and industries such as banks and telecommunications companies, in matters of employment and the provision of goods, services, facilities, and accommodation.
  • The proposed amendments to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and the Privacy Act would provide greater legal certainty that "personal information" protected by these Acts includes information resulting from genetic testing. These Acts put strict limits on the collection, use and disclosure of personal information such as genetic test results.
  • To support the coming into force of the legislation, the Treasury Board's Policy on Privacy Protection would be amended to address how government institutions, acting in their capacity as "employer," manage the results of genetic testing to prevent discrimination on this basis.
  • In addition, the Government of Canada plans to promote discussions with provincial and territorial governments, to explore other ways to prevent the misuse of genetic information. During these discussions, the provinces and territories will be encouraged to consider how, within their jurisdiction, to provide greater protection against discrimination based on genetic test results for Canadians.

Quotes

"Canadians are growing increasingly concerned with the protection of their very personal information, as genetic testing methods become more sophisticated and more accessible. Our Government clearly signalled our intention to protect Canadians from the possible misuse of their genetic information, through our commitment in the October 2013 Speech from the Throne. By introducing this legislation we are taking an important step in the right direction for Canadians, but we cannot do it alone and the safety and integrity of our genetic information will also require efforts from our partners. On behalf of all Canadians, I urge provincial and territorial governments, as well as private industry, including insurance companies, to follow our lead by also taking steps to prevent genetic discrimination within their areas of authority."

Peter MacKay
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

"As a leader in genetic research in Canada, CHEO is keen to protect the future of medicine and improve the health of Canadians in childhood and beyond. It is important to have a framework in place to protect Canadians from genetic discrimination. We see the need for this legislation, and we will hope it will benefit many Canadians today and in the future."

Alex Munter
President and Chief Executive Officer of the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario

"We commend the government for taking an important step forward and raising the urgent need to combat genetic discrimination in Canada. Moving forward, it is imperative that provincial and territorial governments across Canada quickly pass complementary legislation to ensure genetic discrimination is prevented and genetic test information is protected for all Canadians across all jurisdictions."

Bev Heim-Myers
Chief Executive Officer, Huntington Society of Canada

Associated Links

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Contacts

  • Clarissa Lamb
    Press Secretary
    Office of the Minister of Justice
    613-992-4621

  • Media Relations
    Department of Justice
    613-957-4207

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