Bill C-68: A Good First Step for Genetic Fairness But Not Far Enough
On June 9th 2015, the Government of Canada tabled Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. The legislation was introduced by Minister Peter MacKay during a June 9th news event at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO).
In short Bill C-68, also known as The Protection Against Genetic Discrimination Act, aims to protect Canadians and their personal information against its potential misuse by amending the Canadian Human Rights Act to state that discrimination on the ground of a predisposition to disability that is inferred from the results of genetic testing is deemed to be discrimination on the ground of disability. The bill also amends the Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act to specifically include information resulting from genetic testing.
Though a good first step in bringing forward meaningful legislation on genetic fairness, there was no commitment made by the Government regarding regulating the insurance companies to ensure that disclosed genetic information cannot be misused to make unfair decisions regarding premiums and overall eligibility. Genetic information should be used to better understand the prevention, treatment and management of diseases to allow Canadians to live longer, healthier lives; it should not be used by insurers to make business decisions that may prevent individuals from receiving appropriate and affordable insurance coverage.
To date, Canada’s current laws enable insurance companies to discriminate based on perceived disability or the prospect of future disability. In Canada, we cannot legally discriminate against race, gender or disability, but we can against DNA.
The Parkinson community is calling on the Government of Canada to take the appropriate steps in amending Bill C-68 so that private industries, such as insurance companies, cannot misuse our genetic information.
We believe there is an opportunity for the Government to show leadership by enacting legislation that fully protects Canadians against all forms of genetic discrimination and ensuring that both private insurers and employers comply with it, legal rights that are currently enjoyed by many of our international Parkinson’s community members.