Genetic Discrimination Bill One Step Closer to Becoming Law

On March 8, 2017 Liberal backbench MPs united with opposition parties to pass Bill S-201, an act to prohibit and prevent genetic discrimination. As noted in this prior Cyberlex post, Bill S-201 follows the enactment of legislation in the United States and adoption in the United Kingdom of a voluntary code and protects individuals from the involuntary disclosure of genetic results.

Specifically, the legislation prohibits requiring an individual from undergoing genetic testing or disclosing genetic test results as a condition of: (a) providing goods and services; (b) entering into or continuing a contract or agreement with that individual; or (c) offering or continuing specific terms or conditions in a contract or agreement with that individual. The legislation amends the Canada Labour Code to prevent employees from being required to take a genetic test or disclose the results of such testing to employers. It further introduces “genetic characteristics” as a prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act. Contravention of the legislation gives rise to criminal sanctions, which include both monetary penalties (up to $1,000,000) and imprisonment (up to a term of five years).

The bill has now successfully passed through the House of Commons and the Senate. It is anticipated to receive Royal Assent, and thus become effective law, within the next few days.

[Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the United Kingdom had taken a legislative approach the issue.]

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