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Canada Passes Genetic Non-Discrimination Bill

Canadian lawmakers have passed a bill that bans genetic discrimination, CBC News reports.

The legislation, Bill S-201, adds genetic characteristics as protected ground under the Canadian Human Rights Act, it adds. The bill further prohibits companies from compelling employees to undergo genetic testing or disclose results from such testing, and it bars insurance companies from requiring customers to undergo testing to receive coverage.

The bill faced strong criticism from insurance groups, which argued that its passage would lead to higher costs and reduced coverage. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also opposed it, calling it "unconstitutional," the National Post reports. He argued that it impinged on provinces' rights to regulate the insurance industry, CBC notes. However, the National Post says four constitutional lawyers weighed in on the bill before a parliamentary committee, and three of them said it was constitutionally sound.

At the same time, patient and charity groups supported the bill. CBC News adds that medical experts called such protections necessary to allay concerns about genetic testing and enable more personalized treatments.

The bill has now cleared both the Senate and the House of Commons and now needs royal assent to become law, which CBC News says could happen within a few days.