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Overturning Law Could Lead to Genetic Discrimination

If a challenge to a recent Canadian law is successful, the authors of a new commentary are concerned it could lead to genetic discrimination, CBC News reports.

In 2017, Canada passed a law that made genetic characteristics protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act. The law further barred requiring genetic testing as part of a contract, including by companies for employment or insurers for coverage. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau opposed the bill, arguing that it was unconstitutional. He said it infringed on provinces' rights to regulate the insurance industry. Shortly after the bill became law last spring, its constitutionality was challenged in court.

In a commentary appearing today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Yvonne Bombard from St. Michael's Hospital and Bev Heim-Myers from the Huntington Society of Canada write that the non-discrimination law is critical and without it, people may avoid needed testing for fear of the results leading them to lose employment opportunities or insurance coverage, according to a press release from the journal.

"It's important because it's about ensuring Canadians have access to the best possible healthcare and can make the best possible healthcare decisions for themselves, without being fearful of having their genetic test results used against them," Bombard tells CBC News.

CBC News says that insurers in Canada argue that the law is too broad. Additionally, a spokesperson for Quebec's minister of justice — the province is challenging the law — tells CBC News it "intends to fully enforce its jurisdiction, particularly with respect to property and civil rights."