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News



July 31, 2013
Bill would prevent genetic discrimination by insurers

Senate Opposition Leader James Cowan has introduced a bill that would outlaw genetic discrimination by insurance companies and employers.

With the introduction of new genetic tests to identify genes that could increase a person’s risk of developing certain diseases or medical conditions, consumer advocates and other groups have expressed fears that disclosure of positive genetic test results by individuals to insurance companies could  lead to discrimination.

The bill is designed to ensure that people are not treated differently when genetic tests indicate that they have a higher probability of being diagnosed with major illnesses.

If passed, the new law would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canada Labour Code to outlaw discrimination based on genetic testing.

Canada has no laws that prohibit genetic discrimination.  As a result, an individual could be denied insurance, or pay higher premiums for coverage, based on their higher probability of contracting an illness, even though they may not have the condition.

The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA) has said that while the insurance industry should not require a person to undergo genetic testing to qualify for insurance coverage, insurers should have the right to request genetic test results if such testing has taken place and the results shared between an applicant and his/her doctor.

In the past, all three major political parties have supported measures to prevent genetic discrimination.

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