Genetic non-discrimination law is constitutional, Supreme Court says

The law is the result of a bill introduced in the Senate that garnered strong support from MPs

In a split decision, the Supreme Court of Canada has upheld a federal law that forbids companies from making people undergo genetic testing before buying insurance or other services.

The Genetic Non-Discrimination Act also outlaws the practice of requiring the disclosure of existing genetic test results as a condition for obtaining such services or entering into a contract.

The act is intended to ensure Canadians can take genetic tests to help identify health risks without fear the results will pose a disadvantage when seeking life or health insurance.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court said Friday the measures are a valid exercise of Parliament’s power over criminal law set out in the Constitution.

The law, passed three years ago, is the result of a bill introduced in the Senate that garnered strong support from MPs despite opposition from then-justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.

Penalties for violating the provisions include a fine of up to $1 million and five years in prison.

The Quebec government referred the law to the provincial Court of Appeal, which ruled in 2018 that it strayed beyond the federal government’s constitutional jurisdiction over criminal law.

The Canadian Coalition for Genetic Fairness then challenged the ruling in the Supreme Court, which heard the appeal last October.

Five of the nine high court judges allowed the appeal, though they offered two sets of reasons as to how the provisions in question fall within the federal constitutional domain.

Four dissenting judges said the appeal should be dismissed because the measures come under provincial jurisdiction over property and civil rights.

The coalition successfully argued during the proceedings that the legislation was a permissible exercise of federal criminal law power.

It noted in a submission that the Supreme Court had previously emphasized this power must be interpreted in a broad, flexible and dynamic manner to allow Parliament to respond to new threats to fundamental personal interests such as health and security.

The federal attorney general contended the law dealt with the regulation of contracts and the provision of goods and services with the aim of promoting health, relating “fundamentally to provincial jurisdiction over property and civil rights.”

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Supreme Court

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vehicle roll over closes highway for over three hours

The vehicle’s occupants were taken to Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops via helicopter

Trans Mountain to contribute funds for infrastructure upgrades

The company signed an agreement with the District committing $3.1 million

Seniors group recommends website to members with tech issues

The Wells Gray Country Seniors Society (WGCSS) has run a program called “Cyber Seniors” since 2015.

B.C. prepares back-to-school plan for students in COVID-19

Districts will be refining preparations up to Sept. 8

New cannabis shop does well in first weeks

Clearwater’s first cannabis shop, the Interior Cannabis Company, is doing well in its first few weeks of operation.

B.C. records new COVID-19 death, 85 more cases; Horgan calls on celebrity help

This brings the total number of active confirmed cases to 531 across the province

Horvat scores 2 as Vancouver Canucks beat Blues 5-2 in NHL playoff opener

Game 2 in best-of-seven series goes Friday night

Teachers to get 2 extra days to prepare for students’ return, now set for Sept. 10

Students will first start with orientation and learn rules of COVID-19 classroom policies

High-volume littering at Cape Scott draws ire from hiking groups

Popular Vancouver Island hiking spot not closing, but frustration about crowding grows

SFU to drop ‘Clan’ varsity team name

The ‘Clan’ name is shortened from ‘Clansmen,’ and was introduced roughly 55 years ago

New Tory leader must build a strong team in Commons and for the campaign: Scheer

Scheer marked his final day in the House of Commons today as leader of the Opposition

B.C. to hire 500 more COVID-19 contact tracers ahead of fall

Contract tracers add an ‘extra layer’ in the fight against the novel coronavirus

Feds commit $305M in additional funds for Indigenous communities during COVID-19

Money can be used to battle food insecurity and support children and mental health

We were a bit tone deaf: Hobo Cannabis renamed Dutch Love after backlash

Hobo Cannabis has various locations in Vancouver, Kelowna and Ottawa

Most Read