Genetic non-discrimination law is constitutional, Supreme Court says

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

The worker who tested positive was en route to the Mine Site near Wells. (BGM Map)
Wells mining company detects second positive COVID-19 case of 2021

The employee, who is asympomatic, had no known contact with Wells or Quesnel

The council supports the Quesnel Art Walk. (Lindsay Chung Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel arts council grant deadline fast approaching

The group has already help fund online compitition funding for the festival of performing arts

The artwork for the 2021 mail run was drawn by Sonja Maas, a German student who spent last winter in the Cariboo on a ranch which trains sled dogs. (Gold Rush Trail Sled Dog Mail Run)
Sled Dogs to hit the trail without spectators

The mail run from Quesnel to Barkerville will be limited in scope because of pandemic rules

Rocks thrown by individuals practising and junior teams can still go up and down the Quesnel sheets under current public health rules. (File Photo)
Quesnel Curling Centre hoping to salvage season

Manager Dave Plant said the club was keeping the ice in until updated rules come down Feb. 5

Quesnel's 2024 BC Winter Games bid gained support from the School Board and CRD joint committee this week. (Submitted photo)
Quesnel’s BC Winter Games bid clears hurdles

Both the school district and regional joint committee agreeed to support the 2024/2026 bid

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Black Press media file
Port McNeill driver tells police he thought the pandemic meant no breathalyzers

Suspect facing criminal charges after breathalyzer readings in excess of 3.5 times the legal limit

Forestry companies in B.C. agree to abide by the cedar protocols based on traditional laws of the First Nation members of the Nanwakolas Council. (Photo courtesy, Nanwakolas Council)
Landmark deal sees B.C. forest firms treat big cedars like a First Nation would

Western Forest Products, Interfor among companies to adapt declaration drafted by Nanwakolas Council

Most Read