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

Screen Arts bringing films back to Vernon

Towne Theatre expected to show Okanagan Screen Arts Society films in September

Tronson Road in Vernon closed next week

A portion of the road will be closed to traffic while crews upgrade water service utilities

Vernon Performing Arts Centre goes ahead with bursary program amid COVID-19

Vernon-area students urged to apply for three $1,000 bursaries to pursue education in performing arts

Vernon business restores faith in humanity for houseboat fire victims

Community kindness leaves out-of-province father in tears of appreciation

371 British Columbians battling COVID-19, health officials confirm

Thursday (Aug. 6) saw a second straight day of nearly 50 new confirmed cases

Mitchell’s Musings: Hockey’s comeback begins in earnest in August

Sports is back. Well, at least sports in a bubble is back.… Continue reading

COLUMN: Listen to those who know about COVID-19

Accurate information is essential when understanding the pandemic

Penticton man wakes to wildfire, forced to evacuate

A wildfire sparked off the side of Highway 97 near Penticton on Thursday

Anti-gang cops probe Kelowna’s street-level drug trade over B.C. Day long weekend

CFSEU’s Gang Enforcement Team was deployed to Kelowna last weekend

Answers to 5 common questions facing families for the COVID-19 school year

COVID-19 protocols are likely to vary even more at the school board level, and even and school-to-school.

Man allegedly wielding knife at Kelowna Superstore arrested

The 29-year-old Kelowna man has been released on strict conditions for a future court date

Visitors and non-residents entering closed remote B.C. First Nation’s territories

With limited resources, they say they don’t have any authority or power to enforce the closures

UBC loses appeal on Fisheries Act convictions

BC Supreme Court upholds order to pay $1.55-million fine

Most Read