Genetic discrimination unclear in provincial law
Peter Engelmann talks to the Law Times about protecting individuals from genetic discrimination
When the Liberal party was defeated in the recent provincial election, it spelled the end of Bill 164, which had passed second reading last fall. Bill 164 aimed to provide come protection to Ontarians against discrimination on the basis of genetic characteristics by adding it to the list of prohibited grounds in Ontario’s Human Rights Code. That would mean that people could not be discriminated against because they refused to undergo a genetic test, or if they refused to disclose the results of their genetic tests or to authorize someone else to disclose the results.
The Law Times spoke to Peter Engelmann about the issue.
“I think it’s unfortunate,” says Peter Engelmann, a partner at Goldblatt Partners LLP in Ottawa, who practises labour and human rights law. “The purpose of the bill was to explicitly recognize the possibility of discrimination based on genetic testing.”
It’s important to change more than just human rights codes, says Engelmann, who has heard doctors and researchers tell about how people have refused genetic testing because they’re scared of being discriminated against on the basis of their test results.
“It’s woefully inadequate to simply have this in human rights legislation,” he says. “That’s not going to encourage people who are fearful about getting genetic testing and having to disclose it from getting that testing. It does provide some ability to get a remedy after the fact, but you’ve got to prosecute that on their own.”