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Genetic Discrimination

See also our page on Genetics

In the September 17, 2010 issue of the Discovery Pipeline newsletter, Dr. Ray Truant, Chair of the Huntington Society of Canada’s Research Council says:

“In Canada, a country usually regarded by its citizens as progressive, we currently lack any laws preventing the discrimination of individuals as a result of their genetics.  The HSC is working hard with Parliament and other groups to fix this, but pressure from citizens to their MPs in the form of letters is the best approach. Unlike HD, genetic discrimination will likely affect all individuals if left unchecked.”

The Huntington Society of Canada is a leader in the fight against genetic discrimination in Canada.  In fact, Jo Anne Watton, HSC’s Director of Individual and Family Services, is a driving force behind the Canadian Coalition for Genetic Fairness.

Following an earlier motion M-444 introduced by former MP Judy Wasylicia-Leis, MP Bill Siksay (Burnaby-Douglas in BC) has reintroduced it as bill C-536 An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (genetic characteristics) in the House of Commons on June 14, 2010.  This is a straight-forward bill which adds the term genetic characteristics to sec 3(1) of the Human Rights Act.  It reads:

1. Subsection 3(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act is replaced by the following:

(1) For all purposes of this Act, the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, genetic characteristics, marital status, family status, disability and conviction for which a pardon has been granted.

Unfortunately, private member’s bills rarely pass and may never be heard.

YOUR advocacy is needed.

  • Ask your family and friends to do the same.  The majority of us are carrying genes which can increase our risk for diseases.  Wikipedia lists well over 500 genetically-linked disorders and researchers are adding to the list daily.   Cancers, heart disease, kidney disease, Osteoporosis, Arthritis, Diabetes, Alzheimer, Cystic Fibrosis, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Down Syndrome, Parkinson, Tourette, Autism, Crohn and many other common and rare diseases are known or believed to be influenced by genetics.  This legislation is in the best interest of all Canadians.


Other Links

Genetic Discrimination presentation to HDSA in 2008 by Dr. Cheryl Erwin of the University of Texas Medical School.

Coalition for Genetic Fairness

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) of 2008 info from the National Human Genome Research Institute at the U.S. National Institutes of Health

UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights

Genetic Discrimination blog