Bill S-201 Update: First Hour of Debate – February 14, 2017

Let your MPs know. It’s time to do the right thing. #PassBillS201

On February 14, 2017, Bill S-201 was debated in the House. In December, the Bill was sent back to the House with unanimous support by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, as is, with a minor technical amendment.

The debate began at 6:30 p.m. and started with MP Randy Boissonnault, from Edmonton, tabling amendments that gutted all aspects of Bill S-201 except the amendment to the Human Rights Act.  MP Boissonnault is a newly added member to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and was not present for the hours of testimony, from many experts, supporting the need for the robust protection that Bill S-201 provides for genetic test information. The insurance and actuarial industries also provided their expert opinions for consideration at the standing committee hearings.

Six others spoke during the debate, including MP Housefather, Chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, other standing committee members, MPs, and Rob Oliphant. All expressed support for Bill S-201, as it stands. Many also stressed the importance of Canada’s legislation catching up to other Western countries to protect genetic test information, so that Canadians can get lifesaving genetic tests without fear.

The 1st hour of debate continued until 7:30 p.m. and the 2nd hour of debate will continue on March 8, with 3rd reading scheduled on March 22nd.

MPs from all parties support Bill S-201. Bill S-201 is an appropriate robust solution for an important human rights issue and is also supported by the Chief Commissioner of Canadian Human Rights. Bill S-201 is not fully supported by the Liberal Cabinet Ministers (although it was stated that they agree in principle that genetic test information should be protected).

Insurance seems to feel it is their right to have access to our genetic test information and they have lobbied strong and hard to keep that access.  The body of evidence overwhelmingly supports robust pan-Canada protection of genetic test information, yet it seems influence by the Insurance Industry, on our Federal and Provincial governments, has potential to negatively impact all Canadians.

We should all remember that this is far beyond insurance. Protecting genetic test information will actually improve the health of Canadians as they make informed choices to diagnose, prevent and treat disease. Employers, adoption agencies, landlords and schools will not be able to use genetic information against Canadians, if Bill S-201 is passed as supported by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

If Bill S-201 is gutted, less than 10% of Canadians will have recourse if they experience genetic discrimination. The danger is that more than 90% of Canadians may think they are protected and they will not be.

Thank you for your continued efforts to contact our MPs reinforcing that it is critical to pass Bill S-201, as is, without the newly introduced amendments of Feb. 14, 2017. We are the voice of Canadians and that voice needs to be heard loudly.

Let our MPs know that you expect them to do the right thing; pass Bill S-201 as it stands, including the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act (GNA), amendments to the Canadian Labour Code, amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the technical amendment added by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Genetic test information must be robustly protected now!

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