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genetic testingDear Editor

Are the people of Ontario in danger of losing their insurance because of genetic testing? This is something I have been asking since the presentation of Bill 40 – Human Rights Code Amendment Act (Genetic Characteristics), 2018.

In this Act it states that there can be no discrimination because of someone’s genetic characteristics – BUT [emphasis added] insurance contracts are exempt.

Firstly, what is a “genetic characteristic”? From Bill 40 it is defined as:

““genetic characteristics” means genetic traits of an individual, including traits that may cause or increase the risk to develop a disorder or disease;”

And what is the clause that is so frightening? The addition of section 22.1, and from the explanatory notes:

“The Bill amends the Human Rights Code to include genetic characteristics as a prohibited ground of discrimination. … This includes the right to equal treatment if a person refuses to undergo or disclose the results of a genetic test. Insurance contracts are permitted to differentiate or make a distinction, exclusion or preference on reasonable and bona fide grounds because of genetic characteristics.”

According to the Huntington Society:

“Last May, the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act (GNA) received royal assent – and ..., we celebrated that landmark achievement. The next day, however, the federal cabinet said they would refer the new law to the Supreme Court….Bev Heim-Myers, CEO of the Huntington Society of Canada and Chair of the Canadian Coalition for Genetic Fairness (CCGF), believes this move is probably driven by the insurance industry – and that’s simply not acceptable. “We should not overturn this law and put the interests of the insurance industry above the interests of all Canadians,” she says.”

And yet the province has decided to do just that – put the interests of government and the insurance industry above the interests of Ontarians.

Genetic testing is big business and can be worth quite a bit of money. There are also the privacy issues with this amendment. Who or what will the insurance industry exchange this information with and now much money will they make off of it?

 One final note – do you want to be forced to have genetic testing done to get insurance, on the off chance you may or may not be predisposed to one strand of DNA saying you may or may not have heart problems? It doesn’t mean you will develop that issue – but if you do you may not be covered under your disability or you may not be able to even get car insurance, that you can actually afford?

Talk to your MPP and get this section removed – your genetic makeup is your property and the very essence of your being – and it should be up to you if you want to share it, shouldn’t it?

Elizabeth F. Marshall
Trillium Party of Ontario, Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound

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