This page is in the midst of a redesign. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

Evidence of meeting #38 for Justice and Human Rights in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was amendment.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Michael MacPherson
Peter Monette  Manager, Bioethics and Science Advice, Strategic Policy Branch, Department of Health

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

Thank you very much.

On debate, Mr. Bittle.

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Chair, I do appreciate what Mr. Falk is trying to do, and I think there's good intent in the amendment, but I don't believe it's necessary. We haven't heard from any witnesses who have said that this is a necessary component. I believe that what exists within clause 6 does limit the conduct to the provision of health services or a participant in research, the actual conducting of a research study.

Again, although I do appreciate it, I don't know that this amendment accomplishes what Mr. Falk is setting out to do. I don't believe it's necessary, though I do appreciate the intent.

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

Further debate, Mr. MacGregor, then Mr. Nicholson, and then Mr. Khalid.

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Chair, I also appreciate Mr. Falk's intention on this.

I took the time this morning to review the testimony when this concern was first brought up, in particular testimony from the Canadian Medical Association, and the back and forth with Mr. Falk. I believe, Mr. Chair, you also sought clarification at the very end.

I am satisfied, through the answers that we received from the Canadian Medical Association, that with the code of conduct that doctors have to abide by, the Hippocratic oath, the confidentiality that exists between doctors and patients, there are already a lot of safeguards. Doctors can face some pretty steep punishments and prohibitions from their regulating bodies.

Looking at the wording of this amendment, I also think the wording could be problematic, if we are limiting it to specific medical treatments for specific health care conditions. Could that involuntarily preclude genetic tests for other means, if it only has to be done for a specific medical condition or a medical treatment?

Again, I appreciate his concerns on this, but I am satisfied from the testimony that we've heard and the existing safeguards in place that there are sufficient protections already there.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

Thank you.

Mr. Nicholson.

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

For clarification, Mr. Chair, there is another amendment coming with respect to making sure that this aligns with other legislation.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

Exactly.

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

So it's going back to the Senate one way or another.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

Yes.

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

If, presumably, it gets passed.

It seemed to me when I looked at this, and Mr. Falk has just clarified the situation, that it doesn't change the intent, which I completely endorse and have endorsed. But it seems to me that it does make sense in exactly where and how this will apply and where it doesn't apply, these sections here. I was pleased he came forward with this, so I'm supportive of it.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

Thank you.

Ms. Khalid, and then Mr. Fraser.

December 1st, 2016 / 11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Iqra Khalid Liberal Mississauga—Erin Mills, ON

Mr. Chair, I really appreciate Mr. Falk's concern with this. When he initially raised it during our study of this very important legislation, I took a moment to look at it and really study it. I tend to agree with Mr. MacGregor and Mr. Bittle in that I think that these are measures.... I think your concern, Mr. Falk, has already been addressed by other regulations, other ways in which we can hold our medical professionals to account.

They are bound by a very powerful oath to protect the people that they treat. I think that oath is more powerful than what this proposed amendment would do.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

I saw that Mr. Fraser had his hand up.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Colin Fraser Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Chair, I agree with Mr. MacGregor, Mr. Bittle, and Ms. Khalid. Mr. MacGregor, in particular, mentioned the wording. While I totally think it's good that Mr. Falk brought this amendment forward so we could think about it and discuss it, I think there are some problems with the wording, specifically with the word “required” in regard to the medical treatment. How do we know what “required” means, and could there be a debate around whether it actually is required, on what standard? I think it would be best to leave it to the profession. We didn't hear anything from the CMA regarding problems with this clause.

I think we'd be better not to wade into these waters and go without any expert testimony on this issue.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

May I ask Mr. Falk a question of clarification, just to establish the intent?

Mr. Falk, the original wording talks of an exemption to clauses 3 through 5. With the new wording that is being proposed it reads:

commits an offence under this Act

That would be the entire act.

I understand it could be argued that a criminal offence is the only offence you could commit under the act, but I don't think you intended it to apply to the labour code or the human rights code, did you? Otherwise, we might want to say “clauses 3 to 5 under this Act”.

I'm just wondering what you intended.

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

We could certainly do that, but this is actually giving broader protection to these people because it would apply to the entire act.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

So that was your intent. Okay.

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

May I speak?

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

Of course.

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

I think the intent of clause 6 was to provide protection for health care workers, practitioners, physicians, pharmacists, and researchers during the use of DNA testing.

My amendment doesn't prevent any of that. What my amendment says is that you can't discriminate. You can still discriminate by withholding goods and services from individuals like that if it's required to address their medical need or to complete some research, but this is an act that prohibits discrimination. It doesn't authorize or prohibit the use of DNA testing; it prohibits discrimination. That's the only thing that I'm addressing with my amendment. It gives them the ability to discriminate under these circumstances, providing it's related to an actual treatment that a patient may be receiving.

It actually gives these professionals the ability to discriminate, which is something that this act is addressing. It's not addressing the use of DNA testing. That's a completely different issue. This is addressing the discrimination that could happen as a result of DNA testing. It gives physicians, pharmacists, health care practitioners, and researchers the ability to discriminate when necessary in the treatment of an individual's health or research.

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

Ms. Khalid.

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Iqra Khalid Liberal Mississauga—Erin Mills, ON

Mr. Falk, if I may seek a point of clarification then, does this not apply to predictive DNA testing, or is it just for DNA testing that's required for medical treatment?

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

This is for what's required for medical treatment. It was mentioned that there was concern with the word “required”. If a health care practitioner or a physician asks for a DNA test and on that basis discriminates against an individual, they're protected.

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Iqra Khalid Liberal Mississauga—Erin Mills, ON

By the same instance, if it's a predictive test that's required by, let's say a physician, then it's okay to discriminate if the patient then refuses to get the...?

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

In the treatment of an illness or an individual's specific health care conditions, yes, that may be required to treat an individual's health care condition. It may require a predictive test.