Mr. Speaker, I am very surprised, quite frankly, at the comments by my colleague.
When this was before committee, those who testified generally agreed that it was within the Constitution of this country. We heard evidence completely on that. The hon. member said he is completely supportive of all the efforts behind this, but when the bill has been gutted, that gets called into question. I am very disappointed on that, quite frankly. I would have been interested in hearing what they heard from the Province of Ontario. I am sure, when those members were out soliciting legal opinions, the Province of Ontario told them it was okay. Did it? I can imagine that is what it said.
Despite that, I am pleased to support this bill because it is important. It would prohibit requiring any individual to take a genetic test or to disclose the results of that genetic test.
The time has come for us to do something about genetic discrimination. It can take many forms, all of which are unjust and feed the Orwellian mentality, which can be destructive to the welfare of a free and open society.
Genetic testing is routinely used as a tool for medical diagnosis, which is a positive thing. As the science of genetic testing has evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry, so too has the possible misuse of this information in ways that are contrary to patients' best interests. Canada, unlike most other western nations, has not kept pace with the rapid growth of the genetic field and thus has no laws provincially or federally that protect Canadians from having their own genetic information used against them.
This bill would ensure that Canadians are fully protected against employers or insurance companies that would deny employment or ensure coverage.
Studies indicate that there are also grave social consequences to the misuse of genetic testing. It is a dangerous precedent, as certain groups may encounter discrimination based on their race. For instance, people could be evaluated not on the basis of their merit and abilities, but on predictions of future health and/or their performance based on ethnicity. For instance, in the United States, African Americans statistically do not live as long as Americans of European descent, even when there are no socio-economic factors present. Scientists have also discovered that Jewish people can have a propensity for Huntington's disease. They too could be denied insurance.
Increasingly, and rightly so, patients are reluctant to agree to have their medical genetic testing done for fear the results may be used against them, thereby putting their own health at risk even when such testing might prevent disease and give the patient the opportunity to adopt lifestyle choices to avoid medical complications.
Recently, The Globe and Mail reported on a case of a 24-year-old professional who was dismissed after sharing with his employer that he had tested positive for Huntington's disease, although his symptoms would not manifest for approximately 20 years. Canada is the only G7 nation not to have protections in place for citizens like him.
Currently, there are 38,000 genome tests that can be done, and that number is growing exponentially, daily indeed. Canada has not kept pace with the science, and it is imperative that we do so now. It is our duty.
Bill S-201 would prohibit service providers from demanding or requiring a person to disclose past results of genetic testing in order to exercise prejudice. Insurance companies and employers are not the only ones in this area that can be affected by forced disclosure.
If we do not pass this bill, it will become exponentially harder to pass in the future, in my opinion, but it would do the right thing in protecting people from possible discrimination.
We have to get involved with this. There are legal opinions. The bill fits perfectly within federal jurisdiction. I am sure the hon. member and others in the government in their solicitations were looking for reasons to defeat this legislation. As I pointed out to them, the provincial jurisdiction with the largest justice department in Canada happens to be in Ontario. What did Ontario say? Ontario said it is okay with this. It does not have any particular objections to this bill.
This is an opportunity for all members of Parliament, regardless of which political party they are a part of, to stand up and do the right thing. I hope this gets passed by all members of the House.