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Canada takes measures for better protection of personal genetic information

Staff writer |
Canadian Minister of Justice and Attorney General Peter MacKay announced the introduction of legislation aimed at better protecting Canadians and their personal information by preventing the misuse of genetic information.

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This legislation proposes amendments to three federal laws, namely, the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, and the Privacy Act, to provide greater legal clarity on the protection offered by these laws with respect to genetic test results.

The proposed amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act would make it clear that discrimination on the basis of genetic test results is prohibited. The act applies to the federal government and First Nations governments, as well as to federally regulated businesses and industries such as banks and telecommunications companies, in matters of employment and the provision of goods, services, facilities, and accommodation.

The proposed amendments to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and the Privacy Act would provide greater legal certainty that "personal information" protected by these Acts includes information resulting from genetic testing. These Acts put strict limits on the collection, use and disclosure of personal information such as genetic test results.

To support the coming into force of the legislation, the Treasury Board's Policy on Privacy Protection would be amended to address how government institutions, acting in their capacity as " employer," manage the results of genetic testing to prevent discrimination on this basis.

In addition, the Canadian government plans to promote discussions with provincial and territorial governments, to explore other ways to prevent the misuse of genetic information.

During these discussions, the provinces and territories will be encouraged to consider how, within their jurisdiction, to provide greater protection against discrimination based on genetic test results for Canadians.

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