Genetic discrimination provisions in human rights legislation: Will Ontario be the first Canadian jurisdiction?
Canada is on its way to including provisions in human rights legislation that prevents discrimination based on a person’s genetic characteristics. The issue is that a person can experience discrimination and harassment simply because of something that may be—something that has the potential of happening. Employers must be aware that human rights legislation is in the process of evolving to include provisions to prevent this type of discrimination, and this will apply in the workplace as well.
Bill S-201 would prohibit any person from requiring an individual to undergo a genetic test as a condition of: providing goods or services to that individual; entering into or continuing a contract or agreement with that individual; or offering or continuing specific terms or conditions in a contract or agreement with that individual. Those who contravene the rules would be subject to severe penalties.
A recent private member’s bill introduced by a Liberal MPP in the Ontario legislature would add “genetic characteristics” as a prohibited ground of discrimination to the Ontario Human Rights Code. As currently drafted, “genetic characteristics” would be defined as “genetic traits of an individual, including traits that may cause or increase the risk to develop a disorder or disease”.