Alistair speaks on Bill S-201

Mr. David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre, NDP):  

    Madam Speaker, Bill S-201 is legislation designed to protect the rights of Canadians to the privacy of their own genetic information. Currently, Canadians who receive genetic testing on a variety of medical issues are at risk of being denied insurance coverage if they fail to turn this information over.

    Could the chair or the vice-chair of the justice committee update the House on how many expert witnesses testified and how many meetings were devoted to the study of Bill S-201 before the bill was reported back to the House?

Mr. Alistair MacGregor (Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, NDP):  

    Madam Speaker, as the vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I would like to thank the member for Hamilton Centre for his continuous work in bringing transparency and accountability to the House.

    He is correct. Bill S-201 is an important bill, intended to protect Canadians against unfair treatment by insurance companies based on their genetic information.

     To answer his question, the justice committee held five meetings and heard from 28 witnesses. The overwhelming testimony was in support of the current draft of the legislation, and the committee itself reported the bill back without amendment.

Mr. Alistair MacGregor (Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, NDP):  

    Madam Speaker, after the justice committee reported Bill S-201 back to the House, the Liberal government made an astonishing move. The government is trying to gut this important bill by deleting the majority of the clauses at report stage. This would send a green light to companies to discriminate based on genetic conditions.

    At the eleventh hour, the Liberals caved to pressure from the insurance industry. Why is the government more interested in protecting the profits of insurance companies than in protecting Canadians?

Mr. Marco Mendicino (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.):  

    Madam Speaker, our government believes in the charter. That is why our government is committed to protecting Canadians from the possible misuse of genetic information.

    The Senate public bill is a step toward helping prevent genetic discrimination and protecting the privacy of Canadians. Preventing discrimination and other forms of misuse of genetic information is an important goal. That is why our government believes in the amendments, which we introduced earlier in the House. It is about striking the right balance between the roles that should be played by the federal government and the provincial governments.

    We look forward to further debate in the House so we can achieve the goals of that bill.