We did it!
This evening, Members of Parliament voted to pass Bill S-201: An Act to Prohibit and Prevent Genetic Discrimination. Canada will now join the rest of the G7 in protecting its people, with Canadian laws finally catching up with science.
The impact of billions of dollars invested by government into promising genome research will finally be maximized. Canadians from coast to coast will be able to benefit from potentially life-saving genetic tests without fear for their livelihood or the wellbeing of their families.
Without this legislation, employers, insurance companies, landlords and others could discriminate against Canadians on the basis of their genes. This has deterred far too many from taking potentially life-changing diagnostic tests, while harshly penalizing others for being responsible in monitoring their health.
The impact on the Jewish community has been substantial. Ashkenazi Jewish women are 10 times more likely than the general population to carry the BRCA genetic markers, which indicate a significantly elevated risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers. With early genetic screening, monitoring and treatment, women with these markers can drastically reduce, if not eliminate, their cancer risk. Because of this bill, passed on International Women’s Day, these women will no longer have to fear the punitive backlash of discrimination based on their genes.
We would not be able to celebrate this achievement were it not for your overwhelming support throughout our long campaign. Together, more than 8,000 members of our community took more than 20,000 actions – emails, phone calls, tweets and online posts – that had a tremendous, collective impact.
Our efforts, alongside the tireless leadership of Senator James Cowan and MP Rob Oliphant, transformed an issue that few people had even heard about into national headlines and federal law. This was an enormous undertaking and an achievement of which we should all be proud.
But our work doesn’t stop here. I invite you to carry forward the momentum of this victory to ensure that the provinces pass complementary laws. We must close any remaining gaps that could be exploited to discriminate against Canadians on the basis of their DNA.
Thank you for your efforts and support. I look forward to continuing our work together to make a difference on the wide range of issues that impact Jewish Canadians from coast to coast.
David J. Cape, Chair
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs