Unnecessary and Redundant?

Evaluating Canada’s Genetic Non-Discrimination Act, 2017


  • Kathleen Hammond Ryerson University


In 2017, Canada’s Genetic Non-Discrimination Act (GNDA) came into force. The GNDA’s enactment was prompted by concerns about genetic discrimination given the growing amount of genetic data being collected and stored by medical practitioners, but also by for-profit genetic testing companies. Critics have questioned whether discrimination of this kind even exists, and have suggested that the Act, and the changes that it required to the Canada Labour Code (CLC) and Canada Human Rights Act (CHRA), are redundant. In this paper, I explore the merits of these critiques by evaluating studies, anecdotal evidence, and case law on genetic discrimination. I argue that there is a small but growing body of evidence that genetic discrimination is occurring in Canada. The Act’s amendments to the CLC and CHRA may be somewhat redundant. However, given the growing trend of people thinking of diseases and conditions based on their genetic properties, the privacy concerns raised by genetic data, and the deterrent and symbolic potentials of the Act, I argue that it is an important new tool for preventing and prohibiting what could become a growing basis for discrimination. If the Act, which has been challenged for being ultra vires the Parliament of Canada’s jurisdiction over criminal law, is invalidated, its enactment, and this assessment of it, nonetheless provide insight into what desirable intra vires legislation might look like at the federal and provincial levels to deal with genetic discrimination.


Human Rights, Health law, Employment law, Constitutional law, Privacy law, Criminal law, Discrimination, Division of powers, Disability, Impairment, Genetic Non-Discrimination


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