Ontario MPP tries to rally federal Liberal vote on genetic discrimination bill

Ontario MPP weighs in on genetic testing bill

OTTAWA — When Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould turned to the provinces to help make the constitutional case against a bill on genetic testing, it is unlikely Ontario legislator Mike Colle was the one she hoped would view it as a call to action.

But it was indeed Colle, a Liberal first elected to the Ontario legislature in 1995, who took Wilson-Raybould’s recent efforts to drum up opposition to the bill as a cue to ramp up his own efforts to support it.

Wilson-Raybould wrote to the premiers this week about whether they think Bill S-201, designed to prevent anyone from having to undergo genetic testing or disclose the results of such tests in order to get insurance, strays into provincial jurisdiction.

“I think it’s really appalling that they’re hiding behind this provincial jurisdictional, constitutional excuse for not … ending discriminatory practices in provinces,” said Colle, who is pushing similar legislation at the Ontario legislature.

“It’s just mind-boggling to me.”

The proposed federal legislation is back up for debate in the House of Commons next week. A final vote on the bill could come as early as March 8.

The federal Liberal government put forward amendments last month that supporters of the bill — including Liberal MP Rob Oliphant, who has been shepherding S-201 through the House — say would “gut” it.

The federal government is taking the position that it would be better to simply add genetic characteristics as a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act, which would keep it within the federal realm.

Three of the four constitutional experts who appeared recently at the justice committee, however, argued the bill would not go too far.

The insurance industry has come out strongly against other elements of the proposed legislation, which would make it illegal for anyone to require a person to undergo genetic testing, or disclose test results, as a condition of signing or continuing any other good, service, contract or agreement, such as an insurance policy.

Breaking the law could mean a fine of up to $1 million, or five years behind bars.

The Conservatives and the New Democrats are expected to vote against the Liberal amendments, while the Bloc Quebecois is supporting them.

Oliphant said many of his Liberal caucus colleagues have expressed their support for the private member’s bill in its original form.

It is too early to tell whether enough Liberal MPs will reject the amendments and vote to pass S-201, but Wilson-Raybould’s letter suggests the Liberal cabinet is gearing up for a showdown with the backbench on a significant piece of legislation.

Colle is leaving nothing to chance.

He has asked Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Attorney General Yasir Naqvi to express their support for Bill S-201, and is urging voters in the province to contact their MPs and tell them to vote for the bill next week.

“I hope our response to this is that we want the federal government to do something,” said Colle, who has long argued that one of the reasons for his own private member’s bill in Ontario is that federal legislation is coming anyway.

Writing to the premiers Wednesday, Wilson-Raybould said she had received letters of dissent from Quebec, Manitoba and B.C., but suggested there are still others who have not made their opposition public.

Her spokesman, David Taylor, confirmed those letters came after the federal government invited provinces to share their views.

Ontario would not reveal its position on the bill this week.

Clare Graham, a spokeswoman for Naqvi, said the provincial government reviewed S-201 when it was before the Senate committee on human rights in February 2016, but “declined to make a formal submission.”

Jim Cowan, the retired senator who first introduced the private member’s bill, said Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins was supportive when he met him last May.

“There was no indication of any jurisdictional concerns,” said Cowan.

Maria Babbage, a spokeswoman for Hoskins, did not respond to a request for comment about the meeting.

— Follow @smithjoanna on Twitter

Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Indigenous festival co-creator looking to build traditonal Okanagan event

The inaugural Okanagan Indigenous Music and Arts Festival is July 6 and 7

Police seek two suspects and car after stabbing in Kelowna

The stabbing took place on Friday evening on Wilson Avenue. It sent one man to hospital.

Caged: Kelowna Falcons suffer 6th straight loss

The Falcons look for revenge Saturday night after a 15-5 loss

Okanagan-Shuswap Weather: Heat, sun and a chance of thunderstorms for Father’s Day

Morning pancake breakfasts and fishing derbies across the region will see sun, showers may follow.

Pirko found guilty in the 2014 second-degree murder of Chris Ausman

A Kelowna jury found Steven Randy Pirko guilty of the second-degree murder

10 facts about Father’s Day

Did you know that the special day for dads was first celebrated in 1910?

South Okanagan pharmacy restricted from dispensing opioid treatment drugs

B.C. College of Pharmacists alleges Sunrise Pharmacy dispensed treatment drugs against rules

Okanagan pitcher tosses second no-hitter of season

Vernon’s Jarod Leroux has two no-nos in his last three starts for the BCPBL’s Okanagan Athletics

B.C. VIEWS: When farmland protection doesn’t protect farmers

Secondary residences aren’t mansions, families tell Lana Popham

Bombers down B.C. Lions 33-23 in season opener

Former Lion Andrew Harris leads Winnipeg with 148 rushing yards

Summerland ready for dry summer conditions

Province has declared Level Two drought, but Summerland has not increased watering restrictions

Summerland pioneers had connection to Middlesex, England

Harry Dunsdon and Richard Turner became cattlemen

Northern B.C. family remembers murdered Indigenous woman with memorial walk

Still no closure for Ramona Wilson’s family 25 years later

Give Hope Wings fundraiser launches Saturday from Pitt Meadows

Flying marathon will benefit low income Canadians needing flights for medical treatment

Most Read