Report: legal protections needed to catch-up with genetic technology

The BCCLA is issuing a report today that calls for legal protections to catch-up with advances in genetic technology. Genetic technologies have inherent risks because they provide highly sensitive information which can, or one day could, limit opportunities in employment, schooling and insurance matters. In order to realize the promise of genetic medicine, the report calls for urgent attention to genetic privacy and discrimination laws.

“Canadians keep being told that they should be excited by the revolution in genetic medicine that promises to put their genome on their iPhone,” said Micheal Vonn, Policy Director of the BCCLA. “But studies show that Canadians are worried about genetic privacy and discrimination. Our medical privacy is already under threat because of electronic health records and Canadian privacy laws have a lot of loopholes. The special sensitivity of genetic information shines a spotlight on our urgent need to strengthen privacy protections.”

The report also looks at the important role of DNA in criminal investigations and compares Canada’s more balanced approach on the use of forensic DNA with jurisdictions like the UK, which has been criticized internationally for illegally collecting DNA samples from adults and children who are innocent of any crime or involved in only minor infractions.

Vonn: “DNA is a powerful tool for criminal investigation and exonerating the innocent. But calls to keep expanding the DNA database are misguided. Putting over a million innocent people on the DNA database in the UK didn’t help solve crime, it stigmatized ordinary citizens and undermined public trust in policing. Canada needs to pay attention to these “lessons learned” in other countries when shaping our own laws and policies.”

The Genetic Privacy and Discrimination Report was written by Eugene Oscapella and made possible by a research grant from the Law Foundation of British Columbia.

“Genetic Privacy and Discrimination: An Overview of Selected Major Issues”

Media Contact:
Micheal Vonn, Policy Director: 604-630-9753