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Bill S-201: Genetic Non-Discrimination Act - Concurrence of Amendments

Honourable senators, I rise today to speak about Bill S-201, An Act to prohibit and prevent genetic discrimination, introduced by Senator Cowan on December 8, 2015.

This is one of the most studied pieces of legislation in our Senate's recent memory and it now returns back to the Senate having passed the house with an amendment.

While I have on multiple occasions expressed my support for the substance of this bill, notably that it creates rules to govern the use of genetic personal information, I've also made clear my apprehension about the constitutionality of legislation given that Bill S-201 could be interpreted to regulate matters which fall under provincial jurisdiction.

In fact, it's for this very reason that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice voted to gut the bill, and once that attempt failed have made it known that the next step is to refer this bill to the Supreme Court of Canada after the legislation receives Royal Assent.

I am interested and would be very curious to see the response from the Supreme Court on the issues of constitutionality that the government will refer, but I do not wish to delay this process in any way.

As Senator Eggleton explained in his remarks, Bill S-201 and Bill C-16 create a conflict with each other. If the passage of Bill S-201 is followed by the passage of Bill C-16, the amendments related to genetic discrimination would be replaced by the changes that Bill C-16 seeks to implement. This is because both pieces of legislation propose changes to an identical clause of the Human Rights Act.

Honourable senators, I understand many of you have strong opinions on Bill C-16. However, to make it very clear, this amendment neither supports nor opposes the intent of Bill C-16. It simply ensures that the intent of Bill S-201 is protected in the event that Bill C-16 does become law. Therefore, I'll be supporting the coordinating amendment that is now before us and I invite you to do so as well.

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