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Committee Motion 136-18(3): Bill 30: An Act to Amend the Human Rights Act - Amendment to Clause 2 - Renumbered Subclause 2(1), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair R.J. Simpson

Thank you, Mr. O'Reilly. To the motion. Minister Sebert.

Committee Motion 136-18(3): Bill 30: An Act to Amend the Human Rights Act - Amendment to Clause 2 - Renumbered Subclause 2(1), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Louis Sebert Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Chair. We completely understand the rationale for adding this new ground. While I will talk about insurance, our main concerns are not related to the interests of the insurance industry, but rather to the interests of our residents.

I have to say that, because this very major decision is being raised by a motion here in Committee of the Whole, there has been no opportunity to engage in meaningful consultation. What this motion proposes affects the interests of our residents and of the small insurance brokers and agents based in several of our communities. They likely know little or nothing about it.

It is an important point, because this is a very significant change to our human rights legislation and is, in no way, routine. You heard from the ADM about the jurisdiction that provinces and territories exercise in the area of insurance, and we note that none of them have enacted genetic characteristics as a prohibited ground.

It is not that there has been any lack of opportunity at the provincial or territorial level. Since 2016, every province and territory in Canada, except Newfoundland and Labrador, has amended their Human Rights Act or Code, and eight of them have dealt with their prohibited grounds. None of them have taken the leap proposed in this motion. There has to be a reason. If we proceed in the absence of others, it makes us vulnerable.

Since we have become aware of the issue, we have been doing what research we can, and we have consulted with both the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association and with the Coalition for Genetic Fairness, an NGO advocating for the rights of Canadians who face genetic illnesses and conditions. What we have learned leaves us very concerned that adding genetic characteristics as a prohibited ground could dramatically affect the future ability of NWT residents to purchase life, health, or disability insurance. Again, our concern is related to the ability of our residents to obtain the insurance that they need.

Our research has shown that questions about personal health and family history are critical to the process by which insurance companies evaluate the premiums for a policy or decide whether to issue a policy at all. This risk evaluation process is called underwriting. The Northwest Territories is a very small market for insurance providers. We are not Ontario. Given that the questions asked of applicants for life, health, or disability insurance, or the information obtained from their doctors, are intended to ascertain genetic characteristics for the purpose of determining risk, it seems likely to place the insurance provider squarely in violation of the NWT Human Rights Act if it is amended as proposed in this motion. Given that individual insurance companies would either have to develop an entirely new process for underwriting insurance in the NWT market or they could often no longer offer their life, health, or disability insurance products in this jurisdiction.

Insurance companies are, by their nature, risk-adverse. Balancing the value of the business resulting from this very small market against the risks and costs, we fear that insurance companies would make an obvious business decision and perhaps walk away from this market. In the last sitting, I tabled a letter from the president of the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association dated March 5th, and in carefully guarded language, it suggests this very prospect. The letter states that "if the Northwest Territories were to adopt such an approach, it could put the territory very much offside the prevailing market rules across Canada and could negatively affect accessibility to affordable insurance products to the residents of the Northwest Territories going forward."

If insurance companies do withdraw from the NWT market, it is not open to our residents to purchase life, health, or disability insurance in another jurisdiction. Insurance can only be issued by a company licensed in accordance with the laws of the jurisdiction of the applicant's residence, in this case, the NWT Insurance Act. Our residents would have no option to look elsewhere to buy insurance.

It is worth noting that this concern stretches beyond individual applicants seeking life, health, or disability insurance, but to those participating in group plans, such as employees in our public service. Our research has shown that some of the benefits now made available as supplemental options are based on the provision of individual information that might also be offside the amended Human Rights Act. For that reason, Cabinet will be opposing this motion. Thank you.

Committee Motion 136-18(3): Bill 30: An Act to Amend the Human Rights Act - Amendment to Clause 2 - Renumbered Subclause 2(1), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister Sebert. Next on the list, we have Mr. Vanthuyne.

Committee Motion 136-18(3): Bill 30: An Act to Amend the Human Rights Act - Amendment to Clause 2 - Renumbered Subclause 2(1), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I think that Members from this side have spoken quite eloquently about this already, but one of the points that I have raised with the committee in the past in deliberations or discussions on this is that we are already very aware that early detection of genetic defects or propensity to illness is a benefit to an individual. Genetic testing, obviously, will enhance one's ability to gather and organize information that may predict a person's future potential or disabilities.

We struggle here in the territory with very challenging and difficult health situations. We have some of the poorest health stats in the country, especially as it relates to our Indigenous population. It is arguable that the Indigenous population in the North has a very limited genetic record versus, say, western or European societies or peoples, and the ability to access insurance, to me, is secondary to one knowing how one might direct their life choices in order to avoid the need to even have insurance in the first place if they are able to make better sound decisions in their life. It would sound better to me that advancing the health of our individuals and, therefore, our society is something that we would want to support. It seems clear to me, as well, Mr. Chair, that, when one knows their genetic makeup and their propensities to potential illnesses or defects, then they can build also a much stronger relationship with their doctor or doctors, therefore leading to better health outcomes. For those reasons, I will be in support. Thank you.

Committee Motion 136-18(3): Bill 30: An Act to Amend the Human Rights Act - Amendment to Clause 2 - Renumbered Subclause 2(1), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Mr. Vanthuyne. Next on the list, we have Mr. Simpson.

Committee Motion 136-18(3): Bill 30: An Act to Amend the Human Rights Act - Amendment to Clause 2 - Renumbered Subclause 2(1), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Chair. This recommendation came from the Human Rights Commission. The Minister stated that there was no time for consultation, because we are just seeing this now on the floor of the House. It was in the report. It has been years since that report. This committee, which undertook the review of this bill, read the report. When the committee went on the road, they asked explicitly, in every community that they went to, how people felt about this clause. It is a little disingenuous to say that there no consultation. There was consultation; it's in black and white in the report.

The Minister and the department knew about this recommendation. They read the report. They chose not to engage. The Minister stated that the small, local insurance providers probably don't even know about this. That is because the department never went to talk to them about it. There has been no meaningful alternative presented by the department. With other bills, there is a lot of back-and-forth between the committees and the departments, and in the end, we come to something that we can all agree on. We have seen nothing from the department to address this issue of prohibiting discrimination based on genetic characteristics.

The only reason that I see that this is being opposed is because of fear, fear of a lobbyist group. I have never before seen a document tabled in the House from a lobbyist group, and then an entire Cabinet position based on that document. This is the sort of thing that people think about when they think about politics. That is why a lot of us got into this, because of practices like that. We want to stop practices like that.

This might not be a perfect solution. This motion might not be the perfect motion, but it is better than anything that the department has brought forward. Because of those reasons, I am going to be supporting it. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Committee Motion 136-18(3): Bill 30: An Act to Amend the Human Rights Act - Amendment to Clause 2 - Renumbered Subclause 2(1), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 5709

The Chair R.J. Simpson

Thank you, Mr. Simpson. To the motion. Mr. Thompson.

Committee Motion 136-18(3): Bill 30: An Act to Amend the Human Rights Act - Amendment to Clause 2 - Renumbered Subclause 2(1), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Chair. First of all, I am going to support the motion. I took offence by the Minister saying there was no consultation process. I sit here and I have looked at it. If there needs to be changes and there needs to be some work done, there are some conversations and there are some changes and there are some recommendations. I didn't see any of this. What I saw was the report. The committee did a really good job, and here we go. It is about the people of the Northwest Territories. It is not about the industry.

It concerns me that we are listening to a lobbyist group. We had a lobbyist group attend a public meeting on Tuesday. Am I supposed to sit there and go, "Well, there is a lobbying group. I should be sitting there and supporting them"? No. You are supposed to be making decisions for the people of the Northwest Territories, and that is what it is about. It concerns me that we are being scared of the insurance company. I think my colleagues on this side here have spoken well about this, and I can't add anything further except I will be supporting this motion. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Committee Motion 136-18(3): Bill 30: An Act to Amend the Human Rights Act - Amendment to Clause 2 - Renumbered Subclause 2(1), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Mr. Thompson. To the motion. Ms. Green.

Committee Motion 136-18(3): Bill 30: An Act to Amend the Human Rights Act - Amendment to Clause 2 - Renumbered Subclause 2(1), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I am in support of this motion because I am in support of evidence-based decision-making. I have talked about it consistently through the life of this Assembly. What I have heard and seen from the evidence that the committee has collected, this amendment that they are proposing is a reasonable amendment. I haven't heard any reason that it should not be adopted on the evidence.

I have heard a lot of speculation instead from the government side of the House. What they have done is set up a series of straw men to knock down that shows that somehow this is going to be the end of insurance as we know it. I don't for one moment think that insurance companies are going to forfeit their profits in the Northwest Territories because we will legislate that genetic characteristics are a prohibited grounds of discrimination. I realize that they are not going to reconsider their decision. I regret very much that they are not evidence-based decision-makers, but that is the reality of this place at this time. Thank you.

Committee Motion 136-18(3): Bill 30: An Act to Amend the Human Rights Act - Amendment to Clause 2 - Renumbered Subclause 2(1), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 5710

The Chair Daniel McNeely

Thank you, Ms. Green. To the motion.

Committee Motion 136-18(3): Bill 30: An Act to Amend the Human Rights Act - Amendment to Clause 2 - Renumbered Subclause 2(1), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Some Hon. Members

Question.

Committee Motion 136-18(3): Bill 30: An Act to Amend the Human Rights Act - Amendment to Clause 2 - Renumbered Subclause 2(1), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Daniel McNeely

Question has been called. The Member has requested a recorded vote. All those in favour.

Recorded Vote
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

May 30th, 2019

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Committee Clerk Of The House Ms. Franki-Smith

The Member for Kam Lake, the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh, the Member for Nahendeh, the Member for Frame Lake, the Member for Yellowknife Centre, the Member for Hay River North, the Member for Yellowknife North.

Recorded Vote
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Daniel McNeely

All those opposed, please rise.