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The Globe and Mail

Sept. 19: Genetic-testing perils. Plus other letters to the editor

Letters to the Editor should be exclusive to The Globe and Mail. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. Try to keep letters to fewer than 150 words. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. To submit a letter by e-mail, click here:


Genetic-testing perils

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Re Why We Need A Law To Prevent Genetic Discrimination (Sept. 19): If someone has had their DNA tested, even as a volunteer (for research or diagnosis) and has been given results, this information must be provided to insurers if and when they ask.

Insurers won't be able to demand testing, but they may still be free to ask an applicant if the person has been tested. Denying having been tested would likely be seen as "lying" and preclude an individual from coverage.

In such situations, it's what you do know that could hurt you. This becomes of increasing concern, given the proliferation of web-based companies offering to do DNA testing for ever-decreasing fees. Here, too, what you (think) you know could be harmful.

Commercial offers to reveal potential risks for a range of health problems or even family ties are tempting many people to send in biological samples, not knowing that the results they may get are highly questionable, if not just wrong, or that these results – or merely having been tested – could themselves cause insurance or employment problems for them.

Regulating genetic discrimination will not be simple or easily controlled. And the public debates about whether genetic testing will actually provide the promises of "precision medicine" haven't even properly begun.

We need protection from discrimination as well as from hyped promises.

Abby Lippman, research associate, Simone de Beauvoir Institute, Concordia University

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If Bill S-201 is passed, it will actually lead to fewer Canadians having needed insurance coverage.

We know that individuals with a genetic-test result that confirms they are more likely to get sick or die early will seek out significantly more insurance protection. This is why existing provincial laws in Canada protect the notion of "equal information" so that insurers know what the applicant knows about their health when deciding whether to offer insurance, and at what price.

Strong evidence exists that premiums will rise dramatically if applicants know they can withhold relevant health information when applying for insurance.

A recent Canadian Institute of Actuaries study estimates that Bill S-201 will increase term-life insurance rates by 30 per cent for men and 50 per cent for women. This would push the costs of insurance out of reach for many.

Frank Swedlove, CEO, Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association

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Carbon stakes

Re Ottawa Set To Impose National Carbon Price (Sept. 19): This seems like a fair way of putting the ball in the provinces' court without letting any of them off the hook. B.C., which showed leadership in adopting carbon pricing early, can wait for the rest of the country to catch up before ramping things up. Provinces working on new pricing schemes have some pressure to get going; provinces that haven't presented a pricing scheme are forced to either come up with their own, or have one imposed on them.

The smart move is to do something like B.C. has done, where the money goes right back to the people through revenue-neutral tax breaks or dividends. It keeps the money in the province and when the price goes up – as it will have to if we're going to reach our goals – it will give people the money to cope with higher expenses and make less carbon-intense lifestyle choices.

Jack Morton, Toronto


There is a right way and a wrong way to impose a Canada-wide carbon tax.

Done properly, a carbon tax could help slow climate change without seriously damaging the Canadian economy. Done incorrectly, the effects on our economy will be more serious and climate change will accelerate.

A carbon tax, like any other tax, makes it more expensive to do business in Canada. The problem is that countries which do not tax carbon become relatively less expensive. One effect of this is that more of the products consumed in Canada will be manufactured in countries which are far less carbon-efficient than we are. Increased outputs from carbon-inefficient economies will accelerate climate change.

Fortunately, there is a solution.

When we tax our Canadian businesses for their carbon emissions, we should also tax the imbedded carbon in imports. This levels the field economically and helps slow climate change.

Most of us believe that climate change is real and must be dealt with. There will be costs. Most Canadians accept this.

The government should make sure we are not paying to accelerate global warming.

Rick Sparkman, Wolfville, N.S.


Carbon pricing won't do it:Reducing the use of fossil fuels requires technological solutions. The Paris agreement has it right when it focuses attention on green technology. Canada needs to focus on plans to do this and benefit from the associated job creation.

It is time for some thinking outside the oil barrel.

Tom Brydges, Brampton, Ont.


Scripted rape

Re Criminal Minds (Globe Arts, Sept. 17): I very much value script writer Ellen Vanstone's insider take on the repeated use of women and rape to power narratives on TV programs written chiefly by male writers and, as it happens, dominated by male actors. The more we write and talk about rape, the more we expose how most of us still stereotype victims of rape while failing – refusing – to understand how serious and deep-rooted the problem of sexual assault is in our society.

Perhaps Ms. Vanstone could do a follow-up on the rise of the serial-killer narrative in TV detective shows. Women of all kinds are murdered in bunches – most raped before or after they're murdered – and displayed naked and abused in scene after scene.

Meanwhile, there's the audience. I suspect that much of it is female.

Esther Shannon, Vancouver


Heritage on the Hill

It was a great idea to provide journalists with a rare tour of the construction work under way in Parliament Hill's West Block (House Will Inhabit A Brand New Home – Folio, Sept. 19).

And it was interesting to learn that Justin Trudeau will move into the office first occupied by Alexander Mackenzie, Canada's first Liberal PM, and by Pierre Trudeau.

A stonemason by trade, Mackenzie used his knowledge to easily modify the construction plans for his office to include a secret staircase in order to avoid lobbyists and patronage seekers.

As a young stonemason, Mackenzie worked on the Martello Towers and Fort Henry in Kingston, the Welland, Lachine and Beauharnois canals, and many courthouses and jails across Ontario. He even bid, unsuccessfully, for the construction of the Parliament Buildings.

As a politician, he fought for and helped build many of our proudly Canadian democratic institutions, including the Supreme Court and the secret ballot. Like those historic structures still standing, Mackenzie built these institutions to last.

I am sure he would be very pleased to see the work under way to preserve our national heritage on the Hill.

John Morgan, Ottawa

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