Are Canadian politicians and bureaucrats
[PoliticsWatch updated 4:00 p.m. October 2, 2007]
|Canada has the highest marijuana consumption
rate in the developed world and does not screen or test its
public servants or political staffers for past or current drug
OTTAWA -- While most people were on vacation over
the summer, a British Columbia courtroom heard a stunning revelation
about how prevalent drug use can be in Canada.
A crew member of the HMCS Saskatoon
based at CFB Esquimalt testified in court that one-third of
the 31-member ship crew were regular cocaine users.
The fact that nearly one-third of a military unit would be frequent
users of a hard drug such as cocaine should be shocking to the
However, the issue runs much deeper than just one ship.
According to a recent media report, Canadian Forces bases in Canada
are seeing dramatic increases this year in the number of troops
referred for drug addiction treatment. Over the last two years,
2,500 Canadian soldiers have been treated for addictions. The
increased number of cases has placed a strain on some bases' ability
to offer treatment and counselling.
On the whole, Canadians are gaining a reputation for tolerating illicit drug use.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, for example, released a study
this summer that found Canada had the highest percentage of
regular marijuana users in the developed world.
According to the
survey, 16.8 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 15 and 64 used marijuana in 2004.
In fact, Canada's usage is higher than Jamaica, where 10.7
per cent of the population used marijuana.
However, there could be a change in direction coming soon from
Health Minister Tony Clement said in late September the federal government
planned to launch a $64 million anti-drug strategy before Parliament
reconvenes in mid-October. The objective is
to end conflicting messages Canadian youth received over recent
years about drugs.
"We intend to reverse the trend toward vague, ambiguous messaging that has characterized Canadian attitudes in the recent
past," Clement said.
Under the previous Liberal government, legislation to decriminalize possession of
marijuana under 15 grams was introduced. The tabling of the bill received headlines
around the world, but it was eventually abandoned by former prime
minister Paul Martin.
With Canada's drug culture at a crossroads, PoliticsWatch conducted
an investigation of how serious the Government of Canada takes drugs when it comes to
its own employees. This PoliticsWatch feature looks at drug policy
in the military, public service, ministerial and Hill staffers and
the U.S. government.
What we found was that with the exception of the military, there are
no drug policies for those who work in government.
This is in direct contrast to the U.S. where drug testing and drug
screening of federal employees was mandated by an executive order
from former president Ronald Reagan in 1986.
However, things haven't always worked smoothly, particularly in
political offices, when it comes to
keeping a drug-free workplace in the U.S. federal government. In the
mid-1990s, Secret Service agents told a congressional committee that
21 political staffers in Bill Clinton's White House had to be
tested for drugs to maintain their security clearance.
The landscape is different in Canada where Canadian public servants
do not have any drug screening or testing policy to worry about. The
Canadian Human Rights Act views people with drug or
alcohol problems as being disabled. Testing them would be considered
Although the government plans to release an anti-drug strategy for
Canadians soon, the
Prime Minister's Office and the federal public service supports the view that drug problems are a
Canadian politicians create more drug policies for citizens, yet
they have no drug policies in place for themselves or for
Click on the stories below to get more details on drug testing in politics.
Drug Testing in the Canadian Military
Soldiers headed to Afghanistan are now tested for illicit drugs, but drug
testing is the exception and not the rule in Canada's
Drug Testing in U.S. Government and Politics
Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan mandated a drug-free federal workplace,
but his successors Bill Clinton and George W. Bush all brought their
own drug issues to the White House.
Drug Testing in the Government of Canada
The federal government does not test or ask questions of drug users it
employs or hires because they are classified as disabled under the Canadian
Human Rights Act.
Drug Testing in Canadian Politics
Are ministerial and Hill staffers pre-screened for drug use
before they are hired? The Conservatives and the Liberals won't
© PoliticsWatch® 2007. All rights reserved. Republication
or redistribution of PoliticsWatch content, including by framing,
copying, linking or similar means, is expressly prohibited without
the prior written consent of Public Interests Research and Communications
Inc. (PIRCINC). PoliticsWatch is registered trademark of PIRCINC.