Drug Testing in Canadian Politics
[PoliticsWatch updated 3:00 p.m., August 29, 2007]
|Are Hill staffers pre-screened for illicit
drugs before being hired? The NDP says it doesn't do it, but the
Conservatives and the Liberals won't say what their policy
OTTAWA -- Two of the three major political
parties contacted by PoliticsWatch would not comment on whether
their staffers are screened or tested for drugs before being
When asked by PoliticsWatch if PMO and ministerial staffers were
asked questions about current or past drug use before being hired,
the Prime Minister's Office referred questions to the Privy
Sandra Buckler, director of communications for Prime Minister
Stephen Harper, did confirm to PoliticsWatch
that the Prime Minister's Office supported the position of the
Treasury Board not to test or screen federal public servants for
The Treasury Board position is based on the Canadian Human Rights
Act's position that that alcohol and substance abuse constitutes a
disability and thus drug testing would be discriminatory.
"We respect the laws of the land and the decisions of the
tribunals," Buckler said.
Liberal leader Stephane Dion's office declined to comment
publicly on whether or not the Opposition Leader's Office screens
its employees for illicit drugs. They also would not provide Dion's views on drug
testing policies in the workplace.
The NDP was the only party to outright say it does not screen or
test its Hill staffers for drug use.
"Mandatory drug testing presents serious privacy and human rights
concerns to the NDP," Ian Capstick, an NDP spokesperson,
told PoliticsWatch. "We recognize the need for drug and alcohol testing
in some instances: post-motor vehicle accidents, amateur sport and where
the law clearly defines that drug testing is allowable."
In U.S. politics, political staffers who work at the White House are
interviewed by the FBI about current or past drug use before they
are given permanent passes.
In addition, federal departments must be in
compliance with the Drug-Free Workplace Act which
requires federal workers not use illicit drugs on or off the
While they appear not to have drug policies for their own staff,
Canadian politicians are more than happy to make laws for the rest
In 2003, the Liberal government of Paul Martin introduced legislation that would
decriminalize marijuana possession under 15 grams. The Liberals had
originally wanted to make the threshold under 28 grams. Some Liberal MPs and
the Tories opposed decriminalization when the bill
The Liberals' legislation was pretty much abandoned and was never pushed through the House of
Commons and died on the Order Paper when the Liberals lost power in
The Conservatives have never revisited the decriminalization issue
and all signs point to a new direction.
In a speech to the Canadian Medical Association in August, Health
Minister Tony Clement criticized the mixed messages the youth
of Canada have received in recent years about drugs.
"Canada has not run a serious or significant anti-drug campaign
for almost 20 years, and the messages young people have received
during the past several years have been confusing and conflicting,
to say the least," he said.
"We are very concerned about the damage and pain that drugs
cause families, and we intend to reverse the trend toward vague,
ambiguous messaging that has characterized Canadian attitudes in the
The government plans to unveil a new anti-drug strategy in the fall
that will cost $64 million. The government's campaign could
also include changes to the Criminal Code, as Justice Minister Rob
Nicholson said earlier this summer the anti-drug strategy would
Clement's office did not return calls to comment for this
© 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.