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Drug Testing in the Government of Canada 

[PoliticsWatch updated 3:00 p.m., August 29, 2007]

Core federal public servants are not subject to drug screening or tests.

OTTAWA -- Unlike their counterparts in the United States, federal public servants in Canada have nothing to fear about the possibility of drug testing or screening.   

The 189,000 core public service is not screened or tested for current or past drug use.  This does not include Crown corporations, most agencies and the RCMP. 

"Employees of the core public administration are not screened for drug or alcohol abuse and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat does not have any policies in this respect," Treasury Board told PoliticsWatch. 

The reason there is no policy or testing is because Treasury Board accepts the broad interpretation of the Canadian Human Rights Act that considers previous or existing drug or alcohol dependence as a "disability." 

"The current case law on the issue of drug and alcohol testing, and consistent with the act's prohibition of discrimination of disability, drug and alcohol testing policies are generally considered discriminatory," Treasury Board said. 

The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) said in its policy interpretation that "perceived disability" would include an employer perceiving an employee's drug use as impairing his or her job performance. 

The commission is in the midst of a "major" review of its drug policy, Karen Izzard, a senior policy advisor with the CHRC, told PoliticsWatch in an interview. 

However, she said the "basic thrust" of the interpretation that drug and alcohol dependence is considered a disability would remain unchanged. 

"If somebody is dependent on alcohol or drugs they are considered disabled under the Canadian Human Rights Act," Izzard explained.

"The vast majority of public servants would not be considered to be in safety sensitive positions therefore it would be extremely difficult to justify drug testing under those circumstance."

The CHRC's interpretation of drug dependence being a disability is supported by the office of Prime Minister Stephen Harper

"We respect the laws of the land and the decisions of the tribunals," Sandra Buckler, Harper's director of communications, told PoliticsWatch in an email. 

Only on rare occasions are federal public servants ever asked about their drug history. 

Treasury Board told PoliticsWatch that questions related to drugs or alcohol are not part of the "standard security screening" for security clearances for public servants. 

However, field investigations where "individuals who have knowledge of the candidate" are conducted for public servants who require a "top secret" level of security clearance. 

Treasury Board said questions about drug use "could be posed depending on the results of the field investigation." 

"The questions would be posed to determine whether this or any other type of adverse information is a security concern." 

: Related Links

> Are Canadian Politicians and Public Servants on Drugs?

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