Drug Testing in the Government of
[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
"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
"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
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
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