Pubdate: Thu, 11 Jul 2002
Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB)
Copyright: 2002, Canoe Limited Partnership.
Author: Dan Palmer
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


One of the world's largest crude oil producers defended its employee 
drug-testing practices yesterday as a federal watchdog unveiled a new 
policy banning most workplace drug tests.

"We certainly abide by all laws of the land," said Cherry Holand, a 
spokesman for Syncrude Canada.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission yesterday announced a new policy that 
says random drug and alcohol testing of workers and pre-screening of 
potential new staff are human rights abuses.

"This means, with very few exceptions, drug testing in the workplace is not 
permissible," said commission spokesman Catherine Barratt.

The change affects federally regulated public and private-sector employers 
such as interprovincial trucking companies, airlines, telecommunications 
companies like Telus, the RCMP and the Canadian military, said Barratt.

The Alberta government has a similar policy with jurisdiction over such 
employers as oil companies, said Barratt.

An Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission fact sheet says that 
random, blanket drug testing of employees or prospective employees is 

"A random drug test by an employer would be contravening Alberta's human 
rights legislation, but each case must be looked at individually," said 
Marie Riddle, director of the Alberta commission.

Both federal and provincial commissions say that drug and alcohol testing 
is allowed if reasonable grounds exist, such as an employee showing signs 
of impairment on the job.

Holand said Syncrude doesn't do pre-employment drug testing and doesn't do 
random drug testing. The company does test new employees, who know about 
the procedure as part of their hiring, she said.

"As part of your health and safety, you go through a medical, which 
includes an alcohol and drug test," said Holand.

She said she didn't know whether all employees go through the testing.

Holand said she sees a distinction between drug testing for prospective 
employees and testing that's done as part of the hiring process.

"I know Syncrude operates in the letter of the law," she said.

Riddle said it's possible random drug testing is happening in the province 
without the commission's knowledge.

"Gosh, yes ... we have a complaints-based system," she said, adding the 
commission doesn't go out and check workplaces for human-rights violations.

The federal watchdog's policy change came in response to such cases as an 
Ontario court decision involving a worker at Imperial Oil Ltd. who admitted 
to a previous drug problem.

When his admission led to control board operator Martin Entrop being 
reassigned, he filed a human rights complaint alleging discrimination 
because of a handicap.

Imperial Oil is one of nine companies that owns Syncrude.
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