Pubdate: Fri, 12 Jul 2002
Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB)
Copyright: 2002, Canoe Limited Partnership.
Author: Dan Palmer, Edmonton Sun
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


A world leader in mining and extracting crude oil will review its employee 
drug testing in light of a federal watchdog's new policy and similar 
regulations in Alberta.

"We'll be looking at whether or not we want to continue with pre-employment 
drug testing," Patti Lewis, a Suncor Energy spokesman, said yesterday.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission on Wednesday announced a new policy 
that says random drug testing of workers and pre-screening of potential new 
staff are human rights abuses in most cases.

The change affects federally regulated employers. The Alberta Human Rights 
and Citizenship Commission has a similar policy, with jurisdiction over 
such employers as oil companies.

Lewis said Suncor has had drug testing in place for about three years at 
its oilsands operations around Fort McMurray, 437 km northeast of Edmonton.

Everyone from office workers, engineers and tradesmen to heavy-equipment 
operators are tested after they're hired, she said.

"Part of the stipulation of getting hired ... is the drug test. It's our 
largest employee base and there's safety issues at that place. There's a 
lot of heavy equipment."

The company doesn't do random drug testing, said Lewis.

The oil company hasn't decided yet whether it will stop its drug testing 
while it conducts the review.

"No decisions have been made one way or the other," she said.

A spokesman for Syncrude Canada, which also has oilsands projects in 
northern Alberta, told The Sun this week that it conducts similar drug 
tests on newly hired employees.

The spokesman said the company didn't see its drug testing as a violation 
of human rights, since it doesn't do the tests randomly and doesn't do it 
as part of the employee selection process.

Alberta Civil Liberties Association president Stephen Jenuth said he 
couldn't speak specifically about Syncrude and Suncor without reviewing 
their drug-testing policies.

However, he said, drug testing for specific jobs - like heavy-equipment 
operators - could be justified on safety grounds, but not for those who 
work in an office where safety issues aren't as paramount.

"It strikes me a blanket requirement that all employees be screened would 
not stand the scrutiny of the courts or a human rights tribunal," said Jenuth.

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

The Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission couldn't be reached for 
comment yesterday.
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