Pubdate: Sat, 13 Jul 2002
Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB)
Copyright: 2002, Canoe Limited Partnership.
Author: Dan Palmer


A day after two major oil companies confirmed they perform pre-hire drug 
tests, Alberta's human rights watchdog has confirmed such tests are "very 
likely" against the law.

Testing during the hiring process would qualify as "pre-employment drug 
testing," said Marie Riddle, director of the Alberta Human Rights and 
Citizenship Commission.

"Pre-employment testing for drugs and alcohol is very likely a 
contravention of Alberta human rights legislation, but each one has to be 
decided on a case-by-case basis."

Riddle said she couldn't speak specifically about the two Alberta oil 
companies. But Suncor Energy said the company has had drug testing in place 
for about the last three years at its oilsands operation around Fort 
McMurray, 437 km northeast of Edmonton.

Everyone from office workers to heavy-equipment operators is tested after 
they're hired.

"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," said Suncor spokesman Patti Lewis.

A spokesman for Syncrude Canada, which also has oilsands projects in 
northern Alberta, said that it conducts similar drug tests on newly hired 

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.

Riddle said she couldn't talk about the two cases specifically.

"It's not appropriate. I don't have the cases before me," she said.

Riddle said all complaints to the commission are confidential unless they 
get to a public hearing stage.

The commission, which also provides education to companies about human 
rights, doesn't have the authority under the law to go looking for violations.

"We have to have a complaint before we can do an investigation," said Riddle.

Syncrude and Suncor couldn't be reached for comment yesterday.
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