Pubdate: Thu, 13 Oct 2016
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2016 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Sunny Dhillon
Page: S1


A B.C. First Nation says it will implement a voluntary drug and
alcohol testing program for its chief, council and staff to combat
substance abuse in the northern community.

Chief Wilf Adam of the Lake Babine Nation said he will be the first
person tested when the program is up and running in the coming weeks.

"I think it's important as a community that the leadership and the
people that work for the community help find ways in battling drugs
and alcohol," he said in an interview on Wednesday.

Exactly how the program will work is still being determined.

Chief Adam said community members have long called for such a program.
The First Nation - which has about 2,400 members and an office in
Burns Lake - attempted to set up a mandatory program six years ago,
but ran into legal challenges, he said.

Chief Adam said he has heard of other First Nations adopting such

Their use in British Columbia, however, does not appear to be

He said heroin has had an impact on the community, but fentanyl -
which is fuelling a surge of overdoses in B.C. - has "for the grace of
God" not yet arrived.

"[Drugs are] the cause of a lot of what's happening in the community,
family breakdowns and stuff like that," he said.

Dean Wilson, manager of administration for Rainy River First Nations
in Ontario, said a drug testing program was instituted there six years
ago. He said it was initially voluntary, but is now mandatory.

He said Rainy River first focused on "safety-sensitive areas," such as
people working at the community's water treatment plant, driving
medical vehicles, or dealing with family services.

Those in areas such as finance were initially exempt.

However, Mr. Wilson said, drug testing eventually became a requirement
for new full-time and casual employees, as well as contractors, and
has become the norm.

He said the push-back when the policy was introduced has

"There was a lot of resistance because they felt that we're trying to
get people, we're trying to do this. But it actually did a 180. Now
the same people that were concerned over the test … now they want to
see it more stringent," he said in an interview.

Mr. Wilson said the drug tests are random. Within the band office,
three people might be tested in a given month. An additional two or
three tests might happen at the community's sawmill.

Mr. Wilson said no one has been fired for drug use, and the band wants
to help those who fail a test. He said "a very small amount" of people
have decided not to return to their jobs after testing positive.

"We feel it's worked out very well. It's not perfect, by any means.
But we feel it has been positive," he said. "…It's also shown the
general public that this First Nation is doing this and trying to
promote a positive impact on the community and we're a good
organization to deal with."

Micheal Vonn, policy director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association,
said she does not want to minimize the issues the Lake Babine Nation
is facing, but is concerned about the consequences an employee could
face for refusing to take a drug test.

She said an individual who was not willing to have their privacy
invaded could be subject to "a highly prejudicial inference."

Chief Adam said the First Nation could not penalize anyone who refused
to take a drug test. However, he said, the First Nation has discussed
making the results public, which could mean community members would
know who refused.

"We have to make sure that we follow the rules and regulations of the
law," he said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt