Pubdate: Mon, 12 Feb 2018
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2018 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Daniel Leblanc
Page: B9


The country's biggest airlines, train and trucking firms, construction
companies and transit authorities are urging the government to allow
them to conduct mandatory drug tests for key members of their work

The issue of testing is currently in front of the Senate, where two
bills are being studied: C-45 to legalize cannabis by the summer, and
C-46 to make it easier for law-enforcement authorities to crack down
on impaired driving.

Ottawa wants C-46 to be adopted before the prohibition on cannabis is
lifted to deal with the potential consequences of increased
consumption. Among other things, the legislation will create new
drug-impaired driving offences and make it easier for police to
conduct random roadside tests for alcohol.

However, employers say they want the legislation to include measures
to impose mandatory drug or alcohol tests on workers such as airline
pilots, heavy-equipment operators and truck drivers.

Unions have long opposed mandatory drug tests in court, stating they
are a violation of human rights and unlikely to improve workplace
safety in any event. Organizations such as Suncor Energy Inc. and the
Toronto Transit Commission have been waging legal battles to impose
drug tests in recent years. While the TTC is currently conducting
random tests among two thirds of its 15,000 employees, the matter
remains in front of an arbitrator and the tests could ultimately be
ruled illegal. "What we are advocating, with both the provincial and
federal governments, is for regulation and law across the land that
allows for companies to have random drug and alcohol testing," TTC
spokesman Brad Ross said. "We have a duty of care [as employers], and
we do have a problem in the workplace with people having been caught

There are mandatory drug tests for truck drivers in the United States,
and the Canadian Trucking Alliance is calling for the same system to
exist on the northern side of the border.

"The legalization of marijuana clearly offers an opportunity for the
government of Canada to empower those in safety-sensitive industries,
like trucking, to introduce mandatory drug and alcohol testing," CTA
president Stephen Laskowski said.

The Canadian Construction Association said many of its companies are
regulated by the provinces, but the group is calling for "federal
leadership" to allow mandatory testing before workers start their shifts.

"If we wait for a fatality to do a test, it's just not the right thing
to do," said Gilbert Brulotte, past CCA chair. "We are putting lives
at risk."

Hassan Yussuff, the head of the Canadian Labour Congress, responded
that current rules and regulations provide all of the necessary tools
to deal with the issue of impairment on the job. He added the push
toward random drug tests would lead to the "Americanization" of
Canadian labour rules.

"If somebody is using alcohol, cannabis or any other substance that
makes them impaired, employers already have provi60 sions in various
codes to deal with that," Mr. Yussuff said. "Clearly [random testing]
would be a major violation of workers' human rights. Both human-rights
commissions and the Supreme Court of Canada have ruled on these points
many times over."

Still, the employers' association known as the Federally Regulated
Employers - Transportation and Communications (FETCO), which
represents federally regulated companies such as Air Canada, FedEx
Canada and Via Rail, said workers in dangerous positions should not
have more rights than ordinary citizens who will face random roadside
testing for alcohol (but not cannabis).

"If privacy rights are outweighed for an individual driving a car on
the highway, the same logic must apply to a pilot flying a plane with
200 passengers, a train conductor hauling 50 cars of chemicals, a bus
driver carrying passengers, a truck driver operating on a major
highway, or any worker whose workplace actions could impact the life
of a co-worker or the public," FETCO said in material provided to
legislators as part of a continuing lobbying campaign.

During a recent committee hearing, Conservative senator Claude
Carignan criticized the fact Bill C-46 allows random breathalyzer
tests for ordinary drivers - even users of lawn tractors - but not
airline pilots. "The situation is even worse than I thought," Mr.
Carignan said.

Greg Yost, a federal lawyer, told senators that allowing random drug
tests in workplaces would likely have to be done through separate
legislation. "That is a labour relations issue. It is not something
addressed by Bill C-46 nor, in my view, is it ever likely to be
addressed under the Criminal Code," he said.
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