Pubdate: Tue, 20 Feb 2018
Source: Cape Breton Post (CN NS)
Copyright: 2018 Cape Breton Post
Page: A3


Two years after the province abandoned using an Ontario laboratory for
drug and alcohol testing in custody cases, a decision by a Sydney
Supreme Court justice is casting doubt on whether a Halifax lab is any
more reliable.

The decision by Justice Theresa Forgeron of the court's Family
Division rejected a bid by the Department of Community Services to
have the director of the Capital Health Authority's toxicology lab,
Dr. Bassam Nassar, give expert opinion evidence concerning urine
testing samples from a Cape Breton father.

"I find that Dr. Nassar's opinion, respecting the toxicology lab
results, is not reliable where the lab is not designated a forensic
lab, where the lab is not subject to external proficiency testing or
oversight, and where the lab's adherence to international standards is
uncertain," Forgeron said in a decision released Friday.

"Dr. Nassar presented as an intelligent and well-intentioned
professional. Intelligence and good intentions do not, however,
necessarily yield reliable expert opinion evidence."

The case involves a Cape Breton father who wants unsupervised access
with his young daughter. The department disagreed, pointing to three
urine test results - taken between April and July 2017 - that
indicated the presence of cocaine. The father disputed the results.

At the hearing, the child's mother supported the department's

After hearing arguments in the case in November and December 2017 and
January and February of this year, Forgeron ruled that she could not
access Nassar's credentials independently from the Halifax lab he runs.

"Dr. Nassar's opinion is based on the reliability of the lab's testing
process and test results. The results from the lab are the foundation
of Dr. Nassar's opinion," she wrote.

Further, said Forergon, the Capital Health Authority lab is not
designated or certified as a forensic lab.

She also noted the Halifax facility is not subject to any external
testing or oversight.

"Little comfort is drawn from the fact that the Capital Health
Authority's toxicology lab is subject to Accreditation Canada. When
pressed, Dr. Nassar could not recall anyone from Accreditation Canada
ever inspecting the toxicology lab," said Forgeron.

The judge also rejected the argument the lab is tested by the College
of American Pathologists. The college itself cautions that its results
should not be the sole criterion for judging any lab's

Forergon also noted that the lab made errors when completing the
surveys for the college and received an unacceptable rating three
years in a row (2015-2017).

The department has already indicated it will appeal the decision and
lawyer Rejean Aucoin, who represented the father, said Friday the
decision is likely to have a major impact on the way such testing is
done in Nova Scotia.

"At the end of this (appeal court decision), we will have a clear
indication whether this lab will be able to deliver the best result,"
he said.

All sides in the case are expected to return to court this week. In
2016, Nova Scotia became the fourth province to halt drug and alcohol
hair testing in child protection cases from the Toronto Hospital for
Sick Children's Motherisk lab.

In 2014, the Toronto Star revealed that the lab was using a hair test
not recognized as the "gold standard."

An independent review deemed such results "inadequate and unreliable"
in 2015.

Such results prompted reviews of thousands of child protection cases
across the country.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt