We have all heard of those ridiculous US court decisions where some careless woman gets a huge award from McDonalds because she drives away with hot coffee in her lap and proceeds to spill the coffee. Now from a Canadian court we get as stupid a ruling. But this time it is a judge not a jury handing down the stupid ruling. Here are some background facts to the Canadian case:
The case began in 2002 when John Chiasson was hired by Kellog Brown and Root as a receiving inspector at Syncrude’s oilsands plant. He was required to pass a pre-employment drug test. Nine days after he started work the company learned his urine was positive for the active ingredient in marijuana. He admitted that he had smoked pot five days before the test and was immediately fired under the company’s zero-tolerance policy. Chiasson complained to the Alberta Human Rights Commission, which ruled he was not discriminated against. Last year, Justice Sheilah Martin of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench overturned that decision, ruling that Chiasson should have been treated the same as someone with a drug addiction, which is considered a disability in human rights case law. Martin said the company should scrap the drug tests or find a way to help people who fail them.
I do not like driving down a road populated by inattentive people glued to cell phones. I am scared when I see drivers drinking coffee and eating as they simulate control of tons of metal (a car) hurtling down a highway. I do not believe I should be subjected to the unsafe conditions that obviously arise when a druggie is wandering around the work site. It should be clear by now that I fully support a zero-drug policy in the workplace, and for that matter on the road.
Judge Morton said the company should scrap the drug tests or find a way to help people who fail them. Now are we to make mining companies responsible for every drug-addict who happens to apply for employment? Soon enough the whole of east Vancouver will be a mining supported rehabilitation center. I fail to see how we can equate smoking hash over a few social drinks with a disability. Come on folk, this is the calculated act of a rational person, making a decision and then lying to the company so he can get a job.
At least the court has had sufficient common sense to grant intervener status in the case to Syncrude Canada Ltd., the Mining Association of British Columbia and the Coal Association of Canada. Michael McPhie, president of the mining association, said pre-employment drug and alcohol testing helps make dangerous work sites safer and is a policy used by many of the group’s 60 member companies. The Alberta case could have national repercussions if it stands, he said.
“This isn’t a question of human rights. This is a question of companies being responsible to both the worker who is being tested as well his colleagues,” McPhie said from Vancouver. “We cannot in good conscience allow people that may be under the influence of some type of substance to engage in activities that could have very lethal consequences.”
The decision to go to work is one each individual makes for themselves. If the rules say no drugs, and you want to do drugs, then do not apply for that job. Go find a job in one of those places where they do not care and where there is no issue of the life and safety of other people. There are plenty of stores along Commercial Drive in Vancouver where this is true. The son of a good friend just of the Drive stacks shelves in the local grocery store during his summer vacation so he can buy the pot he enjoys with his tatooed friends. My friend despairs, her ex-husband sends his son lots of money from his good job in the mining industry, but won’t let his son near the mines. I say good luck to the kid, if he can get a degree in some liberal study program. And I applaud the fact that his mining-rich father keeps him away from the mines.
Here is more from the report on this case: “During the court case last year officials with oilsands giant Syncrude testified that the company’s lost-time rate from accidents has dropped, in part because of pre-employment drug and alcohol testing. It’s a point the company wants to drive home again when the appeal is heard, said Syncrude spokesman Alain Moore. “We are balancing an industrial sites owners’ obligation to protect the safety and well-being of everyone on our site with the right of an individual to consume drugs and alcohol. We see it as an important tool that has allowed us to have one of the best safety records in Alberta.”
How can a judge in clear conscience tell a mining company to let drug-impaired people onto the mine’s property knowing this will result in the death of an innocent person? How would you feel if your son were killed as a result of the inattention of his pot-smoking coworker?
If society decides, as Canada does, that pot smoking is OK, then the society should bear the cost of dealing with the people dumb enough to smoke pot and not be able to get a decent job on the mines. The judge should have noted that the fired pot-smoker could go on unemployment at Alberta taxpayers’ expense–a fair price for the taxpayer to pay if they demand the right to pot without police harassment (as would occur in most United States jurisdictions.)
Personally I resent my US tax money being spent on drug policing and imprisonment of drug users. I somehow or other feel the way it is in Vancouver is more sane and cost-effective. But that does not mean I have to support the right of drug-users to make the roads and highways, the mines and industries where I and my kids work unsafe. And I do not believe these same mines and industries should pay to “rehabilitate” voluntary drug users. This decision in this case is so offensive that it is enough to drive me to support Bush and his choice of conservative judges–spare us the likes of Justice Sheilah Martin of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench.