Canadian Army’s Push for More Drug Testing Blocked

Jul 31, 2013

The Canadian Army has once again tried and failed to push through a more stringent screening process for its troops, both over seas and on the home front.

The now retired Lt-General Peter Devlin recommended that even high-readiness soldiers should be tested on a more rigorous basis, since they are prepared to deploy either at home or abroad on such short notice.

The Canadian Armed Forces already administers blind testing for troops on a regular basis, but there is no disciplinary action currently in place in event of a positive test.  However, troops in a variety of secure positions, who are bound for deployment overseas, are subject to enhanced screening on a regular basis. The ex Lt-Gen’s proposal would move to require that all positions on stand by go through the same rigorous testing.

The measure was ultimately blocked by the Department of National Defense lawyers who claimed that they ultimately be violating the Charter of Rights and place the military into a legal battle they couldn’t win.

In a recent interview with the Canadian Press, the now Ex Lt-Gen stated that “The soldiers want this, they all want to take the test, and why this is so difficult; I don’t get it.” He later went on to state that “Soldiers want to know the guy who is driving their vehicle in the training area and in the field is drug-free, and does not have the dependency that would make them not as alert as he or she should be.”

The idea of enhanced screening first came about in 2007, at the height of the Afghan war. Later in 2011, National Defense examined the idea of designating more positions throughout the military t be “safety sensitive” in order to discipline those soldiers caught using illegal drugs.  However, this sweeping proposal was also shut down according to internal defense records. Several legal concerns, most notably the unwarranted invasion of privacy and search without probable cause, could not be defended.

“It’s a question of safety, not rights. Especially when it involves heavy machinery and weapons,” stated Devlin.

Legal experts have said that the military would be well within its rights to impose more sweeping tests, as long as they are not used as tools to single out individuals for discipline.

The military insists that it does not tolerate illegal drug use and will continue to push for mandatory testing.