Unclear if province will continue to use Halifax toxicology lab

Mar 15, 2018

A Halifax toxicology lab is under scrutiny after a recent Supreme Court decision questioned its results in a child custody case. In her ruling, Justice Theresa Forgeron ruled against the Department of Community Services’ motion to allow expert evidence from the Central Health Authority’s toxicology lab in regards to urine test samples from a Cape Breton father who wants unsupervised access to his young daughter despite urine test results from April to July 2017 that indicated the presence of cocaine.

“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,” said Forgeron.

The department indicated that it will appeal Forgeron’s ruling, and offered no comment on whether or not it will continue to use the lab in the future.

Shauna Thomson, senior director of pathology and laboratory medicine, offered a brief comment.
“We have been investigating options related to specific accreditation for our forensic toxicology laboratory as a means to formally recognize our adherence to national and international standards for some time. Our intent is to move this forward as soon as possible,” she said.

Two years ago, among several other provinces, Nova Scotia stopped using Toronto Hospital for Sick Kids’ Motherisk lab after it came under fire for falling short of the “gold standard” in hair tests and for providing inadequate and unreliable results which prompted the review of thousands of child protection cases across the country.

Forgeron noted that the Halifax facility is not subject to any external testing or oversight that independently assures that its testing is reliable and accurate, and has never been inspected by Accreditation Canada, though the lab claims it is subject to that particular board’s oversight.