Volume 94, Issue 43

Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2000


Paul Martin goes to market

Welfare drug testing a possibility

Newfoundland tries to shock smokers

U of Michigan student dies after 20 shots of scotch

Campus Briefs

Maclean's says Ontario schools lagging

Corroded Disorder

Welfare drug testing a possibility

By Adam Stewart
Gazette Staff

Individuals abusing drugs with money they receive as welfare may risk losing their payments if the provincial government has its way with proposed mandatory testing for drug use.

Dan Miles, press secretary for the Minister of Community and Social Services, John Baird, said all welfare recipients who test positive for drug use could be required to comply with drug treatment in order to be eligible for continued social payments.

"If someone tests positive they will be required to take treatment," he said, Miles explained and added the Ministry has launched consultations to determine whether the idea is feasible, including consultations with the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

"We're going to be talking to a wide spectrum of people across the province," he said.

According to Miles, Baird expects the consultations to be completed by December and to have a plan in place by the new year.

According to the manager of communications and education at the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Francois Larsen, the proposal may violate the Ontario Human Rights Code because alcohol and drug addictions have been ruled as handicaps by Ontario courts.

"[The provincial government] should be very careful not to discriminate based on handicaps as defined in the code," he said. "[The OHRC] is an anti-discrimination law. If [the provincial government] were to deny a service based on a disability, they would have a difficult time because it could be challenged in the courts."

Ward 7 councillor and social service activist, Susan Eagle, said she was concerned with the cost of the proposal compared to the actual number of welfare recipients using drugs.

Eagle said she believes the money would be better used in agencies that deal with people who have drug problems and whose funding has been cut by the province.

"It creates the stereotypes that everyone on social assistance is abusing drugs. It turns welfare into a very punitive system, instead of a system for people in need," he said.

Miles said the costs involved in executing the new policy are expected to be range in the millions, but he said it would be money well spent. "It's not about saving money. It's about saving lives."

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Copyright The Gazette 2000