Volume 94, Issue 95

Wednesday, March 21, 2001


NEWS

Student Code may see major changes

Saugeen residents on notice

Gap between rich and poor increasing

SSSC paychecks go through the ringer

Northern universities looking for students

City council troubled by welfare testing

Briefs

City council troubled by welfare testing

By Sarah Fraley
Gazette Staff

The Ontario government's proposal to administer drug tests to welfare recipients has London City Council in unified opposition.

London City Council has put together a proposal which outlines eight reasons why council is not in favour of the provincial government's proposal to implement drug testing for recipients of welfare services, said Ward 6 councillor, Harold Usher.

Usher said council is concerned with the effect the plan will have on the families of drug abusers, noting the potential increase in homelessness and family hardships as a result of the proposal.

Susan Eagle, a city councillor in Ward 7, said the proposed legislation will make it harder for welfare recipients to get into the work force and break away from a dependence on social assistance.

"To stereotype [welfare recipients] as drug abusers will make them high risk, and will automatically identify them as poor employees when they apply for job," Eagle said.

She added she thought drug testing targets welfare recipients unfairly and might suggest people are guilty until proven innocent. Eagle said halting welfare support in the case of a recipient who refuses to comply with the testing could result in two problems. "[The recipients] become the responsibility of the municipality, and the rest of their family is jeopardized," she said.

Tory MPP Bob Wood, said he was concerned about the misconceptions people have regarding drug testing. He noted the biggest misconception is the idea recipients would no longer qualify for social assistance if they do have a problem, which Wood said is not the case.

"Ninety per cent of drug abuse is alcohol abuse and can't be tested, which is why we cannot have a general test," Wood said.

Wood was also positive about the number of people who identify themselves as drug abusers and seek treatment on their own. "A large part of testing recipients is identifying them. People will only be asked to seek treatment if they can be identified as drug abusers," he said.

Maj. Earl Bird, manager of the Salvation Army's Men's Hostel in London, said he is concerned with who will be conducting the testing and where it will begin.

He said the idea of mandatory drug testing infringes on the dignity of people who need social assistance. "The only people who would volunteer are the people who are not on drugs," he noted.


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