Do You Need A Drug Test Before Employment?

You’ve received an offer to work in Canada. Do you need a standard drug test before employment?

Workplace drug and alcohol use is a concern in Canada, especially when it comes to safety-sensitive industries like resource extraction and heavy manufacturing. Nearly 40% of all industrial injuries and fatalities are linked to substance or alcohol use. Drug and alcohol testing can help to reduce on-the-job accidents and promote a safe and healthy workplace.

However, the law in Canada sets strict guidelines for when employers can subject their workers to drug and alcohol tests. Addiction issues are a disability under human rights laws, and the Supreme Court of Canada has found that urine, blood, and breath sample tests are highly intrusive on an individual’s privacy.

The 2014 case of Mechanical Contractors Assn. Sarnia v. United Assn. of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing & Pipefitting Industry provides insight on when employers conduct a pre-employment drug screen on potential hires.

Case Background

Workers of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Sarnia performed work for various Suncor Energy Inc. sites in the Sarnia/Lambton area. Suncor put in place a directive requiring all its contractors to comply with a “Contractor Alcohol and Drug Standard”, which required universal mandatory alcohol and drug testing before any worker could access its sites. The union representing these workers filed a grievance against the Association.

The issue first went to arbitration. The arbitrator, George T. Surdykowski, declared the policy as contrary to the union’s collective bargaining agreement and s.5(1) of the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Surdykowski based his decision on a 2013 Supreme Court case called Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, Local 30 v Irving Pulp & Paper Ltd. In this case, the court ruled that a dangerous workplace did not automatically justify an employer to conduct random drug and alcohol testing on its employees. It must also provide evidence of enhanced safety risks, like a general problem with substance abuse in the workplace. This consideration is also weighed against the employees’ privacy.

The Association filed a motion to have the decision quashed by the Ontario Court of Justice.


The Ontario Court of Justice upheld the arbitrator’s decision, giving the following reasons:

  • Though not being under the influence of drugs was a real or bona fide requirement of the job, the pre-employment screen wasn’t necessary to ensure employees would not be impaired at work
  • A positive pre-employment drug test is not a valid indicator that the person will be impaired at work
  • The Association could not prove there was evidence of a substance abuse problem at any specific work site

Closing Thoughts

The current law is that requirements for pre-employment drug testing in Canada are the same as random drug testing. To test employees (or potential employees) for drug and alcohol use, and employer must show:

  • Not being impaired is a genuine, bona fide requirement of the job;
  • There is evidence of an enhanced safety risk in the workplace; and
  • The risk creates a significant risk of negative workplace health and safety events.

Note that this does not extend to drug and alcohol testing following a safety incident or based on an employee’s behaviour, for which there are other requirements.

Workplace Safety

A safe workplace is a healthy workplace. No matter whether you are working with hazardous chemicals, sitting in front of a computer, making donuts, or wrestling alligators, it is important for your workplace to present minimum health and safety standards. However, the particulars of those standards varied quite a bit in the past depending on who employed you. In fact, they may not have existed at all.

workplace safety

In order to ensure that everyone has access to protections that are understandable and can be implemented, a workplace hazard material information system was created: PSHSA – health and safety training certification. That acronym stands for the Public Services Health & Safety Association.

The idea behind this association and its recommendations is that workers should know all of the possible hazards they can face at their particular job while performing their duties. That is your right as a worker in this country.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour offers training courses that provide the necessary learning and information to help make work a safer place to be. Such knowledge is especially important when it comes to young people. Those entering the work force for the first time are among those most likely to be injured or killed in a work-related accident. Thus, both education before starting the job and working to ensure that conditions are safe must be considered.

Companies that have 20 or more employees must have a minimum of two people on staff that have completed JHSC Certification training. They can answer questions and act when a situation arises that could possibly create a safety concern. The latter can be discovered through regular workplace inspections. Should an accident actually occur, a thorough investigation will help determine the cause and produce information on how such an occurrence can be avoided in future.


TIFF 2017 is Just Around the Corner

Toronto is truly one of the world’s capitals when it comes to movies. We have a great selection of theatres showing a terrific range of both old and new fare, as well as dedicated audiences who enjoy a wide range of movies.

The crown jewel, however, is the Toronto International Film Festival. Cannes may be the best known fest, but few are as widely respected as TIFF. Every September, a stunning array of movies and directors/stars converge on Toronto and patrons from all over the world enjoy some of the best of what cinema has to offer in high-tech theatres.

This year’s TIFF runs from September 7th through the 17th. The line-up offers the usual cross section of movies and genres from around the world. If you are interested in attending, and plan to see as many movies as time permits, it is always a good idea to buy a ticket package, rather than risk missing out on films you were looking forward to.

Highlights this year include George Clooney’s black comedy SUBURBICON with Matt Damon & Julianne Moore; I, TONYA, a Tonya Harding biopic starring Margot Robbie; THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US with Idris Elba & Kate Winslet; Darren Aronofsky’s thriller MOTHER! starring Jennifer Lawrence & Javier Bardem; BATTLE OF THE SEXES with Emma Stone & Steve Carrell as Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs; DOWNSIZING, another Matt Damon vehicle, this one co-starring Kristen Wiig; Guillermo Del Toro’s macabre thriller THE SHAPE OF WATER; Paul Rudd in THE CATCHER WAS A SPY; Jessica Chastain’s latest WOMAN WALKS AHEAD; James McAvoy & Alicia Vikander in SUBMERGENCE; Benedict Cumberbatch & Tom Holland in THE CURRENT WAR; Daniel Craig & Halle Berry in KINGS; Jake Gyllenhaal in David Gordon Green’s Boston Marathom Bombing thriller STRONGER; and Gary Oldman as Sir Winston Churchill in Joe Wright’s DARKEST HOUR.

See you at the movies!

Julianne Moore and Matt Damon in SUBURBICON. Courtesy Paramount.

Should You Be Allowed to Obscure Your Identity Online?

People do all kinds of different things on the internet and, in some cases, they are also all kinds of different people. Facebook has a strict policy that you must create an account under your real name in order to use the site, while Twitter does not. In general, most websites allow you to enter whatever name you like and people take advantage of that.

For example, they may be participating in a political forum and espousing their liberal views. Using a pseudonym allows that individual to remain protected, theoretically, and that might prevent them from getting in trouble with a conservative boss at work. Or someone who is thinking of coming out, might seek information from an LBGTQ forum where their identity can remain a secret until they decide they are ready to share their sexual orientation with the world.

These examples are fine, though it must be pointed out that many people abuse the privilege of online anonymity. Some do this for malicious purposes, such as trolling or other forms of harassment. Others do it to indulge in illegal activity, such as downloading pirated movies and TV shows, or other more serious criminal pursuits. You don’t have to be tech savvy to disguise yourself online either: video private networks (VPNs) are subscription services that provide users with the option of IP addresses in multiple countries. Want to watch something on the BBC iPlayer, but don’t live in England? Simply click on a UK IP address provided by your VPN and the BBC does not know the difference.

Governments and corporations take a dim view of such activity. Russia and China announced that VPNs will be banned in those countries by the end of the year. This is unfortunate because it will rob citizens of the chance to speak openly and potentially criticize those authoritarian governments. But, of course, that is just the sort of openness they seek to oppress.

How to Plan a Retirement Party

After someone has worked for many years and has decided to call it a day, it is customary for their current co-workers to throw a retirement party. These can be tricky because you want to find the right tone for the get together: you are sad to see them go, but also want to celebrate their accomplishments and their entering into a new phase of life.

Here are some ideas to help you plan a retirement party:


Ask people who have worked with and known the person for years to celebrate their achievements. While you should encourage the speakers to talk about whatever they like, it helps to have a good balance between the comedic and ones that genuinely laud the person’s accomplishments. A little genuine sentimentality can be nice, too.

Party Theme

There is nothing wrong with making reservations in a nice restaurant or booking a hall for the party. However, if you want to try something more ambitious, think of a theme for the party. For example, if the person loves golfing, arrange a day at a local golf course, followed by a meal and drinks in the club’s restaurant. Find out what the person really loves to do and then judge whether it is do-able from a cost and planning standpoint.

Go for a Broad List of Attendees

Don’t just invite people from work. Reach out to the person’s friends and family and encourage some of them to be among the speakers. This way, everyone gets a broad overview of the person’s life and accomplishments, and not just how they performed on the job.

Provide a Way to Stay in Touch

People often lose touch with old work colleagues. Make sure that everyone has the person’s contact info. You can also set up a social media account for them and encourage the attendees to “friend” it.

Boots and Hearts 2017 Coming in August

Held annually in Oro-Medonte, a lovely lakeside area near Barrie, Ontario, Boots and Hearts is a major country and western music festival that attracts many people of all ages to the area each year.

For those not familiar with Boots and Hearts, it’s a three-day festival (running August 10-13 this year) where you can camp out for the duration or come on a daily basis.  You can choose from $100 single-day tickets or $220 VIP passes.

The star-studded line-up always includes a cross-section of Canadian and American talent. Keith Urban is probably the best known of the 2017 headliners, who also include Brantley Gilbert and Luke Bryan. Among the other confirmed acts are Brett Eldredge, the Eli Young Band, Dan + Shay, Frankie Ballard, Chad Brownlee, Jess Moskaluke, and even veteran actor Kiefer Sutherland (see the full line-up here).

Keith Urban is among the headliners at this year’s Boots and Saddles festival in Oro-Medonte, Ontario. By Craig ONeal (Keith Urban World Tour) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
While I’m not a big country and western fan, but Boots and Hearts has a great reputation as a fun place to be and meet new people. Friends who have attended in the past have very positive things to say about the experience. I don’t have tickets yet, but am thinking seriously about it.

If you can’t afford the ticket price, you also have the option of being a volunteer for the three days. You can camp for free on the property as a volunteer, though you do need to bring your own camping equipment. Over the course of the festival, you will need to work a minimum of 18 hours. I’ve volunteered at festivals before and it was a real pleasure, with only a few negative moments caused by rowdy behavior.

For more information, visit the festival’s official website.


How to Plan a Child’s Birthday Party

OK, you have now successfully planned a party for adults, so you have the experience and battle scars to plan your first children’s party. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, of course, though if you have ever participated in kiddie birthday parties before, you know that there is no such thing as rest: you have to be on and alert from the time the first child arrives to the second the last one heads out the door.

OK, let’s get started:

Pick a Theme

You can stage any old birthday party, but having a theme tends to make the kids more engaged. It can be anything under the sun, though you should definitely involve the main child in the decision making process.

How Many Guests?

Logistics are key here: how many adults will there be to supervise? Don’t allow so many children that you can’t adequately keep a handle on things. Have at least one adult for every five children.


If you are doing an activity like bowling or going to a movie, you might want to book some form of entertainment. Decide on what kind as soon as possible and book immediately; that way, if there is a cancellation, you can find someone else.

Plan the Day

It can be tough to have little children following a schedule, but do your best to plan the day so that everything happens in its proper order at an appropriate time. For example, you don’t want to be opening presents right when the clowns arrive.

Make Sure Everything is Ordered

Have you ordered the food? What about the party favors? Napkins, hats, and other things for the table? Don’t forget the cleaning supplies!

Children’s birthday parties can be pretty trying, but they can also be great fun and very memorable moments in the life of your child. If you have everything well planned in advance, chances are it will come off without a hitch.

How to Be a Good Party Host(ess)

Party planning is a major part of the challenge, so the actual party is smooth sailing, right? Well, it can be, if you keep a few things in mind.

Here are some tips that can help ensure that your party is the success you’re hoping for:

  • Keep a level head. It’s impossible to plan for every possibility at a party; let’s face it, spontaneity is fun! Also, if you’re serving alcohol, there is always the possibility that someone might start to enjoy themselves a bit too much. If something like that does happen, keep cool! Don’t get mad. Anger does not help get things back on track.  Also, if you are too anxious, that doesn’t set the right mood either. Try to do something relaxing before everyone arrives and hold on to those vibes for the rest of the evening.
  • Stick to your strengths. Do you have a dish that tends to go over well with people and you are very comfortable making? Choose that over one that you have never tried before. If you want to experiment with your cooking or designing skills, choose a small scale affair first, not the party where you’ve invited your boss and mother-in-law.
  • Choose the right music. You don’t want to bore your guests with Muzak and you don’t want to blow out their ears and their conversations with heavy metal. Try and find music that falls somewhere in the middle ground and reflects the tastes of most of your guests.
  • Mingle! Remember, you are the host(ess): people are here to see you, too! Hanging around in the kitchen or spending a great deal of time with one set of friends comes across as being rude. Get out there, talk, and make sure everyone is enjoying themselves.
  • Be flexible. It’s great to plan things out, but the timing does not always jibe. Don’t interrupt a rewarding group conversation because it says in your schedule that it’s time for appetizers. Play it by ear and imagine that you are among the guests; when does it seem right to you for the next stage in your evening to occur?