The drug testing process in Canada is one that can seem very confusing and unfortunately there are not that many places to go to find good information to help explain how it works. We are going to do a bit of an overview here to help you understand the ins and outs of drug testing within Canada.

The most common type of drug testing within Canada is that which is done by employers on their employees. The main motivation for drug testing within a work environment is to keep everyone safe, not only those employees on the worksite but anyone else who may be affected by their work. This motivation of ‘safety for all’ is why requirements for drug testing within Canada generally only apply to those who work within safety-sensitive positions. The idea behind drug testing within the workplace is to ensure that employees are not impaired while working to keep the likelihood of workplace accidents at a minimum. 

Drug testing is legal within Canada, however, there are no federal or provincial regulatory bodies that oversee it. This lack of regulations means that there is a void of parameters as to when drug testing should be used and how. Although there is no legislation that deals specifically with governing drug and alcohol testing, the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as provincial human rights laws, can apply to how drug and alcohol testing may be used within Canada. 

There have been cases brought to the Supreme Court of Canada, regarding how drug testing is being used, and they have laid out bona fide requirements for workplaces using drug and alcohol testing. It is of utmost importance that a workplace using drug and alcohol testing have a drug and alcohol testing policy that is clear and specific as to when and how drug testing is used, and that it be communicated and understood by all employees. In keeping with our human rights (both federal and the varied provincial and territorial), there is never to be an infringement upon a person’s privacy or any discrimination to any Canadian due to disability. 

Drug testing is also sometimes used within Canada for social services as well as for rehabilitative programs. It can be used not only to confirm that illicit drugs are not being used but also at times to confirm that appropriate medications are being taken in as required. 

You can find all types of testing within Canadian testing programs, oral fluid, urinalysis, and hair. There are employers who use point-of-care testing (the kind of tests that give you a result immediately on the cup or test strip) as well as laboratory testing, and some who use only one. Some employers do oral fluid testing as well as urinalysis, but more use only one type. It is important to understand that each type of testing has different parameters as far as detection windows and cut-offs are concerned; this means that how far back the testing is looking (use from an hour ago or use from two weeks ago) and how sensitive the testing is (a high cut-off or low cut-off to show positive) depends on the mode and type of test being used.