Prison worker gets his job back
OTTAWA • A prison dog handler responsible for drug searches has had his firing for drug use overturned because federal officials failed to accommodate his disability: a pot addiction.
In a recent decision, the federal labour relations board concluded that the Correctional Service of Canada violated Martin Nadeau’s human rights.
It replaced Nadeau’s dismissal with a six-month suspension and awarded him four years of back pay — more than $250,000.
“By failing to consider his disability and by refusing to consider accommodation, the employer discriminated against him,” adjudicator Steven Katkin ruled.
Nadeau was fired from the maximum-security Donnacona Institution, near Quebec City, in November 2013 — five months after first confessing to senior managers that he bought and smoked pot.
Nadeau had told a fellow dog handler about his use of pot and hash, but when he came into conflict with that colleague — they argued about report writing — he worried that he might be exposed. So Nadeau decided to admit his drug use to corrections officials in June 2013.
Initially, he told mangers that he smoked a few joints while noodling on his guitar. In a subsequent meeting with prison warden Marc Lavoie, Nadeau said he used drugs recreationally and did not need a referral to the employee assistance program. Lavoie suspended Nadeau while a disciplinary investigation was launched.
Nadeau told investigators that he would travel to Cowansville, Que., to buy pot — up to 28 grams at a time — from a friend. He admitted that he sometimes used his corrections vehicle to transport it, and that his detection dog was exposed to the smell.
Nadeau also told investigators that he’d contacted the employee assistance program to address his addiction issues.
Based on the investigators’ report, the correctional service fired Nadeau, saying he had lost its trust. The service said Nadeau made himself vulnerable to blackmail from organized crime, which compromised his ability to work inside a penitentiary.
There’s an active drug trade inside Canadian prisons, and detector dogs are used to search visitors, incoming packages and prisoners’ cells for narcotics.
The labour relations board heard Donnacona had experienced three fatal drug overdoses in the preceding two years.
Nadeau, hired as a corrections officer in 2006, told the board he was smoking up to 15 joints per week by early 2013.
After he was suspended, Nadeau spent one month in a residential treatment program and returned four times in an effort to overcome his habit.
In his testimony, Nadeau told the hearing that he no longer relies on pot as the answer to his problems.