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Media Release

Toronto- CUPE Ontario president Sid Ryan and CUPE members who work in the delivery of welfare programs will be meeting with Community and Social Services Minister John Baird at 11 a.m. on Monday, December 18 at 80 Grosvenor St. We will be telling the minister to test water, not the poor. And will be reiterating that CUPE members will not cooperate with the drug testing, says Ryan.

On November 19, 2000 welfare workers attending the CUPE Ontario Social Services Workers conference unanimously approved a resolution to not comply with mandatory drug testing of social assistance recipients.

Opposition to the Tory plan is widespread. And following the meeting with Minister Baird, Ryan will be joined by Nancy Vander Plaats with the Ontario Social Safety Network, Rev. Dr. Brice Balmer, a Mennonite Minister and Addiction Counsellor, with Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition and Jacob Bakan, a lawyer with East Toronto Community Legal Services at a media conference at 12:30 p.m. at the Queens Park.

In addition to questioning the validity of the tests, CUPE is also concerned about the ethical and legal implications of mandatory testing. Research from the U.S. shows that denying benefits to those who fail to comply with treatment may result in increased poverty, crime, homelessness and higher health care costs.

With nearly a $1.5 billion surplus, this government has the money to provide genuine help to poor families. Putting money back into social programs such as housing, child care and real job training (not workfare) would provide those on social assistance with the necessary supports they need to get off welfare. That would be the greatest gift Mike Harris can give to the one in five children in Ontario who live in poverty. It appears this government is having a personality crisis. Mike Harris cant be both Santa and Scrooge. Or is it just common sense hypocrisy to offer presents to poor children and a mandatory drug test to their parents, says Ryan.

Ryan is also suggesting the money the government intends to provide for implementing drug testing would be better spent on improving access to voluntary treatment programs, and to increasing the number of caseworkers in the welfare system trained to provide support for people with addictions. The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) represents 15,000 social service workers province-wide, 5,000 of whom work as welfare caseworkers.


For more information please contact:

Sid Ryan, President, CUPE Ontario
(416) 209-0066
Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications
(416) 578-8774