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Some Air Canada employees to be banned from using pot on- and off-duty

Last Updated Sep 28, 2018 at 4:03 pm MDT

An Air Canada flight makes its final approach as it lands at Pearson International Airport in Toronto on Sept. 30, 2004. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Air Canada said some of its employees will be banned from using marijuana both on- and off-duty despite recreational use becoming legal in Canada next month.

The company said it has revised its alcohol and drug policy to include cannabis ahead of legalization on Oct. 17.

“The safety of our customers and employees is our top priority,” spokeswoman Isabelle Arthur said in an email. “As a result, employees working in safety-critical areas at the company, including flight operations and aircraft maintenance, will be prohibited from using cannabis and cannabis products at all times, both on-duty and off-duty.

“We are acting out of an abundance of caution based on current understanding of the effects of these drugs, including their after-effects and the potential they can linger in the human system.”

All employees are banned from using recreational pot while on-duty or in the workplace, the company said, adding the policy will be reviewed regularly and updated as needed.

“Air Canada is allowed to make those decisions,” Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Friday. “They could be challenged, but they’re allowed to make them.

“From our point of view, from a safety point of view, we already have measures in place to ensure that the crew of an airplane — and I’m not just talking about the pilots; also the flight attendants — are fit to fly.”

The Canadian Aviation Regulations prohibit crew members from working while under the influence of alcohol, within eight hours of consuming alcohol, or if using drugs (illegal or legal) that impair their faculties and put safety at risk.

CUPE spokeswoman Lisa Djevahirdjian said the union, which represents Air Canada flight crew, is aware of the new policy.

“We are looking into this and working with other Air Canada unions to see whether it stands the test of the collective agreement,” she said.

WestJet told CityNews it is finalizing its cannabis policy and will share it with its employees by next week.

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