Correctional officer’s drug bust gives CSC just cause for dismissal

Arrest for drugs, equipment, weapons, violated standard of professional conduct, code of ethics, and collective agreement for corrections officers
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 07/19/2017

An adjudicator has upheld the dismissal of a New Brunswick corrections officer who was found with a marijuana-growing operation and weapons in his home.

Harold Peterson was a correctional officer at the Atlantic Institution (AIR), a maximum-security institution in Renous, N.B. operated by Corrections Canada (CSC). He first became a correctional officer in 1999 at a provincial youth centre in Miramichi, N.B., where he dealt with inmates under 18. Over 12 years there, he was never disciplined but was exposed to assaults, inmates who harmed themselves, hangings, and a fire. He left the provincial system to work for CSC in 2011, first working at another facility before moving to AIR after a use-of-force incident that caused anxiety and sleeplessness. He didn’t seek medical treatment for his issues, but started calling in sick from his depression, anxiety, and a back injury he suffered in a car accident.

Peterson was told to bring in doctor’s notes for all his absences and was referred to the employee assistance program, but he didn’t use it. He did some Internet research and concluded he had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but a doctor he consulted didn’t believe so. Peterson also began trying marijuana to alleviate his symptoms against his doctor’s advice. He found it helped so he bought seeds and planted them on a neighbour’s property without informing the neighbour.