Nova Scotia

Motherisk lab tests prompt fewer than a dozen Nova Scotians to come forward

Nova Scotia's deputy minister of Community Services says fewer than a dozen people have come forward to the province with concerns about hair testing conducted by the now discredited Motherisk lab in Toronto.

Deputy minister of Community Services says province considering banning hair tests for drugs and alcohol

Fewer than a dozen people have come forward to Nova Scotia authorities with concerns about hair-based drug test results from the discredited Motherisk lab in Toronto. (CBC)

Nova Scotia's deputy minister of Community Services says fewer than a dozen people have come forward to the province with concerns about hair-based drug tests conducted by the now discredited Motherisk lab in Toronto.

A CBC News investigation found as many as 380 Nova Scotians between 1997 and 2015 had at least one positive test for drugs or alcohol from the lab, which was found to be using unreliable methods. 

Many of the test results were used in child protection cases. Ontario is currently reviewing cases dating back to 1990 to determine if the courts placed too much weight on the results.

Nova Scotia has decided to only conduct a review of individual cases if requested.

"It's been less than a dozen people who have come forward and only one person who has asked for a really formal review and there was no change in that disposition," deputy minister Lynn Hartwell told reporters Tuesday after appearing in front of a legislative committee where she faced questions about the test results. 

'Mitigated the risk'

Hartwell said she believes her department has "mitigated the risk" of faulty results because the tests are only one method the province relied on to determine if parents were abusing drugs and alcohol.

But if people are worried the tests were given too much weight in their cases, she said they should come forward even if they're concerned about the expense.

"If there was a family in crisis or a parent that wanted a review, we would make sure that they were referred to appropriate legal representation and would make sure that we are putting the supports in place," she said.     

The hair-testing lab at Motherisk, which is affiliated with The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, shut down last year and the Ontario government placed a moratorium on all hair testing in child protection cases "out of an abundance of caution."

This month the New Brunswick government followed suit. 

Hartwell said Nova Scotia is still considering whether to ban hair testing here. She said in current cases where judges have ordered hair testing, the province will also rely on other testing methods.  

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