No, argued two nurses who were disciplined for stealing narcotics from the hospital dispensary and for falsifying records: Wright v College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta, 2012 ABCA 267. They contended that physical and mental illness made them addicts and that to punish them amounted to discrimination based on disability. The hearing tribunal which heard their cases disagreed, saying that there was an insufficient nexus between their illnesses and the behaviour that was the subject of the discipline proceedings; they were being prosecuted for theft and dishonesty, not addiction. An appeal affirmed that result: the acts in question were ‘not entirely caused by addiction, but also reflected an element of choice’. Disability may have given rise to a distinction but did not amount to discrimination.
The majority of the Alberta Court of Appeal agreed that there had been no discrimination: ‘there are a great many addicts who do not commit criminal acts, and it is not discriminatory to hold those who do accountable for their acts’, said Slatter JA. Berger JA dissented, on the grounds that the real issue was ‘whether neutral performance standards have a disproportionately adverse impact on a nurse suffering from a disability, namely an addiction’. In Justice Berger’s view they did, in imposing penalties not imposed on nurses who were not drug addicts.