News Release Archive

  The Workers' Compensation Board does provide a service to
  the public, bringing it within the mandate of the Nova
  Scotia Human Rights Act. On Dec. 20, 1995, the Nova Scotia
  Court of Appeal released its decision in an appeal by the
  Workers' Compensation Board of Nova Scotia against Helene
  O'Quinn, the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission and Susan
  M. Ashley, who chaired a board of inquiry into Ms. O'Quinn's
  complaint. The appeal was dismissed. 
  This was an appeal by the Workers' Compensation Board of a
  preliminary decision of a board of inquiry appointed to hear
  a complaint by Ms.O'Quinn. Ms. O'Quinn made a complaint
  under the Human Rights Act on Sept. 2, 1994. She alleged
  that she was discriminated against because of her marital
  status by the Workers' Compensation Board. Ms. O'Quinn's
  husband was killed in a fishing accident. She was awarded a
  widow's pension by the Workers' Compensation Board in 1980.
  The board discontinued her widow's pension in 1986, when she
  remarried. In October 1991, the Human Rights Act was amended
  to prohibit discrimination because of marital status in the
  provision of services. In October, 1992, the Workers'
  Compensation Act was amended to remove the practice of
  disentitling widows who remarried. Ms. O'Quinn alleged that
  she should be able to reopen her claim as of the date when
  the remarriage clause was removed from the Workers'
  Compensation Act. The merits of this substantive claim have
  yet to be argued at any level. 
  The complaint could not be resolved following an
  investigation. The matter proceeded to a board of inquiry
  chaired by Ms. Ashley. 
  The Workers' Compensation Board alleged the complaint was
  outside the jurisdiction of the Human Rights Act. It raised
  four objections to Ms. Ashley hearing the complaint, one of
  which was that workers' compensation was not a "service"
  within the meaning of the Human Rights Act and was therefore
  outside of the board of inquiry's jurisdiction. A hearing to
  consider the jurisdictional issues was held June 5, 1995. In
  its decision of July 24, 1995, the board of inquiry found it
  had jurisdiction and that the hearing on the merits of the
  complaint should proceed. The Workers' Compensation Board
  appealed this decision to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal. A
  hearing on the merits of the complaint was postponed pending
  the outcome of the appeal to the courts on the
  jurisdictional point. 
  The Court of Appeal upheld the board of inquiry's finding
  that the Workers' Compensation Board, in administering the
  compensation scheme under the Workers' Compensation Act, is
  providing a "service" within the meaning of the Human Rights
  Act. Justice J. A. Flinn, writing for the court, states that
  in interpreting the Human Rights Act, one should take a
  "broad, liberal and purposive approach in a manner befitting
  the special nature of human rights legislation." This is
  consistent with the recent trend of Canadian courts to treat
  human rights codes as having a quasi-constitutional status
  that make them different from regular statutes. 
  The Court found that the other issues raised by the Workers'
  Compensation Board in the appeal were questions that should
  be dealt with by the board of inquiry. 
  Contact: Francine Comeau or Wayne MacKay
         902-424-4111 or 902-422-1043
  jlw                                 Dec. 28, 1995