News Release Archive

A board of inquiry has upheld a complaint under the Human Rights
Act by Helene O'Quinn against the Worker's Compensation Board.

In a far reaching decision, board of inquiry chair Susan M.
Ashley has ordered the Workers' Compensation Board to reconsider
applications for reinstatement of benefits by Ms. O'Quinn and
others whose widows' pensions were terminated when they

Ms. O'Quinn made a complaint under the Human Rights Act on Sept.
2, 1994, alleging 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 Worker's Compensation Act.

The complaint could not be resolved following an investigation
and the matter proceeded to a board of inquiry.

The Workers' Compensation Board raised objections to the board of
inquiry's jurisdiction to hear the complaint. Ms. Ashley heard
these objections on June 5, 1995, and rejected them in a decision
of July 24, 1995. The Workers' Compensation Board appealed to the
Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, which dismissed the appeal in a
decision of Dec. 20, 1995.

Ms. Ashley heard Ms. O'Quinn's complaint on March 6 and 7, 1996.
In her decision she found that nothing in the Workers'
Compensation Act prevented the Workers' Compensation Board from
reconsidering Ms. O'Quinn's application for reinstatement of
benefits, and that the Workers' Compensation Board's failure to
do so was discrimination based on her marital status.

Ms. Ashley found that the costs of allowing reapplication by Ms.
O'Quinn and others in her situation do not, as argued by the
Workers' Compensation Board, create a "reasonable limit
prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and
democratic society." Therefore, Ms. O'Quinn's complaint was

As a remedy Ms. Ashley ordered the Workers' Compensation Board to
develop non-discriminatory criteria for dealing with applications
for reinstatement from Ms. O'Quinn and others in her situation,
and to submit these criteria to the Human Rights Commission for

She ordered that the Workers' Compensation Board reconsider Ms.
O'Quinn's application for reinstatement based on these criteria.
She further ordered the Workers' Compensation Board to advise all
other potential claimants in Ms. O'Quinn's situation that they
may apply for reinstatement.


Contact: Wayne MacKay or Francine Comeau  902-424-4111

trp                      May 22, 1996 - 10:46 a.m.