News Release Archive

The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by
Richard Bruce Watson of a decision by the Supreme Court of Nova
Scotia. This decision upholds the Nova Scotia Human Rights
Commission's practice of approving affirmative action programs to
benefit disadvantaged groups, and dismissing complaints of
"reverse discrimination" made about such programs.

Mr. Watson, a white man, applied to the City of Dartmouth in
response to an advertisement for police officer training. After
completing the screening process he learned that the city was
only accepting candidates from within target groups of its
affirmative action program - visible minorities, aboriginal
people and women. The commission initially refused to accept a
complaint from Mr. Watson on the grounds that the city's actions
were pursuant to an affirmative action agreement that the city
reached with the commission in 1987. This agreement was approved
under section 25 of the Human Rights Act, which states that such
programs approved by the commission are not violations of the
act. The commission subsequently accepted a complaint from Mr.
Watson but dismissed it on the same grounds.

Mr. Watson applied to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia for a writ
ordering the commission to further investigate his complaint.
Justice Walter Goodfellow dismissed the application, finding that
the city had a commission approved affirmative action program.
Mr. Watson appealed this decision to the Nova Scotia Court of

The court of appeal upholds the Supreme Court's finding that the
city of Dartmouth had a valid approved affirmative action
program. It finds that, once the commission determined this, it
rightly dismissed Mr. Watson's complaint.

Writing for the court, Justice Nancy Bateman refers to the
Supreme Court of Canada's finding that human rights statutes must
be interpreted broadly and purposively, in keeping with their
quasi-constitutional nature. Justice Bateman finds that it is the
role of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission to determine
whether affirmative action programs are bona fide.


Contact: Francine Comeau  902-424-4111

trp                      May 27, 1996 - 1:30 p.m.