News Release Archive

The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission has changed its policy on
exemptions. It no longer routinely considers requests for
exemptions under Sections 6 and 9 of the Human Rights Act. 

The commission found that granting such exemptions was no longer
feasible or in the public interest. It is the commission's view
that the new policy is more in keeping with the concept of
equality as defined in both the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
and the Human Rights Act, which recognizes that equal treatment
does not always lead to true equality. In making the change, the
commission considered the policies and practices of other Human
Rights Commissions across Canada, most of which do not grant

Section 6 of the Human Rights act delineates these exceptions;
circumstances in which discrimination that would otherwise be
prohibited by the act is permissible. For example, it is
permissible for non-profit religious organizations to
discriminate on the basis of religion in selecting employees, or
for retirement and pension plans to discriminate on the basis of

Most broadly, the Human Rights Act uses the language of the
Charter of Rights and Freedoms to allow for laws, programs and
activities established to benefit disadvantaged groups, and to
recognize that the prohibition against discrimination is subject
to reasonable limits, "prescribed by law as can be demonstrably
justified in a free and democratic society."

In the past, the commission has granted exemptions approving
activities which in its view are bona fide and fall within the
intentions of Section 6 of the Human Rights Act. This change
means the commission will no longer in most circumstances be
granting or withholding such exemptions. 

Mary MacLennan, commission chair said, "Essentially, by this
policy change, the commission is giving responsibility back to
Nova Scotians to do the right thing. To reflect whether
particular activities meet the criteria in the Human Rights Act
and the spirit of equality which underlies them, and to act

Officers of the commission will provide employers and service
providers with some general guidance on the principles involved,
but the commission will no longer approve their plans in advance.
Rather, when the commission receives a complaint about an
activity that involves a claim of exemption, it will investigate
to determine whether the activity is a bona fide exception to the
prohibition against discrimination. If the exception is
legitimate, the complaint will be dismissed. Exceptions are still
available but the process for dealing with them has changed. 

The commission will continue to approve, under Section 25 of the
Human Rights Act, affirmative action and employment equity
programs which systematically work to break down the barriers to
full and equitable participation by disadvantaged groups,
especially members of visible minorities, aboriginal people,
people with disabilities and women. The commission's affirmative
action division is available to assist employers and others
interested in developing such programs. 


Contact: Wayne MacKay 902-424-4111

jlw                        July 15, 1996     6:30 p.m.