This report considers whether to amend the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act to provide an exemption for seniors-only housing. Under such an exemption, a housing development (nursing home, assisted living facility, mobile home park, public housing, condominium project, subdivision, etc.) which restricted residence to seniors would be immune from a complaint of age discrimination under the Act. Such an exemption has been adopted in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland & Labrador.
In Nova Scotia, a private members bill along similar lines was introduced in 2006, but did not pass. In 2007 Halifax Regional Council recommended that the province consider such an amendment, to address an increasing need for housing restricted to seniors. The question of whether to introduce such an exemption into the Nova Scotia Act was referred to the Commission by the Attorney-General in March of 2010.
The Commission published a Discussion Paper in December of 2010. The Paper set out the Commission’s preliminary conclusion that an exemption for seniors-only housing should not be introduced into the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act. The Paper invited public comment on this proposal, and some related questions. We received a number of responses (see Appendix A). Some voiced support for the Commission’s preliminary conclusion, and some not. In the end, we remain of the view that the Act should not be amended to include an exemption. In the discussion to follow, we address the concerns of those respondents who favoured a statutory exemption
Law Reform Commission of Nova Scotia
This report first discusses the potential scope of ‘seniors only housing’ developments, and outlines the current situation in Nova Scotia. It then identifies the problem of age discrimination under the Human Rights Act, and describes the legislative provisions that some other provinces have adopted to avoid that problem. A number of social policy issues are raised by the question of introducing an express amendment into the Human Rights Act. The report adopts a justification framework for examining those issues.
"This report conclude that the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act should not be amended to expressly exempt seniors-only housing. The compelling interests that may be served by some forms of housing that cater to seniors’ distinctive needs are better protected, we suggest, by a case- specific approach under the existing provisions of the Human Rights Act, rather than a blanket exemption for any seniors-only rule in respect of housing."