The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission (HRC) has to accept a complaint by a group alleging systemic discrimination by the province in how it enforces regulations regarding washroom accessibility.
The commission rejected the complaint twice last year and referred it to an ombudsman.
In a written decision dated March 28, Justice Frank Edwards said the decisions made by two human rights officers dealing with the initial complaint were “unreasonable.”
One argument made in court from the commission involved the number of requests it gets.
“Counsel for the Commission argues that the HRC would be overwhelmed if every inquiry had to be treated as a complaint. I am not impressed with that argument,” said Edwards.
He also said that the HRC has to inquire into complaints, per the Human Rights Act [PDF].
David Fraser, who represented the six applicants on a pro bono basis, said the group didn’t take issue with specific restaurants but, rather, how the relevant government departments would waive the requirement for an accessible bathroom in a number of instances.
“So when a restaurant builds a patio, they have to make that patio accessible, but they don’t have to provide an accessible washroom,” he said on Wednesday.
Paul Vienneau, an applicant who uses a wheelchair, said it’s important for him to be able to wash his hands before eating at a restaurant.
“I carry an unnamed hand cleaner with me constantly, which is not a legit answer to this problem,” he said.
A spokesperson for the HRC said that no one was available for an interview on Wednesday, but a statement was provided.
“While the Commission will accept direction of the court to process this particular complaint, the Commission will be appealing the Court’s interpretation of the Human Rights Act,” it read.
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