Under the Nova Scotia Human Rights framework, a Board of Inquiry
must approve any settlement reached after a complaint is referred
to a hearing before the Board. Recently, in Nova Scotia (Human
Rights Commission) v Grant, 2016 NSCA 37, a Board of Inquiry
refused to approve a settlement. The Board concluded that it could
not approve a settlement unless the respondent admitted
discrimination. As the respondent had not made such an admission,
the Board refused to grant the necessary approval - barring a
settlement that the parties were willing to accept.
The Board's conclusion that an admission of discrimination
was a required element of a settlement departed from past practice
in Nova Scotia, and the Human Rights Commission appealed the
decision to the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal held that the Board's interpretation of
the law was wrong and that an admission was not necessary in order
for the Board to endorse the settlement. The Court went further,
stating that the fact that a settlement has been concluded will in
and of itself be seen to be in the public interest because
"parties, whatever the forum, are always better off if their
disputes can be settled short of formal hearings". (para 13)
The Court stated that insisting on an admission represents a major
stumbling block to securing a settlement and that the Human
Rights Act allows for settlement without an admission of
The requirement that a respondent admit discrimination could
have posed a significant barrier to settlements as most respondents
would be reticent to admit that they violated the Human Rights
Act. The Court of Appeal's decision should be reassuring
to parties in Nova Scotia Human Rights proceedings that a mutually
agreed-upon settlement will not be subject to this potentially
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