Affordable housing in Nova Scotia can be as difficult to find as the proverbial needle in the haystack when you are working poor. Finding affordable housing in Nova Scotia can be downright impossible when you are on social assistance and have children and the provincial government allows landlords to discriminate against you.
Many landlords in Nova Scotia are either blissfully unaware of the Nova Scotia Human Rights legislation or are quite happy to openly flaunt it, knowing full well that no punishment be enforced against them.
In the early 1980s, a group of single moms on social assistance organized themselves into a group of housing activists, calling themselves Mothers United for Metro Housing (MUMS). The vacancy rate in Halifax at the time was .06% and landlords were permitted to discriminate against children and people’s source of income when renting their properties. MUMS’ mission was twofold; 1.) to pressure the provincial Conservative government of Premier John Buchanan into creating more social housing for low income families and individuals and 2.) to no longer allow landlords to discriminate against tenants based on their age (such as children) or their source of income (such as Social Assistance).
When the Buchanan government strongly resisted such efforts, the women decided guerilla activism was needed and took action. Taking their toddlers and infants to the Nova Scotia Legislature one winter morning, they delivered an Eviction Notice to the sitting government and opposition parties. The women then proceeded to measure the windows and floors of the Legislature for curtains and carpets while their children ran and crawled over the room. The Buchanan government called in the Halifax Police to remove the women and children; the women, in turn, called the media to take pictures of the police putting them and their toddlers and children in strollers in the police wagons. Needless to say, the police refused to put the women and children in the police vehicles and a stalemate was called.
Eventually, with the work of MUMS and other housing activist groups such as Dalhousie Legal Aid, the Human Rights Act was changed in 1989 to include Prohibition of Discrimination based on Section 5.1 (b) Accommodation and Shall not discriminate against an individual or class of individuals on account of (h) age (t) source of income. Similar legislation in other provinces is widely understood to include a ban on adults only rentals.
In 2018, 29 years after this change in the Human Rights Act, landlords are openly defying the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act. Why is this being permitted by the Human Rights Commission? The rental ads are easily found on Kijiji. Is the Commission waiting for a formal complaint? Why would they wait for that? Why not, instead, be proactive and go after the guilty parties? What are the repercussions of violating the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act? Is it a slap on the wrist or is it a fine or is it an enforceable charge? Why is our provincial government allowing this discrimination to return?
Perhaps our provincial government needs another eviction notice to wake up and smell the discrimination against our most vulnerable citizens.
If you can, please support the Nova Scotia Advocate so that it can continue to cover issues such as poverty, racism, exclusion, workers’ rights and the environment in Nova Scotia. A paywall is not an option, since it would exclude many readers who don’t have any disposable income at all. We rely entirely on one-time donations and a tiny but mighty group of dedicated monthly sustainers.