What is Independent Living Nova Scotia (ILNS)?

Founded in 1989, ILNS is a registered charity supporting persons with disabilities through programs and services that promote Independent Living (IL). ILNS runs the only Independent Living Resource Centre in Nova Scotia and is one of the 24 IL organizations across Canada.

Our Mission

ILNS champions the right to live independently and supports individuals in their pursuit of independence.

Our Vision

The vision of ILNS is that all Nova Scotians with disabilities have the ability to live a full, independent life at home, work, and play within an inclusive community.

What is Independent Living?

Independent Living is about having choices, making decisions, taking risks, making mistakes and taking responsibility for your decisions. Independent Living means having control over your life. 

Independent Living Principles:

  1. Consumer Direction - Independent Living respects the right of persons with disabilities to set their own goals and make their own choices;
  2. Cross-Disability Representation - Independent Living services are available for persons with any range and number of disabilities;
  3. A Strong Community Base - Persons with disabilities can identify issues in their own communities and lives;
  4. Integration and Full Participation - Independent Living supports persons with disabilities participate in all aspects of community life: economic, social and cultural.

Annual Reports

To view different annual reports, please click on the ILNS logo.


Carrie Ernst

Executive Director

Carrie joined the Independent Living Nova Scotia staff in March 2015.

With over 20 years’ experience working within an environment that has given no clear blueprint for success, only a clear guarantee of change, it has been her ambitious nature and ability to adjust the course as necessary that has allowed her to find success. These successes have been made possible by a willingness to work and collaborate with others and work towards common goals. With a diverse background in senior management, programming development, adult education and case/disability management, all exclusively within non-profit settings, Carrie is a versatile and analytical thinker with strong interpersonal skills. She also has extensive experience in working successfully with a wide variety of stakeholders in an extensive range of services and capacities. Having exercised an innovative and entrepreneurial spirit, exhibiting an uncommon level of personal responsibility for projects, programming and community initiatives, and determinedly pursuing outcomes for each of the organization’s, she has worked to position them as experts in delivery of service.

“For as long as I can remember, I have been passionately engaged in the promotion of full inclusion for persons with disabilities. My understanding, respect and empathy for the needs and abilities of these individuals and their families mirrors the values expressed in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. My reputation for the promotion and support of PWDs embraces the belief that all persons are entitled to be fully engaged in community life regardless of abilities, location and personal resources. It is the empowerment of these individuals and families that has instilled in me a desire to spend my career seeking the opportunity to work toward an inclusive, accessible society that embraces each person’s ability, their right for independent choices and equal opportunities.”

Kaitlyn Phillips

Executive Assistant & RDSP Program Specialist

Kaitlyn joined the ILNS team in May 2018 to support consumers in attaining and maintaining their own independence. Kaitlyn is a strong communicator with a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations from Mount Saint Vincent University, but more importantly, she is a passionate aid for anyone who chooses to positively better themselves. Most recently, Kaitlyn has co-facilitated ILNS’ newest pre-employment program, In Motion and Momentum Plus (IM&M+) along with her colleague Pierre. Kaitlyn also provides information and navigational support to Nova Scotians with disabilities and their families around the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) process as well as providing strategic and administrative support to Carrie Ernst, ILNS’ Executive Director. 

Meaghan Ernst

Peer Support Coordinator & Program Facilitator

Meaghan officially joined the ILNS team in June of 2021 as one of the Summer Event Co-Coordinators to organize our annual Art of Disability Festival. Afterwards, she transitioned into the role of Administrative and Social Media Support while finishing her Bachelor of Science Degree at Mount Allison University. Currently, Meaghan supports consumers through peer support initiatives like the Fresh Eats food support program, special event organization and delivery as well as a program facilitator for our RISE participants. With a strong background in nutrition, Meaghan has also provided transition support in terms of meal preparation and budgeting to our Shared Services Pilot (SSP) consumers. She is passionate about helping others and working with her community.

Kayla Cavanaugh

Senior Manager

Kayla originally joined the ILNS team during the winter of 2022 as the Program Manager for our Reaching for Inclusive, Successful Education and Employment (RISE) program for youth with disabilities and is currently providing management support with our Direct Services projects. Kayla completed a diploma in social services and counseling skills with a focus in mental health and addictions. Kayla has experience in several sectors of the human services field including shelters, and family resource centers. She has also spent the last eight years supporting people with disabilities in various roles. Kayla is also a member of the Eastern Shore Community Health Board. Kayla is passionate about helping others and being involved in the community.

Hailey MacInnis

Program Manager

Hailey joined the ILNS team in the Spring of 2022 as a Program Facilitator and has transitioned into the role of Program Manager for our RISE programming for youth. For the past 10 years, she has worked with persons with disabilities in small option housing as well as with children with disabilities through various capacities. In 2009, Hailey earned her Social Service Working Diploma from Sheridan College. Overall, Hailey is passionate about inclusion and helping others advocate for themselves. 

Pierre Gascon

RISE Job Developer

Pierre joined the ILNS team in October 2020 as a Job Developer with our RISE Program. With more than 30 years working in the wholesale industry, his experience is a useful benefit in helping program participants find job placements. In turn, these placements will provide the participants with the resources they require to live independent lives. Pierre finds fulfilment in showing employers that providing work opportunities to participants will mutually benefit and enrich everyone involved.

Tina Gascon

Finance Officer

Tina joined the ILNS team in July 2019, with more than 35 years experience in accounting, payroll and facilitating.  She began her career with a local accounting firm teaching businesses, through a variety of accounting programs, how to create and operate their own bookkeeping and payroll.  She also managed the accounts for numerous businesses that preferred to have someone do the work.  After 25 years of working for others, Tina chose to branch off and open her own business.

"ILNS is everything I love and exactly where I wanted to be at this stage of my career.  Helping others, in a positive way, through accounting.  Programming here has grown in so many positive directions and I am always excited to see where we will help next. The team is extremely collaborative, very high energy and I enjoy the opportunities offered to me to grow and expand."

Brenna Starzomski


Brenna recently joined the ILNS team as a transitional team administrator. She works alongside Tina Gascon helping with finances along with taking on other responsibilities around the office. She spent the summer working as a lead at our Autism Summer Camp. She has also worked as an RRW at both of the ILNS run group homes. Assisting both peoples with physical and behavioral  disabilities. Brenna is passionate about helping others and working in the community.

Board of Directors

Taylor Coady


Taylor joined the ILNS board in February 2019 while completing his Master’s in Business Administration at Dalhousie University. Now graduated, Taylor works as a consultant, helping organizations to assess opportunities, manage risk, and develop programs and strategy. Taylor also has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton. While attending UNB, Taylor volunteered with the Canadian Cancer Society and helped organize the launch of the Relay for Life fundraiser on campus. Originally from PEI, Taylor moved to Halifax in the summer of 2015 and has loved being a Nova Scotian ever since. In his free time Taylor enjoys reading, painting, and playing soccer.

Susan McLearn


Susan joined the ILNS board in June 2020 and has a bachelor’s degree in Commerce from St. Mary’s University, Halifax, NS. She has held career positions ranging from accounting for a shrimp fishing vessel in Lunenburg to Retail Accountant, Financial Analyst, and supervisory positions in Accounting and Financial Operations.

Susan wants to add value to her community and ILNS brings forward that opportunity. She looks forward to learning more about ILNS and the programs that are offered to Nova Scotians. In her time away from work, she enjoys spending time with her family, friends, cooking, and online shopping.

Nancy Walker


Nancy joined the ILNS Board in 2017. She is not new to the non-profit sector and the disability community. She has three children and her middle son, Ben, has Autism Spectrum Disorder. Nancy has been a keen advocate for her son in particular, and those in the autism community more broadly. She has sat on numerous boards, both in the community and professionally and understands the commitment of being a board member. Most notably, she started the Ben James Autism Summer Camp which is now run by Autism Nova Scotia, and currently runs the Adolescent/Young Adult Autism Summer Program which is run under the umbrella of ILNS. In her professional life, Nancy is a Physiotherapist who teaches as an Instructor at the School of Physiotherapy at Dalhousie University.

Andrew Taylor


Andrew joined the ILNS board in June 2020. He is passionate about working with people who want to make Nova Scotia an inclusive and accessible place to live, work and play. He has several years experience helping businesses and nonprofits ensure their spaces are open and inviting to people of all abilities. He also offers workshops and training focused on the attitudinal barriers that can occasionally hinder communication between those who identify as people with disabilities and the wider community. 

Jim Arnott


Jim joined the ILNS board in June 2020. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Mary’s University as well as a Human Services Diploma from Nova Scotia Community College. Jim has extensive experience as a banker and as a caseworker at the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services. Finally, Jim volunteered for six years at the Community Justice Society and also with ILNS as a previous Board Co-Chair and the ILNS representative to Independent Living Canada, our national umbrella organization.

Jennifer MacNeil-Noble - Director

Our Partners

Affirmative Ventures

Canadian Mental Health Association - Nova Scotia Division

Canadian National Institute for the Blind

Canadian Paraplegic Association of Nova Scotia

Deafness Advocacy Association Nova Scotia

Disability Rights Coalition Nova Scotia

Easter Seals Nova Scotia

Family Service Association


Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada (Atlantic Division)

Muscular Dystrophy Canada - Atlantic Region

Inclusion Nova Scotia

People First Nova Scotia


Society for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Nova Scotians

Lois Miller Tulip Award

The Lois Miller Tulip Award recognizes a person, group or organization that exemplifies the spirit of independent living and enables people living with disabilities to have control and informed choice over their lives.
Lois Miller served as the ILNS Executive Director for 13 years before she retired in 2011. The Award is named in honour of her tireless and active leadership on behalf of people living with disabilities.

Award Guidelines:

  1. The Lois Miller Tulip Award nominee has exemplified the spirit of independent living and made contributions enabling people living with a disabilities to live independently.
  2. The Lois Miller Tulip Award nominee has been informed and is accepting the nomination.
  3. We have extended the deadline for application submissions to October 30 at 4:30 p.m. Please ensure any mailed applications are delivered to ILNS by this deadline.
  4. The Selection Committee will review all submissions, contact the top-ranked nominees for an interview and notify the successful candidate and nominator.
  5. During ILNS' Christmas Gala and Dance, the successful candidate will be presented with the Lois Miller Tulip Award.

To make a nomination please fill out the Nomination Package below. If you prefer to complete a fillable PDF document, please email us at ilnsadmin@ilns.ca.

Previous Lois Miller Tulip Award Winners:

  • 2021 - Kevin Penny & Dee Osmond (Accessible Adventurers)
  • 2020 - Kendall Worth
  • 2019 - Jennifer Powley
  • 2017 - Lillian Dube & Grace McNee
  • 2014 - The James McGregor Stewart Society
  • 2013 - Claredon Robicheau
  • 2012 - Don Glover
  • 2011 - Lois Miller

In Memoriam

Daniel Charles MacLellan

Claredon Robicheau

Brian "Sean" Mckeough

Colleen Suzette Faulkner

Joanne Michelle Larade

Alex Peeler

Callum Ian MacQuarrie

Supporting persons with disabilities live independently in the community

Our Sponsors

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