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.”

Kayla Cavanaugh

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.

Close up photo of Jen with a black background, she is wearing a black cardigan and shirt.

Jennifer Barkhouse

Residential Supervisor

Jen originally joined the ILNS team in August of 2022 as a Residential Resource Worker (RRW). She also transitioned to a Team Lead position before taking on the role of House Manager at one of our housing locations. Jen manages the day to day operations of the house in addition to working with the residents so they can live independently within community. Jen is passionate about supporting individuals of all abilities and enjoys being part of those she works with on a regular basis. 

Photo of Dawson (middle) with two family members on either side. They are standing outside in front of multicoloured fall leaves.

Dawson Keoughan

Residential Team Lead

Dawson joined the ILNS team in July 2022 as an RRW and is now a Team Lead at one of our housing locations. Originally from Cape Breton, Dawson moved to Halifax 4 years ago to attend school to be a child and youth care practitioner. Dawson is passionate about helping making a difference in people's lives and providing the best possible care to the residents he supports. 

Photo of Kierstin holding a white and brown bunny in her left hand, she is wearing a pink, purple, and orange striped sweater.

Kierstin Cavanaugh

Residential Team Lead

In November 2022, Kierstin joined the ILNS staff as a Residential Team Lead within our Shared Services Pilot (SSP) in Halifax. Within this role, Kierstin direct, guides, and support other staff in providing excellent resident care. Kierstin completed a Diploma in Continuing Care and has been a Continuing Care Assistant for the past seven years. She is enthusiastic in supporting other individuals reach their goals and dreams. 

A close-up photo of Farzan with sky and clouds in the background. He is wearing glasses with a clear plastic frame and a white t-shirt.

Farzan Hedayat

Residential Team Lead

Farzan joined ILNS in July 2022, as a Residential Resource Worker (RRW) for our Shared Services Pilot (SSP) before transitioning to a Team Lead position. As a Team Lead, Farzan ensures that staff are directed and advised towards delivering services to the residents, as well as creating and implementing policies and procedures for staff. Farzan completed his master's degree from Saint Mary's University with a focus in transport for people with disabilities. He is enthusiastic about learning, teaching, and working with the disability community. 

Photo of Ryan standing outside in teh snow wearing a black winter jacket with his hands in his pockets. Background shows snow covered mountains and trees.

Ryan Williamson

Outreach Facilitator

Ryan joined the ILNS team in the spring of 2023 while completing his final NSCC Social Services job placement with our organization, which provided him the opportunity to learn, grow and interact within the disability community.  Ryan was also one of our Art of Disability Festival Coordinators during the summer of 2023. Currently, he is also providing Independent Living Support (ILS) in different capacities and facilitating within our youth programming. Ryan is dedicated to making a positive contribution to the important work being completed within the disability community. 

Hailey McInnis

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. 

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. 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. 

Close up photo of Meaghan smiling, wearing a white long sleeve shirt.

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.

Tina Gascon

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."

Photo of Brenna at the beach during a sunset. She is looking at the camera, smiling, while wearing sunglasses on top of her head and a multicoloured sweater.

Brenna Starzomski


Brenna originally joined the ILNS team during the summer of 2022 as a lead counsellor 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.  She than moved into a transitional team administrator role and works alongside Tina Gascon helping with finances along with taking on other responsibilities around the office. Brenna is passionate about helping others and working in the community.

Board of Directors

Close up headshot of Nancy smiling while wearing a red blouse and grey blazer

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.

Callie MacDonald


Callie joined the board in May of 2023. Growing up in a small town in PEI and playing sports her whole life, gave her the opportunity to become involved in the community and grow her network from a young age. Callie completed her Bachelor of Arts from Mount Allison University in 2021. She then moved to Halifax to complete her graduate certificate in Public Relations from NSCC. Callie is dedicated to making an impact to the disability community in Nova Scotia. 

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.

A photo of will sitting in a chair, and grinning at the camera. Will is wearing black glasses and a dark grey sweater.

Will Brewer


Will joined the ILNS Board in the spring of 2023 and is no stranger to making change, advocating, and leading. Will made history on July 1, 2018, when he became the first town crier with Down syndrome in Canada. He also became president of the Mount Saint Vincent University Student Union in 2020 and now leads as the Advocacy President for the Halifax Nova Scotia Down Syndrome Society (HNSDSS). Will is also an entrepreneur and launched his business, Planet*21, a pop-up/theater events, and event planning business that puts social change and Down syndrome at the core of its business.

Headshot of Megan Johnson. She is wearing translucent framed glasses, a black top, and is smiling at the camera. Megan also has brown curly hair.

Megan Johnson


Dr. Megan Johnson (she/her) is a researcher, program manager, and arts practitioner based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her community-based research aims to mitigate the infrastructural barriers that prevent people from accessing artistic and cultural experiences and to mobilize innovations from disability culture to address issues of social inequality. Megan holds a PhD in Theatre & Performance Studies from York University and has published and presented internationally on topics related to disability arts and accessibility. 

Megan is currently a Research Associate with Re•Vision: The Centre for Art and Social Justice at the University of Guelph where she leads projects focused on disability art and performance, critical access studies, and digital pedagogy. In addition to her academic work, Megan is a classically-trained mezzo-soprano. She sings across a wide range of genres with particular expertise in new music and expanded vocal techniques. 

Photo of Frank wearing black sunglasses and shirt. He is standing in front of a street name called “SULLIVAN”.

Frank O'Sullivan


Frank O’ Sullivan grew up in a small village in Ireland. Frank became deaf at a young age and attended St Joseph’s School for Deaf Boys, in Dublin. After completing high school, he obtained a Diploma in Commercial Horticulture. After moving to Canada in 1982, Frank graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Arts Degree and later obtained a Certificate in Instructing Adults from George Brown College.  Over the years Frank has worked with adults and children with developmental disabilities, as an adult education instructor and with programming for seniors. Frank is a strong proponent of accessible education and training as a means for Deaf and hard of hearing people to overcome the barriers they face in society. Frank is currently the Executive Director of the Society of Dead and Hard of Hearing Nova Scotians (SDHHNS) and has been a member of a diverse range of non-profit boards and committees including: TEAM Work Cooperative, Accessible Nova Scotia Committee, Deaf Literacy Nova Scotia and the Crown Corporations Accessibility Advisory Committee.

Tim Vassallo


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 logo

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. 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

A photo of Alex Peeler, a man with short hair and glasses, looking at the camera.

Alex Peeler

Callum Ian MacQuarrie

Supporting persons with disabilities live independently in the community

Our Sponsors

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