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Nova Scotia agrees to pay former residents of Home for Colored Children

Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children COURTESY PHOTO

Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children COURTESY PHOTO 

Staff Report

The province of Nova Scotia, Canada recently reached a settlement in the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children case, according to the Halifax Chronicle Herald.

At least 150 former residents of the Dartmouth home will share in the $29 million settlement. In their suit, the plaintiffs alleged extreme sexual, physical and psychological abuse at the facility, which housed mostly Black orphans or those from families who could no longer look after their children.

A massive class action launched by the former residents was given the green light in late 2013 by Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Arthur LeBlanc.

Final settlement approval could come in early July.

Premier Stephen McNeil pledged during the 2013 election campaign that he wanted to see an end to the battle waged by the province, under the former government, against the former residents. The province had vigorously opposed the proposed class action, fighting on all fronts through weeks of certification hearings in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

Near the end of last year, McNeil said he had directed Justice Department lawyers to start negotiating an end to the class action.

“As we said to Nova Scotians, the tone would change when it came to the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children,” McNeil said in an interview at that time.

Shortly after that, Ray Wagner, who represents the former residents, and department lawyers started hammering out a deal.

After the settlement is complete, it will be up to the province and the former residents’ lawyers to arrive at a framework for a long-promised public inquiry into the alleged decades-old abuse.

During the fall of 2012, The Chronicle Herald ran a series of articles in which the former residents told their stories, alleging former staffers at the home subjected them to repeated cruel treatment and that racism was at the heart of the abuse they suffered.

On June 10, the government and residents’ lawyers settled for $29 million.

Tony Smith, whose story of alleged abuse at the home spurred much of the legal action, said the hearing was poignant.

“I’m just glad I’m here to see it and witness it,” said Smith, who had come forward in the late 1990s to speak about sexual, physical and psychological abuse residents said they suffered at the home.

“It’s kind of surreal that it took so long for a (settlement) to come. We thought it was never going to happen…”

Wagner said persistence was key to moving the massive case forward. A total of 162 former residents have been in touch with his firm; 155 have filled out the necessary paperwork.

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