Nova Scotia has reached a tentative agreement in the class-action lawsuit by former residents of the Home for Colored Children.
The province says it will set aside $29 million for the agreement.
'Finally the truth is coming out. Within the black community, we all knew the atrocities that were going on.' - Tony Smith, former resident
About 150 former residents of the orphanage allege they were sexually, physically and psychologically abused by staff over a 50-year period, to 1990.
Tony Smith, who was sent to the home when he was five years old and stayed there for 3½ years, later formed an advocacy group for residents called Voices.
He said he's pleased with Tuesday's announcement.
"It means, finally, we have acknowledgement of the injustice that we have suffered. Financially, it’s going to help some people get the help that they need.
"We’re very pleased with Premier Stephen McNeil," said Smith. "He’s the only premier that had listened. It’s been a long battle, but everywhere that we went, people have always shown their support and hope that this day would come."
He said the home was a "dark secret" in the local black community.
“Finally the truth is coming out. Within the black community, we all knew of the atrocities that were going on," said Smith.
"This was a dark secret and when it came out publicly, I know it was a psychological shock within the black community as well. But no matter who we spoke to, even growing up, everybody would say that if you misbehaved, we would 'send you to the coloured home.' Finally the truth has come out.”
The deal will be reviewed in Nova Scotia Supreme Court for preliminary approval on Friday.
Payments expected in coming months
Last December, Judge Arthur LeBlanc certified the lawsuit against the province for failing to provide for children in its care.
In his 94-page decision last December, LeBlanc said wards of the province who were placed in the care of the home from 1951 to 1990 had a clear right to sue for negligence. However, others placed in the orphanage by relatives or children's aid societies may have to argue further to be included in the class action.
Smith says the settlement from the province will include many people who were not part of the original class-action lawsuit but were residents of the home.
The premier says Tuesday's tentative agreement is a significant step forward moving closer to a resolution.
The government says all legal steps are expected to be finalized by the end of September. McNeil said people should receive their cheques by October.
"We're not done yet. There are still some legal steps in the process. But this is a significant step forward in the right direction," said McNeil in a release.
"Former residents have been through a lot and for their sake, it's good that we're closer to a resolution."
The province says it will proceed with some sort of a public process to allow residents to share their stories.
In November, McNeil announced his government would try to settle the suit — something his New Democratic Party predecessor fought in the courts before being defeated in October's provincial election.
The allegations in the class action have not been tested in court, and previously, lawyers for the government had argued that some of them are based on speculation or hearsay.
Last year, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court approved a separate $5-million settlement between the Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children and the home's former residents. That settlement was separate from this latest class-action suit.