A judge has approved a $29-million settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed by abuse survivors of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children.
Justice Arthur LeBlanc of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia signed off on the agreement Monday between former residents of the orphanage and the provincial government, closing nearly 15 years of litigation.
The announcement brought tears, applause and embraces from former residents and supporters in the court.
Former residents say they suffered physical, psychological and sexual abuse while living in the Halifax-area orphanage.
'You all have seen my brothers and sisters in suffering? We are strong. We are powerful. You can be just as powerful.' - Harriet Johnson
Harriet Johnson delivered a victim impact statement detailing the repeated traumas inflicted on her.
She told the court she was raped at the home when she was eight. At age 13, her rapist compelled her to work as a prostitute.
Outside the court, she told reporters she came with a message to other survivors.
“For all those out there suffering in silence, you don’t have to suffer in silence. For all those that have been abused, it doesn’t matter if you’re a child or an adult — it’s not your fault," she said.
She said she wanted people to know they can stand up and stop such abuse.
“You can do it. You can take a stand,” she said. “You all have seen my brothers and sisters in suffering? We are strong. We are powerful. You can be just as powerful.”
Winston Parsons was twice sent to the home. As a child, beatings left him with cracked ribs and split lips. He also watched other children being beaten.
He told the court it warped the rest of his life, leading to substance abuse and jail. Today, he is reclaiming his life, and speaking in court played a big role.
“It felt amazing. It felt awesome to get it out," he said.
“My whole life, I was labelled: ‘foster child,’ ‘group home boy,’ ‘punk, thug, gangster.’ I’d like to know what they’d label me today.”
An advertising campaign is planned across Canada to inform former residents of the settlement and encourage eligible claimants to come forward.
Those who allege they were abused have until Aug. 18 to opt out of the proposed settlement.
The Home for Colored Children opened in 1921 and operated for nearly seven decades.