Nova Scotia

'We must do better': Province provides update on Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children inquiry

The province is required to report annually about what it has done to advance the goals, objectives and impact of the inquiry.

Inquiry is in learning and understanding phase, which will lead into planning and action phase

The Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children opened in 1921 on Main Street in Dartmouth. (Steve Berry/CBC)

The province is once again outlining its support for the restorative inquiry into the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children, one aimed at examining "the harmful legacy of systemic and institutional racism in Nova Scotia."

In an eight-page report tabled in the legislature Friday, the government summarized the actions it has taken to support the inquiry, which was announced in June 2015.

Under the inquiry's mandate, the government is required to report annually what it has done to advance the goals, objectives and impact of the inquiry. 

"We embarked on this journey because we recognized we must do better," said Premier Stephen McNeil. "We need to understand our past fully so that we can begin to address what to do next to ensure a better future for African-Nova Scotian children and their families."

According to the update, the inquiry is in its second of three working phases: the learning and understanding phase, which will lead into a planning and action phase. The first phase was focused on relationship building.

The Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children opened in Dartmouth in 1921, and residents of the orphanage suffered physical, psychological and sexual abuse by staff over a 50-year period until the 1980s.

The report says the government has aided in the inquiry by "creating" and "sustaining" conditions that will allow for its success, such as making relevant records and information available, providing health supports for the home's former residents, and providing infrastructure and administrative support.

"I've made this very clear: there's been institutional racism in the province," McNeil told reporters Friday. "In order to find solutions to that the institutions have to be involved … and I've been very proud of the way the public service has worked together."

Prior to the inquiry, the orphanage's former residents had launched class-action lawsuits against the home and the provincial government, which eventually ended in settlements totalling $34 million.

With files from The Canadian Press