Report into sexual abuse in Nova Scotia schools slams compensation program

Compensation package made victims of abuse look like fraud artists.

A program intended to compensate victims of abuse at provincial institutions in Nova Scotia was so flawed it further victimized the people it was meant to help, says a report.

Former Quebec judge Fred Kaufman took more than two years to look at the compensation program started in the mid-1990s by the Liberal government of John Savage.

"In the end, everyone suffered," Kaufman said at a news conference in Halifax on Thursday.

The $56-million plan was meant to compensate alleged victims of sexual and physical abuse at the Shelburne School for Boys, the Truro School for Girls and other youth jails.

In a 681-page report released on Thursday, Kaufman slams the program, calling it fundamentally unfair to some past and current employees of the province, and saying it did a disservice to true victims of abuse.

Program brought a slew of claims

The program has so far paid out $35 million to about 1,500 alleged victims of abuse.

A Justice Department report in 2000 concluded that many of the claims of abuse were motivated by the lure of easy money available in a compensation program that demanded little proof from complainants.

"This report cannot begin to separate true and false claims of abuse," Kaufman said, noting that might be impossible now.

That report showed that before the compensation program was introduced in 1995, 25 complaints had been filed, accusing nine government employees.

Once the program was announced, about 1,500 people filed complaints naming more than 400 government employees.

Kaufman's review concluded that the compensation program not only smeared the names of some innocent employees, but made true victims of abuse look like fraud artists.

The review was never intended to determine how much money has been paid out fraudulently or the extent of the abuse.

Kaufman said what the report does is to "document how the government's response, no matter well intentioned was fundamentally unfair."

Nova Scotia Justice Minister Michael Baker said he would read the entire report before responding to it.

The report contains 105 recommendations for governments to avoid problems of this sort in the future.