The Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children in a 2013 file photo (Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan)
The Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children first opened in 1921, and operated for nearly 70 years in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia — and according to about 250 former residents, it was the scene of physical, psychological and sexual abuse, often on the part of caregivers tasked with looking after them.
Now, after nearly 15 years of litigation, a class-action settlement between those former residents and the province has almost passed its final hurdle. As long as five or more residents don't pull out of the agreement before the end of today, the $29-million settlement will go forward, with disbursements to begin as early as October, according to The Canadian Press.
As part of the settlement, the province does not admit liability. Claims of abuse were not tested in court.
The struggle for compensation for the alleged abuse has been going on since the late '90s, when residents came forward with their stories. One them was Tony Smith, who first moved to the orphanage as a five-year-old in 1965.
“It’s like a burden had been lifted off of my back,” Smith told CP. “I think this is going to be turning the page with the history of racism in Nova Scotia."
The settlement was approved by Justice Arthur LeBlanc of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia in July, and if it goes ahead, it will be in addition to a $5 million settlement already reached directly with the orphanage. There are also plans to initiate a commission where former residents will get a chance to share their stories in public.
"We’re still going to be looking for the truth but we’re not looking to attack anybody," Smith told CP. "It’s going to be a public inquiry but within a different flavour of restorative justice."
In 2012, Smith and two other former residents of the orphanage spoke with The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti about their experiences. Click here to listen to the interview.