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Final report of Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children inquiry expected soon

Following a one-year extension, the restorative inquiry into abuse at the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children is nearing its end
The Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children is seen in Dartmouth, N.S. on Jan.8, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Following a one-year extension, the restorative inquiry into abuse at the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children is nearing its end.

Officials plan to conclude most of the examination of past abuse suffered by survivors, and their look into racism affecting the province’s Black community, later this month, an inquiry spokesman said recently.

Chad Lucas said the inquiry’s main work will finish by March 31, “with final reporting activities to come later in the spring. This will include a final report, but also some community sharing and other ways of communicating.”

Three progress reports have been released by the inquiry’s office in Halifax.

“Reports and other documents and materials will live on after the mandate ends. Some of what that will look like is still in process,” Lucas said in an email.

Regarding recommendations to government, “the province is mandated to report on its progress after the end of the inquiry,” he said.

One post-inquiry project is destined for Nova Scotia’s schools. Lucas said Digital Oral Histories for Reconciliation will be reviewed by former Home residents in April, “and piloted in schools in October.”

The project uses virtual-reality technology. Learn more about it here:

Many stark-sounding court documents about what went on in the Home for Colored Children have been filed over the years. Former residents, who are now adults, described their abuse in those public records.

Incidents covered during the inquiry, which was not a blame-assigning probe, happened when the Dartmouth-area Home was an orphanage for Black and biracial youngsters. Now, it operates as a short-term, child-welfare centre for troubled youth of all races.

In 2014, a Nova Scotia judge approved a $29-million settlement stemming from a class-action lawsuit. The previous year, the court green-lighted a $5-million agreement between abuse survivors and the Home’s administration.

The $5-million inquiry was to stop last spring but the Liberal cabinet authorized an extension to this month. (The settlements with abuse survivors hadn’t been finalized when the inquiry was set to start, so officials waited for that before beginning.)

Lucas said final figures aren’t in yet, “but the restorative inquiry will be on target with that ($5-million) budget.”

Although funded by taxpayers’ dollars, not all of the inquiry’s work was done in public, as many survivors preferred to tell their stories away from the media’s spotlight. The inquiry was a truth-seeking, restorative model focusing on avoiding further harm to people who were abused.

Its terms of reference can be found here.

Mistreatment and neglect of the Home’s former residents resulted in public apologies from the centre’s board of directors and Premier Stephen McNeil. His government announced the inquiry’s launch about four years ago.

A police investigation had included interviews with dozens of complainants in Nova Scotia and other provinces. No charges were laid, the RCMP said in 2012, because evidence brought forward wouldn’t “withstand the scrutiny of the court process.”

On March 30, at the Halifax Central Library, the inquiry is hosting an evening with two speakers from the United States who’ll be talking about civil rights and, according to organizers, “a restorative approach to racial justice.”

The speakers are Margaret Burnham, a law professor at Northeastern University in Boston, and civil-rights lawyer Fania E. Davis, co-founder and director of Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth.

They’ll be in the library’s Paul O’Regan Hall. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the free event is to start at 7 p.m.

The inquiry’s major tasks will end shortly after the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (March 21), an annual commemoration declared by the United Nations.

Michael Lightstone is a freelance reporter living in Dartmouth


About the Author: Michael Lightstone

During a general-news career lasting close to 30 years, Michael LIghtstone has covered such things as politics, health matters, courts, labour issues and jazz concerts
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