Nova Scotia Home For Coloured Children: Horrific Abuse – Should We Examine It Or Leave It In the Past?
These were the words that the children of the Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children heard, when they looked for help from staff at the home, revealing the horrific sexual and physical abuse they endured at the hands of care workers within the home. Both girls and boys who were raped, fondled, beaten and verbally abused have held their secrets, some for over 50 years, until now.
Tony Smith, the first to speak out publicly about abuse he suffered in the 1960′s while living at the home, has sparked a class action law suit. Others who lived in the home in the 1960′s and 1970′s, have joined with him in civil action as the statute of limitations to bring a criminal suit against the perpetrators has been exceeded. Allegations of sexual assault in the Province of Nova Scotia can be pursued as criminal charges in a court of law for only 6 years following the alleged abuse. It has been much longer. Decades.
So why now?
Smith says he kept the secret due to feelings of guilt, shame and embarrassment for what happened. These feelings can commonly endure into the adult years, preventing the victim from discussing it with anyone. One victim told her daughter she thought she would carry this secret into her grave. The airing of W5′s recent coverage of abuse at the home was what prompted her mother to share her experience with her grown daughter as they sat side-by-side watching it together. This was the first time she heard about the horrific treatment her mother endured at the hands of her caregivers. It was she, not her mother who contacted Wagners Law office for the class action lawsuit to share her mother’s story, lawyer Michael Dull shared in a recent CTV interview.
Should we examine these details or should we leave the past in the past? In an interview in CTV’s W5 news show, Veronica Marsman, former supervisor in 1983, former ward of the state and resident of the home as a child, currently Executive Director in charge of running the home which has been described as the pride of Nova Scotia’s black people, says it should be left in the past. Although she claims she did not endure the abuse that others claim, she says that a civil action is pending and this will amend past issues for those who endured abuse. The home is in a new location and is providing services for the children who need it. Why dredge up the past?
Smith and another former male resident say they were sexually abused by a female staff member, while they were children.
Tony Smith says there is a saying, “The truth hurts, but the truth shall set you free.” Examining the abuse, discovering the process for why, when abuse was alleged and reported on in 1983 when a girl was brutally raped requiring 18 stitches, and it was not acted on, or reported to the police is important in an inquest. Public inquiries are designed to bring understanding, learn new information for future action and to resolve issues that may occur again in the future, and why the system failed. The purpose of a public inquiry is not to assign or lay blame. This is the purpose of civil or criminal suits.
With the refusal of the government to allow an inquiry, refuted all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, Tony Smith had no other course of action in seeking redress than to bring a civil suit forward. What most people with a sexual abuse history want is for someone to say that what happened was wrong, that it shouldn’t have happened and someone should have cared enough and believed enough in the value of the victim to take action in preventing any further abuse. Perhaps the most painful aspect of sexual abuse is not the abuse itself but a public who doesn’t care enough to listen, wants to hush it up and keep it’s shameful memory in the past.
For those who were not sexually abused, this is a luxury. For those who were, remaining silent and maintaining the secret so as not to efface the preferred and erroneous image of a perfect home is to feel the weight of sexual abuse all over again, and again. It is to say that the home’s non-tarnished image, one of perfection is much more important than the victim or healing the victim’s painful and outrageous past – a past the victim did not choose.
A public inquest would end the silence for all victims, even the ones who are not able to come forward, ending the terrible weight and expectation of remaining silent to protect those who should have protected them so very long ago.
All the victims of the Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children want is for someone to listen, understand, care. This is all they need to heal.
Click on the link below to see the recent CTV news coverage and update, continue watching to see the entire W5 news segment recently aired.
If you know anyone who may have been affected by the abuse within the Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children, please forward the link below to contact Michael Dull, attorney for the class action lawsuit at Wagners Law: