Former N.S. Home for Colored Children directors not opposed to abuse inquiry

HALIFAX – The board of directors for a former Nova Scotia orphanage says it is not opposed to calls for a public inquiry into long-standing allegations of physical and sexual abuse at the Halifax facility.

The Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children issued a statement Monday saying the board was disturbed by the allegations being made against several former staff members.

The chairwoman of the board, Sylvia Parris, said if anybody associated with the home abused children they should face justice.

“To that end, we have no objection if the Nova Scotia government decides to hold a public inquiry into these serious allegations, so long as it does not impede or delay the prosecution of these serious criminal charges, or the disposition of the civil lawsuits filed against the Home,” Parris said in the statement.

Abuse allegations against staff at the home – now a short-term residential facility for children of all races – first surfaced more than a decade ago, but no charges were laid.

Earlier this year, 63 former residents applied for a class-action lawsuit against the home and the provincial government. A certification hearing was held in October.

More than 100 people are now part of the bid for a class-action. A court ruling is expected next June.

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The majority of the claims date back decades, almost to the home’s inception as an orphanage in 1921.

The RCMP recently said they are investigating complaints of abuse against former staff members.

The affidavits in the court action have been the focus of a series of published reports that have prompted calls for a public inquiry.

However, Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter has said the legal process should run its course before deciding on the need for an inquiry.

The home’s role has evolved over the years. It became a more modern residential centre in 1978, eventually expanding its services to promote the health and well-being of children and families within Nova Scotia’s black community in particular.

Executive director Veronica Marsman said the current facility follows rigorous standards on hiring and safety.

“We operate under a zero-tolerance policy for abuse of any kind,” she said in the statement. “Our focus will always be on providing a safe and supportive environment for the children and young people who turn to us for care and support.”