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Litigating the Claims Against the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children - Part 1

Victor Lewin - Wednesday, March 14, 2012

It is now closing in on 10 years since Wagners commenced litigation against the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children, the Province of Nova Scotia and various Children's Aid Societies. The Home was established in 1917 and served primarily disadvantaged and unwanted children of African-Canadian descent.

The claims we filed back in 2003 and 2004 were individual lawsuits on behalf of more than 60 former residents of the Home, or NSHCC. From the time that we filed those initial claims up to and continuing today, the Defendants have continued to force our clients to go through obtrusive examinations, submit to providing answers to interrogatories and demands for particulars, motions for summary judgment and other procedures that have only served to delay our efforts to give our clients their day in court.

One must ask themselves why the Defendants are subjecting these victims of abuse to the lengthy and costly litigation process. What makes this case different?

Similar institutional abuse cases, such as Shelburne, were resolved in only 4 or 5 years after the first allegations of abuse came to light. A number of victims of the pedophile, Cesar Lalo, have had their cases heard in Court. However the victims of abuse suffered in the NSHCC continue to be embroiled in litigation nearly 10 years after their claims first came to light.

When reviewing the Shelburne situation, which came to light in 1991, it was approximately one year after the first allegations came to the public forefront that the RCMP investigated and, in fact, laid charges against a former staff member. Compare that to the situation involving the NSHCC when, after the initial claims were filed, the Defendants filed documents which required the NSHCC victims to respond to extensive written questions. Even now, after 10 years has transpired since the first NSHCC claims were filed, there has never been an investigation into the abuse allegations, much less a criminal charge being laid. All these allegations, very strong and very powerful allegations of systemic sexual abuse of the most horrific variety is well documented in the court record and no police department, no police agency, no government agency, nobody in the Department of Community Services, no welfare protection people--did anything, or are doing anything to investigate the case. And you have to ask yourself, why?

In 1993, the Shelburne staff member who was charged was found guilty and was convicted of indecent assault and gross indecency. Within 2-3 years of the first allegations of abuse at Shelburne, a pedophile was convicted. Yet in the NSHCC cases, within 2-3 years, the Defendants chose to contest the claims.

In 1995, more former residents of Shelburne started to come forward with allegations of abuse. Immediately, the Province announced that they would investigate these allegations and, if proven, a method would be put in place to provide justice to those who were wronged. However, the NSHCC victims continue to be mired in litigation, with the Defendants' using all the litigation tools to frustrate the fair and final determination of the truth.

Later in 1995 the investigative report dealing with the allegations of abuse at Shelburne was released. This Provincially funded report found approximately 90 allegations of abuse and the blame was placed with the Government for inadequate practices including funding and hiring. Shortly thereafter, the Province commenced discussions with the lawyers for the victims of the abuse at Shelburne to attempt to redress the wrongdoings. All this occurred within 5 years of the first allegations being made. In the NSHCC cases, the claimants were being subjected to intrusive, invasive and lengthy discovery examinations after 5 years. Why did the Province take the allegations of abuse in Shelburne much more seriously and with more compassion than it has done for the victims of abuse at the NSHCC?

In 1996, 5 years after the first Shelburne allegations became public, a compensation package was put in place for the victims.

With the NSHCC, the Defendants continue to use the litigation tools to deny access to justice.

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