Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Compensation for Alleged Orphanage Abuse Victims to Be Handled with Care: Lawyer

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Compensation for Alleged Orphanage Abuse Victims to Be Handled with Care: Lawyer

Article excerpt

Lawyer welcomes scrutiny of compensation


HALIFAX - As the Nova Scotia government moves ahead with a $29-million plan to compensate people who have alleged childhood abuse at a notorious Halifax orphanage, the process is expected to face tough scrutiny given the province's tarnished record of providing settlements in a similar case.

Court documents filed Tuesday say the tentative agreement will cover people who lived at the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children between Jan. 1, 1921, and Dec. 31, 1989. The agreement could end a class-action lawsuit that includes 155 claimants so far.

Ray Wagner, the Halifax lawyer who has led a 13-year legal battle on behalf of former residents, says up to 300 people are expected to seek compensation before a Feb. 27 deadline extinguishes all claims against the province.

In an interview Wednesday, Wagner said the compensation process will be nothing like the scandal-plagued system used for former residents of the Shelburne School for Boys in the 1990s.

In that case, more than $31 million was paid to former residents of the Shelburne facility and two other youth jails, much of it for what turned out to be bogus claims of physical and sexual abuse.

In the end, about 1,200 people made abuse allegations, the majority of them false. Wrongly accused employees at the three jails launched a flurry of lawsuits that eventually pushed the total cost to taxpayers to $68 million.

A subsequent review by Justice Fred Kaufman blamed the then-Liberal government for rushing to compensate people without properly checking their claims.

Chad Lucas, a spokesman for the province's Justice Department, declined a request for an interview Wednesday. He issued a statement, saying questions about the latest compensation scheme should be put to Wagner and his legal team.

Wagner said problems with the Shelburne plan first arose when outside lawyers were brought in to adjudicate claims without speaking to claimants.

"Any program, no matter how robust it is, will always have somebody who will leak through the system and be a fraudulent claimant," Wagner said. …

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