Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Premier Apologizes for Abuse at Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Premier Apologizes for Abuse at Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children

Article excerpt

Premier apologizes for orphanage abuse

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HALIFAX - Premier Stephen McNeil apologized Friday for the abuse that former residents of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children suffered, acknowledging that their pleas for help went unanswered in what he described was one chapter in the province's history of systemic racism.

The formal apology came after years of a struggle for recognition by the former residents of the Halifax orphanage, some of whom were in the legislature and stood in applause when the gesture was delivered.

"It is one of the great tragedies in our province's history that your cries for help were greeted with silence for so long," McNeil said.

"Some of you had said that you felt invisible. Well I want to say to you today you are invisible no longer. We hear your voices and we grieve your pain and we are sorry."

The trauma and neglect that the former residents, some of whom have since died, is something no child should ever have experienced, McNeil added.

"An apology is not the closing of the books, but a recognition that we must cast an unflinching eye at the past as we strive towards a better future," he said.

Tony Smith, one of the former residents who led the fight for public and legal recognition, said he was thankful for the apology and told the audience inside the legislature's Red Room that he used to be ashamed to say he once lived in the home.

"I'm proud to say that I am a former resident of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children," Smith said. "This historical apology is an apology we, the former residents, dreamed of but believed this dream would never come to light."

Former resident Harriet Johnson stood beside her father as she credited him for encouraging her not to give up the fight for justice.

"There were times when I said, 'Dad, no one is going to listen to us, they are just going to sweep this under the carpet,'" said Johnson. "So I'm very happy."

People who lived in the home as children allege that they were subjected to physical, psychological and sexual abuse over several decades up until the 1980s.

In March 2012, the RCMP and Halifax police began urging people to come forward with their allegations. …

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