‘It was a terrible place to grow up'
TRURO - Protests by former residents of the Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children will continue until their voices are justly heard, a group spokesperson said Wednesday.
"We are here today because we feel the NDP is not taking our request for an inquiry seriously," said Tracey Dorrington-Skinner, a Truro resident and co-chair of the Victims of Institutionalized Childhood Exploitation Society (VOICES). "We feel that the fight that they're putting us up against in court is unjust," she said, during a protest of nearly 20 former home residents and supporters, who travelled from as far as Ontario and Quebec to participate.
Dorrington-Skinner spent 14 years (from 1970 to 1984) at the former Dartmouth facility where residents such as herself allege they were subjected to constant sexual, physical and mental abuse over a 50-year period up until the 1980s.
Efforts to launch a class-action suit have been hampered by the provincial government, however, whose lawyers argue that such a move is inappropriate because the claims vary between plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs want a provincial Supreme Court judge to certify their lawsuit against the Nova Scotia government and are currently awaiting a decision from Judge Arthur LeBlanc, following a hearing held in July.
Last year, the RCMP ruled against laying charges against anyone at the former orphanage because it said investigators couldn't corroborate things like time periods, potential witnesses and specific evidence, such as medical records.
"They said they want to do the right thing and yet they put everything in place that doesn't suit our cause," Dorrington-Skinner said, of the NDP government.
"We feel that it is further abuse to us because we are constantly being put through all this again and again and again and it's time to stop it."
The protest was held in front of Truro-Bible Hill MLA Lenore Zann's office. Although the home was located in Dartmouth, Dorrington-Skinner said the event was held in Truro because that is where the group's second reunion was being held.
"Where ever we hold anything, we're going to the NDP offices while they are still in power and we're going to picket in front of them to let them know our dissatisfaction with the way they are treating us," she said.
"While I was at the home I suffered every type of abuse you could possibly imagine - physical abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse and it continued with me after I left the home and went onto university ... because when you are abused from such a young age all of your development is arrested."
Other protestors also spoke of years of abuse that included constant bouts of hunger and being separated from siblings.
"I could never talk to my sister while I was there and look at her because those were the rules," said Edgar Smith of Montreal, who lived at the home from about age five until he was 14. "In the home we were together but we were like strangers," he said. "A lot of bad things happened."
Smith said he still has a fear of water because of the memories that continue to haunt him from his Saturday night baths.
"I can still feel the pressure of her hand, the way she pushed my head down into the water, and today I'm afraid of water," he said. "That's the way it was. And at that age I realized how cruel people could be in my own colour."
Leane White, who travelled from Toronto to participate and who lived at the home between the ages of eight to 11, shared similar memories.
"They used to beat me every day of my life. I used to wet the bed. They used to beat me. I used to get beatings for wetting the bed. I used to get beat for just living, for being alive. They used to call us every name in the book and belittle us and make us feel like nothing. It was a terrible place to grow up."
And Dorrington-Skinner said the group is not giving up until its members have had their day in court.
"We're not going away," she said. "Ultimately, what we'd like to see from the government is to drop this case that we're going through in court and to sit down with us in a restorative manner so that we can bring some closure to all these individuals that are still hurting."