Fight for inquiry into Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children goes to legislature

11/27/2012 12:37 EST | Updated 01/27/2013 05:12 EST
HALIFAX - Former residents of a Halifax orphanage took their fight for a public inquiry into long-standing allegations of abuse to the provincial legislature Tuesday, where they presented a petition in support of their cause.

About 50 former residents of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children delivered the document containing more than 1,000 signatures calling for immediate government action.

Tracey Dorrington-Skinner, a spokeswoman for the group, said the government needs to know that the former residents believe an inquiry is essential in order for them to heal and get justice.

"We're not prepared to back down," she said. "At the end of the day, we will get justice one way or the other."

Physical and sexual abuse allegations against staff at the home, which is now a short-term residential facility for children of all races, first came to light more than a decade ago. But no charges have been laid.

The home's board released a statement last week saying it's not opposed to an inquiry, but the government has maintained that the legal process needs to run its course before it can decide whether one is appropriate.

Last week, Premier Darrell Dexter said there were concerns over whether an inquiry would affect the integrity of the police investigation into the accusations as well as the disposition of a class-action lawsuit.

The government's stance didn't change Tuesday.

"We need to assess and get further information, but we are listening," said Justice Minister Ross Landry.

"I've been very clear that I need to hear from the RCMP on their investigative portion. I've gotten some indications that there may be something coming forward shortly, so I want to hear that."

More than 100 people are now part of the class-action suit, which was filed earlier this year against the home and the provincial government. The majority of the claims are decades old.

Both opposition parties have joined the call for an immediate inquiry and they kept up the pressure during question period Tuesday.

Deputy premier Frank Corbett told the legislature that the government is weighing its options.

"This government will do the right thing, will do it sooner rather than later, and will do it decisively," said Corbett.

Outside the legislative chamber, some former residents of the home approached Landry to voice their frustrations.

"We're not being loud, we're not being rude and we are not being obnoxious, but we are tired of our voice not being heard," said Tony Smith of Halifax.

Landry asked Smith and the others for patience.

"I'm hoping, and it's a hope on my part that you have some faith in me," said Landry. "I take this matter seriously."