POLITICS

Despair, hope after probe into abuse allegations at Halifax orphanage wraps up

12/13/2012 10:32 EST | Updated 02/12/2013 05:12 EST
HALIFAX - A woman who alleges she suffered years of abuse at a Halifax orphanage decades ago expressed both disappointment and hope Thursday after police announced there would be no criminal charges in the case.

Tracey Dorrington-Skinner was one of dozens of people who learned their allegations of physical and sexual abuse at the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children will not be pursued in a criminal case because police concluded there was not enough evidence.

The 47-year-old said her focus will remain on pushing the provincial government to call for a public inquiry into the claims that date back to the 1940s.

"My message to the residents would be to keep your head up — this is just another roadblock," she said from her home in Truro, N.S.

"This further goes to point out to the government why this public inquiry is so important to us. ... We want to get the government to understand that these atrocities did happen."

In a statement Thursday, the RCMP and Halifax police said the information they collected in months of interviews does not support the laying of criminal charges because it could not be corroborated.

"The investigative team has determined that the evidence brought forward does not support the laying of criminal charges," the statement says.

In March 2012, the Mounties and Halifax police began encouraging people to come forward with their allegations. Since then, investigators interviewed 40 complainants in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario and Alberta.

Dorrington-Skinner said she entered the home in the early 1970s and was there for more than a decade when she left to go to Dalhousie University in 1984.

She alleges that she was repeatedly sexually and physically abused, and was exposed to an environment that left her mentally scarred.

"When you're that young and you've witnessed all the things that you've witnessed ... your mental state is, at its best, diminished," she said about the difficulty in recalling what she says happened to her.

Justice Minister Ross Landry said he will consult with his caucus and others to determine whether to hold an inquiry into the alleged abuse.

"There are individuals there that are very emotionally harmed and that needs to be addressed," he said.

"They need to have an avenue in which to express that and how that would look is another question."

But Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie says the province shouldn't hesitate in launching an inquiry about the alleged abuse.

"They are running out of excuses for avoiding doing the right thing," he said.

"My view is that Nova Scotia cannot move on and assure a whole new generation of Nova Scotians that it can't happen again until we've had a full and open and transparent public inquiry."

Premier Darrell Dexter had said he wasn't ready to order such a hearing while the police investigation was underway, despite an earlier statement from the home that if anybody associated with the facility had abused children, they should face justice. The Opposition Liberals have also called for an inquiry.

Earlier this year, 63 former residents applied for a class-action lawsuit against the home and the provincial government. A certification hearing was held in October.

More than 100 people are now a part of the bid for a class-action. A court ruling is expected next June.

The home, which opened in 1921, is now a short-term residential facility for children of all races.