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February 22, 2012 - Stories of abuse in Nova Scotia

Horror stories

February 17, 2012 - 6:03pm By EVA HOARE Staff Reporter
Tony Smith says he'll never forget what happened to him at the Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children. (TED PRITCHARD / Staff)
Tony Smith says he'll never forget what happened to him at the Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children. (TED PRITCHARD / Staff)

THEY WERE BEATEN, raped, groped and robbed of their meagre allowances, and the girls were given birth control pills by their abusers — staff at the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children.

Some said they ate the pigs’ food because they were so hungry.

Others said they were forced to perform sexual acts upon each other for the gratification of some staff members.

One after the other, their sad stories are told in multiple affidavits filed Friday in Nova Scotia Supreme Court as the alleged childhood victims, now adults, seek justice for decades of abuse.

“If residents wanted a drive from (a staffer) to certain locations, it was understood that you would have to perform sexual favours on him,” states an affidavit sworn by Deanna Smith, one of the two lead claimants in a proposed class action lawsuit against the home and the province.

Wagners, a Halifax law firm, will go to court this fall seeking certification.

“There were many occasions when I had to perform sexual favours on (the staffer) in exchange for drives,” Smith’s affidavit says. “In my case, every evening, he entered my bedroom, he would sit on my bed. He would then proceed to lean over and slide his hand down the sheets.

“He would ask if I wanted to ‘touch his.’ I would say no, or else stay silent. This never stopped him.”

None of the allegations in the affidavits have been proven in court, and none of the people named as abusers could be reached for comment for this story.

The same man forced residents to perform in “sex shows,” Smith alleges in the court papers.

“At the instruction of (the same staffer) and other staff, and while they watched, young residents would engage in fondling, oral sex and sexual intercourse with each other. I was forced to have sex with numerous young boys while (he) and other staff looked on. I was forced to have sex with young girls.”

Smith further alleges that a mentally handicapped young resident she calls “David” was regularly instructed to sexually assault other residents.

“Staff members would routinely administer the birth control pills to the girls,” Tracey Dorrington-Skinner wrote in her affidavit.

Dorrington-Skinner, who lived at the home in 1972, said the same staffer named in Smith’s affidavit forced her up against a wall and sexually assaulted her.

“He forced me to perform oral sex on him and he raped me,” Dorrington-Skinner’s affidavit states.

Another woman alleges that as a young girl at the home, another staffer sexually assaulted her more than 50 times.

Others said they were beaten and forced to sleep in urine-soaked sheets, while still others said they were hosed down with water outside on freezing cold days.

Garnet Smith said a staffer the children called “Mrs. Jefferson” sexually assaulted him in the 1940s. She would demand that the boy residents provide her with sexual favours “before they were allowed to pass and go into the dormitory.”

Smith added: “Because I was so hungry, I would eat the pigs’ food.”

Star-Ann Smith, who was 13 when she lived at the home in about 1975, said girls started drawing straws to see whose turn it would be to perform sexual acts on the staffer who gave them drives. She said even when she didn’t get the short straw, she still had to service him at times.

Smith also tells of a room away from the others where the badly beaten would stay.

“All the residents knew that there was a room on the third floor of the home where the severely beaten were taken until they healed,” she said in her affidavit.

She recalls another male staff member, whom she didn’t name, sexually assaulting her eight-year-old brother “down the hall.”

“I have never discussed this with my brother,” she wrote.

All eight former residents whose affidavits were filed Friday said they never saw a caseworker at the home and police never laid charges, even though they were called once after a beating.

Likely at least 63 former residents will ask the court next fall to certify their class action.

Several former staffers, both men and women, are accused of physical and sexual abuse in the various affidavits.

Claimant Tony Smith, whose story of beatings at the home while he lived there for three years starting in 1965 unleashed a torrent of similar tales of abuse, said Friday he’ll never forget what happened there.

“I vowed ..... that someday I was going to tell my story,” Smith said Friday. He first talked about his experiences at the home in the late 1990s.

The founder of the popular band Tony Smith and the Mellotones said he was traumatized when other kids beat fellow resident Tony Langford, who later died in hospital.

“I told staff what happened. They told me I better stop lying,” Smith said.

“The atmosphere was ‘the strong survive.’ The staff used to get us to fight one another for their amusement.”

Smith said the RCMP told him he’d have to find more alleged victims to come forward if a proper investigation was to be launched.

Jane Earle, executive director at the home for 10 months in 1980, also filed her affidavit Friday, stating racism was behind the provincial government’s failure to act on the allegations of abuse.

“I was advised by Gus Wedderburn, the chair of the board of the NSHCC, that at a meeting with the education committee ..... the deputy minister of child welfare, Dr. F.R. MacKinnon, told him that the only reason for the low per diem rates at the NSHCC was prejudice,” Earle stated in the court papers.

Earle said she was “appalled” at the lack of investigation into the “horrendous” allegations and felt she had to step forward.

In a letter to the home this year advising its board members that she was helping the class action, Earle lamented the troubling lack of funding and the inaction.

“I expected the legal system would deal with the allegations of abuse,” she said. “Unfortunately, over a decade later, that has not been the case. I am absolutely appalled at the amount of time that has passed since the first complainant went to the police and I approached the board of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children.

“We believe the lack of action by the Department of Community Services in conducting an investigation into the allegations of abuse against children who were ultimately their responsibility is unconscionable.”

Smith said Friday he is grateful for Earle’s contribution to the effort.

“I truly appreciate Ms. Earle coming forward,” he said.

Mike Dull, the Halifax lawyer who launched the lawsuit with fellow lawyer Ray Wagner on behalf of the claimants, said in his affidavit filed Friday that he had no knowledge of any action taken against the alleged abuse.

“In my review of the documents provided by the Nova Scotia Archives, I can see no record or mention of any followup taken by the NSHCC or province to investigate the ‘several other complaints about the children being abused and ill-treated at the Nova Scotia Colored Home.’ ”

February 21, 2012 - New CEO at Braemore

Troubled special care home gets new CEO

February 18, 2012 - 4:32am By The Canadian Press

SYDNEY — A Cape Breton special care home that had its licence revoked last year after a review found an autistic man was confined to a room for two weeks has appointed a new CEO.

Mildred Colbourne will take over the position at Braemore Home Corp. in Sydney later this month, replacing interim CEO Betty Mattson.

The Cape Breton District Health Authority took over operations at Braemore in October 2011 after the province’s Department of Community Services found that a resident of the home was locked inside a constantly lit room for 15 days in 2010.

A review released late last year outlined a number of management problems at Braemore, saying it was beset by a climate of mistrust and suspicion.

Colbourne said Friday that her extensive background in disability care will help propel the home forward in implementing the review’s nine recommendations.

"I am considered a leader and certainly strong leadership is required for the home right now," said Colbourne, a former director of the Services for Persons with Disabilities program in the Department of Community Services.

"It’s also important for someone coming into this type of role to gain an excellent understanding of the needs of the residents here and of the staff here."

Colbourne said officials have already been working with Braemore staff to develop a more supportive model of disability care and to develop short- and long-term goals.

"They are an extremely committed staff," she said in an interview. "They know the residents and they’ve worked with them for a number of years, so we want to build on that momentum."

The health authority will continue to act as the home’s board until the recommendations have been implemented, but Colbourne could not say when that would be.

The review was ordered after the province concluded the 20-year-old autistic man, who was allowed out occasionally for exercise and meals, sometimes urinated in the room when he couldn’t leave to use the bathroom.

The home’s former executive director, Debra MacPherson, later apologized.

The report by consulting firm Deloitte called on the government to develop standards for special care homes and urged Braemore to work with an organization that specializes in adult autism and residential services.

Braemore provides housing and rehabilitation services for about 130 youths and adults with disabilities.

September 10, 2007 - Nova Scotia Update
On August 7th, Premier Rodney MacDonald announced an investment of almost $19M to renovate the Riverview Adult Residential Centre in Pictou County and to build 3 replacement 8 bed group homes. Riverview houses over 100 people. This announcement coupled with a previous commitment to build a new 24 bed institution confirms, unfortunately, that Nova Scotia intends to include institutional placement for many of its citizens for decades to come. Nova Scotia institutionalizes over 600 people.

February 3, 2004 - Nova Scotia Update
As of June 2002, Nova Scotia had 496 people living in institutions.  The largest has 115 people living there.  There are several hundred people living in other residential care facilities.