Class-action filing alleges abuse at Nova Scotia schools for the deaf

Click to play video: 'Statement of Claim filed on behalf of formers students of the School for the Deaf'
Statement of Claim filed on behalf of formers students of the School for the Deaf
WATCH ABOVE: It’s been closed for more than five decades, but the School for the Deaf is once again making headlines. That’s because former students of the school, who allege they were victimized at the hands of employees, are inching closer to a class action lawsuit. Global’s Natasha Pace reports – Jan 14, 2016

A statement of claim has been filed with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court alleging frequent abuse against former students of residential schools in Halifax and Amherst.

Ray Wagner, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said “the residents report, with frequency, sexual, physical and mental abuse that occurred at the home.”

The schools named in the claim are the School for the Deaf in Halifax, which operated from 1856 to 1961, and the Interprovincial School for the Education of the Deaf in Amherst.

None of the allegations have been proven in court, but there was a lengthy investigation.

“There were charges. In fact, there was a police investigation,” said Wagner. “That investigation in the early 2000s looked into the allegations and determined that the allegations were, in fact, true and truthful. Unfortunately, a number of perpetrators had passed away prior to that time.”

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The next step is for a class-action lawsuit to be certified by a judge of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court before proceeding to trial.

On top of a variety of abuse allegations, the claim also alleges proper education was not provided for students.

“The house parents or the teachers would get very upset with the students and maybe slap them or cause some abuse to them,” said Mike Perrier, a former student, through an interpreter.

“There was a lot of abuse,” said Richard Martell, another former student, through an interpreter. “The teachers did not use sign language to communicate with us. If I was trying to sign to them they would say it was forbidden, you can’t use your hands…you have to try to talk.”

Wagner says his law firm has already been contacted by more than 150 former residents of the school.

“They want recognition of the harm that has been caused to them and the suffering they’ve gone through,” said Wagner.

With a file from The Canadian Press

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