It’s been just over a year since the provincial government apologized to former residents of the Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children.
A restorative inquiry into what happened at the home is now well underway. For the last seven months, the inquiry has heard from hundreds of former residents.
“You have to make that safe environment for people to say, okay, we’re not blaming you, we’re not saying you’re the fault, but now that we have this history, how do we learn from it?” asked Tony Smith co-chair, Restorative Inquiry, NS Home for Coloured Children.
Smith is also a former resident of the home himself. He says one issue continues to come up in conversations with other residents.
“Systemic discrimination and institutional racism,” Smith tells Global News.
“That’s why the home came to light in the first place. The government of the day didn’t care where black orphans were sent and so the community said we need to find a place for them, so that’s how that happened. As a result, when the abuse was happening, government was well aware of it, but they didn’t act upon it.”
Fania Davis, a civil rights activist from the United States is in the region this week to attend a national conference on Restorative Inquiries.
She had the opportunity to meet with Smith on Saturday and discuss the situation at the N.S. Home for Coloured Children.
Davis believes the approach the inquiry is taking, by working hand in hand with government in Nova Scotia, is unique.
“It’s leading the way for us,” said Davis. “I believe, in the United States who are addressing issues, especially of police violence and I’m here and taking careful notes because I am going to go back and share this with my colleagues in California as a way forward for us to address racial violence, especially by police in the U.S.”
Smith says the groundwork for the inquiry is now complete. He believes when the restorative inquiry is done in 2018, it will make a huge difference in the lives of Nova Scotians.