Systemic racism still a problem for survivors of NS Home for Colored Children, report finds

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An interim report by the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children Restorative Inquiry found systemic racism is still a major concern. Global's Natasha Pace reports – Feb 8, 2017

Systemic racism continues to have a major impact on African Nova Scotian families and communities around the province, according to an interim report by the Council of Parties of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children Restorative Inquiry, released on Wednesday.

The council is made up of former residents of the home, the Home for Colored Children, the African Nova Scotian community and government.

READ: N.S. government knew of alleged abuse at Halifax orphanage, court told

The report says at information sessions around the province, participants involved in the inquiry identified institutional racism and discrimination as an ongoing concern and notes that people in rural areas of Nova Scotia spoke of being reluctant to interact with many public agencies and services because they felt they were treated as second-class citizens.

“We’ve heard very clearly that many African Nova Scotians still feel the impact of systemic racism on a regular basis,” Tony Smith, council co-chair and former resident of the home in a news release.

“It may show up differently in Yarmouth than it does in Halifax or Sydney, but many of the concerns are similar, and they’re not new.”

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Members of the council have been meeting with former residents of the home since last year. The inquiry has three main phases — relationship building, learning and understanding, and planning and action.

The interim report includes feedback from information sessions held throughout Nova Scotia and two youth-focused community workshops held in North Preston and East Preston.

The report says youth involved in the inquiry feel they “rarely see their culture and history reflected in the school curriculum or the broader school environment” and there’s a need for strong African Nova Scotian role models.

The report also says that African Nova Scotian communities continue to struggle to maintain both infrastructure and resources and highlights the recent closure of the Black Employment Resource Centres and the loss of the Skills Up! employment program as examples.

Premier Stephen McNeil formally apologized to former residents of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children on behalf of the province in October 2014.

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Following the apology, a restorative inquiry began.Unlike a traditional public inquiry, the goal of the restorative inquiry isn’t to uncover facts and lay blame. It is to understand what happened at the orphanage and why. It will also work to bring the community and the government together to examine the effects of systemic and institutional abuse and racism.

Former residents of the Home for Colored Children allege they suffered physical, psychological and sexual abuse while living in the orphanage, which opened in 1921.

We have approached this differently than a traditional public inquiry,” said Pamela Williams, co-chair of the council and chief judge of the provincial and family courts  in a news release.

“We know that if we can build relationships that will help public agencies and communities work together long after the inquiry is over, we will have a better opportunity to make a long-term difference.”

In June 2014, after nearly 15 years of litigation, a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge approved a class-action lawsuit by  survivors of abuse at the home, worth $29 million.

WATCH: N.S. Home for Colored Children survivors celebrate settlement with tears, applause

Going forward, the council hopes to continue to invite former residents of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children to share their experiences with their caregivers, social workers, home staff, and health-care workers. They are also hoping former residents will open up and share their experiences within the education system, the justice system and with family and community members.

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The restorative inquiry is expected to be complete sometime in 2018.

Read the full interim report below:

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