HALIFAX – The Nova Scotia government will launch an independent panel to review accusations of abuse involving a Halifax orphanage, Premier Darrell Dexter said Tuesday.
Dexter said the commitment being made in the throne speech will allow people who allege they were abused at the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children to speak publicly about their experiences.
The opposition leaders criticized the plan because it falls short of an inquiry, but Dexter said the panel is the best way of addressing what members of the black community asked for in consultations with the government.
“They wanted one of reconciliation and one of healing,” said Dexter. “It is really about a community wanting to have some recognition of the things that happened in the past.”
Dexter said the terms of reference would be set later, following more consultations.
Tony Smith, a former resident of the home, said he needs to hear more about the panel but fears it could fall short of what former residents of the orphanage want.
Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil said the panel will lack the weight of a judicial inquiry.
“The victims of this potential crime were looking for help and support when they were children and none of us listened. Quite frankly, today, I don’t believe this government has listened.”
Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie said the issue of a public inquiry is one of “fairness and justice.”
“I’m disappointed that he (Dexter) is offering them less than they deserve,” said Baillie.
In December, Halifax police and the RCMP announced they wouldn’t be laying criminal charges in the case after concluding there wasn’t enough evidence to support the allegations, which in some instances date back 50 years or more.
A class action lawsuit involving 140 former residents, who say they were physically, sexually and mentally abused by staff at the home over several decades until the 1980s, is scheduled to resume this week in a Halifax court.