TWO weeks after appealing to the public for information, police in Nova Scotia say they have received 17 complaints of alleged abuse at a former long-running orphanage that catered mostly to black children.
Authorities say they were moved to act after former residents of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children in Dartmouth went to the media with allegations of rampant sexual and physical abuse going back a number of decades.
A proposed class-action lawsuit, as well as dozens of individual lawsuits, have been filed against the home and the province.
One former resident, who lived at the home from 1955 to 1959, has alleged in court documents that he was sexually assaulted by "the matron" of the home, forced to eat feces and that a staff member forced his face into a maggot-infested rabbit carcass.
Another former resident, who was at the home from 1976 to 1979, said in an affidavit she had to perform "sexual favours" for one male staff member in order to get rides and that he would withhold allowances unless girls kissed him on the lips.
Staff members told some of the children they were "stupid" and "useless," she said.
RCMP Sgt. Bridgit Leger said a sergeant and three detectives from the RCMP-Halifax Regional Police Integrated Sexual Assault Investigative Team have been assigned to investigate the complaints.
They also are digging through police records to look for allegations that may have been made against the home in the past.
Opened with great fanfare in 1921, the home took in children who had been orphaned, neglected or abused.
The home received per diem funding from the province. It also generated revenues by operating a farm and selling eggs, poultry and produce.
Residents were made to work on the farm, according to the statement of claim in the proposed class action.
Records obtained by the plaintiffs' lawyers and filed in support of the claim show provincial staff expressed concerns about a range of issues, including deprivation of food, physical abuse and lack of staff training.
On March 22, 1954, A.P. Hunt, of the Yarmouth County Children's Aid Society, wrote a letter to then-provincial child welfare director Fred MacKinnon stating "it is time" for a thorough investigation into complaints of abuse.
The letter refers to a girl who has a "number of stripes on her back and also a bad bruise on her leg. The girl claims that she has been beaten exceedingly with a switch and with a broom handle."
Halifax lawyer John Kulik, who is representing the home, said it is the home's position that the plaintiffs waited too long to submit their claims.
Many of the employees in question have died, he added.
-- Postmedia News