Home for Colored Children Compensation Program Adopts Indian Residential School Model

by John McKiggan

Class action settlement announced

A 16 year fight for compensation ended yesterday when the Province of Nova Scotia and former residents of the Home for Colored Children announced the details of a class action filed by former residents.

About 140 former residents of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children filed a class action seeking compensation for what they describe as years of neglect and emotional, physical and sexual abuse suffered by children in the school.

Last year the Home itself agreed to pay up to $5,000,000.00 to former residents. Yesterday’s announcement says that the province will be setting aside up to $29,000,000.00 to compensate survivors.

Adopts Indian Residential School compensation model?

Few details of the compensation program have been released to the public. However, according to Tracey Dorrington-Skinner, who was interviewed today on CBC’s Information Morning the compensation model sounds a great deal like the one approved by the courts in the national Indian Residential Schools (IRS) class action settlement.

Two parts to compensation model

Ms. Dorrington-Skinner said today that all of the former residents will receive a payment of $10,000.00 if they can prove that they resided at the home. That payment will increase depending on the length of time that the children were forced to live in the school.

According to a report by the Chronicle Herald anyone who was in the Home 40 days or less, will receive $1000.00. If they were in the Home up to a year they will receive $10,000.00. Anyone who was in the Home for longer periods will receive $3000.00 for each additional year.

This part of the Coloured Home settlement follows the IRS model almost exactly. the The payment, like the common experience payment that formed a part of the IRS settlement is being made to recognize the appalling conditions the children were forced to live in while residing in the home and to recognize, at least in the case of the IRS settlement, that the Residential School System was inherently racist.

Compensation for Physical and Sexual Abuse

According to Ms. Dorrington-Skinner, children who suffered serious physical or sexual abuse in the school will also be entitled to apply for additional compensation.

Again, this models the IRS class action settlement. Under the Individual Assessment Program (IAP) IRS survivors are entitled to apply for additional compensation of up to $325,000.00 plus proven income loss if they suffered harm as a result of serious physical or sexual abuse by an employee or another former resident of the school.

Arm’s length administration

One of the key components of the IRS settlement is that the compensation program and compensation payments are not managed by the defendant, Canada. An arm’s length entity, the Residential School Secretariat, was created to manage the claims process and pay survivors.

There is no indication in the details that have been released so far about whether the Colored Home settlement includes the creation of a neutral arm’s length authority to manage the claims process. However, given that the parties appear to have adopted the IRS model it seems logical to assume that the process will also include a third party to manage, validate and assess the claims.

Truth and Reconciliation

Another fundamental part of the IRS class action settlement was the creation of a Truth and Reconciliation commission to explore and investigate what happened in the residential schools, document survivors stories, and create a public record to help educate future generations.

Premier Stephen McNeil has announced that the province intends to embark on a public inquiry. Although the province has not set the terms of the inquiry, as of yet.

Having participated in Truth and Reconciliation hearings on behalf of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School survivors I can say without a doubt that the TRC hearings for many survivors have been the most important part of the class action settlement process.

Looking to the future

For Ms. Dorrington-Skinner, and the other former residents of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children, yesterday marked the end of a very long fight for recognition of the harm that they suffered in the school.

The children that suffered physical and sexual abuse will still have to go through a further process to validate and compensate their claims. However, if the parties have adopted the IRS model in its entirety I can say that the Colored Home survivors should be able to receive a fair measure of compensation in a private and confidential process and avoid the time, cost and stress of adversarial and ublic litigation.

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