On October 8, 2013, Nova Scotians will head to the polls to vote in the provincial election. A number of issues have arisen during the 4 years that the NDP has enjoyed as the ruling party of Nova Scotia. Healthcare, power rates and the environment are just a few of the important concerns that are at the forefront of voters’ minds. Another issue that is also an important topic for the three political parties to consider is the allegations of systemic and historical abuse of children who resided at the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children.
The subject of a number of discussions in the Nova Scotia Legislature earlier this year, the allegations of abuse and the former residents’ call for a public inquiry to determine the role, or lack thereof, that previous Governments played in allowing the abuse to continue at the NSHCC for decades is a real issue during the election campaign.
The former residents have bravely and steadfastly called upon the governing NDP to institute a public inquiry. They are unwavering in their resolve in this regard. The former residents are seeking the truth about why they were subjected to the ongoing abuse for so many years. They also want their voices to be heard, their stories to be told and their many questions to be answered. This will only happen if the ruling political party commits to holding the inquiry. Now, with the election less than one month away, what are the three political parties’ position on this issue?
As they did earlier this spring in the Legislature, both the Liberal and Progressive Conservative parties have made it clear, and reaffirmed on September 17, 2013 during this election campaign, that a public inquiry MUST be held into the former residents’ allegations of the systemic physical, mental and sexual abuse that they endured while they resided as children at the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children. An inquiry, in addition to a fair and expedient settlement of the lawsuits that the former residents have been fighting for more than 10 years, is the only way to help these individuals heal and get to the truth of what happened during their formative childhood years. The Liberals and Progressive Conservatives have both made it clear to the voters of Nova Scotia where they stand on this issue. Stephen McNeil, leader of the Liberal party, even went so far as to state that the inquiry would be “an immediate priority” for his party should they be elected to rule the province.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the the ruling NDP. What is striking is that the party’s last four years of governing is also the only time that the NDP has sat in power. When one considers the very hardline approach they have taken with the former residents, it is difficult to understand how a party that was never in power previously, and have “clean hands” when it comes to the NSHCC, can continue to deny the calls for a public inquiry and can continue to pursue a very aggressive posture in the ongoing litigation.
Although the NDP have stated that they want to see the former residents obtain healing and reconciliation, which they feel will be accomplished by an independent panel that they plan to implement, they have turned a deaf ear to the call for a public inquiry which would have more teeth and would be more appropriate in a situation where decades of systemic abuse has been alleged. The former residents have made it very clear that an independent panel is not what they have requested and have refused to be involved in the process. Surely the NDP have heard the former residents so it remains a mystery as to why the NDP are not listening to what these former residents are saying when it comes to a solution to allow them to heal?
With the NDP showing no interest in the call for a public inquiry and with the province’s lawyers mounting a very aggressive legal defence in an effort to bar the former residents from obtaining justice through the court process, Nova Scotians do not have to guess just where the NDP stands on the issue of the NSHCC. The NDP states that they want to create a restorative justice platform to help the former residents heal, however Nova Scotians must question the genuineness about the message the NDP is delivering.
How can the NDP assist in the reconciliation process when they are denying access to justice and healing by the antagonistic defence they are mounting to the litigation and by implementing an independent panel rather than the requested public inquiry? The Finance Minister stated that a public inquiry would be too adversarial, yet is that not how the NDP have been handling the NSHCC issue for the last 4 years?