Sexual and Physical Abuse at the Shelburne Youth Training Centre

Shelburne Youth Training Centre (formerly Nova Scotia School for Boys and Shelburne School for Boys)

In 1947, the Halifax Industrial School for Boys closed due to a lack of funds. On September 15, 1947, the Province announced it would be taking over that institution and subsequently changed named to the Nova Scotia School For Boys. In 1948, it was relocated to Shelburne, Nova Scotia, where the school became known colloquially as the Shelburne School for Boys. By the 1950s the schools’ average population had increased to approximately 70 residents. In 1985, Nova Scotia School for Girls (formerly Maritime Home for Girls) was merged with the Nova Scotia School for Boys to create the Shelburne Youth Centre at the former Nova Scotia School for Boys location in Shelburne, Nova Scotia. In 1988, males sixteen years and older were moved to newly opened Nova Scotia Youth Centre in Waterville, Nova Scotia.  On April 1, 2004, the Shelburne Youth Training Centre closed and transferred the remaining residents to the Waterville Youth Centre.[1]


The History of Sexual and Physical Abuse at Shelburne

In 1986, three female residents of the Shelburne Youth Centre made complaints that a counsellor had made sexual advances towards them. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police subsequently charged the counsellor.

In 1991, a former resident who resided at Shelburne from 1963 to 1968 alleged that Patrick MacDougall a counsellor had sexually assaulted him on several occasions. The RCMP on investigating the claim found that MacDougall had been transferred from Shelburne in the 1970s as result of another sexual abuse claim to Sydney Children’s Training Centre to work as a night watchman. The RCMP upon investigation were informed by many residents of physical abuse at Shelburne. As the RCMP investigated further they found further confirmation and instances of MacDougall’s sexual abuse of other Shelburne residents. Ultimately, nine charges were laid against MacDougall in August of 1992. On February 17, 1993, MacDougall was found guilty of five counts of indecent assault and one count of gross indecency.

On February 11, 1993, eight new charges were laid against MacDougall for indecent assault and gross indecency. Another new charge of gross indecency was laid on July 3, 1993.  On July 6, 1993, MacDougall pleaded guilty to all the new charges.

The RCMP estimated that MacDougall’s employment that spawned from 1959 to June 1975 at Shelburne he had 877 children under his direct supervision or as his role as a counsellor with Boy Scouts.

The Stratton investigation into Shelburne found a total of 69 former residents of the school provided statements to the Stratton investigation, detailing 205 incidents of physical abuse and 103 incidents of sexual abuse.[2]

Your Legal Options After Sexual or Institutional Abuse

At Wagners, we’ve met survivors of sexual or institutional abuse who find it extremely difficult to share their experiences, even with a lawyer. We have a team that is professional and compassionate so you can rely on their experience to explain your legal options and provide the assistance you need to fight for your fair compensation. Abuse survivors can trust us to use the information they share to ensure the person or institution responsible are brought to justice. We take the time to evaluate the specifics of your case and advise on the best legal option to help you receive the monetary compensation you need to recover from the abuse you endured.

File criminal charges: If you take this option, you will not get monetary compensation. Investigations will be done, and the accused will be arrested if sufficient evidence is found. If the defendant is found guilty, he or she could face punishment like imprisonment.

Civil lawsuit: In this case, we pursue the case on behalf of the survivor in civil court. If found at fault, the assailant will be required to pay monetary compensation, which would assist the survivor to recover from the abuse.

Class action lawsuit: It is also possible to file a class action lawsuit against an assailant who assaulted several people. The group of survivors can come together to collectively file a class action suit against the person or institution that was responsible for the assault or abuse.


At Wagners, we firmly believe that no amount of compensation can eliminate the pain and suffering that your assailant caused, but there is so much good that comes from a successfully resolved  institutional or sexual abuse claim. As a survivor, the monetary compensation you receive can assist you to recover from the abuse and cater to the medical costs involved. Holding the assailant accountable also restores your dignity and encourages other victims of sexual and institutional abuse to come out and seek justice as well.

The amount of compensation you deserve for your sexual or institutional abuse claim will depend on many factors. Some of these factors include:

  • How the abuse affected your ability to support yourself and make sufficient income
  • The type of medical treatment you need or you have sought due to the abuse
  • The personal or unique circumstances of your lawsuit

We know that sexual or institutional abuse is a terrible experience, and many victims usually have a heavy burden that they are likely to carry for a long time. For this reason, we offer reliable legal assistance that you need to get the monetary burden off your shoulders. Our main goal is to build a strong strategy and successfully fight for your rights.




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