Video: 2015 Trial Lawyer of the Year Finalist – Elwin v. N.S. Home for Colored Children

The Halifax Home for Colored Children was founded in 1921 to care for African-Canadian orphans in the province. In 1975, social services placed Deanna Smith in the home, where she would remain for nearly four years. Smith later became one of 60 people who filed individual lawsuits against the home for unspeakable treatment at the hands of those who were supposed to care for them. Children in the home were routinely told by staff that they were “stupid,” “useless” and “would amount to nothing,” as Smith recalled in her affidavit. She was also fondled by staff members and forced to perform in “sex shows” organized by staff. Sadly, her treatment was typical of the abuse suffered by other children who, over the course of nearly 70 years, were subjected to systemic physical, sexual and psychological abuse. Between 2000 and 2003, the victims brought five dozen lawsuits against the home. Then, in 2011, a class action was filed and certified. It ultimately took 14 years for counsel in the case to finally succeed in having the voices of former residents heard. Once the tragedy that took place became clear, the government and the orphanage agreed to two different settlements totaling $34 million. To date, over 300 former residents have come forward to submit claims in the settlement, which gives victims access to various mental health and financial counseling resources in addition to monetary compensation.


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