Wagners Investigates St. Joseph’s Orphanage and the Home of Guardian Angel

The Sisters of Charity, a Catholic religious order, established the St. Joseph’s Orphanage and the Home of The Guardian Angel in the late 19th century.  The purpose of the Home of the Guardian Angel was to care for women, often pregnant women, and children under five years old. St. Joseph’s orphanage was established to care for children five years and older. In 1891, the province of Nova Scotia officially recognized the Sisters of Charity as being in care and control of St. Joseph’s orphanage and the Home of the Guardian Angel.

In the late 1960s the Province of Nova Scotia became increasingly involved in the care of orphans and pushed forward with a program of deinstitutionalization and one of foster care model.  On March 1, 1968, St. Joseph’s Orphanage transformed into St. Joseph’s Children Centre, a non-profit organization for children with special needs.[1]  By 1970, the Home of the Guardian Angel has transformed into a community-based organization.[2]


History of Abuse by the Sisters of Charity

The Sister of Charity staffed the Shubenacadie Residential School in Noa Scotia from 1929 to 1967.[3] Survivors of that institution have reported widespread physical, sexual, and psychological abuse.[4][5][6]  On July 26, 2021, the Sisters of Charity issued an apology for the actions of the Sisters who contributed to residential school system and the harm caused to the indigenous community.[7]

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation list 16 names of children who died at the Shubenacadie Residential School. Survivors believe there are many more.

The Sister of Charity who worked at Shubenacadie Residential School were barred from showing love to the children.[8]

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation concluded that what occurred at Shubenacadie Residential School was cultural genocide.[9] Notably the children “were subjected to harsh discipline; malnutrition and starvation; poor healthcare; physical, emotional, and sexual abuse; medical experimentation; neglect; the deliberate suppression of their cultures and languages; and loss of life.”[10]

History of St. Joseph’s Orphanage and the Home of the Guardian Angel

In 1868, Saint Joseph’s Convent and Orphanage was opened to land adjoining Saint Joseph’s Church (north-end of Halifax, Nova Scotia).

In 1872 St. Joseph’s orphanage was transferred to Archbishop’s residence (which would become Saint Joseph’s Convent) while a new building was being constructed on Gottingen Street. The Gottingen location was opened in 1873 but was damaged by fire in 1881, St. Joseph’s orphanage was moved to Saint Mary’s Convent temporarily.

In 1883, St. Joseph’s orphanage was moved to a large building on Brunswick Street approximately a block north from Saint Patrick’s Church.

In 1887 the House of the Guardian Angel was located one door south of Saint Patrick’s Church. In 1894, the Home of the Guardian Angel moved to former location of the Saint Joseph’s Orphanage located at 395 Brunswick Street.

In 1894, St. Joseph’s Orphanage was move to a newly constructed building on Qunipool Rd. St. Joseph’s orphanage remained at this location to its closure in 1968/1969.

In 1955, The Home of the Guardian Angel was moved to the east wing of St. Joseph’s Orphanage.[11]

On March 1, 1968, St. Joseph’s Orphanage transformed into St. Joseph’s Children Centre, a non-profit organization for children with special needs.[12]

In 1970, the Home of the Guardian transformed into a community-based agency.[13]

In 1974, the Home of the Guardian Angel was moved to 6345 Coburg Avenue.

On November 10, 1977, the Home of the Guardian was incorporated pursuant to the Societies Act.

The Involvement of the Province

Starting in 1912, the Children’s Protection Act, SNS 1912, c 4 legislated the province of Nova Scotia’s duty to visit, inspect, and assist in operation of homes such as the Halifax Protestant Orphan’s Home. As far back as the 1930s, the Halifax Protestant Orphan’s Home also received grants and funding from the province.[3] In these circumstances, both the private Halifax Protestant Orphan’s Home and the province of Nova Scotia were responsible for the physical and emotional well-being of the children at the Halifax Protestant Orphan’s Home.

Institutional Abuse and Sexual Abuse

Institutional abuse of individuals, whether they are elderly, disable, or children, is a great concern in society today. Unfortunately, numerous institutions, schools, churches, and other organizations have been accused of such mistreatment and of turning a blind eye to the physical, emotional, and sexual abuses that were inflicted upon persons in their care or custody.

Furthermore, sexual abuse has additional physical and psychological effects, which can dramatically alter the life of a victim. As most abusers are family, friends, or individuals in a position of authority it can often take years of decades for a survivor to come forward.



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.

[1] https://stjcc.ca/about/

[2] http://chebuctofamilycentre.ca/chebucto-family-centre-home-of-the-guardian-angel/

[3] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/sisters-of-charity-apology-shubenacadie-residential-school-1.6120827#:~:text=contains%20distressing%20details.-,A%20group%20of%20Halifax%2Dbased%20nuns%20that%20operated%20the%20Shubenacadie,duration%20from%201929%20to%201967.

[4] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/sisters-of-charity-apology-shubenacadie-residential-school-1.6120827#:~:text=contains%20distressing%20details.-,A%20group%20of%20Halifax%2Dbased%20nuns%20that%20operated%20the%20Shubenacadie,duration%20from%201929%20to%201967.

[5] https://www.pc.gc.ca/apps/dfhd/page_nhs_eng.aspx?id=16133

[6] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/shubenacadie-residential-school-kamloops-radar-remains-1.6047347

[7] https://schalifax.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Apology-26July2021.pdf

[8] https://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/nuns-with-ties-to-n-s-residential-school-reflect-on-reconciliation-1.2405381

[9] https://www.pc.gc.ca/apps/dfhd/page_nhs_eng.aspx?id=16133

[10] https://www.pc.gc.ca/apps/dfhd/page_nhs_eng.aspx?id=16133

[11] http://chebuctofamilycentre.ca/chebucto-family-centre-home-of-the-guardian-angel/

[12] https://stjcc.ca/about/

[13] http://chebuctofamilycentre.ca/chebucto-family-centre-home-of-the-guardian-angel

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