N.S. premier says allegations against schools for the deaf taken seriously
Published Thursday, October 29, 2015 8:28PM ADT
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says he takes very seriously the allegation of abuse of children at two schools for the deaf in the province.
“I would say to anyone who feels that – first of all – that they have been a victim of any type of abuse, that they would seek out support and come forward to help build an understanding of what happened,” said McNeil.
Court documents allege physical, sexual and emotional abuse by staff and other students at the School for the Deaf in Halifax and the Interprovincial School for the Education of the Deaf in Amherst.
They also claim students were deprived of an education. In a lawsuit, the government is being blamed.
The law firm representing former students of schools for the deaf says eight more people have come forward since announcing plans for a class action lawsuit. Sixty have already filled out paper work.
“We need help to improve the future of tomorrow for the deaf community,” former student Mike Perrier told CTV News through an interpreter.
Perrier spent more than 10 years at the school in Amherst. He went on to start his own business, but says it was a challenge.
“When I started my own business Perrier's Concrete Homes, I struggled and struggled and struggled,” he said.
Another student, Richard Martell, says his first language is sign language, and English is his second.
“I couldn't write, I couldn't communicate well, and then I graduated,” said Martell through an interpreter. “The teacher would write English on the board. I’m trying to understand the words, I couldn't. The teacher didn't know sign language.”
Martell says many students were frustrated and gave up on school.
Bonny and Gordon Martell's parents went to the schools. While they've shown resilience, it hasn't been easy.
“For instance, my dad owned his own auto body business, nobody would hire him because he was deaf,” said Bonny.
The school in Halifax closed in 1961, and the one in Amherst in 1995. Children from all four Atlantic provinces attended the schools.
The claims date back as far as 1913.
“The Crown has a responsibility that when we take on the ability for care of any individual, whether it’s young or old, we have a responsibility to ensure that they're in a safe environment,” said McNeil. “If we failed at that responsibility, we need to be clear and look at how did we do that and what is the solution for those individuals who were there.”
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Jacqueline Foster.