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Abdoul Abdi and the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children

The department of Community Services is willing to investigate abuses from decades ago, while ignoring the problems of today.

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Abdoul Abdi, pictured here as a child and ward of the province. - SUBMITTED
  • SUBMITTED
  • Abdoul Abdi, pictured here as a child and ward of the province.

The provincial inquiry into systemic abuses at the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children shouldn’t be granted any extension on its work until they acknowledge another, currently ongoing injustice of the department of Community Services’ own creation.

So says Irvine Carvery, who believes the systemic failures that lead to decades of abuse at the Dartmouth orphanage are the same problems that have left Abdoul Abdi awaiting deportation.

“This young man’s story is that story,” says Carvery, a longtime advocate for African Nova Scotians and former resident of Africville.

The Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children was responsible for sexual, physical and emotional abuse of its wards over a 50-year period. In 2014, the province settled a class action lawsuit with 300 former residents for $29 million and premier Stephen McNeil issued an apology to all those who suffered.

An inquiry council was created for the ongoing investigation into how systemic failures led to abuse at the Home. But Carvery feels the department of Community Services and the inquiry is focusing on the broader system to avoid looking at individual injustices like Abdoul Abdi.

“This young man is a victim of Community Services,” Carvery said at a Black Lives Matter event held last week. “The very same institution that was responsible for the Nova Scotia Colored Home, and yet I don’t hear anything from the [inquiry]—the voice that should be speaking out.”

An extension request made last week by the inquiry for another year of investigation shouldn’t be granted until Abdi’s case is resolved, says Carvery.

The 23-year-old Abdi came to Canada at the age of six from Somalia, and was shortly afterward placed into government care. Earlier this month, he finished serving four years for aggravated assault as well as other crimes. He’s now subject to possible deportation back to Somalia because Community Services and the province failed to secure his citizenship while he was in their care.

Abdi’s lawyer, Benjamin Perryman, says the department’s approach to children in its care is “ad-hoc” with no official policy or data collection on immigrant kids who move through the system.

“The approach taken in Nova Scotia is almost guaranteed to produce more cases like Mr. Abdi’s,” he says in a phone interview. “I would be surprised to learn if [DCS] even knows how many non-citizen children they have in care.”

Abdi’s predicament is a “real live systemic issue,” according to Carvery, that the inquiry is refusing to address. Publicly coming out in support of Abdi would go a long way, he says.

“The silence is deafening.”

Tony Smith, one of the inquiry council’s co-chairs and a survivor of abuse at the Home, counters that they simply don’t have the mandate or scope to look at every individual case.

“There are 330 of us who came forward,” he says. “Can you imagine if we were to look at each and every individual case of what they went through? We would be here forever.”

But Smith does see similarities between what happened at the Home and Abdi’s case. The work being done by the inquiry will hopefully help rectify the systemic issues still taking place today, he says.

“Hopefully this, in and of itself will be a learning experience.”

The department of Community Services would not comment on the Home for Colored Children, or Abdoul Abdi’s case.

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