Terms of Reference

A Restorative Inquiry will take a different approach than a traditional public inquiry. Below are the mandate, goals and principles that will guide the work of the Restorative Inquiry.

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The Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children Restorative Inquiry (RI) will:

  1. Examine the experience of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children (NSHCC) as part of the history and legacy of systemic and institutionalized racism, both historic and current, in Nova Scotia.
  2. Examine and seek to understand the experiences of former residents within the NSHCC and the legacy and impact of these experiences for former residents, their families and communities.
  3. Examine the experiences of former residents within the NSHCC for what they might reveal about issues of institutionalized child abuse and prevention and protection in future.
  4. Inquire into how the history and legacy of the NSHCC has impacted not only African Nova Scotian communities but all peoples in Nova Scotia and consider how to address this harmful legacy. It will reveal, reckon with and address this part of the harmful history and legacy of anti-Black racism in the Province of Nova Scotia.
  5. Empower those involved in, and affected by, the history and legacy of the NSHCC to learn about what happened and the contexts, causes, circumstances and ongoing legacy of the harms related to the NSHCC. 
  6. Examine the role and contribution of various systems, sectors and institutions in the harmful history and legacy of the NSHCC, including, for example: education, justice, health and community services.
  7. Engage affected parties and all Nova Scotians in collaborative planning and action to address this history and its legacy and create change to secure a better future for African Nova Scotian children and their families and communities. 
  8. Educate the public about the history and legacy of the NSHCC.
  9. Contribute to the goal of social change to end the harmful legacy of abuse and ensure the conditions, context and causes that contributed to it are not repeated.
  10. Publicly share the truth and understanding established through the RI and the actions taken, planned and recommended to address systemic and institutionalized racism and build more just relationships for the future.
  11. Affirm and strengthen the cultural knowledge, leadership and health of the African Nova Scotian people and communities as one of Nova Scotia’s founding cultures.
  12. Model a restorative approach to conflict resolution.
  13. Create agenda and momentum for further learning and action on related issues of systemic racism that are revealed through the process.


  1. Build Just & Respectful Relationships
    • Foster relationships of mutual respect, care, acceptance and dignity within and among communities, systems, structures and institutions. Support collective ownership, shared responsibility and collaborative decision-making.
  2. Develop Knowledge and Understanding
    • Learn what happened, what matters about what happened for the future, who was affected and how, and the contexts, causes and effects of what happened.
    • Develop understanding of different experiences, perspectives, worldviews and how they have shaped relationships and lives within African Nova Scotian communities and between African Nova Scotians and non-African Nova Scotians in the context of the history and legacy of the NSHCC.
  3. Develop Plans & Take Action
    • Toward a better future for African Nova Scotian children, families and communities and all Nova Scotians.
  4. Establish Shared Understanding & Seek Just Social Change
    • To ensure that such harms never happen again by seeking an end to systemic and institutionalized racism.
    • Seek to understand and address the conditions and circumstances that enabled or fostered institutionalized child abuse. 

Guiding Principles

  1. Relationship & Community-focused: Focuses on relationships and not only the individual level. Looks at the interconnectedness of people and issues.
  2. Justice-seeking: Takes as its aim fostering “just” relationships – those reflecting the core commitments of equal respect, care, acceptance and dignity
  3. Strengths-based: Recognizes African Nova Scotians as a strong and dignified people in their own right, not defined by marginalization or comparisons but as a founding culture in Nova Scotia.  The process should profile and strengthen the leadership of African Nova Scotians indigenous to this province and build stronger community relationships with other peoples, systems and institutions in Nova Scotia.
  4. Do No Harm and Support Healing: Former NSHCC residents’ needs and experiences will be central in the process. The RI will take a trauma-informed approach that contributes to healing and well-being while avoiding further harm. The process should seek to “do no further harm” to those involved and their relationships.
  5. Comprehensive/Holistic: Attend not only to particular incidents and issues but also to their causes, contexts and implications. Examine the experience of the NSHCC as part of the legacy of systemic and institutionalized racism, both historic and current.
  6. Contextually Grounded: Responsive to the needs of parties within the process. Processes will be flexible and responsive, guided by principles and adaptive to the needs of the parties and the context.
  7. Inclusive, Participatory and Accessible: Processes should include the particular people, groups and communities relevant to the issue(s).  They must be concerned to include those affected or who can affect the outcome of a situation. Inclusion must be meaningful and make a difference to the process and its outcome.  It must involve engaged and active participation within collaborative processes. The RI must foster collective ownership and shared responsibility and decision-making.  While not every process will be held in public or open to everyone who wishes to participate, every process will consider how to ensure the knowledge and learning gained therein is accessible to the broader public.  The overall work of the RI must be done in the public interest and for public benefit.
  8. Action and Change-Oriented: Oriented to meaningful, sustainable social change to achieve justice in and through the relationships, systems and institutions that affect the well-being of African Nova Scotian families and communities, in order to improve relationships and understanding throughout Nova Scotia.