Thankful For Survivor Voices

In: Current writing project, General update
Garnet Smith with Apology Letter

Today, I’m thankful for the way I have witnessed survivors of abuse push for systemic change. In particular, I’m thankful for the efforts of my late friend, Mr. Garnet Smith (1938–2017).

The Lost Sister is partially based on Garnet’s childhood experiences in the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children. Later on in life, he joined VOICES, the Victims of Institutional Child Exploitation Society, to pursue justice and better care for children, families, and communities. He was extremely dedicated to this work, as long, arduous, and frustrating as it was.

I admire him with three big caveats:

  • I wish he didn’t have to do any of it. I wish the awful things that pushed him into vocal survivorhood didn’t happen in the first place.
  • I wish he didn’t experience pain and re-victimization in the process. He told me that it hurt him every day. That is a high cost.
  • If he had chosen not to do this work, I would’ve admired him all the same. He told me that some people were not in the place to do all the things he did, and that’s okay. Survival looks different for different people, and it’s an up and down journey to be supported in its diverse ways, in its own right.

That being said, I’m grateful he and others like him did what they did. And they continue to see the fruit of their efforts. Again, there’s difficulty and resistance along the way, but groundbreaking things are happening now as a result of these survivors taking the lead in change. We all benefit from what they’ve done – every single one of us in Canada.

One outcome was a historic apology issued by the Government of Nova Scotia. Garnet shared it with great pride, as depicted in the picture above. He felt the apology was so important because it was the first step toward never repeating the abuses of the past. Below is the text, in full.

It is one of the great tragedies in our province’s history that your cries for help were greeted with silence for far so long.

On behalf of the Government of Nova Scotia, I apologize to those who suffered abuse and neglect at the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children.

Some of you have said you felt invisible. You are invisible no longer. We hear your voices and we grieve for your pain. We are sorry.

Some of you faced horrific abuse that no child should ever experience. You deserved a better standard of care. For the trauma and neglect you endured, and their lingering effects on you and your loved ones, we are truly sorry.

We thank you for showing such courage and perseverance in telling your stories. Your strength, your resilience, and your desire for healing and reconciliation should be an inspiration to all Nova Scotians.

To the African Nova Scotian community: we are sorry. The struggle of the Home is only one chapter in a history of systemic racism and inequality that has scarred our province for generations.

African Nova Scotians are a founding culture in our province—a resourceful people of strength. The Home for Colored Children was birthed in the community as a way to meet a need that was not being met.

We must acknowledge that in many ways, and for many years, we as a province have not adequately met the needs of African Nova Scotian children and their families. We are sorry.

As Nova Scotians—as people, walking together—we must do better.

An apology is not a closing of the books, but a recognition that we must cast an unflinching eye on the past as we strive toward a better future.

We are sorry for your suffering, we are grateful for your courage, and we welcome your help in building a healthier future for all of us.

The Honourable Stephen McNeil, Premier of Nova Scotia

All proceeds of The Lost Sister go to VOICES, and specifically toward the Garnet Smith Educational Bursary for young people connected to survivors of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children. You can purchase the book at local booksellers as well as online through many sellers, including Indigo.


  • Esmin (Joy)

    June 22, 2021 at 11:56 pm

    Andrea this is wonderful for you to take the time to listen to Garnet on what he experienced in Nova Scotia . He passed on but his present is still around us for years to come. I spoke to him as well but not in depth as you did. Thanks for posting.


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