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Letter warned of alleged abuser


Letter warned of alleged abuser


Justice Department lawyer told government that suspected pedophile was driving daycare bus

The Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children in Dartmouth. (ARCHIVE)

A Justice Department lawyer raised concerns with the government a couple of years ago that an alleged pedophile who once worked at the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children was again working around kids.

That’s according to a letter from Wagners, a Halifax law firm, to the department.

The Chronicle Herald recently obtained the letter, which reiterated concerns that Georgie Williams was driving a bus for the East Preston Daycare Centre.

Williams was dismissed from the daycare sometime last year but it’s believed he worked there for several years.

Williams’s name surfaces several times in court affidavits detailing alleged sexual and physical abuse spanning decades at the Home for Colored Children in Dartmouth. The affidavits are part of a proposed class action that former residents of the home are filling against the home and the provincial government.

"Counsel for the attorney general heard sworn testimony from some of these (alleged abuse victims)," lawyer Ray Wagner, founder of the law firm that bears his name, wrote to Justice Department senior lawyer Peter McVey last July 14.

"(The unnamed Justice Department lawyer) became understandably concerned about the prospect of a possible pedophile working daily with young children at a daycare centre. Stemming from these concerns, the matter was referred to Brian McAulay (a social worker with the Community Services Department) for review. Mr. McAulay expressed an interest in the matter, and, as part of his investigation, wished to interview Mr. Williams’s (alleged) victims."

It wasn’t clear Friday exactly when the lawyer voiced his concerns about Williams driving the daycare’s bus, but correspondence suggests it was sometime in 2010.

Mike Dull, an associate with Wagners who is representing victims of several alleged abusers at the Home for Colored Children, said Friday he was not able to say how the Justice Department lawyer learned that Williams had become the daycare’s bus driver.

That lawyer could not be reached for comment Friday. Nor could McAulay, who was not at work this week in his Dartmouth office.

The Chronicle Herald reported Friday that McVey had told Wagner in a letter last July 21 that there would be no further debate about Wagner’s misgivings.

In an earlier letter, McVey had told Wagner that if he was concerned about the bus driver, he should take his concerns to the RCMP. McVey attached a copy of the provincial Children and Family Services Act.

In December 2010, Wagner had sent McAulay a list of his clients who would be willing to help with an investigation, but he said he didn’t get a response until McVey replied several months later, last June, saying "child protection agencies are not legally mandated to conduct the investigation you have requested."

A woman whose child has gone to the daycare said Friday she was "disgusted" that action wasn’t taken sooner.

"Community Services needs to step up," she said. "This is huge. This is unbelievable. These are children.

"To put him in a position where he’s working around young children on a daily basis . . . makes me question what else don’t we know yet? The whole system, they’re all out there to protect everybody, even more so the children."

The parent asked not to be named as it could identify her child.

She questioned the risks that were taken in allowing the driver to continue working at the daycare after the allegations against him became known.

"It’s like giving someone on a diet cheesecake," she said.

The Community Services Department, having heard even an allegation about the presence of a potential abuser, should have acted immediately, she said.

"They should have had him removed from staff at that centre . . . and said. ‘You need to leave.’ "

Jane Earle, who served as an executive director at the Home for Colored Children for 10 months in 1980, said recently that she went to the daycare in the late 1990s or early 2000s to voice her concerns about Williams. She said she was told that nothing could be done because he had not been convicted of any crime.

Opposition leaders demanded Friday to know what steps the Community Services Department took after hearing the allegations about Williams.

Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie said the department had a duty to act on the information that lawyers brought forward about a potentially dangerous situation for children.

"The fact they failed to do so, to me, is sickening," Baillie said.

"If the reason Community Services didn’t act had anything to do with a lawsuit, then I believe that they have failed in their first duty, which is to protect the public, and in particular, our children. That’s why I would call on them to give a full accounting of what actions were taken after they became aware of the situation."

Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil said the government needs to explain what happened, especially considering one of its own lawyers raised the issue with the Community Services Department.

"If government isn’t going to respond to those kinds of allegations, why would we expect anyone else to?" McNeil said. "It’s what we need to do to make sure that our children are safe."

Community Services Minister Denise Peterson-Rafuse is on vacation and was not available for comment Friday, said department spokeswoman Cassie Naas.

Naas said the department would have told the people bringing the allegations that they should take them to police instead. But she didn’t know who had contacted the department with the concerns, or when.

Naas said daycares are independently operated but the department requires them to check employees who have contact with children with the child abuse registry.

McNeil said he’s also concerned about the broader issue of past abuse alleged at the Home for Colored Children, considering the claims the alleged victims have made. He said the government should find a way to address it outside the court process, with a public inquiry being an option.

"Is there another mechanism that would allow us to get to the bottom and find the solution to this?" he said. "These are very compelling human stories, and I think if we want to be viewed as a caring, compassionate society and community, we should have a way to respond to those."

( ehoare@herald.ca)

( djackson@herald.ca)

2012 Mar 12