The RCMP say that more than 70 children were sexually assaulted at the Nova Scotia Youth Centre in Waterville, and there are likely still more survivors — as many as 200 in total. The assaults happened between 1988 and 2017.
Before 2019, there were sporadic reports of abuse at the facility, but there was not enough information to press charges. But in January 2019, four men filed a lawsuit against the province alleging that they were sexually abused at the Youth Centre. As a result of that lawsuit, the RCMP began a full investigation dubbed Operation Headwind the same month.
The RCMP called a press conference today in order to encourage more survivors to come forward.
“If you, or someone you know, has experienced sexual assault while at Waterville, we want you to know we’re here to support you,” said Cst. Shannon Herbert, an investigator with Operation Headwind
Operation Headwind has established a hotline is 902-720-5313, with a toll-free number of 1-833-314-3475. A person will answer the line between 8am and 4pm and people can leave a confidential voicemail outside of those hours. Additionally, investigators can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Through the 30-year period of sexual abuse, there were separate wings for boys and girls. All 70 of those investigators have already spoken with have been men, but investigators have not ruled out that there might be survivors who are women.
Citing an open investigation, at the press conference, police did not give details about a perpetrator or perpetrators, but in the January 2019 lawsuit, the four men said they were abused by a swim coach at Waterville. The swim instructor was not named in the lawsuit.
People who contact the RCMP about abuse at Waterville will be “treated with dignity and respect,” said Herbert. “Anyone who comes forward does so voluntarily and we will be taking a trauma-informed approach when we’re speaking with them. A trauma-informed approach means that we’ve realized that trauma has widespread outcomes and widespread effect on people and communities and on their families. And our investigators are very conscientious and take an empathetic approach when speaking with individuals.”
“One of our team members is a dedicated to Survivor Coordinator, and they stay in regular contact with the survivors, based on the survivor’s wishes and needs,” Herbert added. “Obviously, some people don’t want to be contacted all the time, so they will go schedule contact as they want. And the coordinator is in contact as well and working with the provincial Victim Services and Criminal Injury Counselling and helps to facilitate those relationships between the survivors and and the the resources that may need, want, and can access.”