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NS RCMP Investigating 70 Alleged Sex Assaults at Youth Jail, More Cases Likely

The RCMP are investigating at least 70 cases of sexual assault at a youth detention facility in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, and they say up to 200 people may come forward.

The alleged assaults occurred at the Nova Scotia Youth Centre in Waterville, N.S., between 1988 and 2017, the RCMP told a news conference Wednesday, adding that all 70 initial cases involved males.

Sgt. Brian Fitzpatrick said the police probe began in early 2019, when a team of 11 investigators was assembled.

“This is the biggest investigation I’ve been involved with in 19 years of service,” Fitzpatrick, a veteran investigator of sex crimes, told reporters.

He added that the greatest challenge in the case is the “sheer size, the amount of information we need to process and eventually disclose, and the amount of survivor witnesses who we have to deploy investigators to interview across Canada.”

Const. Shannon Herbert said that based on the investigation to date, police expect there are up to 200 people who may come forward to make statements. She said the investigative team has launched a confidential hotline for people who have allegedly been sexually assaulted at the centre or who have information about crimes that may have occurred there.

Herbert said she cannot confirm the identity of the alleged perpetrator or whether more than one person was involved.

Mike Dull, a litigator with Valent Legal, said he believes those coming forward to the RCMP are also members of a class action that his firm has launched against the provincial Justice Department, which operates the youth detention facility.

“These two proceedings are happening in parallel with each other,” he said during an interview on Wednesday.

The Justice Department did not immediately return a request for comment on Wednesday.

The lawsuit’s statement of claim, which has not been proven in court, said the youths at Waterville have suffered harm ranging from inappropriate touching to sexual assault.

Dull said his clients have been severely impacted by what they allegedly suffered at the Waterville facility. “They have had difficult lives as adults; the vast majority have been in and out of prison,” he said.

He said he’s pleased that the RCMP are setting up a confidential hotline and providing counselling to those who come forward.

“It’s taken a lot of conviction and a lot of encouragement for them to come forward and trust the RCMP in this process … and to the RCMP’s credit, they’ve done a great job of fostering trust,” he said.

The lawyer said he was first contacted by a young man in 2017 about sexual abuse at the youth jail. After launching the class action, he said his office was inundated with calls and that he came to realize “this was allegedly happening to dozens and dozens of young boys over three decades.”

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