In a darkened corner of the Scotia Lunch in Shelburne, Nova Scotia, Wayne Butler leans across the table toward his friend, Floyd Hemeon. His naturally red face flushes even more as he moves in closer, stressing a point to Floyd, who sits back in the blue, plastic chair, takes off his baseball cap and scratches the top of his balding head. It’s November 2000, and Wayne is speaking to Floyd about something they’ve gotten together to talk about a lot over the last five years. Both men used to work at the Shelburne Youth Centre-a detention centre for young offenders formerly known as the Nova Scotia School for Boys-and both are among hundreds of current and former employees of youth institutions in the province accused of sexually and physically abusing residents.

Wayne talks as if he couldn’t care less if the few other patrons in the restaurant hear what he’s saying. Eavesdropping is the least of his worries. The police showed up at his house a month ago to arrest him on a new charge of sexual abuse, bringing his total to 58 physical and three sexual, all of which he says are false. Floyd faces 13 charges, 12 physical and one sexual. They’ve been living in legal limbo-suspended from jobs they say they once cared about. Wayne was denied a bank loan for a new truck because of the outstanding charges. But the emotional costs have been even higher: in the past five years, both have attempted suicide.

Wayne says the allegations have robbed him of a normal relationship with his granddaughter: “I couldn’t bring myself even to lay down with her; that’s how paranoid I was.” He has declared his innocence to anyone who will listen. But therein lies the problem. Many people, including some reporters at the daily newspapers in Halifax, have written him off as a sexual predator and ignored his side of the story from the beginning. Wayne and Floyd are on the same wavelength when it comes to how the media have covered the SYC debacle. Wayne barely starts saying, “The media had the tendency to believe…,” before Floyd finishes it off in his slow Maritime drawl, “…without investigating what they were reporting.”

Reporters make good crusaders. When something tragic occurs or an injustice is committed-especially something as disturbing as widespread sexual abuse-they rush to bring the story to public awareness. But what happens when truth gets lost in the journalistic inclination to simplify-to pit good against evil? When passion overcomes reason? How do journalists trained to deal in facts cope when confronted with a case of he said, she said on a massive scale? Reporters at The Daily News pursued the abuse story zealously. But in their eagerness to condemn the government for its role in the fiasco, they may have neglected one of the most basic tenets of journalism.

THE FIRST PUBLIC ALLEGATIONS OF PHYSICAL and sexual abuse by staff at the Shelburne Youth Centre go back to the early 1990s, when 11 former residents testified against onetime SYC counsellor Patrick MacDougall. He was found guilty in 1993 of 11 counts of sex crimes against residents and sentenced to the Dorchester Penitentiary for 11 years. (He died of natural causes in a Moncton hospital in 1998.) After his conviction, a number of former institutional inmates, including some SYC residents, filed civil suits against the province. While an RCMP investigation of the institution in 1992 found no further evidence of abuse, the Nova Scotia government wanted to clear the air in a way that would minimize the damage. “We want…those who have been gravely injured by this situation,” said then Justice Minister Bill Gillis, “to be able to tell their stories without a public spectacle-a procedure that would make them victims all over again.” By the fall of 1994, 25 people had come forward accusing nine SYC staff members of abusing them. Gillis appointed New Brunswick Judge Stuart Stratton to investigate the allegations. Focusing on a 20-year time period from the mid-’50s to the mid-’70s, Stratton’s investigation was meant to determine the extent of abuse, who knew about it and what actions were taken in response by those in authority. Of the 89 former residents of provincial institutions whom Stratton identified as abuse victims, 69 spent time at the Nova Scotia School for Boys. Among the conclusions in his June 1995 report, Stratton found that:

a) the Nova Scotia School for Boys at Shelburne was little more than a place for the warehousing of large numbers of wayward boys in inadequate facilities and in care of untrained and inexperienced staff; b) sexual and physical abuse took place at the School; and c) the staff of the School and officials in the Department of Community Services were aware that abuse was taking place, but, at least until the mid-1970s, no positive steps were taken to end the abuse.

Based on these findings, the Justice Department set up an alternative dispute resolution program. Designed to redress victims in a “reasonable period of time, at a reasonable public expense,” the unprecedented, out-of-court settlements began in June 1996. Former residents’ unsworn statements were not cross-examined, and little corroborative evidence was required before compensation was awarded. Accused employees were neither involved in the process nor were they allowed to address the allegations.

The province anticipated approximately 500 claimants, and it budgeted $33.5 million to cover the costs of compensation, legal fees and victim services. But even before the program was suspended in November 1996, the number of claimants had ballooned from the original 89 identified in Stratton’s report; by the end of the year, nearly 1,500 claimants had come forward alleging that 400 or more current or former employees were guilty of abuse.

The amount of money awarded to each claimant was based on a graduated, 12-category scale that over time became known as the “meat chart.” Awards were determined by the frequency and severity of abuse up to a maximum of $120,000. To date, 1,237 claims have been settled totalling $37.6 million in compensation and counselling. Including legal fees, the total cost of the program has been estimated at anywhere from $54 million to almost $100 million.

When they received settlements, many of the claimants also signed an agreement stipulating that their alleged abusers would not be investigated. People began to wonder how many of the claimants were actually telling the truth and how many were lured by the promise of government payouts. While the RCMP is still conducting Operation Hope-which has been called the largest investigation in the agency’s history-so far only Patrick MacDougall and two other youth counsellors in the province (both from the Nova Scotia School for Girls) have been tried and convicted of sex crimes.

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED AT THE SYC OVER ITS 53-year history, the scale of abuse that occurred, is not an easy truth to pin down. What you believe depends largely on which newspaper you read. “In order to get a balanced story here, you almost have to read both papers,” says Stephen Kimber, director of King’s College School of Journalism. The Chronicle-Herald is the older, more conservative of the two. The Daily News started out in 1974 as a semi-sensationalist weekly tabloid called the Bedford-Sackville Weekly News and evolved into a respected broadsheet with a reputation for muckraking. Intentionally or not, the two Halifax dailies ended up on opposite sides of the abuse issue.

Compare, for example, the following headlines: “Report Has No Evidence of Massive Fraud” (Daily News, September 17, 2000); “Compensation Triggered False Abuse Claims-Report” (Chronicle-Herald, September 12, 2000).

The divide wasn’t always so wide. In the beginning, both papers printed stories primarily from the perspective of the alleged victims. All the institutions were implicated, but Shelburne was singled out as an insidious nest of pedophilia. As the number of claims grew and new information of possible fraud was unearthed, The Chronicle-Herald changed tack, publishing pieces that incorporated the views of current and former employees. The Daily News, on the other hand, remained steadfast on the course it charted from day one. In April 1997, it began a series of articles under the banner “System of Abuse.” The two main writers covering the story, reporter David Rodenhiser and freelance columnist Parker Barss Donham, contributed pieces nearly every day for at least three months. Throughout the coverage, they referred to alleged victims as “abuse survivors,” or simply “victims.” They would state, as fact, that claimants had been “beaten, molested and raped as children in Nova Scotia youth facilities.” Rodenhiser even quoted a former SYC resident as saying Shelburne “was just a place for the government pedophiles to work.” The paper provided a forum for alleged victims to tell their stories and for their lawyers to make the case for the compensation program. “People I referred to as victims and survivors,” Rodenhiser says, defending his terminology, “were people that I felt confident in what they’d told me.” He and Donham believe it was appropriate “to give a voice to the victims.”

Unmistakably, there are documented cases of abuse at the SYC. Patrick MacDougall was a prolific abuser who molested at least 11 residents, and almost assuredly more. Another former SYC teacher, Paul Aucoin, admitted to police investigators of sexually abusing three residents prior to killing himself in his Ottawa basement. But were these aberrant cases or were they representative?

While Rodenhiser took an investigative, hard news approach to this question, Donham wrote eloquent, visceral columns, but neither gave equal representation to the accused. Still, their coverage was extensive and provocative, and in 1998, The Daily News won the Michener Award for “meritorious public service.” The press release stated the award was given for “dogged pursuit of widespread sexual abuse in Nova Scotia reform schools.” Clarke Davey, former president of the Michener Foundation, says the judges look for journalism that makes a difference.

Parker Barss Donham has earned a reputation for his outspoken journalism. Last fall, readers of the alternative weekly The Coast voted him “best local journalist” in the city. He was especially passionate on the abuse issue. But was he fair? When public opinion began to turn against the claimants as rumours of massive fraud were circulating, he appealed to the public on behalf of alleged victims. He wrote a column titled “They Were Children Once,” which encouraged readers not to misjudge the unsavory-looking recipients of compensation, to remember what they had been through. “For more than 50 years, hundreds and hundreds of boys and girls suffered unspeakable abuse while in the care and custody of the provincial government,” he wrote in another column on July 20, 1997. “Children as young as seven years old were beaten, raped, sodomized, and otherwise molested?.The magnitude of the abuse suggests that this is a rare case where the overused word ‘systemic’ can be aptly applied.”

Rodenhiser’s faith in the claimants never wavered either. “How much fraud would there have to be before this wasn’t a story?” he asks. “I mean, even if half of these people are lying, that’s still, what, 700 of these kids who were beaten or molested? What if 75 percent are lying? That would be a huge, huge fraud, but 75 percent would still be 350 kids. In my mind, that’s far too many.”

Anne Derrick, a lawyer for around 450 of the former residents, applauds The Daily News coverage. She says it was the only media outlet that was willing to take on the difficult aspects of the story: “Many of the issues and the nuances and the complications didn’t get ever properly examined other than by The Daily News.” But Cameron McKinnon, who represents about 100 current and past employees accused of committing abuse, including Wayne Butler and Floyd Hemeon, is critical of the press. He says that while his clients were vilified and portrayed as sadistic fiends, Donham didn’t contact him once throughout the whole series. On the “wall of fame” in his Truro office, he keeps a transcribed phone message from January 19, 1999, the only time he says Donham ever phoned him. After years of what he describes as “one-sided” coverage, he declined to return the call. While he concedes that Rodenhiser reported on a couple of media scrums where his clients’ interests were addressed, he never received a call from him directly.

A father himself, McKinnon is far from an apologist for child abusers, but he is shocked at the way his clients’ rights have been violated. He says they have lost the right to presumption of innocence, the right to due process and are being denied fundamental justice. “At what point does the pen become mightier than the sword?” he asks. “At what point does the pen actually turn into a sword? They’ve been tried and convicted in the press.” He offers up his clients’ voluntary polygraph tests as illustration. Out of 71, only two did not pass. Nearly all of the claimants for compensation refused to take a polygraph. The few who did, failed.

PAUL DAUPHINEE SITS DOWN AT THE KITCHEN table in his North Halifax townhouse and lights up another Belvedere. The 46-year-old former Nova Scotia School for Boys resident knows he’s “full of cancer”-in his throat, his lungs and possibly his spine-but after 30 years, he figures there’s no use quitting now. Smoke spirals up over a plant near the window next to him, the vines held up in the pot with a plastic fork. Several pictures coloured by his grandson are taped to the fridge door. His dog Star sleeps fitfully at his feet.

“Some home brew and nine hours later,” he says, referring to the crude tattoo of a dagger running almost the whole length of his left forearm, a souvenir from his stint in Springhill Penitentiary. “That was done with soot and molasses…then I had professionals try to clean it up. I wish I didn’t have ’em on but they’re there; I can’t do nothing much about ’em.”

His tattoos aren’t the only remnants of his experience with the criminal justice system. Dauphinee has been in trouble with the law a lot-property damage, theft, assaulting police. In the mid-1970s he got into a gun fight with the cops and shot an innocent man in the arm. While hardly a model citizen, he says he’s been trouble free since the late ’80s.

His history with the correctional system goes back to 1969, when he was sent to the NSSB for truancy. He was 13 years old-the son of an abusive, alcoholic father and an ailing mother. Most of the other boys in his unit were around the same age and also came from dysfunctional homes.

Shelburne “made a mess of my life,” he says, sipping a glass of no-name cola. Dressed in jeans and a Labatt’s Out of the Blue T-shirt, he is short with bushy brown hair and a matching beard-a different person from the one who entered the NSSB 30 years ago. He claims to have been beaten regularly and subjected to heinous sexual acts at the hands of institution staff. “Paul Aucoin raped me, Murray Moore [a former counsellor, now deceased] raped me, Patrick MacDougall tried to rape me, Helen Blau [the resident psychologist, also deceased] used my body for whatever she felt like doing. I was 13 years old; she was a woman figure. Believe me, she done the disgustingest things you would ever want to see a woman do,” he says, staring intensely ahead. He also describes being punched in the stomach, thrown through a door, pushed through a window and suffering numerous broken bones.

Dauphinee received just over $50,000 for his claims-half of which was immediately surrendered to creditors and Revenue Canada to pay off loans and back taxes. He was one of the first former NSSB residents to tell his story in The Daily News. He also provided the material to support the paper’s insinuation of a government cover-up. After giving his statement to the Stratton inquiry, he began to investigate, looking for physical evidence to prove his allegations. In April 1996, he was shown a box of forgotten documents at the Public Archives of Nova Scotia. Realizing he’d stumbled upon something important, he began to copy some of the information by hand. What he didn’t know at the time was that the box he’d discovered was one of nearly 200 file boxes containing thousands of documents related to government-run detention centres.

Informed of the existence of these records, David Rodenhiser decided to start digging. The RG-72 files, as they came to be known, became the centrepiece of the “System of Abuse” series. In one of his dozens of articles on the subject, Rodenhiser described the files as “a 182-box repository of reports, memos, letters and other documents generated by the Department of Community Services and its predecessor departments as far back as the 1940s. Except with the consent of Community Services, every document placed in RG-72 is restricted from public access for 60 years.”

Lawyers for claimants were convinced that evidence to support their clients’ accusations and to prove the government covered up abuse was hidden within those boxes. In a column titled “The Bet and the Big Lie,” Donham quoted Halifax lawyer Bill Leahy as saying, “If these documents come to the light of day, it’s not going to serve any of the people who were in charge…because every one of those people stand at risk of being charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm.”

Michele McKinnon, spokesperson for the Department of Justice, says she was “particularly concerned” about the RG-72 articles. She dismisses the notion that the department was blocking access because it had something to hide: “There were a number of records in that file that related to personal information, adoption records, that sort of thing. They couldn’t simply say, ‘Okay, come in and take a look.’ There had to be some safeguards.”

After fighting for months for the right to examine the files, Leahy and a few other lawyers were granted limited access. The documents that surfaced did implicate governmental officials who covered up abuse committed by Patrick MacDougall. Even after it was learned that he had abused residents, MacDougall, for reasons that are still unclear, was transferred in 1975 to Sydney and given the job of night watchman at a centre for mentally handicapped children. Another piece of correspondence suggested that a former counsellor wasn’t disciplined for hitting students with a broomstick in 1961 because his father and brothers were good Tories. However, thus far, nothing has been unearthed that implicates the hundreds of other counsellors who have been accused.

WAYNE BUTLER AND FLOYD HEMEON ARE AMONG five current and former SYC staff members who filed a libel suit against The Daily News. Their lawyer, Dale Dunlop, registered a statement of claim last August alleging that David Rodenhiser, Parker Barss Donham and at least two other Daily News reporters defamed his clients in a number of articles, several stemming from the prize-winning “System of Abuse” series. According to Dunlop, The Daily News was so convinced that his clients were depraved predators that it refused to even talk to them. “I really think the Michener Award caused The Daily News to put the blinkers on,” he says. “So they were not in any way going to reconsider their position.”

The statement of claim also alleged that Donham was guilty of the much less common charge of professional negligence, failing in his duties as a journalist because he wrote defamatory statements without adequate investigation. Lee Keating, former chief supervisor at the NSSB and a vocal member of the advocacy group PERJ (Past Employees for Restorative Justice), says he and other counsellors offered to tell their side of the story, to offer proof that the allegations against them were false, but Donham and others at The Daily News ignored them.

Donham, of course, is eager to refute the claim: “I categorically reject that. I go to extraordinary lengths to be reachable. Every news organization that I work for is instructed to give out my home number. I never received an e-mail from him. To the best of my knowledge, he never contacted me.” Rodenhiser concurs: “I stand by the fact that everybody who wanted to speak to us, we spoke to. My name was on top of all of my stories and I never had a phone call from any of those guys. I would have happily talked to any of them. I didn’t go seeking them out,” he adds, “because Keating was the only guy whose name I knew and he wasn’t a part of any of my stories.”

Last December, Daily News lawyer Alan Parish put forward a motion to strike down the libel claim based on two points of law: that the articles didn’t identify the plaintiffs by name; and, more importantly, that the plaintiffs missed the deadline for filing suit. (In Nova Scotia, subjects of an article have three months to submit a notice of intent to sue.) The judge ruled in favour of The Daily News.

Dunlop points to a number of conditions that prevented his clients from filing earlier, their fragile mental states being among the top reasons. People like Wayne Butler and Floyd Hemeon don’t know from libel law. When the accusations first surfaced, suing was the last thing on their minds.

The pressure and paranoia, according to Wayne, were immense. He describes walking down the street and having to look away or turn around when he saw a group of kids walking toward him. He remembers mowing the lawn one day and breaking into a cold sweat. That night, he went around his house collecting as many pills as he could find and swallowing them with booze. His wife rushed him to hospital, where he was revived. It was the first of two suicide attempts. He didn’t really want to die, he says, just to go to sleep, wake up, “and have this whole mess over with.”

Floyd has suffered seven nervous breakdowns since the story broke. Sometime in the month of June (he says he can’t remember the year), he was opening the door to his truck with a hose and a bagful of rags in his hand-everything he needed to gas himself-when he woke up from a near-trance state. “It just sort of come to me, ‘What am I doing here?'” he recounts. “I had prepared all that subconsciously. I didn’t even realize I was doing it. I knew I needed help.” William Belliveau wasn’t so lucky. Another accused SYC counsellor, he committed suicide in January 1995. Less than two months after his death, the RCMP cleared him of any charges.

IF THE DAILY NEWS NEEDED A CHARACTER WITNESS during the libel hearing, it wouldn’t have found one in fifth estate host Linden MacIntyre. “The Daily News broke the first commandment of journalism,” he says from the floor of the cavernous CBC atrium in downtown Toronto. “They took their story from one side.” While MacIntyre appreciates the paper’s role as the provocative foil to the historical conservatism of The Chronicle-Herald, he pulls no punches when talking about its coverage of the abuse story. “It was unskeptical, unbalanced and it was, in the final analysis, self-interested journalism,” he proffers. “Once they win a big national award for it then they have to defend their work no matter what the evidence of the flaws.”

The fifth estate focused its cameras on the SYC case in November 1999. “Too Bad to Be True” was a watershed piece because it was the first to tell the employees’ side of the story on national TV. It harshly criticized the compensation program and cast doubt on the credibility of practically all the claims of abuse. MacIntyre based the angle of the program on interviews with employees and with the people accusing them, as well as personal suspicions about the number of claimants using the same lawyers. “When you took the two sides of the story and you measured them,” he says, “one side had more weight than the other.”

It wasn’t the first time that MacIntyre reported on the institution. Back in 1979 he had interviewed several residents, one at a time and in shadow, as part of a series on the new Young Offenders Act. “Nobody complained about anything,” he says. “There wasn’t a whisper about abuse, sexual or physical or otherwise. I got the impression of a fairly progressive place in 1979.” He is quick to dismiss the suggestion that his 1979 findings may have influenced the report done 20 years later. “We went into it with a completely open mind.” The 1979 report “established a certain benchmark and I wanted to test that benchmark,” he says. “I certainly wanted to know if I’d been sucked in.” But would he have had any qualms about contradicting the original piece? “I had no vested interest in whitewashing Shelburne.”

Shortly after the half-hour documentary aired, both Halifax papers printed articles about it, again contradictory. “Evidence Thin of Widespread Abuse-Report; Only a Few Cases at Detention Centres Verifiable-TV Program” was The Chronicle-Herald headline on November 17. Meanwhile Donham attacked the piece in his November 21 column: “Fifth Estate Loose with Facts.”

Donham and MacIntyre spoke on the CBC’s Information Morning radio program in Sydney the following day, and the encounter turned into a journalistic grudge match. Both on the program and in his column, Donham accused the fifth estate of shoddy, biased journalism. MacIntyre, he says now, “should be ashamed of himself.” For his part, MacIntyre says he was offended by the personal nature of Donham’s comments. He describes the fifth estate piece as “truly disinterested, [done] by people who couldn’t care less which way this story came down because it was going to be a good story no matter which way it came out.”

IF PAUL DAUPHINEE WAS THE DAILY NEWS’ INSIDER into the claimant’s world, Lee Keating played the same role for The Chronicle-Herald on behalf of the accused. The former chief supervisor at the NSSB has been one of the most vocal past employees, an articulate and persistent advocate for their rights. After a number of calls and letters to The Chronicle-Herald, he says he finally convinced reporter Dean Jobb to meet with members of PERJ in April 1998. Jobb wrote a story about them in June of that year called “Guards ‘The Newly Abused.’ Youth Centre Workers Fight ‘Vicious’ Allegations.” It was one of the first times their situation was portrayed outside of The Coast Guard, the local community paper.

Jobb decided to meet Keating because he noticed the proverbial pendulum swinging too far to one side. “Journalists have got to be looking for the other side and say, ‘Wait a minute, this just doesn’t make sense. Isn’t this too much of a scandal for one place?'” His 17-year career in journalism-the past 10 as an investigative reporter-has taught him to question everything, to constantly look for evidence. “The media can’t just go in and prejudge a situation because they don’t trust government, or they believe it’s true or they’ve talked to five people. Media have to be questioning all the time.”

He laments that his own paper has to take partial responsibility for the way the story was reported in the early stages. “I think it’s fair to say that a lot, if not all, of the initial media reporting was in almost a total factual vacuum.” In order to fill that void, he began to lobby for the release of a Justice Department internal investigation unit report. The unit was formed in 1995 to determine if disciplinary action should be taken against current employees. Along the way, it was also given the responsibility of validating compensation claims. At its peak, the force was made up of over 30 retired and seconded police officers. After nine months of fighting for the release of the 500-plus page report, Jobb succeeded in getting the Freedom of Information Act commissioner to make parts of it public. Among the controversial findings are:

“We have not discovered independent, confirmatory or corroborative evidence of extensive, systemic or widespread abuse of residents by institutional counseling staff and other employees at residential institutions”; “Abuses or excessive use of force by institutional staff were aberrational or sporadic, not systematic”; “The Compensation Program was a catalyst for what appears to be a huge number of unsubstantiated allegations against both former and current staff”; “Complainants may have had strong motivation to fabricate allegations in order to receive monetary compensation”; “We believe that a strong possibility exists that many complainants have colluded or collaborated in the giving of false statements in order to receive compensation.”

Detractors of the report, which, interestingly, include some people in the Justice Department itself, say it uses broad, imprecise language, is speculative and incomplete and was released prematurely. “In the section where they talk about a lack of corroboration,” says claimants’ lawyer Anne Derrick, “there’s no analysis in the report at all about the nature of this kind of injury. No analysis about why people don’t come forward, why they might not have disclosed when they were children. There’s no contextualization of some of the inherent difficulties with respect to historic abuse cases.” She is confident that her clients are telling the truth: “To suggest that the majority of these people have lied about what happened to them-I don’t accept that for a minute.”

Unfortunately, in this case, the truth is still buried, and it’s hard to see it surfacing anytime soon. “If nothing else, I think the media have totally befuddled Nova Scotians in terms of what happened,” says Dean Jobb. “That may speak to a wider problem the media encounter in trying to cover an issue like this. The media should deal in fact. By its very nature, this kind of allegation is tough for the media to cover in a fair way.”

The Daily News’s commitment to this story is undeniable. Reporters and columnists interviewed extensively, dug for documents and hounded the government to take responsibility for what happened to children under its care. As Donham says proudly: “We were Chinese water torture to the Justice Department.” However, in their singular goal, they neglected an important part of the equation. While most journalists reject the notion of objectivity, many-including Donham and Rodenhiser-believe that balance is essential. And yet, in The Daily News, references to the claimants’ side of the abuse story vastly outnumbered those representing the accused. When the original accusations surfaced, the government publicly apologized and the police said they expected to lay thousands of charges, The Daily News made up its mind what the story was, went searching for information to confirm it, and effectively filtered out evidence to the contrary.

Instead of answering repeated calls from all sides to hold a public inquiry, the current Nova Scotia government has appointed yet another judge, Fred Kaufman, to evaluate the compensation program. It’s difficult to imagine him finding any winners here: neither the former residents who received compensation and are now considered liars, nor the alleged abusers whose lives are forever tarnished, nor the fragmented media that can’t agree on how to put this puzzle together.

Back at the Scotia Lunch, Wayne and Floyd are packing up. Floyd has to get home to skin a deer. He’s not a hunter himself, but he earns extra money as a butcher. They’ll meet again soon. A group of current and former SYC counsellors meets with a therapist every Thursday afternoon to air worries and fears. Wayne is looking forward to the day when he can buckle his three-year-old granddaughter into her car seat without feeling ashamed. Both men desperately want their names cleared. It’s likely they’re also anticipating a day when they can get together for coffee at the Scotia Lunch and talk about something else.

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About the author

Bob Sexton was the Visuals Editor for the Summer 2001 issue of the Ryerson Review of Journalism.

  1. My brother went to Shelburne in the early 50s, and never came back the same person.
    From 13 yrs old he drank til he died just before he turned 65.
    His secrets were dark, and after reading this article I can see why.
    Shelburne took my brother to deep sad murky depths. I could never forgive you all.
    Frederica Steele

  2. I have and still am being tracked over my experience at the nssb. Will this ever end. I made my claim in 2006. I started to notice the following in 2012. I expect it started in 2006. I cant leave the house and go to public places without followers. I tolerate it but it can still get to me. How can you put things behind you when you are always being fed a reminder. In the short time i was there i experienced a lot of stuff. I can attest to what it was like in there in the summer of 1980. I was only rhere 2 months

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