Newfoundland and Labrador's attorney general issued an apology Thursday on behalf of the province to victims of sexual abuse at youth care facilities in the 1970s and '80s, in the wake of a multimillion-dollar settlement.
John Hogan, who is also the provincial justice minister, read the apology in the House of Assembly, saying the government must learn from past mistakes and ensure no other children endure the same traumas.
In September, the provincial Supreme Court approved a $12.8-million settlement for victims at three provincial institutions for young offenders and youth in care in Pleasantville and Whitbourne between 1973 and 1989.
On Thursday, Hogan apologized on behalf of the provincial government, the sole defendant in the lawsuit.
"The goal of youth custody is to deliver programs to assist youth in successfully reintegrating in the community and limit their time in custody," read Hogan from a prepared statement. "The youth who spent time at our facilities during the class period deserved our support, our respect and our care."
Hogan praised the courage of victims for coming forward, pointing to the emotional turmoil many continue to deal with.
"These abuses should not have happened and no young person should have had to endure what these people endured," said Hogan.
"For this I offer a sincere apology."
Abuses shocking and unacceptable
Justice critic Helen Conway Ottenheimer also applauded victims for their pursuit of justice, and called the abuses "shocking and unacceptable." She said the provincial government must protect youth from similar incidents in the future.
"As these and other people come to the floor with their stories of abuse, it is the government's obligation to ensure no such assaults are happening at facilities run by the province today," said Conway Ottenheimer.
"How unimaginably terrifying and dehumanizing it must have been to be locked into a government-run facility with their abusers. But they did muster the courage to come forward, despite their trauma."
The settlement impacts more than 70 people who were victimized.