HALIFAX -- Premier Stephen McNeil has apologized to the former residents of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children for the abuse and neglect they faced at the Halifax orphanage.

McNeil said it is one of his province's great tragedies that their cries for help were met with silence and the pain that some of them endured is something that no child should experience.

"We hear your voices and we grieve for your pain," McNeil said Friday.

"For the trauma and neglect you endured and the lingering effects on you and your loved ones, we are truly sorry."

The apology, which McNeil delivered in the legislature, was greeted with a standing ovation from a number of people, including some of the former residents.

People who used to live in the home allege that they were subjected to physical, psychological and sexual abuse over several decades.

Class-action lawsuits were launched by the former residents against the home and the provincial government, which ended in settlements totalling $34 million. The home came to a $5-million settlement with the plaintiffs in July 2013 and the Nova Scotia Supreme Court approved a $29-million award from the province a year later.

The lawyer who represents the former residents has said nearly 250 people who lived at the home from 1921 until 1989 are eligible for the class-action settlement payouts.

That agreement is before the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, where a judge has asked the law firm who worked on the case for the plaintiffs to provide a legal precedent to support their proposal to have people who joined the lawsuit in later years absorb some of the legal costs of the earlier claimants.

The lawyers have asked to be paid $6.6 million in legal fees, a proposal also subject to court approval. A ruling is expected Thursday.

The Liberal government has also promised to hold a public inquiry into the alleged abuse. McNeil has said the terms of reference will be set out to give former residents an opportunity to publicly share their stories.

The home is now a short-term residential facility for children of all races.