Woodlands’ survivors promised $10,000 compensation by B.C. government

Woodlands found by investigation to be place of sexual, physical and psychological abuse

The B.C. government will be compensating f‪ormer residents and survivors of the Woodlands institution, following years of sexual, physical and psychological abuse reported by many who sought care there. ‬

‪Survivors who attended the institution in New Westminster before Aug. 1, 1974 will receive $10,000 ex-gratia, Health Minister Adrian Dix announced Saturday. That means that while the government will compensate, it doesn’t admit liability.

“When one experiences pain and suffering, it doesn’t matter if it happened before August 1, 1974 or after… Pain and suffering that was visited upon us is abuse,” institution survivor Bill McArthur said Saturday.

“It was not right then, it is not right now, and it will never be right.”

McArthur was one of an estimated 1,500 survivors still alive that was placed into the institution between 1950 and 1970. A 2009 class-action lawsuit determined that about 1,100 people would be compensated by the province, but those who attended the school before Aug. 1 1974 were left out because the province wasn’t responsible for the residents’ care until then.

A man on the margins: Cloverdale remembers Shawn Friesen

“The B.C. government has never truly acknowledged the pain and suffering experienced at Woodlands,” Dix said.

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced ex-gratia compensation Saturday for Woodlands survivors, like Bill McArthur (right)
who were left out of class-action lawsuit led by David Klein of Klein Lawyers. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)


Those who did receive some compensation, between $1,200 and $5,000 for most, will be topped up to the $10,000, the province said in a statement.

Disability Alliance BC’s Jane Dyson called the compensation bittersweet.

“Sadly, we have seen Woodlands survivors die waiting for this day,” she said. “But today is a good day, a day to move forward and a day to celebrate.”

Memories of abuse still vivid for survivors

‪Woodlands was an institution formerly known as Woodlands School, and opened in 1878, intended to provide care for children and adults with developmental disabilities and some with mental illness. ‬

In the late 1990s, reports of tragic and concerning abuse were confirmed by a 2002 investigation by ombudsperson Dulcie McCallum, confirming what some of B.C.’s most vulnerable residents claimed to have experienced.

The institution was shut down in 1996.

Later, in 2011, the building was demolished and replaced with a park. Throughout the property, surrounded by new housing developments, deceased Woodlands’ residents are memorialized onto a dozen cenotaphs.

Standing amid hundreds of plaques honouring fellow survivors, McArthur told stories of some of the abuse he faced on the institution’s grounds as young as five, when he was put into Woodlands’ care.

Before asking for a moment of silence in honour of fellow survivors, he recalled ice-cold showers, beatings and rape.

Some of the vivid memories included being a child, being forced to line up naked in a hallway to use the bathroom, feeling “like cattle on the way to a slaughterhouse.” If they didn’t move quickly enough, they were beaten with brooms or punches to the head, he recalled.

And while he suffered through his own share of abuse, McArthur was forced to watch others in their own pain.

“This was deliberate action by the people who were charged with the responsibility of caring for us in a humane manner, and who failed to do so egregiously,” he said.

“…Occasionally I have nightmares of what happened to me and what I have witnessed in this life.”

Letting out a few tears while hugging Dix, McArthur told the crowd justice has finally been found.

“Today acknowledges and vindicates Woodlands survivors, who I hope can live the rest of their lives with a sense of self-respect and dignity,” he said.

The province expects to identify and contact former residents in the coming weeks, with payments made in full by March 2019 totalling between $9 million and $15 million.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Young Chilliwack girl raises more than $1,000 for family devastated by fire

Elementary school student’s $20 donation snowballs with matching funds

Upper Fraser Valley RCMP members named to Alexa’s Team

Team honours officers working to keep drunk drivers off the roads, in honour of girl killed in 2008

General municipal tax increase of 2.62 per cent on deck for Chilliwack

Tax rate bylaw given first, second, and third reading at the April 17 council meeting

Chilliwack hockey fans, community, gather to pay tribute to Humboldt Broncos

Hundreds take part in Chilliwack Chiefs event at Prospera Centre

Transportation Plan for Chilliwack soon to be hot off the presses

The in-depth plan spans 17 chapters covering all the transportation-related challenges and projects

Unofficial “Mayor of Downtown Chilliwack” honoured by MLA in legislature

Harold Zinke has worked for 19 years to keep Chilliwack’s streets clean and events running smoothly

Driving Change: A B.C. man’s charitable trip across Canada

A Kelowna man, his bus, and his mission for positive change across our country

Case of teacher secretly filming teens reaches top court

Acquittal of teacher, Ryan Jarvis, who secretly videoed teens ‘dangerous,’ top court told

Why a 14-year-old will lead the charge at annual marijuana protest on the Hill

Marijuana enthusiasts have long been circling April 20 on their calendars as annual day of cannabis

B.C. communities await marine spill compensation years after incidents

The government maintains a Ship Source Oil Pollution Fund to compensate Canadians

RCMP say too early to know what happened in Broncos crash

RCMP Assistant Commissioner Curtis Zablocki said collission very complex

Conservative MP wants feds to close loophole for illegal border crossers

Immigration advocates call on government to suspend Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement

Alberta university criticized for honouring David Suzuki

University of Alberta plans to bestow environmentalist with honourary degree

B.C. First Nations get clarity on fishing rights from top court

Nations call federal government to settle fishing rights ‘within the true meaning of reconciliation’

Most Read