B.C. announces new compensation for Woodlands survivors
British Columbia's provincial government announced Saturday it is extending compensation to more survivors who endured systemic abuse at a provincial institution for those with developmental disabilities and mental illness.
Woodlands survivors who attended the New Westminster school before Aug. 1, 1974 will now receive $10,000 in ex-gratia payment. Previously, only those who attended the school after that date were given compensation through a settlement.
"For nearly 20 years, former residents of Woodlands have fought for compassion, closure and some level of justice," Premier John Horgan said in a news release. "Today, the B.C. government is finally doing the right thing."
The Woodlands institution first opened in 1878 as the Provincial Asylum for the Insane. It went through various changes, including becoming a school in 1950s, before it closed in 1996.
According to Inclusion BC, it experienced abuse and overcrowding problems throughout its history.
In 2002, the provincial ombudsperson determined there had been widespread sexual, physical and psychological abuse of Woodlands residents. The provincial government at the time, however, did not accept the ombudsperson's report.
That same year, former Woodlands residents launched a class action lawsuit. A settlement agreement was reached in 2009, but the province won a ruling in the B.C. Court of Appeal to exclude former students who lived at Woodlands prior to Aug. 1, 1974.
Saturday's announcement extending compensation to all survivors pleased former student Bill McArthur who was excluded from previous compensation by just 10 days.
"This is a historic occasion that closes a dark chapter in B.C. history," he said in the release. "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 spoke to reporters and recounted horrific abuse suffered by residents including beatings, isolation and staff who would purposefully give children scalding hot showers that made their skin burn and peel.
"There are some things that transcend money," he said. "Human dignity and respect is one of them."
Former residents who attended the school after Aug. 1, 1974 will also receive up to a maximum of $10,000. But new payment will take into account settlement money already received from the class action lawsuit.
B.C. Healh Minister Adrian Dix said he expects 900 to 1,500 survivors will receive money, meaning the total compensation bill will be somewhere between $9 million and $15 million.
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Michele Brunoro