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Planning for future of B.C. psychiatric hospital site quietly halted


A years-long planning process to determine the future of the Riverview psychiatric hospital grounds in B.C. was quietly halted at the start of this year, CTV News has learned.

The site in Coquitlam was renamed Sumiqwuela in 2021 when the Kwikwetlem First Nation signed a partnership agreement with the province, and the website posting joint updates with BC Housing still says parallel master planning processes are underway.

But in an interview with CTV News, BC Housing’s Director of Land Development for Sumiqwuela/Riverview revealed that the agency had halted that planning earlier this year with no timeline for resumption.

“Reconciliation is really important to be seen as a journey and not a milestone,” said Lauren English, describing the focus being on developing the relationship with the Kwikwetlem First Nation.

Despite years of consultation, announcements, and meetings, BC Housing has nothing to show taxpayers or people desperate for access to intense mental health and addiction treatment.

“There is not a plan for its redevelopment right now,” said English. “There is not a plan for what buildings will be maintained, what buildings will be removed, what kind of uses will be introduced on the site– that does not exist at this point in time.”


Despite the Riverview Hospital being officially shut down in 2012, a handful of the historic buildings on the campus are still in use for psychiatric treatment, as are two new facilities opened in recent years. 

In total, 289 people are receiving in-patient treatment on the site, including programs provided through Coast Mental Health and the Red Fish Healing Centre – a model the NDP government plans to expand throughout the province.

The provincial government turned the property over to BC Housing when the hospital was shut down in 2012 and the agency had conducted years of public consultations and meetings to collect input from hundreds of members of the public, former patients, and various stakeholders.

In a 2015 report titled, A Vision for Renewing Riverview, BC Housing acknowledged that while there was public interest in building social housing on the site and paving the way for economic opportunities for the Kwikwetlem First Nation – mental health services were the community’s top priority. 

Coquitlam’s mayor points out that while most of the buildings are clearly crumbling and unsuitable for use – aside from a number of administrative buildings used by government agencies – the sprawling Centre Lawn building was upgraded a decade before the hospital shut down and is still in good condition with the heat on.

“It won’t be perfect, but it would be way better than having none of these facilities,” said Richard Stewart, suggesting up to 200 people could be housed there. “It can be a big part of reconciliation, but it can also serve a great many other needs.”


The 244-acre parcel sits on a ridge in what the Kwikwetlem First Nation says is a section of their traditional territory; BC Housing has acknowledged the Nation's 8,000-year history on the site. 

A knowledge keeper and former councillor tells CTV News the community is encouraged that the provincial agency isn’t rushing the process and giving his elders time to consider what they’d like to see at Sumiqwuela.

“BC Housing is our partner, we’ve agreed to that, we’ve agreed on a process, we’ve agreed on a journey,” said George Chaffee. “We’re going to work hard to get there. It’s going to take time.”

As for families and individuals who have been looking to the hundred-year history of psychiatric support at that location and hoping there would be good news for expanded care there, English said they “recognize there’s a tremendous interest in the site” and had this message for them:

“I would encourage them to consider a province-wide approach to mental health treatment as well as housing. I think everyone is in agreement in recognizing the crisis that is underway and also understands that it needs to be a multi-pronged approach, not a single-site solution.” Top Stories

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