Former residents of a B.C. psychiatric hospital who suffered sexual, physical and psychological abuse have begun to receive their promised compensation from the province.
Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the start of compensation Tuesday while surrounded by advocates for the Woodlands survivors at the Collingwood Neighbourhood House in Burnaby. He had made the initial announcement that compensation packages were coming in March.
“This year, the B.C. government moved to finally do the right thing to extend compensation to Woodlands’ survivors previously denied redress for the abuse they suffered at this provincial institution,” said Dix.
“We hope that by extending compensation to people who had been formally excluded from payment and topping up the payments that people received under the previous class-action lawsuit, they are able to find the sense of closure and justice they fought for nearly 20 years.”
Former residents will receive up to $10,000 in ex-gratia payments, which means that while the province is paying out money, it is not accepting liability for what occurred.
Woodlands institution opened as a “Provincial Asylum for the Insane” of May 17, 1978. It provided care for wards of the state and those with mental and developmental disabilities.
At its height, it held 1,200 children and adults.
Woodlands shut its doors in 1996 and in 2000, provincial ombudsperson Dulcie McCallum undertook a review which revealed “systemic abuse” throughout the institution’s history.
Former residents were integrated into the community and in 2011, the last of the institution’s buildings were demolished.
The ombudsperson report’s release in 2002 sparked a class action lawsuit from former Woodlands residents.
The lawsuit initially included all former Woodlands patients. However, the province won its case in the B.C. Court of Appeal to exclude people who lived at Woodlands before Aug. 1, 1974. The exclusion was based on a law that came into effect in 1974, allowing B.C. residents to sue their province for wrongdoing.
The court said that residents could not sue based on the province’s liability for events that occurred prior to 1974.
Bill McArthur, a former Woodlands resident and advocate, said that Monday’s announcement provided a sense of vindication for survivors who had been denied compensation due to the 1974 cutoff.
|Former Woodlands resident Bill McArthur when Health Minister Adrian Dix first announced the compensation packages in March. (Black Press Media files)|
“Today I feel some sense of closure on a difficult past as I, and many Woodlands’ survivors, are finally achieving something we have long fought for,” said McArthur.
“Furthermore, I encourage other survivors to reach out to the provincial government to receive their redress as well. This vindication, I hope, will allow them to live the rest of their lives with a sense of self respect and dignity.”
Lawyers for the Woodlands class action said they were happy with the government’s announcement.
“We’re delighted to see that the Woodlands payments are now rolling out,” said David Klein of Klein Lawyers.
The province said that it has contacted 314 former residents of Woodlands. Anyone who has not been contacted is asked to call 1-888-523-7192 or email email@example.com.