Update on Woodlands School
September 19th 2013
For Immediate Release
Former Residents of Woodlands School Ask Why BC Can’t Follow Ontario’s Example and Do the Right Thing
Former residents of Woodlands School who were at the institution before 1974 are not eligible to apply for compensation for the abuse they suffered there. The BC government says the survivors must be excluded from its 2010 compensation agreement because it was not possible to sue the province before the 1974 implementation of BC’s Crown Proceedings Act. All provinces gradually implemented similar legislation to allow individuals to sue government. The equivalent legislation in Ontario was passed in 1962/63 – the Proceedings Against the Crown Act.
This week, abuse survivors of Ontario’s Huronia Regional Centre won the right to apply for compensation. The $35-million settlement includes an apology from government and a commitment to a timely process. Unlike the former residents of Woodlands, former Huronia residents can apply for compensation regardless of when Ontario’s Proceedings Against the Crown Act came into law. Huronia’s former residents who were there between 1945-2009 will be able to apply.
Bill McArthur, representative plaintiff of the Woodlands survivors is happy for Huronia’s former residents, but asks “if Ontario can open up their compensation to all former residents of Huronia, why can’t BC do the same for those of us who were at Woodlands before 1974?”
“It’s heartbreaking that our province continues to use a legal excuse to avoid including all former Woodlands residents,” said Gregg Schiller, Coordinator of the We Survived Woodlands Group.
Ontario’s action is an example of a government living up to its responsibilities and not shielding itself behind legislation.
“We applaud Ontario for signing on to an agreement that will enable the oldest former Huronia residents to have their abuse recognized,” said Jane Dyson, Executive Director of the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities. “We’re calling on BC to do the right thing and follow Ontario’s example. All Woodlands survivors deserve justice.”
For more information please contact:
Bill McArthur: (Woodlands Survivor) 778-222-3617
Jane Dyson: (BC Coalition of People with Disabilities) 604-875-0188
Gregg Schiller: (Coordinator of the We Survived Woodlands Group) 604-868-7001
Woodlands School and New Settlement in Ontario
In BC, survivors of Woodlands School who were there before 1974 are not eligible to apply for compensation for the abuse they suffered. The government argues that because people couldn’t sue the government before 1974, the survivors cannot now apply for compensation. All provinces implemented legislation at around the same time to allow people to sue the government. But in Ontario, abuse survivors of a similar institution today won the right to apply for compensation regardless of when they were there (1945-2009). BCCPD is once again calling on the BC government to do the right thing (follow the good example of Ontario) and include all the survivors in BC’s compensation agreement. If you agree, please email Justice Minister Susanne Anton at firstname.lastname@example.org and share this post.
This is a link to a Global article about the settlement in Ontario:
New Democrats will extend to all Woodlands survivors opportunity for compensation
BCCPD attended a press conference today at which the following was announced:
New Westminster – If elected to government this May, New Democrats will extend to all Woodlands School survivors the opportunity to apply for redress within the first seven days of their term, said leader Adrian Dix today.
Dix was joined by Woodlands survivors, their families, friends, and advocates on grounds of the former school.
“If elected, an NDP government will lift the August 1, 1974 cut off date that excludes hundreds of Woodlands survivors from being able to apply for damages. Ending this discriminatory action is going to be one of the first acts my cabinet will complete within its first seven days of office.
“Providing some of the most marginalized British Columbians a sense of closure and justice for the systemic abuse they suffered is a priority not just for me, but for the people of our province. Despite repeated opportunities to do the right thing, the moral thing, the Liberal cabinet has systematically resisted treating Woodlands survivors with fairness and compassion,” said Dix.
Two separate reports by the Ombudsperson and the Public Guardian and Trustee delivered to the Liberals at the start of their time in government confirm there was systemic abuse – sexual, psychological and physical – at Woodlands. Yet the government’s response over the past decade has consistently involved fighting former students in the courts.
“First they tried to deny them the right to apply for compensation as a class by arguing that there was not an institutional problem at Woodlands, just a ‘few bad apples’. And then instead of entering a settlement agreement when the former students won the right to compensation, they pursued a separate challenge to reduce the class by creating a cut-off date,” explained Dix.
After the former students – those who were at Woodlands before and after 1974 – won the right to pursue a class action against the government for systemic abuse in 2005, the Liberal government pursued a different legal strategy. It resulted in survivors who were at Woodlands prior to August 1, 1974 becoming ineligible for compensation in 2008.
At the legislature in October 2011, the Liberals again refused to lift the cut-off date to give all existing survivors equal treatment.
Other survivors of systemic abuse that took place in government institutions before August 1, 1974 have received compensation, such as former students of the Jericho School. Also, pre- and post-1974 Woodlands survivors could be compensated from the existing settlement funding envelope, because so many former students of Woodlands have passed away during the time the government was challenging their access to compensation.