Woodlands' survivors finally to receive redress from provincial government

Former residents of Woodlands who attended the school before Aug. 1, 1974, will finally receive compensation for systemic abuse suffered at the provincial institution, announced Premier John Horgan.

"For nearly 20 years, former residents of Woodlands have fought for compassion, closure and some level of justice. Today, the B.C. government is finally doing the right thing by extending compensation to individuals previously denied redress for the abuse they suffered at this provincial institution," Premier Horgan said.

People who resided at Woodlands prior to 1974 will receive $10,000 in an ex-gratia payment. In addition, people who resided in Woodlands after 1974 will receive up to a maximum of $10,000. The payment will take into account settlement awards previously provided through the Woodlands class action settlement.

"This is a historic occasion that closes this dark chapter in B.C. history," said Bill McArthur, a Woodlands survivor. "Today acknowledges and vindicates Woodlands survivors, who I hope can live the rest of their lives with a sense of self-respect and dignity."

Woodlands was an institution in New Westminster open from 1878 until 1996. In 1950, it became Woodlands School, and in 1974 the name was changed again - to Woodlands. Woodlands provided care for children and adults with developmental disabilities, and some individuals with both developmental disabilities and mental illness.

In 2002, the then-provincial ombudsperson, Dulcie McCallum, determined that there had been widespread sexual, physical and psychological abuse of Woodlands' residents. However, the provincial government at the time did not accept the findings of the ombudsperson's report.

In August 2002, a class action was commenced by former Woodlands residents. After it was certified, the Province sought and won a ruling at the B.C. Court of Appeal to exclude former students who lived at Woodlands prior to Aug. 1, 1974. This decision was applied to the settlement agreement eventually reached in 2009, and approved in 2010, establishing a compensation claims process.

A process will be developed over the coming months to confirm addresses and contact information of the former Woodlands residents. It is expected that monies will be paid out by March 31, 2019.
The payments are being made on an ex-gratia basis, without admission of liability on the part of the Province.

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