B.C. government to compensate more Woodlands survivors

Former residents of Woodlands who lived in the notorious B.C. institution before 1974 will now be compensated for the abuse they suffered.

Survivors who lived at Woodlands before 1974 — and excluded from earlier settlement — will receive $10K each

Woodlands School survivor Bill McArthur, left, listens as British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix speaks at Woodlands Memorial Garden in New Westminster, B.C., on Saturday March 31, 2018. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Former residents of the Woodlands provincial mental institution, who lived there before 1974, will now be compensated for the abuse they suffered there, the province announced Saturday.

The survivors will each receive $10,000 ex-gratia, meaning the payments are voluntary and don't admit liability. 

Because of a legal loophole, those survivors were excluded from a 2010 B.C. Supreme Court settlement, which compensated about 900 residents who lived in the institution in New Westminster, B.C. after 1974.

B.C. Premier John Horgan said in a statement that the Woodlands residents had fought for 20 years 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," Horgan said.

Widespread abuse

Woodlands, which operated between 1878 and 1996, offered care to children and adults with developmental disabilities and some people with mental illness.

Residents suffered widespread sexual, physical and psychological abuse.

Woodlands School survivor Luanne Bradshaw, who was at the facility from 1967-79, poses for a photograph at Woodlands Memorial Garden in New Westminster, B.C., on Saturday, March 31, 2018. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

The province's ombudsperson detailed the abuses in a 2002 report, but the province did not acknowledge those findings.

Woodlands residents launched a class action suit that year against the province.

After the suit was certified, the province won a ruling at the B.C. Court of Appeal that excluded former students who lived at Woodlands before Aug. 1, 1974. 

'Small measure of justice'

The government also said Saturday that anyone who received a lower amount through the previous class-action lawsuit will have their compensation topped up to a total of $10,000.

When he was in Opposition, B.C.'s Health Minister Adrian Dix had called on the province to compensate all residents.

In a statement, Dix said Saturday's announcement would bring a "small measure of justice" to survivors. 

Bill McArthur, a Woodlands survivor, said it was a historic occasion that "closes this dark chapter in B.C. history." 

"Today acknowledges and vindicates Woodlands survivors, who I hope can live the rest of their lives with a sense of self-respect and dignity," McArthur said in a statement.

The government is reaching out to former residents and expects to make the compensations by March 31, 2019.