British Columbia

B.C. luxury condo owners oppose hospice

A plan to build a hospice at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver runs into opposition from luxury condo owners.

Opposition centres on cultural issues, owner says

A plan to build a hospice at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver has run into opposition from luxury condo owners nearby.

The proposal calls for a 15-bed palliative care facility, called St. John Hospice, to be built next to a high-rise condominium building called the Promontory.

One condo owner said most residents in the building are of Asian descent and believe living close to a hospice will bring bad luck.

"In Chinese culture, we are against having dying people in your backyard," said Janet Fan, who has signed a petition against the hospice. "We cannot accept this. It's against our belief, against our culture. It's not culturally sensitive."

Fan also said many residents worry about additional traffic and having to discuss the subject of death with their children.

A two-bedroom condo in the Promontory sells for almost $1 million, and people fear their property value will plummet if the hospice is built.

Fan said the land on which the hospice is to be built has been designated for research use.

'Home away from home'

However, Tung Chan, former head of the Vancouver-based immigrant services group SUCCESS, said he doesn't agree with the approach taken by Fan and other residents.

Some residents of the Promontory condominium in Vancouver oppose having a palliative care facility nearby at the University of British Columbia. ((IBI/HB Architect’s website))
"I'm not sympathetic to the plight at all," he said.

"This group of people may be very, very nice people, good people at their heart, but they are trying to use the cultural argument to further their cause, nothing more and nothing less than that."

Former hospice operator Gay Klietzke said she is not surprised the planned hospice faces opposition. Klietzke said she has experienced protest before, but for different reasons.

"You know, ambulances blaring with sirens. They think there are going to be big trucks coming there with deliveries and these kinds of things," she said.

"In fact, what we are talking about is a home away from home. When people can't stay in their own homes, they can come to our home. So this home would fit into the neighbourhood."

Klietzke, who now runs the Vancouver Hospice Society, said one good thing about the UBC petition is that it has put the issue in the public spotlight, providing a chance to educate the public about what a hospice actually does.

The target date for construction is July, but may be postponed.

Joe Stott, UBC's director of campus and community planning, said that in light of the opposition, more consultation is needed.

"We'd be really interested in having conversations with the people who are concerned about the project," he said.

Stott said it will be a few months before the university's board of governors can review the proposal.