Decades after its closure, survivors of abuse at Woodlands receive compensation

Decades after its closure, survivors of the Woodlands facility are starting to receive hard fought compensation. The school, an institution for people with disabilities, left many students scarred from abuse. Catherine Urquhart reports.

For decades, survivors of the Woodlands facility have fought for compensation. Now that’s finally happening.

Cheques are finally going out to all survivors of the school, which left many students scarred from abuse.

The previous Liberal government had offered compensation, but a legal technicality limited claims to those who were at the school after Aug. 1, 1974.

Residents who were there after 1974 were compensated up to $5,000 each for what what was described as widespread and systematic abuse.

READ MORE: All Woodlands survivors to receive compensation from B.C. government

In March, the NDP agreed to offer compensation to all former residents of the Woodlands School.

Pre-1974 survivors are starting to receive cheques for $10,000. Others who already received a lesser amount can receive up to a maximum of $10,000.

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“I’m very happy for the other residents who will finally be able to bring closure to a very dark period of B.C. history,” Woodlands survivor Bill McArthur said on Monday.

The imposing school facility sat on the banks of the Fraser River in New Westminster and was in operation for more than 100 years before being closed in 1996. Thousands of children deemed to have mental disorders passed through its doors.

WATCH: Woodlands survivors to receive compensation from B.C. government

Woodlands survivors to receive compensation from B.C. government
Woodlands survivors to receive compensation from B.C. government

In 2001, B.C.’s former ombudsman Dulcie McCallum submitted a disturbing report to the provincial government outlining the abuses endured by residents, some of whom were mentally challenged, some mentally ill and some simply children in care who had nowhere else to go.

“Details of the physical abuse found in the records include hitting, kicking, smacking, slapping, striking, restraining, isolating, grabbing by the hair or limbs, dragging, pushing onto table[s], kicking and shoving, very cold showers and very hot baths resulting in burns to the skin, verbal abuse including swearing, bullying and belittling, inappropriate conduct such as extended isolation, wearing shackles and a belt leash with documented evidence of the injuries including bruising, scratches, broken limbs, black eyes, and swollen face,” the report said.

READ MORE: New virtual reality residential school hopes to educate Canadians

“The sexual abuse included assault, intercourse and in the result, injuries and in a few cases, a pregnancy.”

The report found “there were insufficient safeguards or mechanisms in place to prevent or manage abusive conduct by employees in relation to residents.”

The government has set aside more than $15 million in compensation.

Woodlands survivors who have not come forward are encouraged to make a claim at 1-888-523-7192.

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— With files from Jon Azpiri and The Canadian Press

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