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From December 1-3, we're celebrating the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Film festivals will be held in 5 locations across BC. Stay tuned for details!

Our new report shows the continued systemic use of restraint and seclusion in BC schools. Read more.

Watch our 60th Anniversary video that honours and remembers the civil rights history of people with intellectual disabilities in BC. Read more about our history here.

Woodlands Institution

Updates About Woodlands

January 17, 2017

Heritage BC awarded the City of New Westminster an Outstanding Achievement Award for its historic interpretation of the former Woodlands site. The project, which was years in the making, included extensive input and advice from former residents and partners such as Inclusion BC.

March 3, 2014

New Westminster City Council approved the interpretive panels developed with community input to be placed on the former Woodland site. 

October 18, 2011

Former residents of Woodlands and their supporters gathered today to witness the demolition of Woodlands Institution. Read more...

September 23, 2011
A demolition ceremony for former residents of Woodlands will be held on October 18, 2011.

July 12, 2011
New Westminster City Council Votes to Demolish Woodlands Institution Centre Block Tower
BCACL Applauds New Westminster City Council for Respecting the Wishes of Former Residents of Woodlands by voting to demolish the last remaining structure from B.C.'s last major institution. BCACL issued the following press release in response to the news.

May 11, 2010
Woodlands Class Action Settlement Outreach Meetings
Information meetings for past residents of Woodlands are being held throughout the Lower Mainland of BC.

Thursday, December 17, 2009
Disability Advocates call on BC Government to Include Pre-1974 Woodlands Residents in Settlement
The Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL), a national federation of provincial/territorial associations working to advance the inclusion and human rights of people with intellectual disabilities and their families, joins the BC Association for Community Living (BCACL) in calling on the Government of BC to do the right thing and recognize the abuse suffered by former residents of the Woodlands institution before August 1, 1974.

Woodlands institution opened in New Westminster on May 17, 1878 as the Provincial Asylum for the Insane, later re-named the Provincial Hospital for the Insane. In 1950 it was renamed Woodlands School and in 1974 the name was changed again - to Woodlands. Although the asylum was originally presented as a modern approach to treating “lunatics” and the “feebleminded, it was soon criticized as gloomy and unfit for its purpose of caring for people today referred to as having psychiatric disabilities and intellectual disabilities.

The philosophies of care and treatment changed over the decades, from custodial care and confinement to hospital or medical care to education and development. In the 1920’s, authorities decided that the Woodlands site would serve only people with intellectual disabilities, and other residents were moved to Essondale. While there were many exemplary staff at Woodlands and notable efforts - as early as 1885 - to ensure appropriate treatment of residents, inquiries and investigations into conditions, treatment and mistreatment of residents occurred in virtually every decade of Woodlands’ existence. Abuse and overcrowding were problems throughout its history. The 1940s saw a significant increase in staff training and the focus of the institution shifted to education in the 1950s. By the late 1950's there were approximately 1400 people living at Woodlands. Due largely to the advocacy efforts of families, in 1981 the provincial government announced plans to close Woodlands. Community placements were planned and implemented over the next 15 years. Woodlands finally closed in 1996, marking the culmination of a long struggle to end large institutions in B.C.

Following the closure, in response to allegations by former residents of abuse at Woodlands, the Province asked former BC Ombudsman Dulcie McCallum to conduct an independent review. In August 2001, McCallum submitted a report, called The Need to Know: Administrative Review of Woodlands. The government released the report and their response to it in July 2002. The report found that there was evidence of physical, emotional and sexual abuse at Woodlands, and that the abuse was systemic in nature - in other words, the way Woodlands operated contributed to the occurrence of abuse. The report made 12 recommendations about steps the government should take next, including doing a more in-depth review of abuse at BC institutions and making an apology to people who were abused. In response to the McCallum report, the BC Self Advocacy Foundation and the Woodlands Parents Action Group held consultations throughout the province with former residents and family members of former residents. Reports from these consultations, respectively entitled The Need to Make Amends and Having a Choice supported McCallum’s recommendations. The former residents also called for the demolition of the institution buildings and a role for themselves in the demolition.

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Also in 2002, a class action lawsuit was launched against the provincial government on behalf of former residents. In December 2009 a settlement was proposed and was approved by the court in 2010. Cases are currently being adjudicated. Due to a legal loophole, Woodlands survivors discharged from the institution before August 1974 are currently excluded from the settlement process. Woodlands survivors and their supporters provincially and nationally are currently urging the provincial government to include all survivors in the settlement.