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Press Release: Latest Pearson Dogwood redevelopment plan still threatens to institutionalize people with disabilities

Inclusion BC remains deeply concerned about the future of people with disabilities at George Pearson Centre following Vancouver City Council’s February 5 adoption of the Pearson Dogwood Redevelopment Policy Statement.
New Westminster, B.C., July 2, 2014 - Inclusion BC calls for the involvement of independent external parties with experience closing institutions and supporting community inclusion for people with disabilities in the redevelopment process.
Inclusion BC further urges Vancouver Coastal Health to immediately end all new admissions to George Pearson Center as a first urgent step to closing the institution.
At the January 22, 2014 Vancouver City Council meeting, members of the Say No to Institutions Coalition, dozens of persons with disabilities and other organizations called for VCH’s original policy statement to be rejected.  
“That original document included a 37-bed institution for persons with disabilities. For 2 years Inclusion BC and the Say No to Institutions Coalition have called VCH to task for the inclusion of a large institution to replace the current George Pearson Center. We offered expert advice, research, and access to internationally recognized leaders in deinstitutionalization. Finally we had no choice but to launch a public campaign to pressure VCH to abandon their plans to rebuild an institution for people with disabilities on the Pearson Dogwood lands,” said Faith Bodnar, Executive Director of Inclusion BC. 
While the February 5 policy statement commits VCH to upholding the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, it contains provisions which themselves contradict the Convention. Canada ratified the UN Convention in 2010. For example, the policy statement still provides for current residents to choose other institutions as they move out of the George Pearson Center.
 “The convention calls for community living for all people with disabilities as a human right. It does not sanction institutions by labelling them a choice. It is unequivocal – institutions no longer have a place in society. Embedded in the convention is the recognition of the systematic denial of basic human rights that occurs in institutions and the oppressive power they exert over those living in them, which foreclose the opportunity for real choice,” said Bodnar.
In addition this latest policy statement supports what is described as a “green house” model, which VCH has on various occasions described as including 8-12 people with disabilities in one unit or “pod.” Such an arrangement would clearly be an institutional model.
 Bodnar adds, “Policy statements are about principles and values and as such do not need to nor should they prescribe models of support. The fact that this one includes mini institutions makes it further suspect.”
There is no requirement for external review or oversight of the development process in the policy statement. Additionally, VCH has not provided any budget or financial information despite promises to do so.
“The community inclusion movement has vast expertise and experience in closing institutions quickly and supporting people to live good, inclusive, full lives in the community as equal citizens, yet our voice is not being heard in this process. The cumulative, hands on experience of Inclusion BC members as well as our connections nationally and internationally would ensure that those currently living in George Pearson Centre will be well supported,” said Bodnar. To date VCH has not accepted or acknowledged repeated offers of assistance.
The last such institution for people with developmental disabilities, Woodlands in New Westminster, was closed in 1996. Inclusion BC stands firm in its position that is unacceptable that people with disabilities of any type should be living in an institutions in 2014. Furthermore to be building new ones is an affront to basic human rights and global best practise as articulated in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Inclusion BC is a provincial advocacy organization with over 70 member agencies dedicated to building community and enhancing the lives of children and youth with special needs, adults with developmental disabilities, and their families by supporting abilities, promoting action and advancing rights and social justice.
Faith Bodnar, Executive Director
604.777.9100 x. 516 (office)
C. Lynne Kates, Communications Coordinator
604.777.9100 x. 527 (office)

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