All Woodlands survivors should be compensated: Dix

Adrian Dix, leader of the B.C. New Democrats, was in New Westminster Aug. 1 to meet with Woodlands survivors on the grounds of their former school and to urge the provincial government to extend compensation to all survivors of the school, not just those who lived there after Aug. 1, 1974.

On that date 37 years ago, the B.C. government, then led by New Democratic premier David Barrett, gave citizens the right to sue the provincial government.

Dix said that the current government is using the Aug. 1, 1974 date as a technicality to justify excluding residents who lived at Woodlands before that from compensation.

“The courts have left the decision to provide compensation to all Woodlands survivors up to the sitting provincial government,” said Dix. “And while the Liberals have acknowledged that former Woodlands students suffered grave abuse at the institution, they still are not providing over 300 survivors who attended the school before 1974 the opportunity to apply for compensation.”

The B.C. government determined in 2009 that only 1,500 survivors who lived at Woodlands after 1974 were entitled to financial compensation. The deadline for applying is Sept. 19, 2011.

“We all feel very badly about what happened at Woodlands,” B.C. Attorney General Barry Penner told the NewsLeader. “The first priority is to deal with individuals the courts say we must deal with. After that we can consider the claims from before 1974.”

But, according to Dix, the worst abuses date from before 1974 and those victims shouldn’t have to wait.

“The cut-off date creates a sad situation,” Dix told the NewsLeader. “There’s no public policy, moral or political justification, to treat survivors as two separate groups.”

A 2001 report by former provincial ombudsman Dulcie McCallum exposed the sexual, physical and emotional abuse endured by former residents.

They lived in deplorable conditions of overcrowding and chronic infectious disease. Medical experiments were conducted on them without their consent.

McCallum recommended that the province offer the survivors an apology and financial compensation.

As a result, survivors launched a class action suit against the province in 2002 through the Klein Lyons group of lawyers.

According to Penner, the government needs to set a limit somewhere when it comes to compensation.

“There are many other people who have been hurt by things the government of B.C. could be responsible for. What about those other groups?” said Penner. “When you say compensation, that means tax dollars.”

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