New Westminster – If elected to government this May, New Democrats will extend to all Woodlands School survivors the opportunity to apply for redress within the first seven days of their term, said leader Adrian Dix today.
Dix was joined by Woodlands survivors, their families, friends, and advocates on grounds of the former school.
“If elected, an NDP government will lift the August 1, 1974 cut off date that excludes hundreds of Woodlands survivors from being able to apply for damages. Ending this discriminatory action is going to be one of the first acts my cabinet will complete within its first seven days of office.
“Providing some of the most marginalized British Columbians a sense of closure and justice for the systemic abuse they suffered is a priority not just for me, but for the people of our province. Despite repeated opportunities to do the right thing, the moral thing, the Liberal cabinet has systematically resisted treating Woodlands survivors with fairness and compassion,” said Dix.
Two separate reports by the Ombudsperson and the Public Guardian and Trustee delivered to the Liberals at the start of their time in government confirm there was systemic abuse – sexual, psychological and physical – at Woodlands. Yet the government’s response over the past decade has consistently involved fighting former students in the courts.
“First they tried to deny them the right to apply for compensation as a class by arguing that there was not an institutional problem at Woodlands, just a ‘few bad apples’. And then instead of entering a settlement agreement when the former students won the right to compensation, they pursued a separate challenge to reduce the class by creating a cut-off date,” explained Dix.
After the former students – those who were at Woodlands before and after 1974 – won the right to pursue a class action against the government for systemic abuse in 2005, the Liberal government pursued a different legal strategy. It resulted in survivors who were at Woodlands prior to August 1, 1974 becoming ineligible for compensation in 2008.
At the legislature in October 2011, the Liberals again refused to lift the cut-off date to give all existing survivors equal treatment.
Other survivors of systemic abuse that took place in government institutions before August 1, 1974 have received compensation, such as former students of the Jericho School. Also, pre- and post-1974 Woodlands survivors could be compensated from the existing settlement funding envelope, because so many former students of Woodlands have passed away during the time the government was challenging their access to compensation.