The Woodlands School was a facility operated by the Province of British Columbia until 1996. It housed children and adults with mental and physical disabilities.
Two well documented investigative reports highlighted a sad history which involved systemic physical, sexual and psychological abuse perpetrated against these vulnerable residents. The reported abuse included “hitting, kicking, smacking, slapping, striking, restraining, isolating, grabbing by the hair or limbs, dragging, pushing onto table, kicking and shoving, very cold showers, 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 belt-leash with documented evidence of injuries including bruising, scratches, broken limbs, black eyes and swollen face.”
A class action lawsuit was launched in 2002 seeking compensation for the Victims of the Woodlands School. Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, (Richard v. British Columbia) approving a settlement for the survivors.
The settlement allows each survivor who was abused after August 1, 1974 to receive between $3,000 and $150,000 in compensation. (the reason for the August 1974 cut off is because people abused before that time don’t have the right to sue the Province of British Columbia as a result of a law known as The Crown Proceeding Act). In all this is a class of 1,168 individuals.
The approved settlement does not award each member a specific dollar figure, rather it approves a system in which each class member can efficiently seek access to compensation based on a negotiated system which focuses on the nature of abuse they suffered.
This settlement is an example of a creative resolution to a series of very difficult claims many of which may not have succeeded at individual trials due to technical issues of evidence and limitation defenses. This judgement is worth reviewing in full for anyone involved in or interested in cases dealing with damages suffered through historic acts of institutional physical and sexual abuse.
Mr. Justice Bauman concludes his reasons by congratulating the parties on reaching compromise in the claim which is a sentiment well worth repeating.