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British Columbia Apologizes For Institutional Abuses
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 30, 2003

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--The provincial government of British Columbia formally apologized Friday -- on live television -- to people with developmental disabilities who were abused while housed in B.C. institutions during the last century.

"On behalf of the people of British Columbia, I offer this government's sincere apologies to former residents and their families who suffered harm as a result of time spent in institutional care," said Gordon Hogg, minister of children and family development.

Hogg said, during a televised open cabinet meeting, that the government has established a $2 million trust fund to provide support and counseling to former residents of Woodlands, Tranquille, Glendale and Endicotte institutions, and their family members.

A review by the B.C. ombudsman last year found a large number of documented cases of physical abuse by staff, including "hitting, kicking, smacking, slapping, striking, restraining, isolating, grabbing by the hair or limbs, dragging, pushing onto table, kicking and shoving, very cold showers and 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 a belt-leash with documented evidence of the injuries including bruising, scratches, broken limbs, black eyes, and swollen face."

According to Hogg, British Columbia is the first province in Canada to move entirely away from institutions and toward family and small community-based settings for people with mental disabilities. In 1996, Woodlands became the last provincial institution to close.

One disability rights group said that the $2 million should not be looked at as compensation. Some former institution residents and their families are still threatening a class-action suit against the B.C. government.


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