Barristers & Solicitors  -  James M. Poyner, Kenneth J. Baxter, Patrick J. Poyner

For Immediate Release
Government’s sincerity on Woodlands questioned

(NORTH VANCOUVER, B.C., 3 March, 2005) - Lawyers behind a class action law suit brought on behalf of an estimated 1,500 former residents of Woodlands School, most severely handicapped, questioned government comments earlier this week in the Legislature.

On Monday, 15 victims of abuse at Woodlands, and their caregivers, travelled to Victoria. They met with Opposition MLAs and were introduced in the Legislature. When New Democratic Party members Joy MacPhail and Jenny Kwan put questions to Premier Gordon Campbell, evasive responses came from Children and Family Development Minister Stan Hagen and Finance Minister Colin Hansen.

Asked why, following a scathing report by former Ombudsman Dulcie McCallum in 2001, documenting systemic abuse, an apology from the government in 2002 and the establishment of a $2 million fund to counsel these victims, there is still no action, the government waffled. Not one cent of the $2 million has yet been spent, but the government continues to invest heavily in legal processes aimed only at delaying resolution. Pressed on the issue, the minister ultimately declined explanation on the grounds that the matter was “before the courts.”

Lawyer Jim Poyner, who represents all former residents in the class action, said today, “it is ingenuous to use the courts as a smokescreen. The matter would not be ‘before the courts’ in the first place if the government simply sat down and started a process of settlement. For the minister to say that he can’t talk about it because ‘it is before the courts’ is absolute nonsense and can only be interpreted as the government’s refusal to deal with the issue.

Poyner added that the Woodlands tragedy has been the subject of public speculation and debate for more than 30 years, and has been generally accepted as fact for at least a decade. Nevertheless, the government continues to fight at great expense in the court against the Woodlands survivors. “Why does the government continue to invest money in everybody but the victims?,” he asked.

Woodlands opened in New Westminster in 1878 as a “provincial asylum for the insane,” but eventually became a facility for people with developmental disabilities and those in need of psychiatric care. Modern studies have consistently documented sexual and physical abuse of the most horrific nature. Woodlands closed in 1996 and it is now part of a $400 million development plan, from which the government expects to net over $100 million.

Information about the class action lawsuit, including the complete text of the Statement of Claim can be found at www.poynerbaxter.com 

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Poyner Baxter, Suite 408 - 145 Chadwick Court
North Vancouver, B.C. V7M 3K1
Telephone: 604.988 6321 Fax: 604.988 3632
e-mail: classaction@poynerbaxter.com
web site: www.poynerbaxter.com

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